For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

30:1.  “And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it.”


30:2.  “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.”


While undoubtedly there were four horns, and probably also four rings, the absence of direct mention of the number four (number of earth and testing) conveys a lesson relative to the worship of which this altar speaks.  Worship is spiritual, not earthly, as the Lord Himself declared, "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth," John 4:24.


As Ritchie has pointed out, "Earthly priests and vestments, earthly altars and temples, are suited to the world.  It must have a religion suited to its senses (emphasis added): requiring no spiritual life or Holy Ghost energy; but why the living heavenly saints should seek the living Christ among these dead forms we do not know." (The Tabernacle in the Wilderness, p.87).


Incidentally, the intrusion of instrumental music into the assembly worship is unscriptural, and simply declares that the spirit of true worship is becoming adulterated with the form and ritual which passes in Christendom for the reverent honor and homage due to God.


Since one is the number of God, the one-cubit length and breadth remind us that He Whom this altar portrays, never ceased to be perfect God even while He walked the earth as perfect man, the two-cubit height (number of witness or testimony) reminding us that as He was God's perfect Witness on earth, so is He now our perfect Witness in heaven, He being there as our Forerunner, our Advocate, our Great High Priest.


This was the tallest article of Tabernacle furniture, a fact which teaches symbolically that worship transcends work, and is the highest privilege that God has extended to men.


30:.3.  “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.”


Like every other article of Tabernacle furniture, it is a figure of Christ, but whereas the Brazen altar is associated with His sufferings and death in connection with sin, the Golden altar portrays Him in resurrection glory as our Great High Priest in heaven.  The application of the blood of the Sin offering however, links the two, and reminds us that the blood and death associated with the Brazen altar are the basis of the worship portrayed by the incense burnt on this Golden altar.  Apart from Christ's death there could be no worship.


Its golden crown reminds us that He Whom men crowned with thorns, sits today at God's right hand on the throne of heaven, crowned with glory and honor, as it is written, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor," Hebrews 2:9, for "God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," Philippians 2:9-11.


30:4.  “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.”


30:5.  “And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.”


Since the ring - having neither beginning nor ending - represents what is eternal, these two golden rings seem to represent the Old and New Testaments; and their being under the crown of it points to the fact that the function of Scripture is to present the Lord Jesus Christ as the Eternal Word, the One Who is the everlasting King of kings, and Lord of lords.


The two (number of testimony or witness) gold-sheathed staves may represent believers, it being their privilege and everlasting glory to be His witnesses here on earth.


30:6.  “And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.”


Its being placed, not in the outer court, but inside the first compartment of the Tabernacle, teaches the truth that worship is an activity which is entirely divorced from the things of the world, being produced in the heart of only obedient believers, and only by the power of the ungrieved and unquenched Holy Spirit.  The humanly contrived ritual that passes for worship in most of Christendom is as far from the Scriptural reality as is the east from the west.


30:7.  “And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth (trims the wicks of) the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it.”  


30:8.  “And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations.”


The trimming of the lamps corresponds to the need for us to submit ourselves to the knife of the Word at the beginning and end of each day, submitting our lives to careful examination under its all-revealing light, confessing and forsaking every sin thus revealed. 


The burning of the incense during that trimming process reminds us that the morning and evening are to be not only times of study, but also of worship, for incense is a Scriptural symbol of worship, e.g., "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense: and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice," Psalm 141:2.  "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God," Philippians 4:6.  "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name," Hebrews 13:15. 


The incense burnt on the Golden altar is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ingredients of which it was composed setting before us attributes of Him, for worship is nothing less than the presentation to God of our appreciation of Christ, and consists, not only of the words of our lips, but also the living of Christ-like lives.


Aaron’s lighting the lamps “at even” is not to be understood as teaching that the lamps didn’t burn during the day: they did.  The trimming of the wicks involved the momentary extinguishing of the lights, and therefore the need of relighting them when the trimming was complete.  The result of our morning and evening reading and meditation should be a brighter and more effective testimony, it being written concerning us, “Ye are the light of the world,” Matthew 5:14, the Lord’s command to us being “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,“ Matthew 5:16, Paul’s exhortation being, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among which ye shine as lights in the world,” Philippians 2:14-15.


