Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Exo 37:25-28; Exo 40:26-27. The altar of incense was to be a casing of boards of shittim wood Exo 25:5, Exo 25:18 inches square and three feet in height (taking the cubit as 18 inches), entirely covered with plates of gold. Four "horns" were to project upward at the corners like those of the altar of burnt-offering Exo 27:2. A crown or moulding of gold was to run round the top. On each of two opposite sides there was to be a gold ring through which the staves were to be put when it was moved from place to place.
By the two corners thereof - Not corners. See the margin. The sense appears to be: And two gold rings shalt thou make for it under its moulding; on its two sides shalt thou make them (i. e. one ring on each side).
The place for the altar of incense was outside the veil, opposite to the ark of the covenant and between the candlestick on the south side and the showbread table on the north Exo 40:22-24. It appears to have been regarded as having a more intimate connection with the holy of holies than the other things in the holy place; and the mention of the mercy-seat in this verse, if we associate with it the significance of incense as figuring the prayers of the Lord's people Psa 141:2; Rev 5:8; Rev 8:3-4, seems to furnish additional pound for an inference that the incense altar took precedence of the table of showbread and the candlestick.
The lamps - See Exo 25:37.
The offering of the incense accompanied that of the morning and evening sacrifice. The two forms of offering symbolized the spirit of man reaching after communion with Yahweh, both in act and utterance. See Psa 141:2.
By this regulation, the symbolism of the altar of incense was kept free from ambiguity. atonement was made by means of the victim on the brazen altar in the court ontside; the prayers of the reconciled worshippers had their type within the tabernacle.
See the marginal references.
The Ransom of Souls. - Exo 38:25-28. On comparing these words with those of Num 1:1-3, we may perhaps infer that the first passage relates to a mere counting of the adult Israelites at the time when the money was taken from each, and that what the latter passage enjoins was a formal enrolment of them according to their genealogies and their order of military service.
A ransom for his soul - What the sincere worshipper thus paid was at once the fruit and the sign of his faith in the goodness of Yahweh, who had redeemed him and brought him into the covenant. Hence, the payment is rightly called a ransom inasmuch as it involved a personal appropriation of the fact of his redemption. On the word soul, see Lev 17:11.
That there be no plague - i. e. that they might not incur punishment for the neglect and contempt of spiritual privileges. Compare Exo 28:35; Co1 11:27-30; and the exhortation in our communion Service.
Half a shekel - The probable weight of silver in the half-shekel would now be worth about 1 shilling, 3 1/2d. (Compare Gen 23:16. See Exo 38:24 note.) Gerah is, literally, a bean, probably the bean of the carob or locust-tree. It was used as the name of a small weight, as our word grain came into use from a grain of wheat.
Every Israelite stood in one and the same relation to Yahweh. See Exo 30:11-12.
tabernacle of the congregation - tent of meeting, here and in Exo 30:18, Exo 30:20,
A memorial unto the children of Israel - The silver used in the tabernacle was a memorial to remind each man of his position before the Lord, as one of the covenanted people.
Exo 38:8. The bronze for the "Laver of brass" and its foot was supplied from the bronze mirrors of the women who voluntarily gave up these articles of luxury. Bronze mirrors were much used by the ancient Egyptians. No hint is given as to the form of the laver. The brazen sea and the ten lavers that served the same purpose in the temple of Solomon, were elaborately worked in artistic designs and are minutely described Kg1 7:23-29.
Wash their hands and their feet - On certain solemn occasions he was required to bathe his whole person Exo 29:4; Lev 16:4. The laver must also have furnished the water for washing those parts of the victims that needed cleansing Lev 1:9.
That they die not - See Exo 28:35 note.
Compare Exo 37:29.
Principal spices - i. e. the best spices.
Pure myrrh - Is a gum which comes from the stem of a low, thorny, ragged tree, that grows in Arabia Felix and Eastern Africa, called by botanists Balsamodendron myrrha. The word here rendered pure, is literally, "freely flowing", an epithet which is explained by the fact that the best myrrh is said to exude spontaneously from the bark, while that of inferior quality oozes out in greater quantity from incisions made in the bark.
Five hundred shekels - Probably rather more than 15 1/4 lbs. See Exo 38:24.
Cinnamon - is obtained from a tree allied to the laurel that grows in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and other islands of the Indian Ocean, known in Botany as the Cinnamomum zeylanicum. It is the inner rind of the tree dried in the sun. It was imported from India in very early times by the people of Ophir, and brought with other spices from the south part of Arabia by the trading caravans that visited Egypt and Syria. The mention of these spices in Exodus may be taken as the earliest notice we have connected with commerce with the remote East.
Two hundred and fifty shekels - about 7 lbs. 14 oz.
Sweet calamus - The fragrant cane (or rush) was probably what is now known in India as the Lemon Grass.
Cassia - is the inner bark of an Indian tree (Cinnamomum cassia), which differs from that which produces cinnamon in the shape of its leaves and some other particulars. It was probably in ancient times, as it is at present, by far less costly than cinnamon, and it may have been on this account that it was used in double quantity.
An hin - Probably about six pints. See Lev 19:36.
An oil of holy ointment - Rather, a holy anointing oil.
After the art of the apothecary - According to Jewish tradition, the essences of the spices were first extracted, and then mixed with the oil. The preparation of the anointing oil, as well as of the incense, was entrusted to Bezaleel Exo 37:29, and the care of preserving it to Eleazar, the son of Aaron Num 4:16. In a later age, it was prepared by the sons of the priests Ch1 9:30.
Upon man's flesh - i. e. on the persons of those who were not priests who might employ it for such anointing as was usual on festive occasions (Psa 104:15; Pro 27:9; Mat 6:17, etc.).
A stranger - See Exo 29:33.
Cut off from his people - See Exo 31:14.
Exo 37:29. The incense, like the anointing oil, consisted of four aromatic ingredients.
Stacte - supposed to be either the gum of the Storax tree (Styrax officinale) found in Syria and the neighboring countries, or the gum known as Benzoin, or Gum Benjamin, which is an important ingredient in the incense now used in churches and mosques, and is the produce of another storax tree (Styrax benzoin) that grows in Java and Sumatra.
Onycha - , a perfume perhaps made from the cap of the strombus, or wing-shell, which abounds in the Red Sea.
Galbanum - , a gum of a yellowish brown color, in the form of either grains or masses. It is imported from India, Persia, and Africa; but the plant from which it comes is not yet certainly known.
Pure frankincense - This was the most important of the aromatic gums. Like myrrh, it was regarded by itself as a precious perfume Sol 3:6; Mat 2:11, and it was used unmixed with other substances in some of the rites of the law. The tree from which it is obtained is not found in Arabia, and it was most likely imported from India by the Sabaeans, like Cinnamon, Cassia, and Calamus (see Exo 30:23). The tree is now known as the Boswellia serrata, or B. thurifera, and grows abundantly in the highlands of India. The frankincense of commerce is a different substance, the resin of the spruce and of some other kinds of fir.
See Exo 30:25.
Tempered together - The four substances were perhaps pounded and thoroughly mixed together, and then fused into a mass. This rendering is to be preferred to that in the margin.
See Exo 30:6.
Compare Exo 30:32-33.