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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 30

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

THE ALTAR OF INCENSE, Exodus 30:1-10.

1. An altar to burn incense upon This was to be one of the pieces of furniture belonging to the holy place, (Exodus 30:6,) and the description of it would have been appropriate in connexion with the table and the candlestick, (Exodus 25:23-37,) but seems to have been reserved for this place in order to stand in connexion with the consecration and sacrificial ministry of the priests .

Shittim wood The same as that employed for the table (Exodus 25:23) and the ark, (Exodus 25:10,) the boards of the sanctuary, (Exodus 26:15,) and the framework of the altar of burnt offering, (Exodus 27:1. )

Verses 2-5

2-5. Horns… rings… staves In these respects it was fashioned after the manner of the greater altar in the court, and also of some portions of the ark, (Exodus 25:12-15. ) The crown of gold round about is to be understood of a rim or moulding, as that of the ark . See note on Exodus 25:11. The probable form of this altar is exhibited in the annexed cut.

Verse 6

6. Put it before the vail Thus it seems to have had a more direct relation to the most holy place than either the table of showbread or the golden candlestick . The offering of incense was symbolical of the prayers of saints, (Psalms 141:2; Revelation 8:3-4,) and the people were accustomed to pray without when the priest was offering the incense. Luke 1:10. The priest, standing before this altar of incense, would have the ark directly in front of him, within the vail, the table of showbread at his right, and the candlestick at his left.

Verses 7-8

7, 8. Perpetual incense Like the continual burnt offering, this burning of incense of spices was to be repeated every morning, and also at even, or between the two evenings . See on Exodus 29:39. It was to correspond with the dressing and lighting of the lamps. The composition of the incense is described in Exodus 30:34-38.

Verse 9

9. Strange incense Offered with fire other than that which God ordained, on account of which impiety the two elder sons of Aaron were destroyed . Leviticus 10:1. This altar of incense being set apart for a special use, no burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering, nor drink offering, was to be offered thereon . The offerings made on the great altar, in the court without, effected reconciliation with Jehovah; the incense offering represented a closer approach to the divine glory, based upon previous reconciliation; and hence a bringing of the same offerings within, before the vail, as those offered without, would have been a confusion of distinct symbolical services .

Verse 10

10. Once in the year shall he make atonement The absolute holiness of Jehovah was further enhanced in the minds of the people by the thought that altars and holy places would after a time be liable to contract some defilement, and hence the solemn purifications of all once in the year, on the great day of atonement . See on Leviticus 16:0, where the ceremonies of this day are given in detail .

Verses 11-16

RANSOM OF SOULS, Exodus 30:11-16.

The fundamental idea in this ransoming of souls by a tax of atonement money was, that thereby every Israelite of twenty-five years old and upward would be obligated to contribute somewhat to the erection of the sanctuary. With this exception all the offerings for the tabernacle were given as willing contributions of the heart, (Exodus 25:2. ) The silver thus contributed was used for the sockets of the sanctuary, (Exodus 38:27.)

Verse 12

12. That there be no plague A failure to contribute this poll tax exposed to the judgment of God . Such failure would imply a serious want of interest in the worship of Israel, if not open contempt .

Verse 13

13. Half a shekel No large amount; perhaps about fifty cents of our currency . The exact weight of the silver shekel is no longer known . The shekel of the sanctuary is commonly supposed to have been larger and heavier than the common shekel . Gerah is the Hebrew name of a bean or berry, and like our word grain came to be used for a small weight .

Offering תרומה , heave offering . See Exodus 29:27.

Verse 15

15. The rich shall not give more This apportioning the same amount to rich and poor showed that in the meeting of Jehovah at the sanctuary all stood upon the same level. It is well to have some forms of offering which will impress this lesson. In making an atonement for souls the rich have no advantage over the poor.

Verse 16

16. A memorial A constant reminder of their being covered and shielded from plague by complying with this command .

Verses 17-21

THE LAVER, 17-21.

Click image for full-size version

Verse 18

18. Laver of brass According to Exodus 38:8, it was made of the mirrors of the women who were wont to assemble at the entrance of the tabernacle . The purpose of this laver was mainly for the priests to wash themselves when they entered upon their holy work; also for the washing of inwards and legs of victims . Leviticus 1:9. Its form is not described, but it rested upon a foot or pedestal, and the adjoining cuts represent two possible forms according to which it may have been constructed . For the temple there was a brazen sea resting upon twelve oxen, and also ten lavers resting upon as many bases. See notes and cuts at 1 Kings 7:23-39. The laver was to be placed between the tabernacle… and the altar, probably as indicated in the cut of the tabernacle and court on page 522.

