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 2000 James Melough


This piece of tabernacle furniture is described in Ex 27:1-8.  It was constructed of acacia wood overlaid with brass, and was in the form of a rectangular box measuring five cubits long, five cubits broad, and three cubits high (a cubit is about eighteen inches).  Verse four mentions “a grate of network of brass,” upon the corners of which were to be, “four brazen rings,” and verse five directs that this brazen net was to be placed, “even to the midst of the altar.”  This latter instruction is unclear, but it would seem that in the sides of the altar at the corners, at mid point measuring from top to bottom, there were holes through which the rings protruded; and with the staves, described in verses 6 and 7, inserted through these rings, the net would be held in place in the center of the altar.  It thus furnished support for the fire and the sacrifices; and at the same time afforded space for the ashes to drop through and accumulate underneath.

The fire that burned thus within the heart of the altar, and which was never to be allowed to go out, Le 6:12-13, had been miraculously kindled by God Himself when the tabernacle was first set up, Le 9:24.  It is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, and of the zeal for God that burned perpetually in the heart of Christ.

It was at this altar, located just inside the courtyard gate, that all the sacrifices were offered, and upon the sides of which their blood was sprinkled.  Students of Biblical typology are agreed that it is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as the great Sinbearer.  The altar’s dual composition, wood and brass, typifies His dual nature: in Him were combined perfect Deity, and perfect humanity.  He was perfect Man, and at the same time perfect God.

Inasmuch as acacia wood is impervious to decay, it is a very appropriate symbol of the Lord’s humanity, and the reminder that even in death His body saw no corruption.  The brass or copper which sheathed the wood, and which, though continually exposed to the fire, was not consumed, is a fitting type of His deity.

It has been noted in earlier studies that in Scripture, length symbolizes the duration of life; breadth, the character or quality of the life; while height appears to indicate the character of the life as viewed by God; and depth, the character of the life from the human perspective.  Inasmuch as five is the Biblical number of responsibility, and the length and breadth of the altar were each five cubits, the lesson being presented is that the Lord’s life, from Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s cross, was the perfect fulfillment of responsibility to both God and man.  The height, three cubits, number of complete manifestation and of resurrection, reminds us that He was the One Who was “God manifest in flesh”; but also the perfect Man Who alone could lay down His life and take it up again, entering heaven as a resurrected Man, the Forerunner of all who will enter that same heaven through faith in His redemptive work.

The four rings of the brazen net, which we assume protruded through openings in the two sides at the corners of the altar, and through which the brass-covered staves were inserted, have also a spiritual message for the eye and ear of faith.  Some have seen in them symbols of the four Gospels; and in the staves, types of the two parts of the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments.  The altar thus confined between the two staves, presents us with a symbolic picture of Him Whose whole life was similarly “confined” by the Scriptures.  Never once in thought, word or deed, did He fail to yield a perfect obedience to the Father Whose mind and will are presented in those Scriptures.  (Though the New Testament wasn’t written until after the Lord’s death, it existed in the mind of God, as did the Old Testament Scriptures prior to their being written).

The union of the altar (type of Christ), and the staves (type of the written Word) would remind us that He Who was revealed as the living Word is still with us as the written Word.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us....” Jn 1:1-14.

In addition to all the other offerings presented on that great brazen altar, one burned continuously: the burnt or ascending offering.  Every morning and every evening a lamb was to be presented, the one to burn throughout the day, the other, through the hours of darkness, and we may learn much from this offering burning continuously on the brazen altar.  First, it portrays the eternal efficacy of that one sacrifice offered when the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s unblemished Lamb, went to Calvary to fulfill all the OT types and “... through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God....” Heb 9:14.  The lamb that burned throughout the day presents us with a figure of the One Whose sufferings could be comprehended by man; the one that burned throughout the night, reminds us that there was in the life and death of Christ that which only God could comprehend.  Many see also in the lamb that burned during the night a picture of Christ’s agony during the three hours of darkness on the cross.

The blood-splashed brazen altar and the burnt offering were inseparable, for, as we have noted, that offering burned continuously.  Where the altar was, there was also the burnt offering.  Surely none will fail to see in this God’s OT picture of Christ.  Who can fail to discern in the blood-caked body on the middle cross, not only the true “Brazen Altar” enduring the fire of Divine wrath against sin, but also the true “Burnt Offering” ascending first as incense to God for His glory, and then for man’s acceptance in the presence of that same God?

How different the OT record becomes when we begin to see it as the revelation of Christ!  Is it any wonder that the two disciples who had just been given such a revelation by the risen Lord, exclaimed, “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” Lk 24:32?  I would envy those two men were it not for the assurance that the same revelation of the Scriptures is available, through the Holy Spirit, to all who turn to the Old Testament in sincere search of Christ.



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