30:9.  “Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat (meal) offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.”


“... strange” is also translated improper, unhallowed, unprescribed.  Worship must be, not according to the vagary of man’s own intelligence, but as prescribed in Scripture.  The brazen altar was the place where the burnt, meal, and drink offerings were to be presented, but what speaks of our spiritual worship was to be offered only at the golden altar.  The type is fulfilled when believers assemble as a corporate body, on the first day of the week, around the Lord’s table, to remember his death in the eating of the Lord’s Supper, and to present their worship.


The travesty which passes for worship in Christendom today however, is as different from the scriptural order as night is from day, and is as reprehensible to God as was that of the Jews of whom the Lord declared, “This people draweth near unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me,” Matthew 15:8.


30:10.  “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.”


This annual application of the blood upon the horns of the altar seems to be the typological declaration of the fact that the Lord’s death was a once, not to be repeated sacrifice, which is efficacious to cleanse for ever the sins of every believer.  Its being “most holy unto the Lord,” tells us of the value God sets upon the blood of His Son, Peter having declared, “Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy .... forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation (manner of living) received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:16-19.


30:11.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


30:12.  “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.”


This pronouncement foreshadows the NT command given to every man, Jew and Gentile alike, “Except a man be born again he cannot see (enter) the kingdom of God .... Ye must be born again,” John 3:3-7.  Disobedience brought the plague, i.e., death, the NT counterpart being also death, spiritual as well as physical, spiritual death being the ultimate consignment of body, soul, and spirit to the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.


30:13.  “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.”


Half a shekel was approximately fifty cents, an amount that was within reach of even the poorest; but inasmuch as it represents the redemption of a soul, the lesson being taught is that salvation is also within the reach of every man: one has but to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Nothing could be easier, yet its very simplicity stumbles multitudes.  Like Naaman, see 2 Kings 5:11-14, they feel that they must “do some great thing,” but salvation can’t be earned: it must be accepted as God’s priceless, but free gift, as declared in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”


It’s being a half shekel may be to emphasize that it was only a symbol of redemption, a token of that precious blood which alone can cleanse sin, as it is written, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:18-19.


Its having to be “after the shekel of the sanctuary” declares that only God can properly measure the deadly character of sin, and the preciousness of the blood which alone can make atonement.


30:14.  “Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord.”


This requirement teaches that the sinner’s personal discernment is involved in his salvation.  He must be able to grasp the fact that one who dies without having trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior is doomed to eternal torment in the lake of fire.  The equivalent of an Israelite’s giving “an offering unto the Lord” is a sinner’s trusting in Christ as his Savior, i.e., he must through faith offer to the Father the Lord Jesus Christ as his sin offering, the One Whose death has made complete atonement for all his sin.


The factors of twenty are two multiplied by ten; or four multiplied by five, the lesson taught in the two (number of witness or testimony),and ten (the number of Divine government), being that God’s law testifies against the sinner; while the four (number of testing),and the five (number of responsibility), testify to his failure to meet his responsibility as measured by God’s law.


30:15.  “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.”


Universal equality of guilt and condemnation is taught in this.  No man is so rich that he can buy redemption, nor is any man so poor that it is beyond his reach, for it is measured, not in the currency of earth, but of heaven, as it is written, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as sivlver and gold ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1:18-19.


30:16.  “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.”


“...service” is also rendered work, needs, so that the atonement money seems to have been used for the maintenance or repair of the Tabernacle; and undoubtedly a deeper spiritual meaning attaches to this provision, but that meaning eludes me, so that I regret having to leave this verse without further comment.


30:17.  “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


30:18.  “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.”


The laver is a type of the Scriptures, see Ephesians 5:26, “That he might sanctify and cleanse it (the Church) with the washing of water by the word.”  The omission of dimensions is the symbolic announcement of the truth that the Word, like its Author, is measureless, not in regard to the literal number of words - they have been counted - but relative to its depth of meaning.  That depth has never been plumbed.