Verses 22-24

THE ANOINTING OIL, Exodus 30:22-23.

23, 24. Principal spices That is, spices of the best quality and highest value .

Pure myrrh Rather, as Revised Version, flowing myrrh . This was a sort of gum which exudes spontaneously from the bark of a tree that is found in Eastern Africa and Arabia. The tree somewhat resembles a thorn tree, and is described in Johnson’s Travels in Abyssinia as “a low, thorny, ragged-looking tree, with bright green trifoliate leaves. The gum exudes from cracks in the bark of the trunk near the root, and flows freely upon the stones immediately underneath. Artificially it is obtained by bruises made with stones.” That which is obtained by bruising the tree is of inferior quality to that which flows forth of itself.

Sweet cinnamon Or, spicy cinnamon. This was probably an article of commerce brought from India and Ceylon by Midianite or other Arabian merchants. It consists of the inner rind of a tree that belongs to the laurel family, and is obtained by peeling off the outer bark, and securing the interior part of it by an instrument fitted to the purpose. The best cinnamon is said to be obtained from the smaller shoots and twigs of the tree.

Sweet calamus Or, spicy cane, an aromatic reed that grows in various parts of the East, especially in India, Arabia, and Egypt, and consists of a knotty stalk enclosing a soft pith, which upon being cut and dried affords a rich perfume.

Cassia According to Gesenius, with whom most authorities agree, “a species of aromatic bark resembling cinnamon, but less fragrant and less valuable, so called from its rolls being split, ( קדד . )” The word rendered cassia in Psalms 45:8 is different, ( קציעה ,) but is believed to denote a very similar substance . It will be noticed that the myrrh and the cassia were to be just double the amount of the cinnamon and the sweet calamus, which were compounded together with a hin of olive oil . Probably the essences of the spices were first extracted, and then mingled with the oil .

Verse 25

25. Compound after the art of the apothecary In the times after the exile some of the priest’s sons were intrusted with the preparation of the ointment of spices. 1 Chronicles 9:30. As it was made the special care of the high priest to guard it, (Numbers 4:16,) we may naturally suppose that he was charged with the duty of either compounding it himself or employing some competent person to assist him . The original preparation of it would seem, from Exodus 37:29, to have been intrusted to Bezaleel, the architect . Being of a special character, and known as an oil of holy ointment, or a holy anointing oil, it might not be used for ordinary purposes, such as anointing one’s flesh, (Exodus 30:32,) or using it on a foreigner, (Exodus 30:33,) and any attempt to make any other oil like it was strictly forbidden. The ceremony of anointing with oil denoted the setting apart and consecrating to a holy purpose, and accordingly this holy ointment was to be used solely for such consecration of the priests and the tabernacle and its sacred vessels. Exodus 30:26-30.

Verse 34


34. Stacte This is the name used by the Greek and Latin version as representing the Hebrew נשׂ Š, nataph, which denotes something that drops, and is commonly held to be the gum of the storax tree, which is found in Syria, and grows to the height of fifteen feet or more . The gum which exudes from its bark has a fragrant odour, and is mentioned by Pliny as being burned as a perfume in his time .

Onycha This word occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures . Pliny mentions onyx as a shell which was used in the composition of perfume, and most versions and interpreters have understood it as the winged strombus, a species of mollusk which is said to abound in the Red Sea. The fact, however, that all the other ingredients of this composition were vegetable should incline us rather to think of it as the exudation of some plant or tree. Galbanum is another word not elsewhere found in the Old Testament, but seems to be the same as the Greek χαλβανη , which is found in the Septuagint of this verse, and is the name of the gum of a plant which is found in Africa, Syria, Persia, and India . The Opoidia Galbanifera has been adopted by the Dublin College in their Pharmacopoeia as that which yields the galbanum . Frankincense, so often referred to in the Scriptures as a kind of precious perfume, is here mentioned for the first time . It was the odoriferous resin of some kind of plant or tree of which the ancient writers do not seem to have possessed any specific knowledge. That it was of a white colour may be inferred from its Hebrew name, לבונה , and according to Isaiah 60:6, and Jeremiah 6:20, it was found in Sheba .

Modern botanists identify it with the Boswellia serrata, which grows luxuriantly in the mountainous parts of India.

Verse 35

35. Art of the apothecary See on Exodus 30:25.

Tempered together Rather, seasoned with salt, after the manner of meat offerings . See on Leviticus 2:13.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 30". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/exodus-30.html. 1874-1909.
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