The Altar of Incense
30 “You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”
The Census Tax
The LORD said to Moses, “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD’s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”
The Bronze Basin
The LORD said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die. They shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they may not die. It shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his offspring throughout their generations.”
The Anointing Oil and Incense
The LORD said to Moses, “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’”
The LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.”
Exodus 30 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The details were exact. Through all of these descriptions of the tabernacle and all the furnishings God was revealing to His people this was a place for the people to meet with Him.
All of these pieces are interesting articles and somewhat foreign to us today. One such item was the altar of incense. This stood in the holy place of the tabernacle but not the Holy of Holies. It stood near the Ark of the Covenant but was separated by a veil, standing on the outside of it. Every morning Aaron and those who would follow him were to burn incense on the altar as part of their priestly duties. They burned incense at night as well.
Although this is called an altar of incense, it was not an altar for sacrifice of animal. It was to be a place where God met man through this act.
Once a year there was a ceremony that took happened at this place called the Day of Atonement. On this day a sacrifice was made for the sins of the entire nation of Israel. This was the only day a priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, which was the innermost room. Here the priest would ask God to forgive the people. This once a year event was a reminder that the daily, weekly, monthly sacrifices only covered sins temporarily.
All this would point toward Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross. Likewise, we don’t save ourselves through prayer, we pray because of Jesus’ saving us on the cross. As Aaron was instructed to put blood on the horns of the altar for a sin offering, prayer doesn’t atone for our sins but only Jesus’ blood did that. The blood then would serve as a reminder to the priests each morning and evening when they brought the incense as they saw the blood-stained horns and would be drawn toward the atoning blood for the forgiveness of them.
There is a picture here that needs to be grasped. Incense is a picture of prayer. Revelation even refers to this in a few places where the sweetness of our prayers ascends to heaven. (Check out Revelation 5 and 8 – simply beautiful) Just considering how the incense was burned in the morning and the evening is a reminder of our own need to come to God daily, before our days begin and in the evening in thanksgiving for surviving that day, in an attitude and practice of prayer.
But this picture also is reminder of the unbelievable sacrifice of Jesus Christ that dark Friday. He willingly gave up His life; was sacrificed on our behalf once for all so that all who believe Him may be set free from the chains of their sin. His resurrection brought the assurance of our faith and helps us live in victory throughout.
Exodus 30 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The ability to come before God is an opportunity, not a right.
Aaron was given the duty of burning sweet incense at morning and at twilight on this smaller altar. To us it may seem like a burden, but it was actually a great honor and privilege. This act was restricted to those who were able to approach God. This passage reminds me of the visual we get in Revelation 8.
Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.Revelation 8:3-4 NASB
The incense is likened to the prayers of God’s people. The burning of incense along with those prayers go up before God. When we put together the great privilege we have to come before God (through Jesus) as well as the awesome image of our prayers as incense wafting up towards God, we get a powerful image of prayer. Prayer is not a right.
The key is Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Through His atonement, we are allowed to enter into God’s presence. We, as heirs, are not just given the duty of “burning incense” before His heavenly nostrils, but we are gifted with the opportunity. It is something we cannot and should not take for granted.
So, in light of the passage, where are you ignoring the gift of prayer? Where has it become a duty instead of an opportunity? Where do you need to get back to burning sweet incense to the Lord?