Since brass is the biblical emblem of judgment, the laver’s being made of brass teaches that the Word, of which it is the symbol, is that by which all things are to be judged.


Most scholars agree that the “foot” was the base of the laver, there being disagreement however, as to whether it was an integral part of it, or a separate section forming a foundation upon which the basin rested; but settlement of that question is relatively unimportant.  The lesson being taught is of the need for us to keep ourselves morally clean by obeying the written Word.


Some understand “the foot” to have been a separate brass bason into which water from the laver was poured for the cleansing of each individual priest, and this has much merit since it would point symbolically to each believer’s using a portion of Scripture daily for maintaining purity in his life.


Its being placed “between the tabernacle of the congregation and the (brazen) altar” teaches the imperative of purity if we would hope to offer acceptable worship, for the golden incense altar stood within the tabernacle building, while the brazen altar stood outside in the court exposed to the elements, being symbolically associated with our coming first to God as sinners, and through faith presenting Christ as our sin offering for the remission of our sins.  The incense altar is associated with our coming to God to present our worship, the type being fulfilled when believers assemble around the Lord’s Table on the first day of each week, to remember His sin-atoning death.


30:19.  “And Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat:”


Since the hand speaks of our works or deeds; and the foot, of our walk or manner of life, the lesson here is of the need to ensure that both are according to the written Word.


30:20.  “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:”


As discussed already, their going into the tabernacle to serve at the golden altar, represents the believer’s presenting his worship at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper; but their approaching the brazen altar to serve in connection with the presentation of the offerings burnt there, symbolizes our work. 


The need for the Aaronic priests to wash themselves with water prior to their activities at both altars declares the imperative of our ensuring that our worship and our service are both according to Scripture.  The travesty which passes today in Christendom for both, demonstrates the extent to which the Divine order has been superseded by the product of man’s fertile, but corrupt, mind. 


Their being described as offerings “made by fire” continues to emphasize the need of complete submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit, of Whom, as already noted, fire is a biblical symbol.


“... that they die not.”  The severity of the penalty for infraction declares the enormity of the offence in God’s sight.  That He doesn’t continue to strike offenders dead, as He did Annanias and Sapphira, should never be construed as indifference on His part.  The time a believer spends in sin is time in which he might as well be dead, for it will bring no reward at the Bema, the judgment seat of Christ.


30:21.  “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.”


The repetition of the injunction emphasizes the imperative of obeying it; and its application to future generations is the reminder that the principle it embodies applies for all time.


30:22.  “Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,”


30:23.  “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,”


30:24.  “And of Cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin:”


30:25.  “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.”


As with everything else connected with the Tabernacle, these spices represent attributes of Christ; but they are in addition, a figure of worship, for worship is nothing less than the presentation to the Father of our appreciation of Christ.  There being four of them (the number of earth and testing) reminds us that it was amid the testings of earth that the fragrance of His life was manifested, those testings being but the catalyst which revealed His perfection.


Myrrh is a fragrant but bitter gum obtained by spontaneous exudation, or from incisions. It is mentioned in Scripture in connection with embalming the dead, e.g., Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, and the women who also loved the Lord, brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to embalm His body, see John 19:38-42.


It speaks therefore primarily of the Lord’s death, but the fact that it exuded, and was also obtained by incising the tree, reminds us that while the Lord’s body was pierced, not only with the nails, but also with the crown of thorns, by the lashing of His back, and the soldier’s spear, He voluntarily yielded Himself to death, as He Himself declared, “... I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” John 10:17-18.


Cinnamon is obtained by grinding the bark of a small evergreen tree, thus killing it.  Its being an evergreen speaks of the Lord’s eternality; and its pleasant taste and fragrance point to the love and gentleness displayed in His speech and conduct; but its dying following removal of its bark speaks of the Lord’s voluntary death for the expiation of our sins.


