Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it.
The Altar of Incense and Incense-Offering bring the directions concerning the sanctuary to a close. What follows, from Exodus 30:11-31:17, is shown to be merely supplementary to the larger whole by the formula "and Jehovah spake unto Moses," with which every separate command is introduced (cf. Exodus 30:11, Exodus 30:17, Exodus 30:22, Exodus 30:24, Exodus 31:1, Exodus 31:12).
(cf. Exodus 37:25-28). Moses was directed to make an altar of burning of incense (lit., incensing of incense), of acacia-wood, one cubit long and one broad, four-cornered, two cubits high, furnished with horns like the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 27:1-2), and to plate it with pure gold, the roof (גּג) thereof (i.e., its upper side or surface, which was also made of wood), and its walls round about, and its horns; so that it was covered with gold quite down to the ground upon which it stood, and for this reason is often called the golden altar (Exodus 39:38; Exodus 40:5, Exodus 40:26; Numbers 4:11). Moreover it was to be ornamented with a golden wreath, and furnished with golden rings at the corners for the carrying-poles, as the ark of the covenant and the table of shew-bread were (Exodus 25:11., Exodus 25:25.); and its place was to be in front of the curtain, which concealed the ark of the covenant (Exodus 26:31), "before the capporeth" (Exodus 40:5), so that, although it really stood in the holy place between the candlestick on the south side and the table on the north (Exodus 26:35; Exodus 40:22, Exodus 40:24), it was placed in the closest relation to the capporeth, and for this reason is not only connected with the most holy place in 1 Kings 6:22, but is reckoned in Hebrews 9:4 as part of the furniture of the most holy place (see Delitzsch on Hebrews 9:4).
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.
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.
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; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal.
And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.
And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.
Upon this altar Aaron was to burn fragrant incense, the preparation of which is described in Exodus 30:34., every morning and evening before Jehovah, at the time when he trimmed the lamps. No "strange incense" was to be offered upon it, - i.e., incense which Jehovah had not appointed (cf. Leviticus 10:1), that is to say, which had not been prepared according to His instructions-nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat-offering; and no drink-offering was to be poured upon it. As the altar of incense was not only marked as a place of sacrifice by its name מזבּח, "place of slain-offering," but was put on a par with the altar of sacrifice by its square shape and its horns, it was important to describe minutely what sacrifices were to be offered upon it. For the burning of fragrant incense is shown to be a sacrifice, by the fact that it was offered upon a place of sacrifice, or altar. Moreover the word הקטיר, to cause to ascend in smoke and steam, from קטר to smoke or steam, is not only applied to the lighting of incense, but also to the lighting and burning of the bleeding and bloodless sacrifices upon the altar of incense. Lastly, the connection between the incense-offering and the burnt-offering is indicated by the rule that they were to be offered at the same time. Both offerings shadowed forth the devotion of Israel to its God, whilst the fact that they were offered every day exhibited this devotion as constant and uninterrupted. But the distinction between them consisted in this, that in the burnt or whole offering Israel consecrated and sanctified its whole life and action in both body and soul to the Lord, whilst in the incense-offering its prayer was embodied as the exaltation of the spiritual man to God (cf. Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4); and with this there was associated the still further distinction, that the devotion was completed in the burnt-offering solely upon the basis of the atoning sprinkling of blood, whereas the incense-offering presupposed reconciliation with God, and on the basis of this the soul rose to God in this embodiment of its prayer, and was thus absorbed into His Spirit. In this respect, the incense-offering was not only a spiritualizing and transfiguring of the burnt-offering, but a completion of that offering also.
And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.
Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
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 is most holy unto the LORD.
Once a year Aaron was to expiate the altar of incense with the blood of the sin-offering of atonement, because it was most holy to the Lord, that is to say, as is expressly observed in the directions concerning this expiatory act (Leviticus 16:18-19), to purify it from the uncleannesses of the children of Israel. כּפּר, with על objecti constr., signifies literally to cover over a thing, then to cover over sin, or make expiation. In the second clause we have "upon it" (the altar) instead of "upon the horns of it," because the altar itself was expiated in its horns. The use of מן in מדּם is to be explained on the ground that only a part of the blood of the sin-offering was smeared with the finger upon the horns. (For further remarks, see at Leviticus 16:18-19.) The term "most holy" is not only applied to this altar, in common with the inner division of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:33), but also to the altar of burnt-offering (Exodus 29:37; Exodus 40:10), and all the vessels of the sanctuary (Exodus 30:29), which were anointed with holy oil; then to the whole of the tabernacle in its holiest aspect (Numbers 18:10); and lastly, to all the sacrifices, which were given up entirely to Jehovah (see at Leviticus 2:3); - consequently to everything which stood in so intimate a relation to Jehovah as to be altogether removed, not only from use and enjoyment on the part of man, but also from contact on the part of unsanctified men. Whoever touched a most holy thing was sanctified thereby (compare Exodus 30:29 with Exodus 29:37).
