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Exodus 30:1-10

Context
The Altar of Incense

30:1 1 “You are to make an altar for burning incense; 2  you are to make it of 3  acacia wood. 4  30:2 Its length is to be a foot and a half 5  and its width a foot and a half; it will be square. Its height is to be three feet, 6  with its horns of one piece with it. 7  30:3 You are to overlay it with pure gold – its top, 8  its four walls, 9  and its horns – and make a surrounding border of gold for it. 10  30:4 You are to make two gold rings for it under its border, on its two flanks; you are to make them on its two sides. 11  The rings 12  will be places 13  for poles to carry it with. 30:5 You are to make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.

30:6 “You are to put it in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the testimony (before the atonement lid that is over the testimony), where I will meet you. 30:7 Aaron is to burn sweet incense 14  on it morning by morning; when he attends 15  to the lamps he is to burn incense. 16  30:8 When Aaron sets up the lamps around sundown he is to burn incense on it; it is to be a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations. 30:9 You must not offer strange incense on it, nor burnt offering, nor meal offering, and you must not pour out a drink offering on it. 30:10 Aaron is to make atonement on its horns once in the year with some of the blood of the sin offering for atonement; 17  once in the year 18  he is to make atonement on it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.” 19 

Exodus 30:22-38

Context
Oil and Incense

30:22 20 The Lord spoke to Moses: 21  30:23 “Take 22  choice spices: 23  twelve and a half pounds 24  of free-flowing myrrh, 25  half that – about six and a quarter pounds – of sweet-smelling cinnamon, six and a quarter pounds of sweet-smelling cane, 30:24 and twelve and a half pounds of cassia, all weighed 26  according to the sanctuary shekel, and four quarts 27  of olive oil. 30:25 You are to make this 28  into 29  a sacred anointing oil, a perfumed compound, 30  the work of a perfumer. It will be sacred anointing oil.

30:26 “With it you are to anoint the tent of meeting, the ark of the testimony, 30:27 the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and its utensils, the altar of incense, 30:28 the altar for the burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its base. 30:29 So you are to sanctify them, 31  and they will be most holy; 32  anything that touches them will be holy. 33 

30:30 “You are to anoint Aaron and his sons and 34  sanctify them, so that they may minister as my priests. 30:31 And you are to tell the Israelites: ‘This is to be my sacred anointing oil throughout your generations. 30:32 It must not be applied 35  to people’s bodies, and you must not make any like it with the same recipe. It is holy, and it must be holy to you. 30:33 Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts any of it on someone not a priest 36  will be cut off 37  from his people.’”

30:34 The Lord said to Moses: “Take 38  spices, gum resin, 39  onycha, 40  galbanum, 41  and pure frankincense 42  of equal amounts 43  30:35 and make it into an incense, 44  a perfume, 45  the work of a perfumer. It is to be finely ground, 46  and pure and sacred. 30:36 You are to beat some of it very fine and put some of it before the ark of the testimony in the tent of meeting where I will meet with you; it is to be most holy to you. 30:37 And the incense that you are to make, you must not make for yourselves using the same recipe; it is to be most holy to you, belonging to the Lord. 30:38 Whoever makes anything like it, to use as perfume, 47  will be cut off from his people.”

1 sn Why this section has been held until now is a mystery. One would have expected to find it with the instructions for the other furnishings. The widespread contemporary view that it was composed later does not answer the question, it merely moves the issue to the work of an editor rather than the author. N. M. Sarna notes concerning the items in chapter 30 that “all the materials for these final items were anticipated in the list of invited donations in 25:3-6” and that they were not needed for installing Aaron and his sons (Exodus [JPSTC], 193). Verses 1-10 can be divided into three sections: the instructions for building the incense altar (1-5), its placement (6), and its proper use (7-10).

2 tn The expression is מִזְבֵּחַ מִקְטַר קְטֹרֶת (mizbeakh miqtar qÿtoret), either “an altar, namely an altar of incense,” or “an altar, [for] burning incense.” The second noun is “altar of incense,” although some suggest it is an active noun meaning “burning.” If the former, then it is in apposition to the word for “altar” (which is not in construct). The last noun is “incense” or “sweet smoke.” It either qualifies the “altar of incense” or serves as the object of the active noun. B. Jacob says that in order to designate that this altar be used only for incense, the Torah prepared the second word for this passage alone. It specifies the kind of altar this is (Exodus, 828).

3 tn This is an adverbial accusative explaining the material used in building the altar.

4 sn See M. Haran, “The Uses of Incense in Ancient Israel Ritual,” VT 10 (1960): 113-15; N. Glueck, “Incense Altars,” Translating and Understanding the Old Testament, 325-29.

5 tn Heb “a cubit.”

6 tn Heb “two cubits.”

7 tn Heb “its horns from it.”

8 tn Heb “roof.”

9 tn Heb “its walls around.”

10 tn Heb “and make for it border gold around.” The verb is a consecutive perfect. See Exod 25:11, where the ark also has such a molding.

11 sn Since it was a small altar, it needed only two rings, one on either side, in order to be carried. The second clause clarifies that the rings should be on the sides, the right and the left, as you approach the altar.

