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Song of Solomon
Exodus 30 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon:
shittim wood shalt thou make it.
- THE ALTAR OF INCENSE. This chapter has the appearance of being one in which accidental omissions are supplied. The natural place for a description of the altar of incense - part of the furniture of the holy place (ver. 6) - would seem to have been
, where we have the descriptions of the ark, the mercy-seat, the table of shew-bread, and the candlestick; the natural place for "the ransom of souls," the earlier part of the same chapter (ver. 3), where the silver is required which was to be collected in this way; the natural place for an account of the bronze laver, ch. 27, where the bronze altar, near which it stood, is described; the natural place for the composition of the holy oil, ch. 29, where its use is commanded (vers. 7, 21); and the natural place for a description of the perfume the same as for the altar on which it was to be offered. Whether Moses made the omissions in writing his record, and afterwards supplied them in the present chapter, or whether Divine wisdom saw fit to give the directions in the order in which we now have them, cannot be determined. Hitherto certainly no sufficient reason has been shown for the existing order, which hence appears accidental. The altar of incense was to be in many respects similar to the altar of burnt-offering, but of smaller size and richer material. Both were to be "four-square," and both of shittim wood cased with metal; but the former was to be taller, the latter shorter, than it was broad; and while the latter was to be cased with bronze, the former was to have a covering of gold. The place for the altar of incense was the main chamber of the tabernacle, a little in front of the veil; and its purpose was, as the name implied, the offering of incense to almighty God. This was to be done by the officiating priest, twice a day, morning and evening, and in practice was performed before the morning, and after the evening sacrifice.
- An altar to burn incense upon.
The offering of incense was an element in the religious worship of most ancient nations. In Egypt frankincense was especially used in the festivals of the god Ammon (
Records of the Past
, vol. 10. pp. 18, 19);. and on one occasion an Egyptian sovereign sent a naval expedition to Arabia for the express purpose of bringing frankincense and frankincense trees to Egypt, in connection with the Ammon feasts (Brugsch,
History of Egypt
, vol. 1. pp. 305-311). The Babylonians burnt a thousand talents' weight of frankincense every year at the great festival of Bal (Herod. 1:183). The Greeks and Romans offered frankincense, as a rule, with every offering; and in the early ages of Christianity it was made the test of a Christian whether he would do this or no. What exactly the religious notion was which underlay these acts, or whether it was the same everywhere, may be questioned. In the Mosaic religion, however, there can be little doubt that, in the main, incense symbolised prayer. (See
Of shittim wood
. Compare above,
the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits
the height thereof: the horns thereof
of the same.
Four square shall it be
. Like the altar of burnt-offering. See the comment on Exodus 27:1.
Two cubits shall be the height thereof
. Altars of this small size are often represented on ancient vases and other remains. (See Dr. Smith's
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities
, pp. 117 and 1174.)
It seems to be assumed that an altar must have horns. Those of the altar of incense were to have the blood of certain sin-offerings smeared upon them (
Leviticus 4:7, 18
Shall be of the same
"shall be of one piece with the top of the table" - not projections added to it. Compare
And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about.
Thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold
, a border, or moulding, all round the top, to prevent anything from falling off. Compare what is said of the table of shew-bread,
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
; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal.
By the two corners
. Rather, "on its two sides." The ensuing clause is redundant. All that is meant is, that the altar should have two rings only - not four - one at each side, directly below the moulding. As it was so small, two rings were enough.
For the staves
. Rather, "for staves."
And thou shalt make the staves
shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
- The staves were to be of acacia wood, overlaid with gold, like those used for carrying the ark (
) and the table of shew-bread (
And thou shalt put it before the vail that
by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that
over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.
Thou shalt put it
before the vail
. It might have been doubtful from what is said here, which side of the veil the altar was to be placed. The doubt is precluded by the narrative of what Moses actually did in
, which makes it clear that the altar was placed with the golden candlestick and the table of shew-bread, outside the veil, in the "holy place," and not within the "holy of holies."
Where I will meet with
And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
. Literally, "incense of perfumes." For the composition of the incense, see vers. 34-38.