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The Atonement-Money, which every Israelite had to pay at the numbering of the people, has the first place among the supplementary instructions concerning the erection and furnishing of the sanctuary, and serves to complete the demand for freewill-offerings for the sanctuary (Exodus 25:1-9).
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 thou numberest them.
"When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel according to them that are numbered, they shall give every one an expiation for his soul to the Lord at their numbering, that a plague may not strike them (happen to them) at their numbering." פּקד, lit., adspexit, then inspexit explorandi causa, hence to review, or number an army or a nation, for the purpose of enrolling for military service. לפקדיהם with reference to the numbered, qui in censum veniunt. כּפר (expiation, expiation-money, from כּפּר to expiate) is to be traced to the idea that the object for which expiation was made was thereby withdrawn from the view of the person to be won or reconciled. It is applied in two ways: (1) on the supposition that the face of the person to be won was covered by the gift (Genesis 32:21; 1 Samuel 12:3); and (2) on the supposition that the guilt itself was covered up (Psalm 32:1), or wiped away (Jeremiah 18:23), so far as the eye of God was concerned, as though it had no longer any existence, and that the sinful man was protected from the punishment of the judge in consequence of this covering. In this way כּפר has acquired the meaning λύτρον, a payment by which the guilty are redeemed (Exodus 21:30; Numbers 35:31); and this is the meaning which it has in the passage before us, where the soul is said to be protected by the copher, so as to be able to come without danger into the presence of the holy God (Numbers 8:19. See Oehler in Herzog's Cycl.). Such an approach to God took place at the numbering of the people for the purpose of enrolling them in the army of Jehovah (Numbers 1:3, cf. Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41). Hence "every one who passed over to those that were numbered," who was enrolled among them, i.e., in the army of Jehovah, - that is to say, every male Israelite of 20 years old and upwards (Exodus 30:14), - was to pay half a shekel of the sanctuary as atonement-money; the rich no more, the poor no less (Exodus 30:15), because all were equal in the sight of Jehovah; and this payment was to be a "heave" (terumah, see Exodus 25:2) for Jehovah for the expiation of the souls. The shekel of the sanctuary, which contained 20 gerahs, was no doubt the original shekel of full weight, as distinguished from the lighter shekel which was current in ordinary use. In Exodus 38:26 the half shekel is called בּקע, lit., the split, i.e., half, from בּקע to split; and we find it mentioned as early as the time of the patriarchs as a weight in common use for valuing gold (Genesis 24:22), so that, no doubt, even at that time there were distinct silver pieces of this weight, which were probably called shekels when employed for purposes of trade, since the word shekel itself does not denote any particular weight, as we may perceive at once form a comparison of 1 Kings 10:17 and 2 Chronicles 9:16, at least so far as later times are concerned. The sacred shekel, to judge from the weight of Maccabean shekels, which are in existence still, and vary from 256 to 272 Parisian grains, weighed 274 grains, and therefore, according to present valuation, would be worth 26 groschen (about 2 Samuel 7d.), so that the half-shekel of bekah would be 13 groschen (1 Samuel 3 1/2d.).
This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, 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 one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
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.
This atonement-money Moses was to appropriate to the work of the sanctuary (cf. Exodus 38:25-28, where the amount and appropriation are reported). Through this appropriation it became "a memorial to the children of Israel before the Lord to expiate their souls," i.e., a permanent reminder of their expiation before the Lord, who would henceforth treat them as reconciled because of this payment. It was no ordinary tribute, therefore, which Israel was to pay to Jehovah as its King, but an act demanded by the holiness of the theocratic covenant. As an expiation for souls, it pointed to the unholiness of Israel's nature, and reminded the people continually, that by nature it was alienated from God, and could only remain in covenant with the Lord and live in His kingdom on the ground of His grace, which covered its sin. It was not till this sinful nature had been sanctified by a perfect atonement, and servitude under the law had been glorified and fully transformed into that sonship to which Israel was called as the first-born son of Jehovah, that as children of the kingdom they had no longer to pay this atonement-money for their souls (Matthew 17:25-26). - According to Numbers 1:1, Numbers 1:18, as compared with Exodus 40:17, the census of the nation was not taken till a month after the building of the tabernacle was completed, and yet the atonement-money to be paid at the taking of the census was to be appropriated to the purpose of the building, and must therefore have been paid before. This apparent discrepancy may be reconciled by the simple assumption, that immediately after the command of God had been issued respecting the building of the tabernacle and the contributions which the people were to make for the purpose, the numbering of the males was commenced and the atonement-money collected from the different individuals, that the tabernacle was then built and the whole ceremonial instituted, and that, after all this had been done, the whole nation was enrolled according to its tribes, fathers' houses, and families, on the basis of this provisional numbering, and thus the census was completed. For this reason the census gave exactly the same number of males as the numbering (cf. Exodus 38:26 and Numbers 1:46), although the one had been carried out nine months before the other.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
(cf. Exodus 38:8). The Brazen Laver, and its use. - The making of this vessel is not only mentioned in a supplementary manner, but no description is given of it because of the subordinate position which it occupied, and from the fact that it was not directly connected with the sanctuary, but was only used by the priests to cleanse themselves for the performance of their duties. כּיּור: a basin, a round, caldron-shaped vessel. כּגּו (its support): by this we are not to understand the pedestal of the caldron, but something separate from the basin, which was no doubt used for drawing off as much water as was required for washing the officiating priests. For although כּן belongs to כּיּור, the fact that it is always specially mentioned in connection with the basin necessarily leads to the conclusion, that it had a certain kind of independence (cf. Exodus 31:9; Exodus 35:16; Exodus 39:39; Exodus 40:11; Leviticus 8:11). These two vessels were to be made of brass or copper, like the other things in the court; and, according to Exodus 38:8, they were made of the brass of the mirrors of the women who served before the door of the tabernacle. הצּבאת בּמראת does not mean either "provided with mirrors of the women" (Bhr, i. pp. 485-6), or ornamented "with forms, figures of women, as they were accustomed to appear at the sanctuary" (Knobel). But these views are overthrown by the fact, that ב never signifies with in the sense of an outward addition, but always denotes the means, "not an independent object, but something accompanying and contributing to the action referred to" (Ewald, 217, f. 3). In this case ב can only apply to the material used, whether we connect it with ויּעשׂ as in Exodus 31:4, or, what seems decidedly more correct, with נחשׁת as a more precise definition; so that ב would denote that particular quality which distinguished the brass of which the basin was made (Ewald, 217f.), - apart altogether from the fact, that neither the mirrors of women, nor the figures of women, would form a fitting ornament for the basin, as the priests did not require to look at themselves when they washed their hands and feet; and there is still less ground for Knobel's fiction, that Levitical women went to the sanctuary at particular times, forming a certain procession, and taking things with them for the purpose of washing, cleaning, and polishing. The true meaning is given by the Septuagint, ἐκ τῶν κατόπτρων. According to 1 Samuel 2:22, the צבאת were women, though not washer-women, but women who dedicated their lives to the service of Jehovah, and spent them in religious exercises, in fasting and in prayer, like Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, mentioned in Luke 2:37.
(Note: Knobel's objection to this explanation, viz., that "at a time when the sanctuary was not yet erected, the author could not speak of women as coming to the door of the sanctuary, or performing religious service there," would contain its own refutation, if there were any ground for it at all. For before the sanctuary was erected, the author could not speak of Levitical women as coming at particular times to the sanctuary, and bringing things with them for the purpose of washing and cleaning. But the participle צבאת does not imply that they had served there before the erection of the sanctuary, but only that from that time forward, they did perform service there.)
צבא denotes spiritual warfare, and is accordingly rendered by the lxx νηστεύειν, by Onkelos, orare, with which the Rabbins agree. The mirrors of the women had been used for the purpose of earthly adorning. But now the pious Israelites renounced this earthly adorning, and offered it to the Lord as a heave-offering to make the purifying laver in front of the sanctuary, in order that "what had hitherto served as a means of procuring applause in the world might henceforth be the means of procuring the approbation of God" (Hengstenberg, Dissert. vol. ii.). - The laver was to be placed between the tabernacle, i.e., the dwelling, and the altar in the court (Exodus 30:18), probably not in a straight line with the door of the dwelling and the altar of burnt-offering, but more sideways, so as to be convenient for the use of the priests, whether they were going into the tabernacle, or going up to the altar for service, to kindle a firing for Jehovah, i.e., to offer sacrifice upon the altar. They were to wash their hands, with which they touched the holy things, and their feet, with which they trod the holy ground (see Exodus 3:5), "that they might not die," as is again emphatically stated in Exodus 30:20 and Exodus 30:21. For touching holy things with unclean hands, and treading upon the floor of the sanctuary with dirty feet, would have been a sin against Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, deserving of death. These directions do not imply "that, notwithstanding all their consecration, they were regarded as still defiled by natural uncleanness" (Baumgarten), but rather that consecration did not stamp them with a character indelebilis, or protect them from the impurities of the sinful nation in the midst of which they lived, or of their own nature, which was still affected with mortal corruption and sin.
Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:
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:
So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.
Moreover the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
The Holy Anointing Oil. - This was to be prepared from the best perfumes ראשׁע בּשׂמים, where ראשׁע, caput, the principal or chief, is subordinate to בּשׂמים), viz., of four fragrant spices and olive-oil. The spices were, (1) liquid myrrh, as distinguished from the dry gum; - (2) קנּמן־בּשׂם, cinnamon of fragrance, the name having been introduced to the Semitic nations along with the thing itself, and then by the Phoenicians to the Greeks and Romans (κίνναμον, cinnamum): whether it came from Ceylon, the great mart of cinnamon, is very doubtful, as there is not word that can be discovered in the Indian dialects corresponding to cinnamon; - (3) cane of fragrance, the κάλαμος ἀρωματικός, calamus odoratus, of the Greek sand Romans, i.e., the scented calamus which is imported from India; - and (4) kiddah, probably cassia, and possibly the species called κιττώ in Dioscor. 1, 12, in which case קציעה (Psalm 45:9) is either the generic name for cassia, or else refers to a different species. The proportion in which these spices were to be taken was 500 shekels or 14 1/2 lbs. of myrrh, half the quantity, i.e., 7 lbs, of cinnamon, and the same of calamus and cassia; in all, therefore, 21 lbs. of dry spices, which were to be mixed with one hin of oil (about 5 quarts) and 14 lbs. of liquid myrrh. These proportions preclude the supposition, that the spices were pulverized and mixed with the oil and myrrh in their natural condition, for the result in that case would have been a thick mess: they rather favour the statement of the Rabbins, that the dry spices were softened in water and boiled, to extract their essence, which was then mixed with oil and myrrh, and boiled again until all the watery part had evaporated. An artificial production of this kind is also indicated by the expressions מרקחת רקח "spice-work of spice-mixture," and רקח מעשׂה "labour (work) of the perfumer or ointment-maker."
Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,
And of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:
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.
And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony,
(see at Leviticus 8:10.). This anointing oil was holy, either because it was made from the four fragrant substances according to the proportions commanded by Jehovah, or because God declared this kind of mixture and preparation holy (cf. Exodus 30:32), and forbade for all time, on pain of death (Exodus 30:31), not only the use of ointment so prepared for any ordinary anointings, but even an imitation of it. "Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured," i.e., it is not to be used for the ordinary practice of anointing the human body (Exodus 30:32). "Man," i.e., the ordinary man in distinction from the priests. בּמתכּנתּו according to its measure, i.e., according to the proportions prescribed for its manufacture. זר (Exodus 30:33) a stranger, is not only the non-Israelite, but laymen or non-priests in general. On the expression, "cut off from his people," see at Genesis 17:14.
And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense,
And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot.
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 they may minister unto me in the priest's office.
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 any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.
Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
The Holy Incense was also to be made of four ingredients, viz., (1) nataph (στακτή, stacte), i.e., not the resinous myrrh, or sap obtained from the fragrant myrrh and dried, but a kind of storax gum resembling myrrh, which was baked, and then used, like incense, for fumigating; - (2) shecheleth (ὄνυξ, ungius odoratus), the shell of a shell-fish resembling the purpura, of an agreeable odour; - (3) chelbenah (χαλβάνη), a resin of a pungent, bitter flavour, obtained, by means of an incision in the bark, from the ferula, a shrub which grows in Syria, Arabia, and Abyssinia, and then mixed with fragrant substances to give greater pungency to their odour; - and (4) lebonah (λίβανος or λιβανωτός), frankincense, a resin of a pleasant smell, obtained from a tree in Arabia Felix or India, but what tree has not been discovered. זכּה pure, i.e., unadulterated. The words יהיה בּבד בּד "part for part shall it be," are explained by the lxx as meaning ἴσον ἴσῳ ἔσται, Vulg. aequalis ponderis erunt omnia, i.e., with equal parts of all the different substances. But this is hardly correct, as בּד literally means separation, and the use of ב in this sense would be very striking. The explanation given by Aben Ezra is more correct, viz., "every part shall be for itself;" that is to say, each part was to be first of all prepared by itself, and then all the four to be mixed together afterwards.
And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
Of this Moses was to make incense, spicework, etc. (as in Exodus 30:25), salted, seasoned with salt (ממלּח, a denom. from מלח salt), like the meat-offering in Leviticus 2:13. The word does not mean μεμιγμένον, mixtum (lxx, Vulg.), or rubbed to powder, for the rubbing or pulverizing is expressed by שׁחקתּ־הרק in the following verse.
And thou shalt beat some 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.
Of this incense (a portion) was to be placed "before the testimony in the tabernacle," i.e., not in the most holy place, but where the altar of incense stood (cf. Exodus 30:6 and Leviticus 16:12). The remainder was of course to be kept elsewhere.
And as for 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.
There is the same prohibition against imitating or applying it to a strange use as in the case of the anointing oil (Exodus 30:32, Exodus 30:33). "To smell thereto," i.e., to enjoy the perfume of it.
Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.