Scriptures

Exodus 30

Introduction

‘Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high—its horns of one piece with it. Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold and make a gold moulding around it. Make two gold rings for the altar below the moulding—two on each of the opposite sides to hold the poles used to carry it. Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you. ‘Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the LORD for the generations to come. Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the LORD.’ Exodus 30:1-10

The Golden Incense Altar was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It was situated just in front of the Veil, the curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It was square, half a metre by half a metre wide, and one metre high.

The priest had to burn incense at this altar in the morning and at twilight, as a perpetual fragrance before the Lord. The burning incense signifies prayer and points us to the prayer of the Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, John 17 / Mark 14:32-42 / Psalm 141:2 / Revelation 5:8.

Similar to the Showbread Table, the Golden Incense Altar had a golden crown round the top of it. This signifies ‘Jesus, crowned with glory and honour’. Hebrews 2:9. However, because the Golden Incense Altar is the place of prayer, the crown and the prayer together give us a hint of a kingly priesthood.

This thought is developed in the Book of Hebrews, the Messiah, ‘Jesus Christ has become a priest according to the order of Melchizedek’. Psalm 110:1 / Hebrews 7.

He can sympathize with us as our great High Priest, Hebrews 4:15 and He is able to minister His supply of mercy and grace to us as the King of righteousness and King of peace, Genesis 14:18 / Hebrews 2 / Hebrews 4:16 / Hebrews 7:25.

Prayer is very important in the daily life of all believers in the Lord, Daniel 6:10 / Matthew 6:5-13. We should pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, using all kinds of prayers and petitions with thanksgiving, praying at every time in the Spirit, watching and persevering in prayer not just for ourselves but for all our brothers and sisters, Ephesians 6:18.

Prayer is becoming increasingly important, especially as the battle intensifies and utterance of the Gospel becomes harder, Ephesians 6:19.

However, when our prayer is genuinely at the Golden Incense Altar, the Lord causes much incense to be added to our prayer. That incense rises back to Him as we pray according to His will, and the results are dramatic, Revelation 8:3-4.

The Tabernacle is the house of God, His dwelling place, Exodus 25:8-9 and a foreshadow of both Christ and the Church, Colossians 2:9 / 1 Timothy 3:15 / Ephesians 2:21-22. It is God’s desire that His house should ‘be a house of prayer for all nations,’ Isaiah 56:7.

For us to pray at the Golden Incense Altar, blood must first be applied, Leviticus 4:7, the blood of the Sin Offering. Then the incense must be prepared with genuine acknowledgements and experiences of the Son’s Name, His purity, holiness, subjection, faith and dependence on God the Father, John 16:23-24.

One of the ingredients of the incense was salt, to make our prayer neither sentimental nor formal. We should pray at every time in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18 in the Son’s Name. This will be a sweet incense to God the Father.

Jesus’ ministry was not just healing and teaching people, it was also a service to God the Father in His living and in praying, Mark 1:32-35. The night before He chose His twelve disciples, Jesus spent the whole night in the ‘prayer of God’, Luke 6:12.

His admonition ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation’ and His observation regarding praying that ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,’ Matthew 26:41 so obviously come from One who is qualified to comment, Hebrews 2:14 / Hebrews 2:18.

In His prayer in John 17, Jesus utters such meaningful requests, with such adoration of the Father, acknowledging His own position as a man and that of the Father as Giver of all authority, John 17:2, as Holy Father, John 17:11, as Righteous Father, John 17:25.

This prayer is no ‘last night’ performance; it is rather the continuation of a life of previous prayer, as indicated by the phrase ‘Father, the hour has now come’. John 17:1.

Here in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is at the Golden Incense Altar, on the night before the Veil, that is His flesh, Hebrews 10:20, will be torn from top to bottom, by God His Father, Matthew 27:46 / Matthew 27:51. Jesus’ prayer is for eternal life for all those the Father has given to Him.

Jesus is like the high priest in the Tabernacle, bearing the names of the disciples, and those who will believe through their word, John 17:20 on His heart, the Breastplate.

His prayer is that the Father will.
1. Keep the disciples, guarding them all in the Father’s own holy name, in unbroken oneness, as the Father and the Son are one, John 17:6-12.

2. Sanctify them in His word of truth, setting the disciples apart to the Father as Jesus Himself had been set apart to the Father, for their impact in the world with the Gospel, that generations of believers may be one, one in Them, the Father and the Son, John 17:13-21.

3. Send the glory of the Son, John 1:14 and John 17:1 to the believers, that they may be perfected in oneness, so that the world may see the love of the Father for His only begotten Son and also the Father’s love for His many children, John 1:12-13 / John 1:18 / John 3:5-6 / John 17:22-26 / John 20:17.