When he dresseth the lamps
. The lamps of the golden candlestick were to be trimmed and cleaned, their wicks looked to, and fresh oil added, if necessary, every morning, immediately after daybreak. See the comment on Exodus 27:21. The duty devolved on the priests.
And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.
. Literally, "between the two evenings." (See the comment on Exodus 12:6.) The offering of incense by the high priest twice a day, at the time of the morning and evening sacrifice, indicated that prayer was needed as constantly as expiation, and that neither might for a single day be intermitted.
A perpetual incense
. "Perpetual," in the sense that it was to be burnt twice a day, as long as the religion lasted - not in the sense that it was to be kept burning constantly.
Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
is meant any which was not prepared according to the directions given in vers. 34-38. None such was ever to be offered. Nor was the altar to be used for
burnt-offering, meat-offering, or drink-offering
. For burnt-offering it was manifestly unfit; but the prohibition of the others seems to show a determination to keep its use markedly distinct from that of the brazen altar in the court, which was to receive all that was offered either for expiation, or for self-dedication, or in gratitude. On the sole exception made to this general law, see the comment on the next verse.
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: it
most holy unto the LORD.
Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in the year.
Once in the year, on the great day of atonement - the tenth day of the seventh month - the high priest, after burning incense within the veil, and sprinkling the blood of a bullock and a ram towards the mercy seat, was to take of the blood, and put it on the horns of the altar of incense "to make an atonement for it - to cleanse it and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel" (
Leviticus 16:18, 19
). This was not making it an altar of expiation, but merely expiating it. There was, however, another use for the altar, where it seems to have served for an altar of expiation. When the high priest had sinned in his official character, and offered a sin-offering for his cleansing (
), or when the whole congregation had committed an offence through inadvertence, and did the same (
, 13-21), the high priest was to put of the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar of incense, "for the expiation of his own sin and the sin of the people" (Keil). In these two cases, the altar of incense served the purpose of the altar of burnt-offering, on which was put the blood of private sin-offerings (
It is most holy
. There seems to be sufficient reason for considering the altar of incense as, next to the ark and mercy seat, the most sacred object in the furniture of the tabernacle. This precedence indicates the extreme value which God sets upon prayer.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
- THE RANSOM OF SOULS. The various commands given with respect to the tabernacle and its furniture would necessarily involve a very considerable outlay; and it was important that Moses should receive directions as to the source, or sources, whence this expenditure was to come. In
, one source had been indicated, viz., the voluntary contributions of the people. To this is now added a second source. On occasion of rite numbering of the people - an event which is spoken of as impending (ver. 12) - Moses was told to exact from each of them, as atonement money, the sum of half a shekel of silver. The produce of this tax was to be applied to the work of the sanctuary (ver. 16), and it is found to have formed an important clement in the provision for the cost, since the total amount was above a hundred talents, or, more exactly, 301,775 shekels (
). The requirement of atonement money seems to have been based on the idea, that formal enrolment in the number of God's faithful people necessarily brought home to every man his unworthiness to belong to that holy company, and so made him feel the need of making atonement in some way or other. The payment of the half-shekel was appointed as the legal mode under those circumstances. It was an acknowledgment of sin, equally binding upon all, and so made equal for all; and it saved from God's vengeance those who, if they had boon too proud to make it, would have been punished by some "plague" or other (ver. 12).
When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when
When thou takest the sum
. The sum had been taken roughly at the time of the exodus (
). Moses was now, it would seem, about to take it again, more accurately. No command had ever been given that the people should not be numbered; and the Egyptian habit of compiling exact statistics naturally clung to one who had had an Egyptian training. (See the "Statistical Tables of Karnak," in the "
Records of the Past
," vol. 2. pp. 19-28.)
. Rather "an expiation," "an atonement" - (as in
Exodus 29:33, 36
) - something to show that he was conscious of sin, and of his not deserving to be numbered among God's people. That there was no plague. "That they be not punished for undue pride and presumption. There is no thought of such a plague as was provoked by David's numbering (
2 Samuel 24:15
This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel
twenty gerahs:) an half shekel
the offering of the LORD.
Half a shekel
. The shekel of later times was a silver coin, about the size round of our shilling, but considerably thicker, and worth about one shilling and eightpence. But at the date of the exodus coins were unknown, and the "shekel" meant a certain weight. The burthen imposed by the tax was evidently a light one.
