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Dictionaries :: Altar

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Below are articles from the following dictionary:
Easton's Bible Dictionary

Altar:

(Heb. mizbe'ah, from a word meaning "to slay"), any structure of earth (Exd 20:24) or unwrought stone (20:25) on which sacrifices were offered. Altars were generally erected in conspicuous places (Gen 22:9; Eze 6:3; 2Ki 23:12; 16:4; 23:8; Act 14:13). The word is used in Hbr 13:10 for the sacrifice offered upon it--the sacrifice Christ offered.

Paul found among the many altars erected in Athens one bearing the inscription, "To the unknown God" (Act 17:23), or rather "to an [i.e., some] unknown God." The reason for this inscription cannot now be accurately determined. It afforded the apostle the occasion of proclaiming the gospel to the "men of Athens."

The first altar we read of is that erected by Noah (Gen 8:20). Altars were erected by Abraham (Gen 12:7; 13:4; 22:9), by Isaac (Gen 26:25), by Jacob (33:20; 35:1,3), and by Moses (Exd 17:15, "Jehovah-nissi").

In the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, two altars were erected.

(1.) The altar of burnt offering (Exd 30:28), called also the "brasen altar" (Exd 39:39) and "the table of the Lord" (Mal 1:7).

This altar, as erected in the tabernacle, is described in Ex. 27:1-8. It was a hollow square, 5 cubits in length and in breadth, and 3 cubits in height. It was made of shittim wood, and was overlaid with plates of brass. Its corners were ornamented with "horns" (Exd 29:12; Lev 4:18).

In Exd 27:3 the various utensils appertaining to the altar are enumerated. They were made of brass. (1Sa 2:13,14; Lev 16:12; Num 16:6, 7.)

In Solomon's temple the altar was of larger dimensions (2Ch 4:1. Comp. 1 Kings 8:22, 64; 9:25), and was made wholly of brass, covering a structure of stone or earth. This altar was renewed by Asa (2Ch 15:8). It was removed by Ahaz (2Ki 16:14), and "cleansed" by Hezekiah, in the latter part of whose reign it was rebuilt. It was finally broken up and carried away by the Babylonians (Jer 52:17).

After the return from captivity it was re-erected (Ezr 3:3,6) on the same place where it had formerly stood. ( 1 Macc. 4:47.) When Antiochus Epiphanes pillaged Jerusalem the altar of burnt offering was taken away.

Again the altar was erected by Herod, and remained in its place till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (70 A.D.).

The fire on the altar was not permitted to go out (Lev 6:9).

In the Mosque of Omar, immediately underneath the great dome, which occupies the site of the old temple, there is a rough projection of the natural rock, of about 60 feet in its extreme length, and 50 in its greatest breadth, and in its highest part about 4 feet above the general pavement. This rock seems to have been left intact when Solomon's temple was built. It was in all probability the site of the altar of burnt offering. Underneath this rock is a cave, which may probably have been the granary of Araunah's threshing-floor (1Ch 21:22).

(2.) The altar of incense (Exd 30:1-10), called also "the golden altar" (39:38; Num 4:11), stood in the holy place "before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony." On this altar sweet spices were continually burned with fire taken from the brazen altar. The morning and the evening services were commenced by the high priest offering incense on this altar. The burning of the incense was a type of prayer (Psa 141:2; Rev 5:8; 8:3,4).

This altar was a small movable table, made of acacia wood overlaid with gold (Exd 37:25,26). It was 1 cubit in length and breadth, and 2 cubits in height.

In Solomon's temple the altar was similar in size, but was made of cedar-wood (1Ki 6:20; 7:48) overlaid with gold. In Eze 41:22 it is called "the altar of wood." (Exd 30:1-6.)

In the temple built after the Exile the altar was restored. Antiochus Epiphanes took it away, but it was afterwards restored by Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 1:23; 4:49). Among the trophies carried away by Titus on the destruction of Jerusalem the altar of incense is not found, nor is any mention made of it in Heb. 9. It was at this altar Zacharias ministered when an angel appeared to him (Luk 1:11). It is the only altar which appears in the heavenly temple (Isa 6:6; Rev 8:3,4).

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.