Calamus is derived from a root word meaning “to stand upright,” and as such it points to the uprightness of the Lord’s life.  The fact that it grows in miry ground directs attention to the truth that in the thirty-three years of His human life here amid the moral mire of earth He contracted none of its defilement, but rather manifested the fragrance of heaven in His every thought, word, and deed.  The aroma of calamus is produced by crushing, and the redolence of the Lord’s nature was never more apparent than during the hours of terrible abuse suffered in the halls of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, and on the cross, His cry to heaven being, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Luke 23:34.


Cassia is mentioned in Psalm 45:7-8 in what is clearly a description of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.  All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia ....” 


It is related to a root word meaning “to scrape” so as to manifest the aroma of the plant, and in this it points to the fact that it was by the contradictions and hatred of sinners against Him that the Lord’s perfections were the more clearly displayed.


“... and of oil olive an hin (about six quarts).”  It was by admixture with the pure olive oil - symbol of the Holy Spirit - that the spices were blended together into an aromatic ointment; and it was by His complete submission to the leading of the Holy Spirit that the fragrance of the Lord’s life was manifested to the world, causing God to open the heavens and declare, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Matthew 3:17.  It is only as we are obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit that Christlikeness will be discernible in our lives.


We should note also that five is the factor common to all the weights of these spices, and inasmuch as five is the number of responsibility, it reminds us that it is our duty to manifest the equivalent of these fragrant spices in our daily lives.


30:26.  “And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony,”


30:27.  “And the table and all his vessels, and the candlestick and his vessels, and the altar of incense,”


30:28.  “And the altar of burnt offering with all his vessels, and the laver and his foot.”


30:29.  “And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy:”


This command to anoint every article of furniture and every vessel within the precincts of the Tabernacle, with the fragrant oil or ointment, declares symbolically that those who comprise the Church, and everything pertaining to their worship and service, are to have about them the spiritual fragrance of Christ.  Holiness is to mark their lives, see 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But as he which hath called your is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (living); because it is written, Be holy; for I am holy.”


30:30.  “And thou shalt anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office.”


The spiritual counterpart of this ordinance is the believer’s being indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion; and as our great High Priest was submissive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in all things, so are we also to be simply instruments in His hand.  In this connection it is necessary to distinguish between being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and being filled with Him.  Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion, a state which continues without interruption until the believer’s death.  Being filled with the Spirit however, is a different matter, the degree of filling being governed by the measure of the believer’s obedience to the Spirit’s leading.  As we grieve Him by doing what He forbids, or quench Him by refusing to do what He commands, the filling fluctuates in proportion to the degree and duration of our disobedience.


30:31.  “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throughout your generations.”


This fragrant oil was to be set apart exclusively for God, and was to be used only as and when He directed.


30:32.  “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.”


It was to be a once-only anointing of the priests at the beginning of their ministry, nor was the oil ever to be used cosmetically; a proscription which warns symbolically against a believer’s seeking glory for himself by the exercise of the spiritual gift given him by God.  The need of this warning is all too apparent in the degree to which some of those claiming to be God’s ministers, do very obviously seek glory for themselves.


30:33.  “Whosoever compoundeth any like it, or whosoever putteth any of it upon a stranger, shall even be cut off from his people.”


For anyone, other than those designated by God, to prepare the oil or ointment, or anything similar to it; or to use it to anoint a stranger, i.e., one who wasn’t a priest, would result in his being excommunicated from the nation Israel. 


The offence which is symbolized here is rampant in the clerical system which rules Christendom today, for the seminaries, Roman Catholic and Protestant alike, are doing the very thing which is symbolically forbidden here: they are graduating men - and now also women - as those who alone are qualified to preach or teach; those lacking a theological education being classified as “lay people,” and therefore unfit to engage in such work. 


