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The Blood Sacrifice
God said that without the shedding of blood there would be no remission of sins. The blood sacrifice was the life of the innocent victim receiving death so that the one offering could go free. The sacrificial offering was a substitutionary atonement, the innocent victim would receive the full weight of God's judgment, while the guilty person making the sacrifice would receive forgiveness and justification and atonement from God. The sacrifice literally became sin, and therefore was called a sin offering. The altar was the center of Israelite worship, and the unity of the altar was regarded as an ideal (II Chronicles 32:12). When Christ rose again his sacrifice was once and for all, and the altar and the ceremonial law was done away with, because Christ had "been offered once" (Hebrews 9:28). The Bible also says in Hebrews 13:10 that "Christ is our altar". For the church the center of worship now becomes the gathering of the saints, or believers, who have access to the Lord and can approach him at any time, because of the shed blood of Christ.
Altar in Smith's Bible Dictionary
The first altar of which we have any account is that built by Noah when he left the ark. Ge 8:20 In the early times altars were usually built in certain spots hallowed by religious associations, e.g., where God appeared. Ge 12:7; 13:18, 26:25; 35:1 Though generally erected for the offering of sacrifice, in some instances they appear to have been only memorials. Ge 12:7; Ex 17:15,16 Altars were most probably originally made of earth. The law of Moses allowed them to be made of either earth or unhewn stones. Ex 20:24,25 I. The Altar of Burnt Offering. It differed in construction at different times. (1) In the tabernacle, Ex 27:1 ff.; Exod 38:1 ff., it was comparatively small and portable. In shape it was square. It as five cubits in length, the same in breadth, and three cubits high. It was made of planks of shittim (or acacia) wood overlaid with brass. The interior was hollow. Ex 27:8 At the four corners were four projections called horns made, like the altar itself, of shittim wood overlaid with brass, Ex 27:2 and to them the victim was bound when about to be sacrificed. Ps 118:27 Round the altar, midway between the top and bottom, ran a projecting ledge, on which perhaps the priest stood when officiating. Read Full Article
Altar in the ISBE Bible
Before considering the Biblical texts attention must be drawn to the fact that these texts know of at least two kinds of altars which were so different in appearance that no contemporary could possibly confuse them. The first was an altar consisting of earth or unhewn stones. It had no fixed shape, but varied with the materials. It might consist of a rock (Jdg 13:19) or a single large stone (1 Sam 14:33-35) or again a number of stones (1 Ki 18:31 f). It could have no horns, nor it would be impossible to give the stone horns without hewing it, nor would a heap of earth lend itself to the formation of horns. It could have no regular pattern for the same reason. On the other hand we meet with a group of passages that refer to altars of quite a different type. We read of horns, of fixed measurements, of a particular pattern, of bronze as the material. To bring home the difference more rapidly illustrations of the two types are given side by side. The first figure represents a cairn altar such as was in use in some other ancient religions. The second is a conjectural restoration of Hebrew altars of burnt offering and incense of the second kind. Read Full Article
Illustration of the Bronze Altar
Solomon created elaborate altars of bronze and gold.
Altar in Easton's Bible
(Heb. mizbe'ah, from a word meaning "to slay"), any structure of earth (Ex. 20:24) or unwrought stone (20:25) on which sacrifices were offered. Altars were generally erected in conspicuous places (Gen. 22:9; Ezek. 6:3; 2 Kings 23:12; 16:4; 23:8; Acts 14:13). The word is used in Heb. 13:10 for the sacrifice offered upon it--the sacrifice Christ offered. Paul found among the many altars erected in Athens one bearing the inscription, "To the unknown God" (Acts 17:23), or rather "to an [i.e., some] unknown God." The reason for this inscription cannot now be accurately determined. It afforded the apostle the occasion of proclaiming the gospel to the "men of Athens." The first altar we read of is that erected by Noah (Gen. 8:20). Altars were erected by Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 13:4; 22:9), by Isaac (Gen. 26:25), by Jacob (33:20; 35:1, 3), and by Moses (Ex. 17:15, "Jehovah-nissi"). In the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, two altars were erected. Read Full Article
Altar in Fausset's Bible
The first of which we have mention was built by Noah after leaving the ark (Genesis 8:20). The English (from the Latin) means an elevation or high place: not the site, but the erections on them which could be built or removed (1 Kings 12:7; 2 Kings 23:15). So the Greek bomos, and Hebrew bamath. But the proper Hebrew name mizbeach is "the sacrificing place;" Septuagint thusiasterion. Spots hallowed by divine revelations or appearances were originally the sites of altars (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:18; Genesis 26:25; Genesis 35:1). Mostly for sacrificing; sometimes only as a memorial, as that named by Moses Jehovah Nissi, the pledge that Jehovah would war against Amalek to all generations (Exodus 17:15-16), and that built by Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh, "not for burnt offering, nor sacrifice, but as a witness" (Joshua 22:26-27). Altars were to be made only of earth or else unhewn stone, on which no iron tool was used, and without steps up to them (Exodus 20:24-26). Steps toward the E. on the contrary are introduced in the temple yet future (Ezekiel 43:17), marking its distinctness from any past temple. No pomp or ornament was allowed; all was to be plain and simple; for it was the meeting place between God and the sinner, and therefore a place of shedding of blood without which there is no remission (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22), a place of fellowship with God for us only through death. The mother dust of earth, or its stones in their native state as from the hand of God, were the suitable material. The art of sinful beings would mar, rather than aid, the consecration of the common meeting ground. Read Full Article
As a place of sacrifice or memorial, the altar represents the sacred encounter with the living God. When we're in a difficult situation as Jacob was when fleeing from his brother Esau in Genesis 28, he encountered God and received a promise of deliverance. He poured oil on a stone and prayed for protection devoting himself to God. In Genesis 35, upon the fulfillment of God's promise, God called Jacob to return to Bethel, this time now with flocks and herds and his wives and children and all that God had given him. Jacob was called back to that very place to remember and ponder the deliverance of God. Jacob received another encounter where God gave him a new name and a new set of promises to walk in.