This is the prayer for eternal life, ‘that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ John 17:3. Jesus said, ‘I am come that they may have life and have it abundantly’ John 10:10.

Eternal life is simply to know the Father and the Son and their oneness, truly, for eternity. This is Jesus’ prayer for eternal life, may it also be ours.

Such a fragrance of incense exudes from this deep prayer by the great High Priest for all those in the House of God! Let us also come to the Golden Incense Altar and thence boldly through the Veil to the throne of grace, the Ark of the Covenant, that we may find the mercy and obtain the grace He has prayed for us in this great time of need! Hebrews 3:6 / Hebrews 4:14-16.

Atonement Money

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives.” Exodus 30:11-16

It appears that the earlier accounting of the population of Israel was probably just approximate as to the number of people in Israel, here the purpose of the accounting is to request a free-will offering from the Israelites. Another meaning of this census was that God owns all souls, that is, people. The very fact of counting one’s flock, or wealth, suggests ownership, Ezekiel 18:4.

What was required here was a tax for every male of Israel who was twenty years old and older. The amount that was required, was very small, a half shekel.

Since everyone was to pay the same, the tax equalised everyone, rich and poor. The rich couldn’t claim any advantage over the poor by being able to contribute more. Everyone had to pay the same, and so, be considered the same in reference to God’s favour.

Coinage wasn’t known in Israel in the times of Moses, hence, the weight of this tax was specified as twenty gerahs. The word ‘gerah’ means a bean, probably a carob bean, from which our word ‘carat’ is derived, and weighing about 11 grains.

It was atonement money in the sense that it reminded the giver that in no way could one atone for his own sins. Since the contribution was only a half shekel, one would rightly conclude that the greatness of his sins couldn’t be bought, no matter how much or how little one gave. Since atonement cannot be bought, then no amount of money can pay the price for our sins.

Notice the money was to be given for services for the tabernacle. This contribution probably became an annual obligation tax in Israel in the years to come, 2 Chronicles 24:9. The half-shekel tax continued down through the times of the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 17:24-27.

Basin For Washing

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.’ Exodus 30:17-21

The Laver was a large bronze basin containing water. The Bible does not record its size or dimensions. Having entered through the Door into the Tabernacle’s Outer Court, the priests had to wash their hands and feet at the Laver before they could either enter into the Sanctuary Building or make any offering to the Lord at the Burnt Offering Altar.

God warned Moses that if the priests did not wash they would die. It is therefore a serious requirement that we ‘wash’ as we come to handle any of the things of the Lord, because those who believe in the Lord Jesus are considered priests in the New Testament sense, 1 Peter 2:9 / Revelation 1:5-6.

The New Testament speaks of washing in two ways.

1. Baptism, Acts 22:16 / Acts 16:31-33.

2. The washing of the water in the Word, John 13:8-10 / John 15:8 / Ephesians 5:26.

All of which is in according to the pattern in Exodus 29:39, ‘Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight’, at least twice daily, in the morning and evening.

After having believed in the Lord Jesus and experienced that He is the Door through which we enter into God’s kingdom, we should come to Him every day in a simple and sincere way.

We need to read the Word of God in the Bible so that we can live by Him, Matthew 4:4 and we need to confess our sins to God, because He is faithful and righteous to forgive and cleanse us, 1 John 1:7-9.

When God forgives, He forgets, Hebrews 8:12. This is the combined experience of the Laver and the Burnt Offering Altar. It is important to read the Bible, because the Word of God washes us, our ‘hands’ and ‘feet’, especially from the dirtiness of the world around us.

It gives us God’s perspective on our human conduct in the world and on the thoughts of our minds and hearts, Genesis 6:5. When Ephesians 5:26 speaks of the washing of the water in the Word, the word for washing is ‘laver’ in Greek.

As we read His Word, the Lord shines into our hearts and speaks to us, mostly in our conscience. According to God’s shining and enlightening, we will need to confess and ask His forgiveness and cleansing. Only then are we qualified to approach the Sanctuary Building.

The effect of the washing, ‘laver’ in the Word is to cleanse, Psalm 119:9. This results in us taking God’s side more and more in our living. We become set apart to God. ‘Holy’ or ‘sanctified’, ‘holified’ means just that, set apart to God. Such sanctified people are called ‘saints’ in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 1:2.

Saints are believers in Christ who have experienced the washing of God’s Word in their living. We may have been greedy persons, swindlers, drunkards, abusers of drugs, thieves, liars, fornicators, homosexuals, involved with pornography, etc. before we came to the Door in the curtains of the Outer Court.

