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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Exodus 30:34-38

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:

34. Et dixit Jehova ad Mosen, Accipe tibi aromata, stacten, et onychen, et galbanum, aromata, et thus purum: ut pondus ponderi respondeat.

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

35. Et facies ex eo suffimentum aromaticum, opus aromatarii, mistum, purum et sanctum.

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

36. Et contundes ex eo comminuendo: ponesque ex eo coram testimonio in tabernaculo conventionis, in quo conveniam tecum: sanctitas sanctitatum erit vobis.

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.

37. Suffimentum quod facies secundum compositionem ejus non facietis vobis: sanctitas tibi erit Jehovae.

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

38. Quisquis fecerit simile ad adolendum ilhd, excidetur e populis suis.


34. Take unto thee sweet spices. This oblation might have been noticed with the others, yet, since it merely describes the composition of the incense, which is connected with the altar of incense, and in fact is but an appendage to it, I have seen no reason why I should separate them. Let the curious subtilely discuss, if they please, the ingredients themselves; it is enough for me that they were chosen at God’s will to make a very sweet smell. For I know not whether it is likely, as some suppose, that galbanum  154 is of a strong and disagreeable savor, and, since they only offer this conjecture in an unknown matter, they deserve little credit. My conviction is that it was sweet, which the words of Moses himself a little further on confirm, where he denounces the penalty of death upon those who should use such perfume for their private gratification; for this prohibition would have been absurd, unless its odor had been very agreeable. Besides, the analogy between the sign and the thing signified would not have held good, unless its sweet savor had testified that God is greatly pleased with the prayers of His people. Moreover, in order that the sacred symbol might be the more reverenced, it was not allowable to transfer this mixture to private use; for since men are rude and earthly-minded, there is nothing they are more prone to than to mix up heavenly things with those of earth. Therefore, to elevate their minds the more, it was necessary that the incense, in which there was a special holiness due to God alone, should be set apart from common use.



“Not of strong and evil savor, as R. Salomom, for then it had been unfit to make a perfume of.” — Tostatus in Willet. “Dioscor. asserit galbanum esse gravis odoris, et Plinius ait galbanum foetere et castorem olere; quod forte intelligit de partibus galbani magis terrestribus — ideoque noster interpres addit τὸ bonis odoris;” (i.e., V., after LXX. Χαλβάνην ἡδυσμῦ·) Corn. a Lapide, in loco.

Next: Exodus 30:17-21