Exodus 27:2
And you shall make the horns of it on the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and you shall overlay it with brass.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) The horns of it.—It is not true to say, as Kalisch does, that “the altars of almost all ancient nations were frequently provided with horns.” On the contrary, horns were, so far as is known, peculiar to Israelite altars. Originally, they would seem to have been mere ornaments at the four upper corners, but ultimately they came to be regarded as essential to an altar, and the virtue of the altar was thought to lie especially in them. The victims were bound to them (Psalm 118:27); criminals clung to them (1Kings 1:50; 1Kings 2:28); and the blood of sin offerings was smeared upon them for purposes of expiation (Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 9:9, &c.).

His horns shall be of the same—i.e., of one piece with the rest of the altar, not separate portions attached by nails or soldering. (Comp. Exodus 25:19.)

Thou shalt overlay it with brass—i.e., with bronze. All the woodwork of the tabernacle was overlaid with one metal or another. Here a metallic coating was especially necessary, to prevent the wood from being burnt.

Exodus 27:2. Thou shalt make the horns of it — Pinnacles or spires, rising up at the corners, wrought out of the same wood; which was partly for ornament, and partly for use. To them the animals were bound, and part of the blood was applied, and to them malefactors fled for refuge.27:1-8 In the court before the tabernacle, where the people attended, was an altar, to which they must bring their sacrifices, and on which their priests must offer them to God. It was of wood overlaid with brass. A grate of brass was let into the hollow of the altar, about the middle of which the fire was kept, and the sacrifice burnt. It was made of net-work like a sieve, and hung hollow, that the ashes might fall through. This brazen altar was a type of Christ dying to make atonement for our sins. The wood had been consumed by the fire from heaven, if it had not been secured by the brass: nor could the human nature of Christ have borne the wrath of God, if it had not been supported by Divine power.His horns shall be of the same - These horns were projections pointing upward in the form either of a small obelisk, or of the horn of an ox. They were to be actually parts of the altar, not merely superadded to it. On them the blood of the sin-offering was smeared Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 9:9; Leviticus 16:18. To take hold of them appears to have been regarded as an emphatic mode of laying claim to the supposed right of sanctuary (Exodus 21:14 note; 1 Kings 1:50).CHAPTER 27

Ex 27:1-21. Altar for Burnt Offering.

1, 2. altar of shittim wood—The dimensions of this altar which was placed at the entrance of the sanctuary were nearly three yards square, and a yard and a half in height. Under the wooden frame of this chest-like altar the inside was hollow, and each corner was to be terminated by "horns"—angular projections, perpendicular or oblique, in the form of horns. The animals to be sacrificed were bound to these (Ps 118:27), and part of the blood was applied to them.

The horns were elevated above the body of the altar, in form either of pyramids or spires, or rather of horns, as the word signifies; nor is there any necessity; of departing from the proper signification. These were not only for ornament, but for use also, either to keep things put upon it from falling, or that beasts to be offered might be bound to them. See Psalm 118:27.

His horns shall be of the same, of the same piece with the altar, for its use required strength. With brass; With plates of brass of competent thickness, both above the wood and under it, that the fire might not take hold of the wood. Which were either for ornament, or for keeping what was laid upon the altar from falling off, or for the fastening of the sacrifice to them, and were what criminals fled to for refuge, and laid hold on; and may denote the power of Christ, who is the horn of salvation to preserve his people from a final falling away, and from ruin and destruction, and his protection of those that fly to him for refuge; and these horns being at the corners of the altar may respect the four parts of the world, from whence souls come to Christ for everlasting salvation:

his horns shall be of the same; that is, made of the same wood as the altar itself and so may lead to observe the like things: or "upwards out of it" (b), the altar; prominent from it, as the Arabic version, and so the sacrifices could be bound to them, Psalm 118:27,

and thou shalt overlay it with brass; with plates of brass, that it may endure the fire, and preserve the wood from being burnt with it; this may denote not only the brightness, lustre, and glory of Christ, like the shining brass, but his great strength in bearing the sins of his people, and all the punishment due unto them, even the fire of divine wrath, without being consumed by it. Jarchi observes, that it was overlaid with brass, because it was to make atonement for the impudence of the forehead, which is as brass, Isaiah 48:4.

(b) "sursum exeo", Noldius, p. 615.

And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of {b} the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.

(b) Of the same wood and matter not fastened to it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. the horns of it] these were an indispensable part of an altar (cf. Exodus 30:2-3), and were regarded as its most sacred part: the blood of the sin-offering was applied to them (Exodus 29:12 ["" Leviticus 8:15]; Leviticus 4:25; Leviticus 4:30; Leviticus 4:34; Leviticus 9:9; Leviticus 16:18; Ezekiel 43:20; and on the horns of the altar of incense, Exodus 30:10, Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18); a criminal seeking asylum seized

The Altar of Burnt-offering.

From Hastings’ Dict. of the Bible, iv. 658.

hold of them (1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28); see also Amos 3:14, Jeremiah 17:1, Psalm 118:27. The length of the horns is not specified: in the great altar of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 43:13-17), which however was 12 cubits (=18 ft.) square, and, with its bases, rose to a height of 11 cubits (16 ½ ft.) from the ground, they were, according to v. 15 LXX., a cubit (1 ½ ft.) long: in the altar of burnt-offering they would, if of the same proportion, be about 7 in. long. Horns are occasionally found similarly on Greek altars: A. J. Evans, also, in Mycenœan Tree and Pillar Cult (1901), pp. 37–40, mentions several bas-reliefs representing them found at Mycenae and in Crete; and there is a good Semitic example on the stelè from Teima, about 250 miles S.E. of Edom (see Perrot and Chipiez, Art in Sardinia, Judœa, &c. i. 304; and for the inscription Cooke, N.-Sem. Inscriptions, p. 195 ff.). The origin of the symbolism is uncertain; and different theories have been propounded (see DB. i. 77a, iv. 658a; EB. i. 124; Benz.2 321): perhaps the most probable is that of Evans (cf. Rel. Sem.2[204] 436; and Bä.), that they are conventionalized representatives of the horns of sacrificed oxen: ‘the setting of the horns of slaughtered animals before the cult-image or upon the altar is a very familiar usage of primitive worship’ (Evans, op. cit. p. 39).

[204] W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.

brass] copper or bronze. So in the sequel.Verse 2. - The horns of it. Literally, "its horns." Horns were not usual adjuncts of altars; indeed they seem to have been peculiar to those of the Israelites. They were projections at the four top comers, probably not unlike the horns of bulls, whence their name. Criminals clung to them when they took sanctuary (1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28); and the blood of sin-offerings was smeared upon them (Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 9:9; Leviticus 16:18, etc.). Victims also were sometimes, when about to be sacrificed, bound to them (Psalm 118:27). According to Kalisch, "The horns were symbolical of power, of protection and help; and at the same time of glory and salvation." His horns shall be of the same. Part and parcel of the altar, that is, not extraneous additions. Thou shalt overlay it with brass. A solid plating of bronze is no doubt intended, such as would protect the shittim wood and prevent it from being burnt. "Thither (where the curtain hands under the loops) within the curtain shalt thou bring the ark of testimony (Exodus 25:16-22), and the curtain shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy" (הקּדשׁים קדשׁ the holy of holies). The inner compartment was made into the most holy place through the ark of the covenant with the throne of grace upon it.
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