Updated: Jan 11
Photo courtesy of promiselandjourney.org
We can read about the Altar of Incense in Exodus 30:1-10. The alter was also called The Golden Altar. The incense that was used upon the altar can be found in Exodus 30:22-38.
The altar was to burn continually. It was checked twice daily when the Menorah was trimmed. Once a year, on Yom Kippur, blood was poured on the horns of the altar of incense by the High Priest to make atonement for the people. Like most of the other furniture in the tabernacle, The Altar of Incense had poles for carrying and transporting.
So, what were the differences between the Brazen Altar and the Altar of Incense:
Brass or bronze
For daily burnt offerings/grain
In outer court
Altar of Incense
Covered in gold
For burning of incense only
In inner court
In verse 30: 9 we read that “no strange fire” was to be offered upon the altar. This is why Nadab and Abihu were struck down by Yahweh – Leviticus 10:1-3. No burnt offerings, sacrifices, or drink offerings were to be placed upon this altar. Only coals and incense; according to the prescribed mixture. - Ex. 30:34-38.
Once a year on Yom Kippur the burning coals from off the Altar of Incense were taken , along with some holy incense, into the Most Holy Place by the High Priest. Then after entering the Most Holy Place the High Priest would place the incense upon the burning coals in the golden censor and it would produce a smoke that filled the Most Holy Place, Leviticus 16:12-13. The smoke would shield or protect the High Priest from the awesome presence of Yahweh so that he did not die being in His presence. A controversy has arisen among Bible scholars over the apparent Biblical error in Hebrews 9:4 where it states that the golden censor was inside the Most Holy Place. Leviticus 16:12-13 explains this seemingly inconsistency. The golden censor filled with its burning coals and incense was taken into the Most Holy Place once a year, at Yom Kippur, by the High Priest when he made atonement for the people. This event, Yom Kippur, is what is being referred to by the author of Hebrews. When we read about the Altar in the Throne Room in Heaven, it is referring to the Altar of Incense.
There would be no need for a brazen altar where the blood of animals were being sacrificed in the throne room of Yahweh.
When Yeshua offered His life for our sins, His blood would have been placed upon the horns of the altar of incense in heaven and on the mercy seat in heaven, just as the High Priest on earth was instructed to do on Yom Kippur. Yeshua offered Himself on our behalf.
Heb 9:22 – 28 “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (KJV)
Furthermore, the Altar of Incense represents Yeshua who is our intercessor before the Father. He is our High Priest and makes intercession on our behalf. The blood on the horns of the golden altar represents the power of Yeshua's blood in prayer before the Father for us.
The Altar of Incense represents the prayers of the saints which go up before Yahweh, and Yeshua our intercessor is there interceding these prayers on our behalf.
Hence, we should be able to clearly see that prayer is very important in the life of a believer. The disciples asked Yeshua to “teach us to pray”, we would all benefit by following His instructions on a regular basis. We are also instructed to “pray without ceasing”. No matter how busy we are, we can keep a prayer upon our hearts and lips.