The Tabernacle - 15

The Brazen Altar

Shemot (Exodus) 27:1-8And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad: the altar shall be foursquare; and the height thereof shall be three cubits. And shou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: its horns shall be of the same; and thou shalt overlay it with bronze. And thou shalt make its pans to receive its ashes, and its shovels, and its basins, and its fleshhooks, and its firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of bronze. And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of bronze; and upon the net shalt thou make four bronze rings in the four corners thereof. And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar. And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with bronze. And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it. Hollow with boards shalt thou make it; as it was shown thee in the mount, so shall they make it.

YHVH has now taken us directly to the command for the construction of the brazen altar, which stands in the court, and is the very first thing you would see when entering the tabernacle area. Much of the description of this altar is previously described in earlier accounts of the furniture in the Most Holy Place and Holy Place, i.e., the wood and bronze. Bronze, as we have stated earlier, pictures judgment, and this altar is to be the ultimate place of judgment. This altar is to be called the altar of burnt offering (Shemot 30:28, Vayiqera (Leviticus) 4:7). This altar is to be distinguished from the altar of incense, which YHVH has chosen to mention after commanding the construction of this altar. This is for a good and proper reason, which we will discuss later in the lesson.

So, let us begin at the beginning of this altar. YHVH first instructs Mosheh to make an altar. The word for altar is mizebecha (מזבח). This word is built upon the verbal root zavach. Zavach is the Hebrew word for sacrifice, or offering. So, the altar is the noun and the sacrifice is the verb, or the action. The literal meaning of zavach, or offering, is to prepare something for a higher purpose. It is directly connected to the preparation of a meal to satisfy a guest. For example, an earlier event in Bere’shiyt (Genesis) presents this very picture:

Bere’shiyt 31:54Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.

Here we have the sacrifice being connected directly to the eating of a meal. When a bullock, a lamb, or a goat is offered upon this altar, YHVH is satisfied. We have the first such occasion of a burnt offering in Bere’shiyt 8:20 when Noach comes out of the ark and builds an altar. In Bere’shiyt 22:8,13, we have a wonderful, moving picture of what Yeshua‘ Himself will do on the antitype of the brazen altar, a tree, - a tree that He was nailed upon. In Bere’shiyt 22:8 we read that YHVH himself will provide the sacrifice instead of Isaac. Most Christian commentators see this as a statement of prophecy, that YHVH Himself will be that lamb in the form of Yeshua‘. The Hebrew there says, 'elohiym yir'eh-lo hashsheh. This is literally translated as ’Elohiym will see to it Himself the lamb. In other words, ’Elohiym will Himself provide the lamb. This in and of itself does not suggest that He would be the offering. But I would like to add another piece of information that I believe is not placed in the text by chance. It is the substitute for Isaac that I believe sheds some more light on verse eight.

In verse thirteen it reads:

Bere’shiyt 22:13And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

This is an awesome statement. First of all, we have all the elements of the brazen altar. The wood, the ram, the horns, and a place called YHVH YIREH (יהוה יראה), or YHVH will see to it. Now, is it coincidence that of all the clean animals that are offerings, YHVH chooses the ram? The word for ram is ’ayil (איל). This word is the verbal root for the word ’Elohiym (אלהים). The word thicket is the Hebrew word savak (סבך). The Greek equivilant is perikukloo (περικυκλοω), which means to be surrounded, particularly by enemies (Luke 19:43). I find that the circumstances of Yeshua‘’s trial, surrounded by His enemies and subsequent crucifixion to be more than just comparable to what has taken place here. It is also interesting to me that the phrase, tachat b'no (תחת בנו) is used here. This is translated as "in the stead of his son". This phrase means that the ram was sacrificed in place of His son. I should not have to go into New Testament doctrine concerning Yeshua‘’s purpose of dying on the tree in our place. It is not the fact that He did do this that intrigues me. It is the constant reminder in Scripture of the nature of ’Elohiym's ways verses the nature of haSatan's way. One of the most oft quoted titles of hasatan is the antichrist. This word in Hebrew is the Mashiach Tachat, or the "instead-of Messiah". Hasatan's nature, since his fall in Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 14, is to be "instead of God", to be in place of God in every way, and to convince the entire inhabited world of this, as well. However, YHVH's plan from the beginning necessitated that He would take upon flesh and die "in place of" man. YHVH must be the lamb.

The whole idea of the burnt offering is to satisfy the sin problem before entering anywhere else in YHVH's house or tabernacle. This is the Creator's way. The Father dwells between the cherubim above the mercy seat, keeping watch over the ark of the testimony. There was only one way the priests could approach the laver, enter the Holy Place, eat the life-sustaining bread, stand before the light of the menorah, and burn incense on the golden altar. They must give their whole being through the sacrifice of the burnt offering at the entrance to the court. This is one reason why Yeshua‘ said that He was the way, the truth and the life, and only by Him could one come to the Father. The brazen altar was the only way. YHVH would always know if this altar was circumvented. The cloud in the incense from the golden altar that covered the mercy seat, was to be mixed with the burning coals taken from the brazen altar (Vayiqera 16:11-13). YHVH would know from the smell of the incense that the brazen altar was passed by. The word "burnt offering" is actually taken from one Hebrew word. This word is ‘alah (אלה). It means to rise up, or to go up. This word is commonly used to describe the act of going back to Israel. To go to Jerusalem is to go up, to make aliya. To leave Jerusalem, and to go anywhere else, is to go down. Anyway, the smoke from the offerings would rise up to YHVH to be a sweet savor in His nostrils. Not because YHVH enjoys the sacrifice, but because this means that someone has given himself entirely to YHVH and a child has been redeemed.

I wish to talk about the brazen altar in two parts. I want to talk about Nadav (Nadab) and Avihu (Abihu), and the dangerous condition of modern Christianity today. I believe that the "church" is filled with Nadav's and Avihu's today. There is a strange fire burning across our nation. A strange smoke rising up to YHVH's nostrils. It is a stench. It is a handful of incense without the ashes of the brazen altar. It is the current paradigm of our religious culture. It began a long time ago.

Shalom Alecheim!