New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Exo 30:1 You shall make an altar to burn incense on. You shall make it of acacia wood-

Acacia was plentiful in the wilderness, but it is little more than brushwood; a surprising choice of material to be used in God’s dwelling place. But His choice of us with all our weakness and dysfunction, the common, weak stuff of the wilderness, is no less surprising. The choice of acacia wood for constructing the tabernacle is one of several points in the whole enterprise where it seems a less than ideal material was chosen, from a construction point of view. This aspect emphasizes that God prefers to work with the soft, weak and broken in order to do His work (as also in Ez. 15:2-5).

Exo 30:2 Its length shall be a cubit, and its breadth a cubit. It shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits. Its horns shall be of one piece with it.
Exo 30:3 You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top, its sides around it, and its horns; and you shall make a gold moulding around it.
Exo 30:4 You shall make two golden rings for it under its moulding; on its two ribs, on its two sides you shall make them; and they shall be for places for poles with which to bear it.
Exo 30:5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold.
Exo 30:6 You shall put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with you-

The principles God will use in the final judgment are manifested now, and have been reflected in His previous judgments of men. In our very personal lives, there are foretastes of that future judgment. When we receive forgiveness, this gives a knowledge of the future salvation (Lk. 1:77). Indeed, whenever man meets with God, whenever His ways have contact with those of men (which so often happens in the life of the believer) there is a judgment experience; His holiness, His demands, the imperatives which lay within His very being, reveal quite naturally our failures. The Hebrew word used to describe God’s ‘meeting’ with men is also used in the senses of ‘summoning’ or gathering to a trial (Ex. 30:6). And positively, the degree to which we have responded to Him will be revealed by our meeting with Him. Men fell down before Him when they realized who He was (Lk. 8:28,47), just as they will at judgment day (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 4:10).


Exo 30:7 Aaron shall burn incense of sweet spices on it every morning. When he tends the lamps, he shall burn it.
Exo 30:8 When Aaron lights the lamps at evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before Yahweh throughout your generations-

The continual burning of incense, night and day, was a reminder that prayer (cp. incense, Rev. 8:3,4) was a way of life, not only specific statements. David's references to making constant prayer (e.g. Ps. 88:1) may allude to the constant rising up of the incense. We cannot be literally praying all the time, but our basic spirit of life can rise up as a prayer to God constantly. Our lives are, in a sense, our prayer.

Exo 30:9 You shall offer no strange incense on it, nor burnt offering, nor meal offering; and you shall pour no drink offering on it-

The Law seems to have foreseen the difference between real and apparent prayer by warning that the true incense was to be burnt [representing prayer], but not any other kind of incense, or incense comprised of other kinds of ingredients (Ex. 30:9).

Exo 30:10 Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once in the year: with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once in the year he shall make atonement for it throughout your generations. It is most holy to Yahweh-
Exo 30:11 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying-

The Mosaic Law required a half shekel temple tax, but He reduced it- such was His desire to work with them and have them as His people (Ex. 30:11-16 cp. Neh. 10:32,33). But still they feared, still they didn’t fully believe, still they saw the establishment of God’s Kingdom as only their concern insofar as it coincided with their self-interest; and so the promised establishment of the Messianic Kingdom just didn’t come.

Exo 30:12 When you take a census of the children of Israel, according to those who are numbered among them, then each man shall give a ransom for himself to Yahweh, when you number them; that there be no plague among them when you number them.
Exo 30:13 They shall give this, everyone who passes over to those who are numbered: half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs); half a shekel for an offering to Yahweh.
Exo 30:14 Everyone who passes over to those who are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the offering to Yahweh.
Exo 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when they give the offering of Yahweh, to make atonement for your souls.
Exo 30:16 You shall take the atonement money from the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the Tent of Meeting that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before Yahweh, to make atonement for your souls.
Exo 30:17  Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,

Exo 30:18 You shall also make a basin of brass, and its base of brass, in which to wash. You shall put it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it-

This may represent the need for the washing of baptism in order to come to Christ, the altar (Heb. 13:10). This was required if they didn’t want to die (:20).

Exo 30:19 Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in it.
Exo 30:20 When they go into the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water, that they not die; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to Yahweh-
Tit. 3:5-7 implies that the priests washing in the laver also typified baptism: "They shall wash with water, that they die not" (Ex. 30:20). All God's people are priests, in a sense (1 Pet. 2:5,9); the washing of baptism is an absolute necessity before we can be God's priestly people.

Exo 30:21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they not die; and it shall be a statute forever to them, even to him and to his descendants throughout their generations-

There are many allusions to the language of priesthood in the New Testament, both as major statements and also in passing. The idea of baptism as a washing suggests that we afterwards enter into priestly service; we’re not declared by baptism to be merely members of a denomination, hobby level theologians who now agree to a set of doctrines. We instead, in a very real sense, are cleansed and consecrated into the service of God, ministering to His people, doing His work.


"He that is washed needs only to wash his feet" (Jn. 13:10) was surely suggesting that all baptized believers ("washed") were like the priests, who firstly washed their bodies and then their hands and feet, before entering on service (Ex. 30:21). Even the elderly brothers and sisters in Crete who were to be guided by specially appointed elders were to be encouraged to behave 'as those who are engaged in sacred service' (Tit. 2:3, M.R. Vincent 'Word Studies In The N.T.').

Exo 30:22 Moreover Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Exo 30:23 Also take fine spices: of liquid myrrh, five hundred shekels; and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, even two hundred and fifty; and of fragrant cane, two hundred and fifty;
Exo 30:24 and of cassia five hundred, after the shekel of the sanctuary; and a hin of olive oil.
Exo 30:25 You shall make it a holy anointing oil, a perfume compounded after the art of the perfumer: it shall be a holy anointing oil.
Exo 30:26 You shall use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the testimony,
Exo 30:27 the table and all its articles, the lampstand and its accessories, the altar of incense,
Exo 30:28 the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin with its base.
Exo 30:29 You shall sanctify them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them shall be holy.
Exo 30:30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and sanctify them, that they may minister to Me in the priest’s office.
Exo 30:31 You shall speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations.
Exo 30:32 It shall not be poured on man’s flesh, neither shall you make any like it, according to its composition: it is holy. It shall be holy to you.
Exo 30:33 Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on a stranger, he shall be cut off from his people’.
Exo 30:34 Yahweh said to Moses, Take to yourself sweet spices, gum resin, and onycha, and galbanum; sweet spices with pure frankincense: there shall be an equal weight of each;
Exo 30:35 and you shall make incense of it, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy-

35 Incense is a symbol of prayer (Rev. 8:3,4). Whilst there is a place for instantaneous and emotional prayers, this doesn’t mean that we should overlook the fact that another kind of prayer should be prayer that is carefully prepared, just as the incense was. Our speech, Paul says, should be “seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). He’s alluding here, perhaps with the idea that the way we speak generally should be in the same manner as we pray to God, like the incense.

Exo 30:36 and you shall beat some of it very small, and put some of it before the testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be to you most holy-
If incense is like prayer, this may refer to how we shouldn’t be afraid nor ashamed to pray to God about the smallest things. Nothing is outside of His control, indeed, God is so often in the details.

Exo 30:37 The incense which you shall make, according to its composition you shall not make for yourselves: it shall be to you holy for Yahweh.
Exo 30:38 Whoever shall make any like that, to smell of it, he shall be cut off from his people.