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Exodus 30:1-5 meaning

The LORD describes how the altar of incense was to be built. The rings and the poles, used to carry the altar of incense, are also described here.

In addition to the altar of burnt offering described in Exodus 27:1 - 2, another altar was needed. This was to be an altar used as a place for burning incense. Verses 1 - 3 describe how it was to be made:

The Israelites were to make it of acacia wood. Acacia wood was a hard and durable wood with a beautiful fine grain, which darkens as it ages. It is also called the "shittah tree" (Isaiah 41:19). This was the same material as was used to make the tabernacle itself (Exodus 25:8 - 10, 26:15) and also other tabernacle furniture (Exodus 27:1). Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit. A cubit was approximately eighteen inches (or 45.7 centimeters) in length. Since its length and width were the same, it shall be square.

Its height shall be two cubits, making it about three feet (one meter) tall.

Its horns shall be of one piece with it. This is similar to the burnt offering altar, which also had horns on each of the four corners (Exodus 27:2).

The craftsmen were to overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it. Overlaying this altar with gold indicated how important this item was. This is different from the burnt offering altar which was overlaid with bronze (Exodus 27:2), a less precious metal. Part of the reason the burnt offering altar was of bronze might have had to do with its larger size, and the practicality of transporting it. The incense being burned represented prayers going up to the LORD, which is given prominence.

In addition to the altar itself, they were to make two gold rings for it and place them under its molding. The rings were placed on its two side walls—on opposite sides, meaning that they were to place two rings on one side panel and two rings on the other side panel. The rings served as holders for poles with which to carry it.

Like the altar itself, the poles were made of acacia wood. And like the altar, they were to overlay them with gold. Everything had to be portable, so the tabernacle and all its features could be relocated.


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