But do not be deceived, no one can inherit the kingdom of God like this, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. We are washed at the Laver and set apart to God, sanctified, as a result, we are justified at the Burnt Offering Altar by faith in Jesus’ death on the cross as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. John 1:29.

The message Jesus preached was ‘time’s up. Change your mind and believe the good news’, Mark 1:15, ‘The time is fulfilled. Repent and believe the gospel’. Peter, Andrew, James, John and the other disciples of Jesus did just that, they changed their minds and began to follow Jesus.

They left their old environment because they had found something so real and true, the reality of the Tabernacle, Jesus. They admired the Door, His character, His power, His teaching, He had washed their feet at the Last Supper, and they saw the offering as He died, John 13:4-11.

The disciples became set apart to God amidst a totally hostile environment. But this was not the end, Jesus rose from the dead. He came back to them, not just to tabernacle among them, but dwell in them, as God’s dwelling place, the Sanctuary.

Anointing Oil

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus, 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil. Then use it to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law, the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand. You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. “Anoint Aaron and his sons and consecrate them so they may serve me as priests. Say to the Israelites, ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil for the generations to come. Do not pour it on anyone else’s body and do not make any other oil using the same formula. It is sacred, and you are to consider it sacred. Whoever makes perfume like it and puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from their people.’” Exodus 30:22-33

A perfumer was one who had mastered the art of apothecary. Those who had this skill knew how to make this special oil from the four designated ingredients. The mixture was to be used first to anoint the tabernacle and its furniture in order to set them apart for their intended function.

Once the tabernacle and its furniture were sanctified, no one was to touch them except those who were also sanctified. And so, the priests were also anointed with oil in order to be sanctified for their service in the tabernacle.

Coffman, in his commentary says the following.

‘There is some curiosity as to how some 46 1/4 pounds of spices could be pulverized and mixed with about a gallon and a half of olive oil, but the explanation is in Exodus 30:25, where the instructions indicated that all of this was to be done ‘after the art of the perfumer’.’

According to Jewish tradition, the essences of the spices were first extracted, and then mixed with the oil. The preparation was entrusted to Bezaleel, Exodus 37:29, and the duty of preserving it fell upon Eleazar the son of Aaron, Numbers 4:16.

Myrrh

The text designates that this was to be ‘freely flowing myrrh,’ as contrasted with the myrrh produced by making incisions into the myrrh trees. The kind that appeared by itself was considered best.

The ancients used it, a. as a perfume, b, for embalming the dead, and c, for incense. This gum is produced from a low, thorny, ragged tree, that grows in Arabia Felix and Eastern Africa, called by botanists, Balsamodendron myrrha.

Cinnamon

This is a rare spice, derived from a species of the laurel tree, ‘Laurus cinnarnomum’, which grows only on the Malabar coast of India, Ceylon, Borneo, Sumatra, China, and Cochin China. The mention of it here shows that there was commerce between the Far East and the Near East at this early period.

Sweet Calamus

Several aromatic reeds of this kind are known, and it’s impossible to know exactly which one was meant here.

Cassia

This spice bears a strong resemblance to cinnamon, in fact having the botanical name ‘Cinnamomum Cassia’. It’s more pungent than the cinnamon which we know today, and of a coarser texture.

Incense

‘Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. Do not make any incense with this formula for yourselves; consider it holy to the LORD. Whoever makes incense like it to enjoy its fragrance must be cut off from their people.” Exodus 30:34-38

The incense was to produce a sweet-smelling aroma for the priest who conducted sacrifices at the tabernacle. Though the aroma of the incense would remind the people of the pleasant atmosphere of God’s presence, it also had a very practical use.

In the midst of many slayings of animals for sacrifices, the sweet aroma of the perfume aided the senses of the priests who had to work in such an environment.

Gum Resin

There are two kinds of gum resin, one of myrrh and one of storax and a fat mixed. The kind mentioned here is supposed to be myrrh.

Onycha

This is a mollusc which emits a highly aromatic odour when burned. Gathered in the Near East until recently, it’s used as an ingredient in perfume, and as a principal component of incense in India.

Galbanum

This is a gum resin with a pleasant odour and a bitter taste. It is imported from Persia. It’s derived from certain umbelliferous plants.

Frankincense

Common frankincense is a gum derived from the ordinary fir tree, but the frankincense of the Jews is a substance now called Olibanum, a product of certain trees of the genus Boswellia. It grows in Arabia and Somaliland.

Notice that the Jews were forbidden to make any of these sacred oils or incense for their own use, if anyone did, then they would be ‘cut off’ from God’s people.

These sacred materials were solely for use as God directed and not for the personal use of any persons whomsoever, except the ordained priests of the tabernacle.

Go To Exodus 31

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"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Genesis 1:1

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