There are unquestionably amongst these seminary graduates some genuinely born-again believers, but many - the majority it is to be feared - are unbelievers who have chosen religion as a profession similar to law, medicine, engineering, etc.  It is they, God warns, who “shall even be cut off....”  They are those referred to in Matthew 7:20-23, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in they name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  See also Matthew 25:46, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”


30:34.  “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:”


30:35.  “And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:”


“... stacte” is the translation of the Hebrew word nataph, which means to ooze: distil: fall in drops, and is used figuratively in Scripture to describe speech, particularly inspired speech, and very appropriately so, since speech is simply the distillation of thought.  This aromatic gum therefore points particularly to the perfection of Christ as manifested in His speech, e.g., "And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth," Luke 4:22, the testimony of the officers being, "Never man spake like this man" John 7:46.


Since worship is simply the spiritual distillation of our appreciation of Christ, what "drops" from our lips being the result of our occupation with Him, and being a sweet fragrance to God, it is easy to see the stacte both as a figure of Christ, and also of the words which express our appreciation of Him.


Onycha, meaning a scale or shell, is generally understood to have reference to a Red Sea shell-fish, which when dried and ground, yielded a perfume.  No spiritual mind will have any difficulty seeing in the onycha a figure of the Lord Jesus Christ being "ground" between the upper and nether millstones of Divine wrath at Calvary when He hung on the cross as our Substitute, as the prophet has written, "He was bruised for our iniquities," Isaiah 53:5, the hymnist expressing the same thought very beautifully in the words, "Dying, crushed beneath the load, Of the wrath and curse of God."


The third ingredient galbanum, is the transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning to be fat, with lamentation suggested by some scholars as an additional meaning.  It is a resinous gum having a bitter taste and unpleasant musty odor, but having the ability to enhance the aroma of other spices with which it is mixed.


The combined meanings fat and lamentation therefore, make galbanum a very fitting figure of Christ, in Whom were combined transcendent fatness or richness of soul, and sorrow surpassing that of any other, He being described by the prophet as, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," and as the One Who "hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows," Isaiah 53:3-4, it being recognized that the lament of a stricken Jerusalem has its ultimate application to Christ, "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger," Lamentations 1:12.  Nor should we forget His words to His disciples in Gethsemane’s garden on the night before He went to Calvary, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death....” Mark 14:34.


The bitter taste and unpleasant odor of this gum declares the truth that He Who is represented by the galbanum is He of Whom the prophet has declared, "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men," Isaiah 53:2-3.  The bitter taste announces the further truth relative to Christ, that His words were too bitter for the palates of the self-righteous Jewish leaders.  They, as it were, spat them out, they rejected His teaching which called for genuine repentance and faith in Him as Savior.


This gum is also reported to have medicinal properties, a fact which points to Christ as the One Who alone can heal the deadly effects of sin.


And finally there is the frankincense, meaning white or whiteness.  A white resinous gum obtained by making incisions in the tree, it burns with a clear white flame, emits a fragrant aroma, and is believed by many to have  medicinal properties, one of which is its ability to counteract some poisons.  This plant, of which there are five species, whose flowers have five petals, and whose fruit is five-sided, grows on barren rocky ground where virtually nothing else will survive.


As a symbol of Christ its propriety is readily apparent.  The whiteness speaks of His holiness, while its fragrance speaks of the redolence of His life Godward and manward; and since five is the Scriptural number of responsibility, the recurring association of five with the plant reminds us that He is the only man Who has ever perfectly fulfilled man's responsibility to God and to his fellows. 


The plant's growing in barren rocky soil points to Him as the One of Whom Isaiah wrote, "He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground" (Isaiah 53:2).


The fragrance produced by burning reminds us that the fire of earthly testing simply called forth the fragrance of a life totally devoted to God, that fragrance never being sweeter to His Father than during those hours at Calvary when the fire of Divine wrath against sin enveloped our sinless Substitute. 


Nor should anyone have any difficulty seeing in the incisions which produce the gum, a figure of what He endured in the course of making atonement for our sin.  Beginning with the buffeting in the judgment hall, the plucking of the beard from His cheeks, the lash tearing the flesh from His back, the punctures produced by the crown of thorns, the nails piercing His hands and feet, and finally the thrust of the spear in His side, are all set forth symbolically in the incisions which produce the literal frankincense.  Those incisions remind us that, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). 


