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The Altar of Incense Exodus 30:1-10 describes the building of the altar of incense. There are a number of Scriptures that teach us that the incense offered on this altar represents the prayers of God’s people (Psalms 141:2, Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4).
Psalms 141:2, “Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”
Revelation 5:8, “And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints.”
Revelation 8:3-4, “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.”
In addition, a number of New Testament Scriptures allude to this sweet-smelling sacrifice as man’s prayers and offerings unto the Lord (Luke 1:10, 2 Corinthians 2:15, Philippians 4:18).
Luke 1:10, “And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.”
2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:”
Philippians 4:18, “But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”
In contrast, the concept of falling out of favour with someone is metaphorically described as “stinking” (Genesis 34:30).
Genesis 34:30, “And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.”
The practice of offering incense was widespread in the ancient world, being testified in extra-biblical literature. In Daniel 2:46 the king commanded that incense be offered to Daniel for interpreting his dream.
Daniel 2:46, “Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.”
Exodus 30:1 And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it.
Exodus 30:2 A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same.
Exodus 30:2 Comments the horns on the altar of incense were smeared with the blood of the burnt sacrifice for the sin offering (Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18) and on the day of atonement to ceremonially sanctify the altar each year (Leviticus 16:18).
Leviticus 4:7, “And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”
Leviticus 4:18, And he shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar which is before the LORD, that is in the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall pour out all the blood at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”
Leviticus 16:18, “And he shall go out unto the altar that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.”
The horns of the brazen altar had several functions. Its horns were smeared with blood during the ceremony of sanctifying the priests (Exodus 29:12). In addition, these horns were used to tie down the live sacrifice (Psalms 118:27).
Exodus 29:12, “And thou shalt take of the blood of the bullock, and put it upon the horns of the altar with thy finger, and pour all the blood beside the bottom of the altar.”
Psalms 118:27, “God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.”
Exodus 30:3 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about.
Exodus 30:4 And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal.
Exodus 30:4 Comments While the burnt altar (Exodus 27:4), the table of showbread (Exodus 25:26), and the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:12), the altar of incense had only two rings through which to insert the poles.
Exodus 30:5 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
Exodus 30:6 And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.
Exodus 30:6 Comments The altar of incense was the only article of the Tabernacle that shared a position, or association, with both sanctuaries, both the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. It is prayer that brings earthly man into the presence of Heaven and to the throne of God. In fact, the author of Hebrews places the altar of incense in the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 9:3-4), perhaps because the veil had been torn at the time of Christ’s death on Calvary, so the altar of incense now stood beside the mercy seat.
Hebrews 9:3-4, “And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;”
Exodus 30:7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
Exodus 30:8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.
Exodus 30:7-8 Comments While the ill smell of the burnt sacrifice still lingered in the air, the priest made his way into the Tabernacle to offer a sweet aroma before the mercy seat.
Exodus 30:9 Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
Exodus 30:9 Comments - It is interesting to note that the only warning passage in the description of the articles of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-30) is made in Exodus 30:9 regarding the procedures for making an offering on the altar of incense, in which God warns the priests not to offer strange incense, or any burnt offerings, meat offerings or drink offerings upon this altar. The Scriptures record two incidences in which an offense was made upon the altar of incense, which immediately invoked divine judgment.
(1) Nadab and Abihu - Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, committed an offense before the Lord regarding this offering, and were consumed by fire from the Holy of Holies (Leviticus 10:1-2).
Leviticus 10:1-2, “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.”
(2) King Uzziah When the heart of King Uzziah was lifted up with pride, he attempted to make an offering upon the altar of incense and was struck with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
Exodus 30:10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the LORD.
Instructions Concerning the Building of the Tabernacle - In Exodus 25:1 to Exodus 31:18 the Lord gives Moses instructions concerning the building of the Tabernacle and its articles, as well as the priestly garments. According to Hebrews 8:5, the Lord showed to Moses this pattern visually, probably while he was on the Mount, for God told Moses to make everything according to the pattern that He showed Moses on the mount. The Lord revealed it to him audibly as recorded in this section of the book of Exodus.
Hebrews 8:5, “Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount .’
It is important to note that God gave Moses general instructions on the building of this Tabernacle and of the making of the priestly garments. But God left it up to the creativity of the craftsmen, being inspired under their anointing, to design the details of each item they made. In the same way, God will give us instructions for our lives, but He often allows us to make the decisions about many of the details as we are inspired by the Holy Spirit each day.
Here is a proposed outline of Exodus 25:1 to Exodus 31:18:
The Offerings for the Sanctuary Exodus 25:1-9 The Furniture of the Tabernacle Exodus 25:10-40 The Ark of the Covenant, Mercy Seat & Cherubim Exodus 25:10-22 The Table of Shewbread & its Accessories Exodus 25:23-30 The Candlestick Exodus 25:31-39 Concluding Statement Exodus 25:40 The Building to House the Articles of the Tabernacle Exodus 26:1-37 The Altar of Burnt Offering Exodus 27:1-8 The Court of the Tabernacle Exodus 27:9-19 The Care of the Lampstand Exodus 27:20-21 The Garments for the Priesthood Exodus 28:1-43 Introduction Exodus 28:1-4 The Ephod Exodus 28:5-14 The Breastplate of Judgment Exodus 28:15-30 The Robe, Mitre, Girdle & Linen Breeches Exodus 28:31-42 Concluding Statement Exodus 28:43 The Consecration of Aaron and His Sons Exodus 29:1-35 The Consecration & Service of the Burnt Altar Exodus 29:36-46 The Altar of Incense Exodus 30:1-10 The Ransom Money Exodus 30:11-16 The Bronze Laver Exodus 30:17-21 The Holy Anointing Oil Exodus 30:22-33 The Incense Exodus 30:34-38 The Appointment of Craftsmen Exodus 31:1-11
The Ransom Money Exodus 30:11-16 describes the requirement of ransom, or atonement, money for each Israelite as a means of financing the service of the Tabernacle. Everyone gave a ransom that was older than twenty years old. The price for each person was equal, regardless of whether they were rich or poor. This shows that everyone was equally a sinner. It is interesting that at the age of twenty-one, the Lord dealt with both my older brother and myself about our sins. It was as if it was time to become accountable for our lives. We had become responsible adults in God's eyes. Here in this passage, it was at this age that a person has to account for his sins, symbolized in the ransom money.
Exodus 30:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Exodus 30:12 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
Exodus 30:12 Comments - Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law through his shed blood. He paid the ransom with His blood, rather than with silver or gold (1 Peter 1:18-19), so that there would be no “plague,” or judgment upon mankind. King David failed to offer a ransom for the people before counting them (2 Samuel 24:1).
1 Peter 1:18-19, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
2 Samuel 24:1, “And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.”
Exodus 30:13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
Exodus 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
Exodus 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
Exodus 30:15 Comments - Since God is not a respecter of persons, He made a way for everyone to give according to their ability.
Exodus 30:16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
The Bronze Laver Exodus 30:17-21 describes the building of the bronze laver.
The purpose of this bronze laver was for the priests to wash their hands and feet only on a daily basis prior to ministering at the bronze altar or within the Tabernacle. The Lord had commanded the priests to wash their entire bodies before the door of the Tabernacle as part of a larger one-time ceremony to sanctify an individual for the priesthood (Exodus 29:1-4). Now, these same priests who have gone through a full washing and consecrated themselves for this office are required to daily cleanse themselves by only washing their hands and feet (Exodus 30:19).
Exodus 29:1, “And this is the thing that thou shalt do unto them to hallow them, to minister unto me in the priest's office: Take one young bullock, and two rams without blemish,”
Exodus 29:4, “And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.”
During the Last Supper, after the meal Jesus girds Himself with a towel and begins to wash the feet of His disciples, to which Peter objected. Jesus replied that they need not wash their entire bodies, but their hands and feet only (John 13:1-10). Thus, we can interpret the full-body washing of the priests as a type and figure of an individual’s initial salvation experience in which all of his sins are cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The washing of hands and feet only are a type and figure of a believer’s need for daily cleansing after his salvation experience, a distinction that is clearly made in Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Our bodies are “washed with pure water” at the time of our salvation, and our hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Jesus, reflecting man’s daily cleansing through the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Peter makes this same distinction, saying, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:2) Our obedience to Christ through faith in Him reflects man’s initial salvation, and the sprinkling of His blood reflects our daily cleansing. Thus, the priests who served in the Tabernacle had their entire bodies ceremonially washed to consecrate them for divine service’ but they were required to daily cleanse their hands and feet at the brazen laver before entering the Tabernacle. Thus, the bronze laver symbolizes a believer’s relationship to Christ as his Great High Priest, who offers daily cleansing so that he can perform the divine service to which every believer has been called.
The bronze laver was made from the mirrors that the women brought out of Egypt. Therefore, the priests would have been able to see their reflection when washing themselves in the laver.
Exodus 38:8, “And he made the laver of brass, and the foot of it of brass, of the lookingglasses of the women assembling, which assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”
Exodus 30:17 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Exodus 30:18 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
Exodus 30:18 Word Study on “laver” Webster says a “laver” is “a large basin to wash. A basin is a round, wide, shallow container.” Note John 13:10, “Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.”
Exodus 30:18 Comments - Unlike the other articles and dimensions of the Tabernacle and its courtyard, the Lord gave Moses no measurements on the building of the brass laver. As with various aspects of particular details during the construction of the Temple, the Lord anointed the craftsmen and allowed them to participate in its design.
Exodus 30:19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
Exodus 30:20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD:
Exodus 30:21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.
Exodus 30:21 Comments - Earlier, in Exodus 29:4, the priests had to wash their entire body. The total washing only took place once. Later, the priests only had to wash their hands and feet. This act symbolized initial salvation and water baptism experience and later the daily cleansing of our sins as believers.
Exodus 29:4, “And Aaron and his sons thou shalt bring unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shalt wash them with water.”
John 13:6-10, “Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.”
The Holy Anointing Oil Exodus 30:22-33 describes how to make the holy anointing oil.
Josephus makes a reference to the holy anointing oil:
“Moses now purified the tabernacle and the priests; which purification was performed after the following manner: He commanded them to take five hundred shekels of choice myrrh, an equal quantity of cassia, and half the foregoing weight of cinnamon and calamus (this last is a sort of sweet spice); to beat them small, and wet them with an hin of oil of olives (an hin is our own country measure, and contains two Athenian choas, or congiuses); then mix them together, and boil them, and prepare them after the art of the apothecary, and make them into a very sweet ointment; and afterward to take it to anoint and to purify the priests themselves, and all the tabernacle, as also the sacrifices.” (Josephus, Antiquities 3.8.3) 
 Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, in The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996, c1987), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), 92.
Exodus 30:22 Moreover the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Exodus 30:23 Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,
Exodus 30:24 And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:
The Ingredients of the Anointing Oil - Five ingredients were combined together into the holy oil, they made a pleasant fragrance. The ingredients were:
2 parts myrrh
1 part cinnamon
1 part calamus
2 parts cassia
3 parts olive oil
Word Study on “myrrh” The Hebrew word “mor” ( מֹר ) (H4753) is used twelve times in the Old Testament. The ISBE says myrrh is most likely “a stunted tree growing in Arabia, having a light-gray bark; the gum resin exudes in small tear-like drops which dry to a rich brown or reddish-yellow, brittle substance, with a faint though agreeable smell and a warm, bitter taste.”  Vine says, “The taste is bitter, and the substance astringent, acting as an antiseptic and a stimulant.” It is probably this ingredient that causes the heat that is felt when this holy oil is applied to the skin.
 E. W. G. Masterman, “Myrrh,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).
Myrrh had a number of uses in the Scriptures. It was used in the holy anointing oil of the Tabernacle (Exodus 30:23), and in perfumes (Psalms 45:8, Proverbs 7:17, Song of Solomon 3:6), and in Esther’s purification for the king (Esther 2:12). It was one of the gifts brought by the magi to baby Jesus (Matthew 2:11), was offered to Jesus while on the cross (Mark 15:23), and was prepared as a spice in the burial of Jesus’ body (John 19:39).
It comes from a root verb (H4843) that literally means, “to be bitter,” and figuratively, “to be grieved, to be vexed.” Therefore, some preachers say that myrrh represents the sufferings of Christ; some say it represents the office of the Apostle, as seen in the book of Acts.
Word Study on “cinnamon” -
Word Study on “calamus” Hebrew ( קָנֶה ) (H7070) Enhanced Strong says this Hebrew word is used 28 times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as, “reed 28, branch 24, calamus 3, Song of Solomon 2:0, stalk 2, balance 1, bone 1, spearmen 1.”
Word Study on “cassia” Strong says the Hebrew word “cassia” ( קִדָּה ) (H6916) comes from the primitive root ( קָדַד ) (H6915), which means, “ to shrivel up, i.e. contract or bend the body (or neck) in deference.” This is a flowering plant that smells like cinnamon. The ISBE says that it was a n article of commerce (Ezekiel 27:19), with its inner bark resembling the cinnamon, and “it is probable that this is Cassia lignea, the inner bark of Cinnamomum cassia, a plant growing in eastern Asia closely allied to that which yields the cinnamon of commerce. It is a fragrant, aromatic bark and was probably used in a powdered form.” It was probably imported from India. 
 E. W. G. Masterman, “Cassia,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).
Ezekiel 27:19, “Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.”
Comments - It is of interest to note that when I was anointed with this combination of ingredients during a service in August 2002, the oil produces a warm heat upon my skin.
The Incense Exodus 30:34-38 describes the making of the incense.
Exodus 30:34 Word Study on “stacte” Strong says the Hebrew ( נָטָף ) (H5198) means, “ a drop, stacte.” Easton says it refers to a fresh resin from the storax tree.
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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Exodus 30". Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://studylight.org/
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