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
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.”
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.