The altar as a memorial -
When God split the Jordan river and Israel miraculously crossed into the promised land to fight for their inheritance, the Lord had them bring twelve stones from the middle of the river and pile them up on the other side. This was a memorial to future generations as the Lord said,
We too can build memorials to God. In a tough time you can dedicate a place to seek God and build an altar to mark that time that you rededicated yourself, asked for mercy, sought out deliverance from an impossible situation. Or it might simply be an entry in your journal where desperate cries were lifted to God. In the years to come you can return to that place and thank God for what He has done and be refreshed with new faith to move into the next season of challenges with a new name and new promises.
The altar as a place of sacrifice -
As born again believers we now have two natures, our reborn spirit and our old sinful nature. Paul tells us that these two are at war within us.
Now that Christ has sacrificed Himself on the altar of the cross, he calls us to deny ourselves and pick up our cross daily to follow Him. (Luke 9:23) The problem of legalism arises when we are taught that a complete transformation has taken place on the day we are born again. As that sinful nature manifests we are tempted to hide it and join the costume party at church where we all pretend, rather than all confess. Scripture tells us that sanctification is a process. We are being transformed into His image from glory to glory. (2 Cor. 3:18) In other words from season to season, faith to faith and one grace after the other, we are being changed as the flesh dies on the altar and we rise into newness of life. The altar for us then, though an instrument of sacrifice, is actually an instrument of freedom. It is where we offer the portion of our old nature that God is calling to die, that we might be free to live in the new nature.
Perhaps it's an old offense that we place on the altar, where we ask for God's grace and spirit to forgive. Perhaps it's a desire for a person we are determined to marry or control, whom God has told us to let go. Perhaps it could even be a covetous desire for grandiose ministry that people might look upon us with awe for all we have accomplished! As we become a living sacrifice on the altar of God in that area, we become free and are able to serve with a childlike spirit, enjoying our daily life with Him, rather than striving to satisfy an insatiable remnant of the fallen nature, that will never say, "I'm satisfied, it is enough." The altar allows us to go free from our sin and fallen desires to mark a place of intimacy with God where he delivered us from the old to the next season of life. As those memorials begin to pile up in various places of your history, you'll look back at what seemed like a horrible sacrifice, realizing it was God willing and working for His good pleasure.
Altar in Naves Topical Bible
-Built by Noah
-Built by Abraham
Ge 12:7,8; 13:18; 22:9
-Built by Isaac
-Built by Jacob
Ge 33:20; 35:1-7
-Built by Moses
Ex 17:15; 24:4
-Built by Balaam
-Built by Joshua
De 27:4-7; Jos 8:30-32
-Built by the Reubenites and Gadites
-Built by Gideon
-Built by Samuel
-Built by Saul
-Built by David
-Built by Elijah
-Mosaic commandments prescribing the construction of
Ex 20:24-26; De 27:5-7; Jos 8:30,31
-Used in idolatrous worship
Jud 6:25; 1Ki 12:32; 16:32; 18:26; 2Ki 16:10; 23:12,15; Isa
27:9; 65:3; Ho 8:11; Ac 17:23
-OF BURNT OFFERINGS
Called BRAZEN ALTAR
Ex 39:39; 1Ki 8:64
Called ALTAR OF GOD
Called ALTAR OF THE LORD
Bible Study Topics Related to AltarALTAR
Restored the altar, and offered sacrifices
-7. Ethanim (October)
Feasts held in
Le 23:24,27; Ne 8:13-15
Jubilee proclaimed in
Solomon's temple dedicated in
Altar rebuilt and offerings renewed in
-3. A prophet to David
Bids David leave Adullam
Bears the divine message to David, offering choice between three evils, for his presumption in numbering Israel
2Sa 24:11-14; 1Ch 21:9-13
Bids David build an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan
2Sa 24:18,19; 1Ch 21:18,19
-Journeys to Shalem, where he purchase a parcel of ground from Hamor and erects an altar
-Returns to Bethel, where he builds
an altar, and erects and dedicates a pillar
-OF THE SAVIOUR
The morning and evening sacrifice
The red heifer
Nu 19:2-6; with Heb 9:13,14
The Paschal lamb
The Bronze Altar
Ex 27:1,2; with Heb 13:10
The Bronze Laver
Ex 30:18-20; with Zec 13:1; Eph 5:26,27
Ex 25:17-22; with Heb 4:16
Ex 40:21; 2Ch 3:14; with Heb 10:20
The Altar of Incense, and its furniture
1Ki 6:20; 7:48,50; 1Ch 28:17,18; 2Ch 4:19,22
The Altar of Burnt Offering
-1. Place of the first encampment of the Israelites west of the
The Bible Mentions the Altar Often
2 Kings 16:11 - And
Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that
king Ahaz had sent from Damascus: so Urijah the priest made [it]
against king Ahaz came from Damascus.
