The altar of incense. — V.1. And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon; of shittim wood shalt thou make it, of the same Arabian acacia wood which was to be used for all the wooden appointments. V.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. It was also ornamented with small. hornlike projections, the symbols of power. V.3. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, that is, its plate, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about, a heavy, decorated molding of gold, similar to that on the ark and on the table of showbread. Since the entire altar was so completely covered with gold, it was often designated simply as the golden altar, chap. 39, 38; 40, 5. 26; Num. 4, 11. V.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, rings set solidly into the material of the altar; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal. V.5. And thou shalt make the staves, the carrying poles, of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. V.6. And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the Ark of the Testimony, so that it occupied a position between the large candlestick and the table of showbread, before the mercy-seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. The altar of incense was thus brought into a direct and intimate relation to the mercy-seat, so close to the Most Holy Place that it could be considered as a part of its equipment in the wider sense, 1 Kings 6, 22; Heb. 9, 4. V.7. And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning; when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it, that is, when he trims and cleans the lamps of the large candlestick. V.8. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, putting back the lamps in place at the time of the evening sacrifice, chap. 29, 41, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations, as regularly as the sacrifice of burnt offering was made, chap. 29, 42. V.9. Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, such as was not ordered for that purpose by Jehovah nor such as was not made according to His precept, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat-offering, the unbloody sacrifices of baked or fried cakes; neither shall ye pour drink-offering thereon. V.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, namely, on the great Day of Atonement; it is most holy unto the Lord. The altar of incense thus served a double purpose: it was in use daily for the offering of incense, the aromatic substance whose odor was pleasant to the Lord, since it signified the prayer of the saints; and it served on the great Day of Atonement for the dedication of the blood of expiation, before the high priest entered the Most Holy Place. We Christians also let our prayers rise to the Lord like incense, that is, in the name of Jesus Christ the Savior, knowing that they are pleasing to the Lord for His sake.
The church tax. — V.11. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.12. When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, whenever a census of the people was taken, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them, a sum of money by which they were to redeem themselves from the personal service which they really owed to the Lord in the house of worship; that there be no plague among them when thou numberest them. The refusal or the neglect to pay this assessment would make a person liable to the punishment of God. V.13. This they shall give, everyone that passeth among them that are numbered, everyone that is included in the census, half a shekel after the shekel of the Sanctuary; (a shekel is twenty gerahs;) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord. Every male Israelite was to be enrolled in the army of Jehovah after he had reached the age of twenty years and be obliged to pay this assessment of half a shekel standard weight, that is, about 32 cents annually. This tax was used for the maintenance of the sacrificial service, since the expenses connected with the Jewish form of worship must have been quite large. The payment of this fee distinguished the people of the Lord from the heathen that knew nothing of Him. V.14. Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. V.15. The rich shall not give more, as they might have felt tempted to do, in order to display their wealth, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, for even the poorest could afford that much for the Lord, when they give an offering unto the Lord to make an atonement for your souls. Free-will offerings were acceptable at all other times, and were made in large quantities for the purpose of building the Tabernacle, but here the sum was definitely fixed. V.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, for the perpetual service of God in the building devoted to His worship; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord to make an atonement for your souls. They were ever to be reminded of the fact that they owed their souls to the Lord, that they were in His debt to the extent of their souls: in this sense the assessment was a ransom, money paid in atonement. To this day the Christians give evidence of the thankfulness of their hearts to God for the perfect atonement which was assured to them through Jesus Christ, also through their gifts and sacrifices.
The laver. — V.17. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.18. Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, of copper or one of its chief alloys, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal; and thou shalt put it between the Tabernacle of the Congregation and the altar, between the altar of burnt offerings in the court and the entrance to the Holy Place, and thou shalt put water therein. For this laver, or great wash-basin, the Israelitish women brought their metal mirrors, chap. 38, 8, glad to contribute what they could for this sacred purpose. V.19. For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat; v.20. when they go into the Tabernacle of the Congregation, before entering the Holy Place, 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; v.21. so they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not; and it shall be a statute forever to them, even to him (Aaron) and to his seed throughout their generations. The description indicates that the basin was a reservoir for water rather than a basin in which the priests performed their ablutions. No priest was to touch holy things with unclean, defiled hands. All this symbolized the inward purification effected by the Lord, even as we Christians have a never-failing fountain which cleanses us from all sin and impurity, the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The oil of ointment. — V.22. Moreover, the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, v.23. Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels(about fifteen pounds), and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, v.24. and of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the Sanctuary, the standard of weight among the children of Israel at that time, and of oil olive an hin, a little more than a gallon; v.25. and thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary, the man skilled in the preparing of spices and ointments. It shall be an holy anointing oil. The myrrh gum as it is found in the Arabian desert was to be mixed with costly, sweet-smelling spices, some of the finest products of the land; for this holy anointing oil was to excel in richness. “It might be said of the myrrh that it denotes that fine, higher kind of pain which enables one to overcome natural pain; cinnamon denotes the warmest feeling of light and life; the bitterness of calamus might also be noticed; but the significance of the cassia is difficult to determine.” (Lange.) V.26. And thou shalt anoint the Tabernacle of the Congregation therewith, and the Ark of the Testimony, v.27. and the table (of showbread) and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense, v.28. and the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, all the instruments used in its service, and the laver and his foot. V.29. And thou shalt sanctify them, set them apart for the worship of the Lord, that they may be most holy; whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy, consecrated to the Lord. The oil of ointment was declared to be holy, because the recipe for its making was given by the Lord and because it was used for holy purposes. V.30. And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto Me in the priest’s office. V.31. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto Me throughout your generations, reserved for use in the Sanctuary and its service. V.32. Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, that is, it was not to be used for ordinary anointing of the body, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it, they were not to compound their oil for private use in these proportions; it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you. V.33. Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, upon a layman, as contrasted with a priest, shall even be cut off from his people. The oil of ointment was a symbol of the Holy Ghost, who alone is able effectually to prepare a person for the service of the Lord, for the working of truly good works.
The holy incense. — V.34. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, a sweet-smelling gum similar to myrrh, and onycha, the pulverized shell of a mollusk, and galbanum, a bitter resin gained from a shrub of the desert, which strengthens the odor of the incense; these sweet spices with pure frankincense, which to this day is gathered from a small tree in.Arabia Felix and the surrounding country; of each shall there be a like weight, the ingredients were to be mixed in equal parts. V.35. And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, as in the case of the ointment, tempered together, carefully cleaned from all impurities, pure, without strange admixtures, and holy; v.36. and thou shalt beat some of it very small, literally, pound it into powder, and put it before the testimony in the Tabernacle of the Congregation, where I will meet with thee, before the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place. It shall be unto you most holy. V.37. And as for the perfume, this holy incense, which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof; it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. V.38. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, to enjoy its pleasant odor, shall even be cut off from his people. That which was consecrated to the Lord was not to be made common by profane use. Thus also prayer, which was symbolized by the incense, is never to be made in the spirit of levity, though it may now be sent up to the throne of God anywhere and at any time.