Those "incisions" associated with Calvary brought forth the blood that cleanses sin.  The contemplation of those wounds ought to call forth the worship of every redeemed heart.


The fact that the weights of the four spices were to be the same, is the symbolic announcement of the truth that in Christ, unlike all other men, every attribute exists in equal measure, in perfect balance, none eclipsing another.  This is the same truth as is set forth in the fine flour of the Meal offering. 


The absence of any reference to either weight or measure declares the impossibility of bringing within the bounds of finite comprehension that which constitutes Him Who is infinite and eternal.  


It is instructive to note that the frankincense was placed on the Meal offering and on the shewbread (made from meal), for since meal is a Biblical symbol of the Lord's humanity, the lesson being taught is that the fragrance of obedience rested on all of His life.  There was never a thought, word, or deed that wasn't pleasing to the Father.


An obvious practical lesson taught by the perfumed confection produced by the blending of these four spices is that we who have been redeemed by His precious blood, and who now possess His life and nature, are responsible to live so that God and men will perceive the fragrance of Christ in our lives, as it is written, "For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ," 2 Corinthians 2:15.


A further lesson is connected with the fact that it was the fire which made manifest the fragrance of the blended spices.  Inasmuch as fire is not only a symbol of the Holy Spirit, but also of testing, God would remind us that apart from submission to the Holy Spirit's control, our lives will emit nothing of the fragrance of Christ; nor will that fragrance be manifest apart from the fire of testing, for it is testing that reveals the reality of our faith, and the extent of our obedience, obedience being the counterpart of the fragrance which ascended from the Golden altar and delighted the heart of God long ago.


30:36.  “And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony (the Ark) in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.”


This study of the spices for the Golden altar would be lacking an essential element were we to pass over the significance of the command, "And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: and it shall be unto you most holy."


In this context the confection from which the part was to be taken and beaten very small, represents the whole of the written Word, which is itself the revelation of Him Who is the Living Word.  It is in that written Word that we find the material of worship; and the "beating very small" of the part taken, declares the necessity of carefully examining every word of Scripture, for it is only by such meticulous scrutiny that the perfections of Christ will be discovered in the symbolic language which constitutes the greater part of the written Word.  To see the Bible as simply a textbook for living the Christian life, is a great mistake.  It is first, and above all else, the presentation of Christ, and unless we approach it from that perspective, we will have little incense to offer at the Golden altar, i.e., little of Christ to present to the Father in worship when we sit at the Lord’s Table on the first day of the week to eat the Lord’s Supper.


30:37.  “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.”


In Romans 13:7 we are commanded, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor,” but this stops very far short of according worship to anyone except God.  The proscription we are now considering however, was prompted by God’s knowing that there would be men who would seek the worship of their fellows; and anyone foolish enough to doubt such a possibility has only to consider Roman Catholicism: the adulation accorded the Pope goes far beyond mere admiration and honor: it is worship; nor does the evil end there: Mary too is worshiped, as are multitudes of other so-called “saints.”  (It is to be noted incidentally that “saint” is the term used in Scripture to designate believing men and women, and not those whom a false religious system has “elevated to sainthood”).


30:38.  “Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.”


“... to smell thereto” is also translated to enjoy its fragrance: to use as perfume: for his own pleasure: for his toilet.


What God had appointed to portray the perfections of His Son, was a unique compound which He would not permit to be prostituted to any other purpose.  A man’s appropriation of it for personal use would have been the symbolic declaration that his righteousness was equal to Christ’s; and while God is graciously pleased to impute His Son’s righteousness to all believers, that comes very far short of being their actual state as those still here on earth in mortal bodies.  The perfection which God imputes to believers here on earth will become reality only when we are home in heaven.


The cutting off of every such false claimant is the solemn warning to every man who expects to enter heaven on the basis of his imagined good works.  It is addressed specifically to the multitudes of self-righteous churchgoers who have been deluded by Satan into believing that church membership and moral living are all they need to take them to heaven.  The terrible truth is that the road to hell is crowded by multitudes of such dupes.

[Exodus 31]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough