Monday, March 7, 2011

Exodus 30 - The Altar of Incense and Bronze Laver

LINK: Exodus 30


The Altar of Incense

This 1.5' square x 3' high altar was for burning incense in front of the veil that was in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony. Aaron was to burn incense there when he trimmed the lamps in the morning and at twilight. Incense rising often symbolized the prayers of God's people throughout Scripture (Psalm 141:2, Luke 1:10; Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4).

Once a year, Aaron was to make atonement (cleanse and reconsecrate it) on its horns with the blood of atonement. This was the "Day of Atonement," and we will talk more about this day in Leviticus 16.

At this time, every male, twenty years of age or older was to give money for atonement. They gave it for service of the tent of meeting and to ward off plagues. I am not sure why they took a census in the first place, but one commentator said perhaps it was to have an official role for duties in the Lord's service. The ransom is an extension of Exodus 13:13 where every firstborn of man was to be redeemed. They were to be consecrated to the LORD for their life. This is the basis for Nehemiah 10:32. In the New Covenant, we are all to be consecrated per Romans 12:1, 2:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (NASB95)  
The Bronze Laver (Basin)


Aaron and his sons would need to wash here in order to not die before they made sacrifices at the altar of sacrifice. We will talk more about what it was made out of in Exodus 38:8.

While the altar speaks of salvation through a sin offering, the laver speaks of sanctification that needs to be continual.

The Holy Anointing Oil

This expensive oil was to be used only by the priests and for the furnishings and utensils in the tabernacle. It was not to be used for any other purpose, and no layman was to use it. The ingredients may be self-explanatory except cassia which is the fragrant bark of a tree.

The Incense

The pure incense was made of:
Stacte - a powder taken from the middle of hardened drops of myrrh--rare and very valuable. 
Onychamade from mollusk shells.  
Galbanum - a rubbery resin taken from the roots of flowering plants that are common in Syria and Persia. 
Frankincense - a resin from the bark of Bosellia carteri that grows in Arabia.

This incense was holy and not to be copied or used for any other reason. Since it was to be burned before the testimony in the tent of meeting (30:36), we can assume it was to be burned on the altar of incense.

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption 

I just noticed that myrrh and frankincense were two of the ingredients in this holy incense, and these were offered by the magi at the birth of Jesus!

The whole tabernacle points to Jesus. Please see this excellent PowerPoint for an overview of what I have been sharing over this portion of Exodus: 

The Shadow of Jesus in the Tabernacle


May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
 (Psalm 142:2)

Are my prayers burning morning and evening before God? As I meditated on Exodus 30 today, I tried to envision the sweet-smelling incense of my prayers rising to God. The priests burned their incense morning and night, and it was a sacred duty. I do not want to say it is my duty to pray because that sounds too legalistic, but I want it to be my sacred delight to offer my prayers as sweet smelling incense to the Lord. I want to live a life consecrated to God in prayer and service since Jesus has made us to be a kingdom, priests to our God and Father to His glory (Revelation 1:6).

I once heard a fellow Bible study leader say that she loved to study God's Word but that she really did not get into prayer. I wondered how you could have one without the other and visa-versa. Bible study naturally leads us to prayer and prayer naturally leads us to Bible study. The two meld together so much as we grow in Christ that they are not even seen as separate activities. They are like fingers on each hand intertwined, that grip tightly around the Lord to where all you really see is the single grip and not the individual fingers. Does that make sense? Even as I meditate on this passage, I pray.

In my heart, I am trying not to get out of balance. I LOVE to study God's word, but if I just study it and do not dialogue with the Lord as I am studying, it is a flat academic exercise rather than a dynamic growing relationship.  It is all about relationship with Him!


Allow your prayers to rise like incense before the Lord today! You might like to do something radical like actually burning incense to remind yourself to keep in communion in prayer to the Lord throughout the day. 

Hey, I have some frankincense and myrrh incense that my neighbor gave me one Christmas. I think this is how I will apply it! I'm not sure how to burn them though. Time to Google it!


I used to help lead singing in a "Watchwoman" prayer group, and this is a song we often sang during our prayer times. I thought it was so appropriate for today! Every cycle of the Bible Book Club, I am always glad I take time to worship God and enter into the Holy of Holies singing this song.

“Into Your Courts” (Listen to music here:

Into Your courts we come
Deep in our hearts we long to be
Near to the throne of Your glory

As we draw near to You
Know that we're here to do Your will
God how we long to be near to You

May our prayers be like incense rising
Up to Your throne
May our songs be a fragrance unto You

May our lives be as pleasing off'rings
In all that we do
God how we long to be near to You
God how we long to be near to You
(song by Gerrit Gustafson)
Post a Comment