V 1-10 The altar of incense was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold and was 12×18 inches and 36 inches in height. By comparison a typical bathroom sink cabinet is 32 inches but in new construction they are now 36. This was the tallest piece of furniture in the holy place. It had a gold rim or “crown” around the top and golden “horns” at each corner. It stood in front of the veil that separated the holy place from the holy of holies, and the priest burned incense on it in the morning and evening when he trimmed the lamps of the menorah. Incense is a picture of prayer (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). Whenever the priest burned the incense, it was a call to the people for a time of prayer (Luke 1:8-10). The fire for burning the incense came from the altar in the courtyard where the sacrifices were offered to God (Lev. 16:12-13; Num. 16:46). There were specific directions on using the proper fire and exact mixture of spices for the incense (Ex. 30:34-38). Nadab and Abihu were disciplined with death when they did not follow God’s instructions (Lev. 10). If any Israelite tried to offer incense, he too would face God’s discipline, which could mean death. God in His Messiah gave us instruction in how we are to pray (Matt. 6:5-15). Because of the work of Messiah, those who are in Him can go through the veil into the very presence of God and present their worship and prayers (Heb. 10:19-25). While it’s good to open and close the day with prayer, as the priests did, we are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). On Yom Kippur, the priest had to apply blood to the incense altar in order to make it ceremonially clean before God (Ex. 30:10).
V 11-16 Moses collected a half a shekel from each man of military age, and according to 38:21-31, all this silver came to 301,775 shekels. This came from 603,550 men who were twenty years of age and older. A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams. These funds were used for the operation of the Tabernacle. Today the value would be $59,440,621.75. Moses said that this offering to the Lord was a “ransom” from the Hebrew “atonement” (v. 12, 15–16).
V 17-21 In the tabernacle courtyard, the laver stood between the altar and the entrance to the holy place, the priests would go there regularly to wash their hands and feet. If they entered the tent or served at the altar without washing, they were in danger of death. In Scripture, water for cleansing is a picture of the Word of God (Ps. 119:9; John 15:3; Eph. 5:25-27). The Word of God cleanses the mind and heart of those who receive it and obey it (John 17:17). It’s interesting to note that the laver was made out of the bronze mirrors of the women (Ex. 38:8) and that God’s Word is compared to a mirror (James 1:22-26; 2 Cor. 3:18). The priests became unclean, not by sinning against God but by serving God, as they walked in the courtyard and in the tabernacle (there was no floor in the tabernacle), their hands were cleansed by the sacrifices and blood. Priests had to be immersed to begin their ministry (Ex. 29:4) so too do we (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4). When we came to faith we were “washed all over” (John 13:10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) and don’t require another bath, but as we serve the Lord daily, we too get our feet get dirty and need to be cleansed. If we confess our sins, we are cleansed (1 John 1:9) and filled with His Spirit. David understood this (Ps. 51:2, 7), and God answered his prayer (2 Sam. 12:13). Isaiah called Israel to “Wash and make themselves clean” (Isa. 1:16), we too are called to put away the things that defile us (2 Cor. 7:1).
V 22-33 This section gives some details regarding the consecration of the priests. Here and in other passages we learn that there were at least 4 things that foreshadow our consecration as God’s priests. 1. Washing (Ex. 29:4; Lev. 8:6) which we have already considered; they were clothed (Ex. 29:5-6, Lev. 8:7-9). 2. Garments enable us to be properly clothed before God and man and also point to our salvation and priesthood (Eph. 4:17-32; Col. 3:1-15). Isaiah spoke of this and we see its fulfillment in the New Covenant (Isa. 61:10; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21). 3. They also were anointed (Ex. 29:7, 21; Lev. 8:10-12). The special oil described here was used to anoint the priests and the tabernacle and its furnishings. Anointing was and is a symbol of God’s Holy Spirit that was given to them for power and service (Isa. 61:1-3; Luke 4:17-19). The same Spirit has sealed us and teaches (1 John 2:20,27) so that we might be effective in our role as God’s priests. 4. Forgiveness was provided by a bull that was slain as an offering (Lev. 4; 8:14-17) to atone for the sins of the priests. This pointed to the perfect sacrifice of the Messiah (Isa. 53:4-6; Matt. 26:28; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Rev. 1:5-6).
V 34-38 The oil and incense for the tabernacle ministry required costly ingredients (some coming from a great distance) and had to be mixed properly. Myrrh came from the sap of a tree found in Arabia and Ethiopia, cinnamon from the bark of a tree grown in Ceylon and Malaysia. Cassia likely came from a tree bark. Stacte is a transliterated Greek term used for different varieties of tree and plant sap. Onycha, based on an Arabic word, may have come from a type of mollusk which could be a snail, mussel, or even an octopus. clam or oyster. Galbanum came from the sap of a plant grown in Afghanistan and Persia. Frankincense also came from sap and was likely imported from Arabia or Ethiopia. Making anything different would have been to make “unauthorized incense” (v. 9) and would result in death (v. 38). If the oil and incense was used for anything but the sacred, it would no longer be holy. Nadab and Abihu were executed for violating this command (Lev. 10:1–2).