Altar of Burnt Offerings
Golden Candlestick
Golden Candlestick
Table of Shewbread
Table of Shewbread
Altar of Incense
Altar of Insense
Ark of the Covenant
Ark of the Covenant

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”

Psalms 141:2

“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

Matt. 26:39

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Mosiah 3:19

This page discusses the physical characteristics of the altar, please visit this link for a discussion of the symbolism.

Altar of Incense

Physical Description

The physical characteristics of the altar of incense are set forth in Ex. 30:1-5.  The frame work was comprised of acacia wood overlaid with gold.  Assuming one cubit equals 18″, the altar was approximately approximately 18″ in width and depth, and stood approximately 36″ tall.  This altar was placed in the holy place on the center axis of the east-west line of the tabernacle complex before the veil (see Ex. 30:6).  The image above is based on my artistic assumptions using the scriptures as a foundation.



The High Priest and Priests were under covenant to replenish and burn incense upon this altar every morning and evening (see Ex. 30:7-8).  This replenishment was performed after the lamps of the candlestick were trimmed and replenished.  The replenishment of the incense is also discussed in the following verses, Num. 4:16; 1 Chron. 6:49, 1 Chron. 23:3.


 On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the High Priest were under covenant to make an atonement for Israel upon the horns of the altar of incense (see Ex. 30:10).  The performance and specific requirements of this ordinance are set forth in Lev. 16:12-13.  Immediately before entering into the Most Holy Place, the High Priest would take a small shovel full of burning coals from off the altar along with incense in his hands.  He would place the incense upon the burning coals so as to make a cloud of smoke which would cover the mercy seat upon the Ark of the Covenant.  The penalty for failing to do this properly was death (see Lev. 16:13).  After entering into the Most Holy Place under the cloud of incense, the High Priest would take the blood of the bullock and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat seven times.

Violations Made by a Priest

If a priest violated the law and sinned, he was required to offer a male calf without blemish unto the LORD for a sin offering.  He would lay his hands upon the head of the animal, and then kill it.  The blood would be drained and collected in a dish.  He would then have to place some of the blood on the horns of the altar of incense (see Lev. 4:3-12 for the entire ordinance of priestly atonement).  The act of placing blood on the horns of the altar of incense was not performed for the following groups who sinned in ignorance: (1) the congregation, (2) the ruler, (3) the commoner.

Initial Anointing

The altar had to be anointed with pure olive oil before it could be used (i.e. the anointing set it apart and made it holy, see Ex. 40:9).


The following restrictions governed the use of this altar upon its initial anointing.

  • Only the High Priest and Priest could offer incense upon this altar (Num. 16:40).
  • Only authorized incense could be offered upon the altar, any individual attempting to recreate this specific incense formula for their own personal use would be excommunicated (Ex. 30:37-38).
  • Any person who offered unauthorized incense would cutoff (Ex. 30:9, 38).  Lev. 10:1-2 gives the account of two Priests who offered forbidden incense upon this altar and were killed by the LORD.
  • No portion of the burnt offering, meat offering, or drink offering could be made upon this altar (Ex. 30:9).
  • The altar could only be approached after the High Priest and Priest put on the appropriate Priestly Robes and undergarments (Ex. 28:40-43).
  • The High Priest and Priest could only minister at this altar after they were first anointed, consecrated and sanctified (Ex. 28:41).