The shekel of the sanctuary
. A standard weight in the possession of the priests, equal probably to about 220 grains troy.
. The word "gerah" means "a bean;" and the
must bare been a weight equal to about eleven grains troy, It remained in use to the time of the captivity (
Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
From twenty years old and upward
. Twenty was the age at which an Israelite was reckoned a man; at twenty he became liable to serve in the wars (
2 Chronicles 25:5
), and entered otherwise on the duties of citizenship. At twenty the Levites began their service in the temple (
1 Chronicles 23:24, 27
2 Chronicles 31:17
The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when
give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
The rich shall not give more,
and the poor shall not give less.
This is very emphatic testimony to the equal value of souls in God's sight. The payment was "the ransom of a soul" (ver. 12) - an acknowledgment of God's mercy in sparing those whose life was justly forfeit. As each soul that he has created is equally precious in his sight, and as he designs equally the salvation of all - it was fitting that the same exact sum should be paid in every case.
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; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
- The application of the "atonement money" is stated more distinctly in
Exodus 38:27, 28
. It was employed for the silver sockets that supported the boards of the tabernacle, and for the hooks, capitals, and connecting rods of the pillars which surrounded the court. Thus employed, it was a continual "memorial" in the eyes of the people, reminding each man of his privileges and duties
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
- THE BRAZEN LAVER. That the tabernacle was to have an ample supply of water had been implied in the directions given for the washing of Aaron and his sons at its outer door (
). That it would contain some provision of the kind is further indicated by the command to "wash the inwards" of victims (
, 17). We have now, in this place, the special directions given to Moses on the subject. He was to provide a brazen, or rather a bronze laver, which was to stand on a separate "foot," or base, of bronze, in the court of the tabernacle, between the entrance to the tabernacle and the "brazen altar." This was to be kept constantly supplied with water, and was to furnish whatever might be needed for the various ceremonies. Among its other uses, it was to supply liquid for the constant ablution of the priests, who were to wash both their hands and their feet on every occasion of their entering the sacred tent, and even on every occasion of their ministering at the brazen altar (ver. 20). This law was to be "a statute for ever" (ver. 21), and its violation was to be punished by death.
Thou shalt also make a laver
brass, and his foot
brass, to wash
: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
. It is remarkable that nothing is said respecting either the shape or the size of the laver. In 1 Kings we have an elaborate description of the "molten sea," which replaced it in Solomon's temple, as well as an almost equally elaborate one of ten other layers made by Hiram, Solomon's artist, at the same time. We may perhaps assume from these examples that the brazen laver of the tabernacle was a large bronze vase or basin, standing upon a stem, which was fixed into a base. It was probably fitted up with an apparatus of taps and cocks.
Between the tabernacle .... and the altar
. The Rabbinical commentators say that it was not exactly in the middle, but a little towards the south side.
For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet
. Ablution by clear fresh water is so plain and simple a type of purity as to have been used in almost all religions. The hands and the feet would designate symbolically all a man's active doings, and even his whole walk in life - his "goings out" and his "comings in," in the phraseology of the Hebrews. There would also be a special practical need for such ablutions in the case of persons who were employed about bloody sacrifices, who slew the victims, sprinkled, the blood, and even dashed it against the base of the altar. On some rare occasions the priests were required to bathe their whole persons, and not their hands and feet only (see above, ch. 29:4; and below,
When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, 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:
That they die not
and 43. Contempt of the simple and easy regulation to wash at the laver would imply contempt of purity itself; and so an entire hypocrisy of life and character, than which nothing could be a greater offence to God.
So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them,
to him and to his seed throughout their generations.
It shall be a statute for ever
Moreover the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
- THE HOLY OIL. The composition of the oil required for anointing the priests (
), the altar (
, 36), the tabernacle itself (ver. 26), and its furniture (vers. 27, 28), was a necessary matter for Moses to know, and is now declared with much minuteness; the exact weight of each spice, and the exact quantity of the olive oil being given (vers. 23, 240. Directions are added for its use (vers. 26-30): and finally, a warning is given against its application to any persons except the priests, or its composition for any other purpose besides the use of the sanctuary (vers. 31-33).
Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred
, and of sweet cinnamon half so much,
two hundred and fifty
, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty
The ancients recognised a vast variety of spices. Pliny notices an ointment which was composed of twenty-six ingredients, chiefly spices (H.N. 13:2, § 18). Herodotus mentions five "principal spices" as furnished by Arabia (3:107), of which four seem to be identical with those employed in the holy oil.
. Literally, "myrrh of freedom," or "freely flowing myrrh." The shrub which yields myrrh (
) produces two kinds - one, which exudes spontaneously, and is regarded as the best (Plin. II. 4:12:35; Theophrast.
, § 29); and another, of inferior quality, which flows from incisions made in the bark. It is the former kind which is here intended. Myrrh was among the ancients in high request as a spice. It was used by the Egyptians for embalming (Herod 2:86), in Persia as an odour (Athen.
, 12. p. 514, A); by the Greeks for incense (Soph. Fr. 340) and in unguents (Aristoph
1. 1332); by the later Jews in funerals (
); and was largely exported from Arabia and Ethiopia into various parts of Asia and Europe.
. Cinnamon was a far rarer spice than myrrh. It is only mentioned three times in the Old Testament (cf.
Song of Solomon 4:14
). I am not aware of any trace of it in Egypt; but Herodotus says that it was obtained by the Greeks from Arabia in his day (3:111). It is the inner bark or rind of a tree allied to the laurel, and called by some
, by others
. The tree now grows only in India on the Malabar coast, in Ceylon, Borneo, Sumatra, Cochin China, and China. If its habitat has not suffered contraction, we must regard the mention of it here as indicative of a very early commerce of a very extensive character.
. Aromatic reeds, probably of several distinct kind, seem to have been the produce anciently of Palestine, Arabia, Mesopotamia, and India. It is impossible to say what exactly was the species here intended. Calamus is mentioned as a spice in
Song of Solomon 4:14
; but the term used (kaneh, "cane ") is vague; and it is not at all clear that one species only is alluded to.
And of cassia five hundred
, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:
. The modern cassia is the inner bark of a tree distinct from the cinnamon tree, known to botanists as Cinnamo-mum cassia, which is a native of India, Java, and the Malay peninsula. In taste and scent, it "bears a strong resemblance to cinnamon, but is more pungent and of coarser texture" (Cook). It is uncertain, however, if this is the spice here indicated. The Hebrew word used is
); and it is very doubtful whether the two are identical On the shekel of the sanctuary. see the comment on ver. 13; and on the kin, see
And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.
of holy ointment.
Literally, "an oil of holy anointing," or "a holy anointing oil," as our translators render in ver. 31, and also in the last clause of the present verse.
And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony,
Thou shalt anoint the tabernacle
. The first application of the holy oil was to be to the inanimate objects constituting the paraphernalia of worship - viz.,
The tabernacle itself as a whole;
The furniture of the holy of holies - the ark and mercy seat;
The furniture of the holy place - the show-bread table, the candlestick, and the altar of incense; and
The furniture of the court - the altar of burnt-offering, and the laver. After applying the oil to these, Moses was to proceed to the anointing of the priests. (Compare
And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense,
The table and all his
The candlestick and his vessels
And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot.
The altar of burnt-offering with all his
And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.
And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that
may minister unto me in the priest's office.
thou shalt anoint Aaron,
etc. Not till all his surroundings had received sanctification was Aaron to be consecrated. The tent, the ark, the table, the candlestick, the altar of incense, the brazen altar, the laver, and its base, each and all were to be touched with the holy oil, and thereby formally dedicated to God's service (
Leviticus 8:10, 11
), and then at last was Moses to "pour of the anointing oil upon Aaron's head, and anoint him, to sanctify him" (
, 12). So God constantly prepares men's spheres for them before he inducts them into their spheres. Even in the next world our Blessed Lord "prepares places for us."
And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.
Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make
like it, after the composition of it: it
it shall be holy unto you.
Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured
, "it shall not be used by
privately as a mere unguent, but shall be reserved wholly for sacred purposes."
ye make any other like it,
after the composition of it
. Rather, "after its
." The Israelites were not forbidden the use of the different materials in their unguents, or even the combination of the same materials, provided they varied the proportions. The object is simply that the holy oil should remain a thing separate and apart, never applied to any but a holy use.
like it, or whosoever putteth
of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
Upon a stranger
. A "stranger" here means any one not of the family of Aaron. Compare
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum;
sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like
- THE HOLY INCENSE. It remained to give directions concerning the composition of the incense, which, according to verse 7, was to be burnt upon the altar of gold. That it was to be of one and one only peculiar kind had been already implied in the prohibition to burn "strange incense" (ver. 9). Moses is now told exactly how it was to be composed. As the oil was to contain four spices, so was the incense to be made of a like number - stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense - of each the same quantity (ver. 34). The art of the apothecary was to be called in for making it up (ver. 35). A portion of it was to be "beaten very small," and placed in front of the ark of the covenant, probably on the golden altar outside the vail (ver. 36). A prohibition is added, similar to that given with respect to the holy oil: no one is to make any like it for private use, under pain of being "cut off from his people" (vers. 37, 38).
Take unto thee sweet spices.
Rather, "Take unto thee spices," or "perfumes." The word has no epithet.
The Hebrew word used means simply "a drop" (Job 32:27), and might be applied to any gum or resin which exuded from a tree. We have no clue to the gum here intended but that which is furnished by the rendering of the LXX.,
, which our translators have followed. Now the Greeks seem to have called two gums by this name - one, the natural exudation from the myrrh tree, called above (ver. 23) "pure myrrh," or "the myrrh that flows freely;" and the other gum storax. As it is not likely that the same substance has been given two names within the space of ten verses, we must suppose the latter to be meant. Gum storax is the produce of a tree allied to the poplar, and known as
, which grows abundantly in Syria and Palestine. It was frequently used as a perfume by the ancients (Herod. 3:107; Plin.
. 12:17, §40).
. The Hebrew word,
, seems to mean a "shell" of some kind or other. The Greek
, Lat. onycha, was applied to the
- the "nail" or "claw" - of certain shell-fish of the genus Strombidae, which were common in the lied Sea, and elsewhere. The particular
which furnishes the onycha of the ancients is thought to have been the
of these shell-fish have, when burnt, a strong odour, "something like castoreum." The onycha is, again coupled with galbanum and gum storax in Ecclesiates 24:15. Galbanum. The Hebrew word
, is so near the Greek
and the Latin
that it has with good reason been assumed to designate the same substance. Galbanum is a gum well known both to ancients and moderns. It is admitted into the pharmacopeia. Several plants seem to produce it, as the
, and a plant which grows in Northern Persia, very like the Ferula erubeseens. When burnt,
has a strong pungent odour, which is said to be disagreeable by itself, but to improve and preserve other odours (Plin.
. On the wide use of frankincense, see the comment on ver. 1. It was the produce of a tree which anciently flourished in Arabia, but which appears to have degenerated, and now produces only an inferior quality. The best frankincense comes now from the high lands of India. It exudes from a tree called salai (the
of botanists). Some think that the frankincense exported largely from Arabia to the neighbouring nations was in part the produce of this tree imported by the Arab merchants from Hindustan.
And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure
A confection after the art of the apothecary
. Like the holy oil, the incense was to be artistically compounded by one accustomed to deal with such ingredients. It was actually, in the first instance, the work of Bezaleel (Exodus 27:29).
. This translation is supported by the authority of the Septuagint and the Vulgate, and is defended by Canon Cook. But the mass of modern critics is in favour of the translation "salted," or "with salt." (So Buxtorf, Gesenius, De Wette, Kalisch, Keil, etc.) If, nobel suggests "comminuted," identifying
. The point is not one of much importance.
And thou shalt beat
of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
Thou shalt beat some of it very small
. This is against Knobel's rendering of
, which would imply that all was broken into small pieces. A certain portion only was to be thus prepared from time to time and placed ready for offering. It was to be
put before the testimony
, opposite the m-k, but outside the vail. This near vicinity to the Divine Presence rendered it most holy.
the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the LORD.
Verses 37, 38.
Ye shall not make unto yourselves
, etc. None shall be made by any man for private use according to the same recipe, since the compound, as described, is "holy unto the Lord." If any man does so, he shall be "cut off from among his people" -
, "put to death by the civil authority." (See
Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.
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