“They shall confess their sin which they have done: and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.”
“Repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”
The area around Altar of Burnt Offerings was the busiest area of the tabernacle. Temple priests sacrificed a lamb every morning and evening. God commanded men from the tribe of Levi to keep the fire upon the altar burning continually. Three times each year, every household in Israel was under commandment to offer sacrifice here. This altar was the centerpiece of the courtyard and the vessel that most people in Israel would have been familiar with.
God revealed to Moses the size and physical attributes of this altar. The vessel was five cubits wide, five cubits long, and three cubits tall. The frame was made of acacia wood. Each corner had a horn-like design which symbolized the power God gives people to overcome the effects of sin. A bronze finish overlaid the entire structure. This altar was essentially a large barbeque. The hollow center was covered by a network of brass in a grill-like lattice. The sides of the altar had rings for staves which allowed it to be transported when needed.
The scriptures describe several accessories used for maintenance and daily operation. The holders of the Levitical Priesthood were under commandment to make sure the fire never went out and was properly stoked. (Lev. 6:13) There were pans for ashes, shovels, basons, fleshhooks, fire pans, etc., all of which were made of bronze.
The altar was anointed by Moses before it was placed in service. At that moment it was set apart for a sacred purpose and became holy unto the Lord. The altar was also anointed at other times during certain other ritual ordinances. This was the only altar of this type that was allowed under the Law (Deut. 12:5, 11–14). The people were forbidden to build any alternative altar except in the place where God should choose to put his Name, i.e., the temple. It was placed between the gate and the laver. Refer to the layout page for a visual.
The Altar of Burnt Offerings was created so the people of Israel could make sacrifices and offerings unto the Lord. There were three different types of offerings. Sin/trespass offerings were required when a person violated certain aspects of the law. Burnt offerings were made on a daily basis and to a greater extent during the feasts. Peace offerings presupposed the offerer was a peace with God. The purpose and manner in which the offerings were made are rich in symbolism. The ultimate goal of each was atonement or at-one-ment with God.
At-one-ment With God
The layout of the Tabernacle is symbolic of our journey back to the presence of God. If we desire to return to God we must follow the path that he has laid out to get there. After passing through the gate, the most prominent feature of the Tabernacle would have been the Altar of Burnt Offerings.