1 Kings 8:64 - The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that [was] before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that [was] before the LORD [was] too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.
Leviticus 8:30 - And Moses took of the anointing oil, and of the blood which [was] upon the altar, and sprinkled [it] upon Aaron, [and] upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon his sons' garments with him; and sanctified Aaron, [and] his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him.
Leviticus 9:7 - And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin offering, and thy burnt offering, and make an atonement for thyself, and for the people: and offer the offering of the people, and make an atonement for them; as the LORD commanded.
Ezekiel 41:22 - The altar of wood [was] three cubits high, and the length thereof two cubits; and the corners thereof, and the length thereof, and the walls thereof, [were] of wood: and he said unto me, This [is] the table that [is] before the LORD.
Leviticus 16:33 - And he shall make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make an atonement for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the altar, and he shall make an atonement for the priests, and for all the people of the congregation.
2 Chronicles 4:1 - Moreover he made an altar of brass, twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof.
1 Kings 6:22 - And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house: also the whole altar that [was] by the oracle he overlaid with gold.
Exodus 29:36 - And thou shalt offer every day a bullock [for] a sin offering for atonement: and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it.
Exodus 29:21 - And thou shalt take of the blood that [is] upon the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle [it] upon Aaron, and upon his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the garments of his sons with him: and he shall be hallowed, and his garments, and his sons, and his sons' garments with him.
Exodus 30:18 - Thou shalt also make a laver [of] brass, and his foot [also of] brass, to wash [withal]: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein.
Joshua 22:23 - That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require [it];
Numbers 18:17 - But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they [are] holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat [for] an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.
2 Chronicles 7:7 - Moreover Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that [was] before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat.
Ezekiel 47:1 - Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house [stood toward] the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south [side] of the altar.
1 Kings 12:32 - And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that [is] in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.
Exodus 30:1 - And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: [of] shittim wood shalt thou make it.
Isaiah 56:7 - Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [shall be] accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
Deuteronomy 16:21 - Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee.
1 Kings 1:53 - So king Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and bowed himself to king Solomon: and Solomon said unto him, Go to thine house.
Joshua 8:31 - As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up [any] iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
Numbers 7:1 - And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them;
Deuteronomy 27:6 - Thou shalt build the altar of the LORD thy God of whole stones: and thou shalt offer burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD thy God:
Exodus 38:1 - And he made the altar of burnt offering [of] shittim wood: five cubits [was] the length thereof, and five cubits the breadth thereof; [it was] foursquare; and three cubits the height thereof.
1 Kings 6:20 - And the oracle in the forepart [was] twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof: and he overlaid it with pure gold; and [so] covered the altar [which was of] cedar.
Exodus 20:24 - An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.
Genesis 12:8 - And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, [having] Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.
Exodus 20:25 - And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.
Leviticus 8:21 - And he washed the inwards and the legs in water; and Moses burnt the whole ram upon the altar: it [was] a burnt sacrifice for a sweet savour, [and] an offering made by fire unto the LORD; as the LORD commanded Moses.
Joshua 22:11 - And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.
More Ancient Altar Resources
Ancient Altars - Sketches
Bible Study and Faith
"The Bible is the most priceless possession of the human race." - Henry H. Halley
"This handbook is dedicated to the proposition that every Christian should be a constant and devoted reader of the Bible, and that the primary business of the church and ministry is to lead, foster, and encourage their people in the habit."
"The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts."
"Great has been the blessing from consecutive, diligent, daily study. I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the word of God." - George Muller
"I prayed for faith, and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the 10th chapter of Romans, 'Now faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since." - D. L. Moody
-H. H. Halley "Halley's Bible
Handbook" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
1960) p. 4, 6
Archaeological Study of the Bible
"A substantial proof for the accuracy of the Old Testament text has
come from archaeology. Numerous discoveries have confirmed the
historical accuracy of the biblical documents, even down to the
obsolete names of foreign kings... Rather than a manifestation of
complete ignorance of the facts of its day, the biblical record thus
reflects a great knowledge by the writer of his day, as well as
precision in textual transmission."
-Norman L. Geisler, William Nix "A General Introduction to the Bible" 5th Edition (Chicago: Moody Press 1983) p. 253
Bibliography on Ancient Images
The Art of Ancient Egypt, Revised
by Robins, 272 Pages, Pub. 2008
© Bible History Online (http://www.bible-history.com)
Bible Study Topics