Golden Altar of Incense , the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle was a place of dwelling or sanctuary that served as the sacred place where God chose to meet the Israelites. The tent was a portable dwelling that accompanied the Israelites during the 40 years they wandered in the desert under the guidance of Moses. Leaders and people gathered at the Tabernacle to worship and offer sacrifices. In this article, you will learn about the importance of the Tabernacle’s Golden Altar of Incense.

Positioned in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (the inner sanctuary of the Tabernacle), you would have found the golden altar of incense. Shaped like a square, each side of the golden altar measured 1 ½ feet and stood 3 feet tall. The altar was made out of acacia wood and had an overlay of pure gold.

From the four corners of the altar, four horns protruded out of the sides. The horns of the altar had a special purpose. In Leviticus 4:7, 16:18, it is stated that the horns of the golden altar were sprinkled with blood from the animal sacrifice as a way to cleanse and purify it from the sins of the Israelites. The horns signify the power of His blood in prayer as sins are confessed and people ask for His forgiveness.
The golden altar was smaller than the brazen (or bronze) altar, which was used for animal sacrifices. The brazen altar was situated inside the courtyard and greeted people when they first entered the gate to the tabernacle.

God commanded the priests to burn incense on the golden altar every morning and evening to coincide with the daily burnt offerings. The incense was left burning on a continuous basis. Throughout the night and day, the scent was in the air, as it was a pleasant aroma for the Lord. The incense was comprised of stacte, onycha, galbanum and frankincense , spices that were considered holy.
God also commanded the Israelites not to use the same mixture outside the tabernacle to make perfume for their own use. According to Exodus 30:34-38, those who disobeyed were cut off from their people. The movement of the burnt incense was meant to symbolize the prayers of the people reaching God above. A reference to this is found in Psalm 141:2, which states, “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”

Again, a reference to the importance of the incense was made in Revelations 8:3-4:  “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.” Therefore, the golden altar is a representation of Christ.