The Golden Altar

The Golden Altar of Incense (Ex 30:1-10)

The Golden Altar of Incense was 2 cubits tall.
It was 1 cubit square with a crown of gold around the top and it had 4 golden horns

It was the Golden Altar of Incense which was straight ahead, before the veil, this third piece of furniture in the Holy Place on which the holy incense was burned. Made from acacia wood overlaid with pure gold it stood higher than any other article of furniture in the holy place, 2 cubits (3 feet) tall. It was one cubit square and it had around the top a crown of gold. It had four golden horns just as the bronze altar in the courtyard. Lower down on each side there were golden rings to insert the poles for carrying.

Exod 30:1-10 "You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width-- it shall be square-- and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you. Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD."

- It had 4 horns of gold, one with it, a horn on each corner. (4-camps, e.Judah, s.Ruben, w.Ephraim, n.Dan, all Gods people)

The golden altar was used for burning incense, which twice every day was offered by the priest after he had tended the wick and oil on the holy lamps. Its horns were also sprinkled with the blood of the sin offering.

The incense was a mixture of three rich and rare spices, which cannot be identified today. These were blended with frankincense and beaten to a fine powder and then salt was added. It was totally forbidden for this formula to be used by any private individual. It had to be used only in the worship of God in the holy place.

Ex 30:34-38 And the LORD said to Moses: "Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the LORD. Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people."

The incense was burnt on pieces of hot coal, which the priest removed in a censer or fire pan from the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard. A censer apparently was a shallow bowl or pan with a handle on it. It could be also be used for removing the ashes from the altar or gathering up the burnt parts of the wick from the lampstand.

The golden altar was used for burning incense

Poured out on burning coals the incense produced a delightful aroma in the Holy Place. It was the offering of the person whose sins had been forgiven by blood and who then went on to express the fragrance of love and worship, which was most pleasing to God.

The Golden Altar speaks to us of the worship of Jesus Christ and God's people through him as our high priest and mediator. It was only on the basis of His one sacrifice on the altar of the cross that worship is made possible. The coals, which lit the incense, was carried from the altar of sacrifice to the altar of incense.

Although the common priest would burn these holy spices on the altar over 700 times in a year he knew that no priest other than the High Priest could go beyond that point, and only on the Day of Atonement.

Lev 16:12 "Then Aaron shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil.

- The sweet incense was to be kept burning at all times.

- It was before the veil, and the throne of God (Jesus for us)

On The Journey

Num 4:11 "Over the golden altar they shall spread a blue cloth, and cover it with a covering of badger skins; and they shall insert its poles.

Example of Moses' intercession:

Num 16:41-50 On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, "You have killed the people of the LORD." Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment." And they fell on their faces. So Moses said to Aaron, "Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun." Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

A Type of Christ

The golden altar of incense tells us of the ministry of Jesus as our intercessor whose prayers never stop ascending to God on our behalf. Jesus said to Peter, "I have prayed for you." The four horns speak of Christ's ministry extending to the four corners of the earth. He will always pray for His own no matter where they are. He can intercede on our behalf because of the atoning work on the cross of Calvary. The incense was fueled by the fire from the altar. It is not just anyone praying for us but the King Himself as represented by the crown of gold. He knows our weaknesses and our failings and He is praying for us always.

Ps 141:2 Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Jn 17:9-10 "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

John 17:15 "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

Heb 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

1 Jn 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Lk 22:31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Rom 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Ps 121:4 Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Rom 8:34 It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Acts 6:4 "but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

Heb 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Lk 1:8-10 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.

Rev 5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Rev 8:3-4 Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand.

The golden altar of incense tells us of the ministry of Jesus as our intercessor whose prayers never stop ascending to God for us.