12 tn Heb “And it”; this refers to the rings collectively in their placement on the box, and so the word “rings” has been used to clarify the referent for the modern reader.

13 tn Heb “for houses.”

14 tn The text uses a cognate accusative (“incense”) with the verb “to burn” or “to make into incense/sweet smoke.” Then, the noun “sweet spices” is added in apposition to clarify the incense as sweet.

15 tn The Hebrew is בְּהֵיטִיבוֹ (bÿhetivo), a Hiphil infinitive construct serving in a temporal clause. The Hebrew verb means “to make good” and so in this context “to fix” or “to dress.” This refers to cleansing and trimming the lamps.

16 sn The point of the little golden altar of incense is normally for intercessory prayer, and then at the Day of Atonement for blood applied atonement. The instructions for making it show that God wanted his people to make a place for prayer. The instructions for its use show that God expects that the requests of his people will be pleasing to him.

17 tn The word “atonements” (plural in Hebrew) is a genitive showing the result or product of the sacrifice made.

18 sn This ruling presupposes that the instruction for the Day of Atonement has been given, or at the very least, is to be given shortly. That is the one day of the year that all sin and all ritual impurity would be removed.

19 sn The phrase “most holy to the Lord” means that the altar cannot be used for any other purpose than what is stated here.

20 sn The chapter ends with these two sections. The oil (22-33) is the mark of consecration, and the incense (34-38) is a mark of pleasing service, especially in prayer. So the essence of the message of the chapter is that the servants of God must be set apart by the Spirit for ministry and must be pleasing to God in the ministry.

21 tn Heb “and Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying.”

22 tn The construction uses the imperative “take,” but before it is the independent pronoun to add emphasis to it. After the imperative is the ethical dative (lit. “to you”) to stress the task to Moses as a personal responsibility: “and you, take to yourself.”

23 tn Heb “spices head.” This must mean the chief spices, or perhaps the top spice, meaning fine spices or choice spices. See Song 4:14; Ezek 27:22.

24 tn Or “500 shekels.” Verse 24 specifies that the sanctuary shekel was the unit for weighing the spices. The total of 1500 shekels for the four spices is estimated at between 77 and 100 pounds, or 17 to 22 kilograms, depending on how much a shekel weighed (C. Houtman, Exodus, 3:576).

25 sn Myrrh is an aromatic substance that flows from the bark of certain trees in Arabia and Africa and then hardens. “The hardened globules of the gum appear also to have been ground into a powder that would have been easy to store and would have been poured from a container” (J. Durham, Exodus [WBC], 3:406).

26 tn The words “all weighed” are added for clarity in English.

27 tn Or “a hin.” A hin of oil is estimated at around one gallon (J. Durham, Exodus [WBC], 3:406).

28 tn Heb “it.”

29 tn The word “oil” is an adverbial accusative, indicating the product that results from the verb (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, §52).

30 tn The somewhat rare words rendered “a perfumed compound” are both associated with a verbal root having to do with mixing spices and other ingredients to make fragrant ointments. They are used with the next phrase, “the work of a perfumer,” to describe the finished oil as a special mixture of aromatic spices and one requiring the knowledge and skills of an experienced maker.

31 tn The verb is a Piel perfect with vav (ו) consecutive; in this verse it is summarizing or explaining what the anointing has accomplished. This is the effect of the anointing (see Exod 29:36).

32 tn This is the superlative genitive again, Heb “holy of holies.”

33 tn See Exod 29:37; as before, this could refer to anything or anyone touching the sanctified items.

34 tn The perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive follows the imperfect of instruction; it may be equal to the instruction, but more likely shows the purpose or result of the act.

35 tn Without an expressed subject, the verb may be treated as a passive. Any common use, as in personal hygiene, would be a complete desecration.

36 tn Heb “a stranger,” meaning someone not ordained a priest.

37 sn The rabbinic interpretation of this is that it is a penalty imposed by heaven, that the life will be cut short and the person could die childless.

38 tn The construction is “take to you,” which could be left in that literal sense, but more likely the suffix is an ethical dative, stressing the subject of the imperative.

39 sn This is from a word that means “to drip”; the spice is a balsam that drips from a resinous tree.

40 sn This may be a plant, or it may be from a species of mollusks; it is mentioned in Ugaritic and Akkadian; it gives a pungent odor when burnt.

41 sn This is a gum from plants of the genus Ferula; it has an unpleasant odor, but when mixed with others is pleasant.

42 tn The word “spice is repeated here, suggesting that the first three formed half of the ingredient and this spice the other half – but this is conjecture (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 400).

43 tn Heb “of each part there will be an equal part.”

44 tn This is an accusative of result or product.

45 tn The word is in apposition to “incense,” further defining the kind of incense that is to be made.

46 tn The word מְמֻלָּח (mÿmullakh), a passive participle, is usually taken to mean “salted.” Since there is no meaning like that for the Pual form, the word probably should be taken as “mixed,” as in Rashi and Tg. Onq. Seasoning with salt would work if it were food, but since it is not food, if it means “salted” it would be a symbol of what was sound and whole for the covenant. Some have thought that it would have helped the incense burn quickly with more smoke.

47 tn Or to smell it, to use for the maker’s own pleasure.



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