And the altar shall be twelve cubits long, twelve broad, square in the four squares thereof.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Exodus 27:1; Revelation 21:16. The altar; that which in the 15th verse is precisely determined to be the altar, the uppermost and least settle.
Twelve cubits long, twelve broad; all exact square, by which we may know the dimensions of the other two; the first of the two was wider by two cubits, and longer by two cubits, than the highest, and the lowest was as much greater and larger than the middlemost. The highest twelve cubits square, the middle fourteen cubits square, and the lowest sixteen cubits square.
square in the four squares thereof; as the altar in the tabernacle, and Solomon's temple, were, Exodus 27:1, denoting the largeness of Christ's sacrifice, the perfection of it, and its stability and permanency, to take away the sin, of his people.And the altar shall be twelve cubits long, twelve broad, square in the four squares thereof.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16. The preceding measurements have referred to height. Those referring to breadth or area are now given. The altar-hearth or platform was 12 cubits square.
four squares thereof] four sides thereof. So Ezekiel 43:17.Verses 16, 17. - The measurements that now begin concern the breadth of the altar, and proceed from above downwards. First the altar, or, hearth of God (Hebrew, ariel) was twelve cubits long and twelve broad, i.e. was square in the four squares (or, sides) thereof, or a perfect square (comp. Exodus 27:1; Revelation 21:16). Next the settle, or, enclosure (Hebrew, הָעֲזָרָה) of ver. 14, was fourteen cubits long, and fourteen broad in the four squares (or, sides) thereof; the fourteen being made up of the twelve cubits of the altar-hearth's side with one cubit of ledge from the settle all round. The only question is to which "settle," the upper or the under, reference is made. Some expositors, identifying the greater Azarah with the Harel, i.e. the "upper settle," with "the mount of God" or the base of the hearth, make the altar height only seven cubits from the ground to the hearth. The general belief, however, is that they cannot be so identified. Among interpreters who distinguish them, Kliefoth, with whom Smend agrees, holds the "settle" in this verse to be the harel, or "mount of God," which extended (Smend says with a hek. or "gutter") one cubit on each side beyond the ariel, or "hearth of God," so that the "mount of God," on which the" hearth of God" rested, was fourteen cubits square. Then, assuming a similar extension of one cubit at each stage - in the greater azarah, the lesser azarah, and the hek, or ground bottom - he finds the surface of the greater azarah to be sixteen, of the lesser azarah eighteen, and of the ground bottom twenty cubits square. Keil, with whom Schroder and Currey agree, objects to this as involving too much of arbitrary assumption, and takes the" settle" of this verse to mean the lower azarah; so that no additional measurements are required beyond those given in the text. If the square surface of the greater azarah be considered as having been the same as that of the harel, so that their sides were continuous, then, as the "ground bottom" extended one cubit on each side beyond the lower azarsh, the altar at its base was a square of sixteen cubits. Comparing now these measurements with those of the altar of burnt offering in the tabernacle and the temple, one finds that the former was only five cubits square and three cubits high (Exodus 27:1), while the latter was twenty cubits broad, but only ten cubits high (2 Chronicles 4:1), which awakes the suspicion that the different views above noted have been insensibly influenced by a desire on the part of their authors to make them harmonize with the measurements of the temple. But there does not appear sufficient reason why the measurements of Ezekiel's altar should have agreed with those of Solomon's rather than with those of Moses', The border (or, parapet) of half a cubit which ran round the ledge, or bottom, of a cubit, at the foot of the lower azarah was clearly designed, not for the protection of the priest officiating, but for ornament. The stairs (or, steps), mention of which closes the description, mark a departure, not from the pattern of the Solomonic temple, in which the altar must have had steps (see Keil's 'Biblische Archaologie,' p. 141), but from the pattern of the tabernacle, in which altar-steps were disallowed (Exodus 20:26) and did not exist (Exodus 38:1-7). But if, as Jewish tradition asserts, the pest-exilic altar had no steps as Ezekiel's had, having been reached by an inclined plane, because in the so-called book of the covenant steps were forbidden, how does this harmonize with the theory that Ezekiel's vision temple was designed as a model for the post-exilic temple? And why, if the priest-code was the composition of a writer who worked in the spirit and on the lines of Ezekiel, should it have omitted to assign steps to the tabernacle altar?
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