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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

 

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Incense
        

Exodus 30:1; Exodus 30:9; Exodus 30:34, etc. The altar of incense was more closely connected with the holiest place than the other things in the holy place, the shewbread table and the candlestick. The incense consisted of four aromatic ingredients (representing God's perfections diffused throughout the four quarters of the world): stacte (Hebrew nataph, "a drop," the gum that drops from the storax tree, Styrax officinalis, found in Syria; the benzoin, or gum benjamin, is from Java and Sumatra; the liquid storax of commerce is from a different tree, the Liquidambar Syraciflua), onycha (Hebrew: shecheleth, probably the cap of the wing shell, strombus, abounding in the Red Sea, used for making perfumes), galbanum (a yellowish brown gum, imported from Persia, India, and Africa), and pure frankincense (the chief of the aromatic gums: Song of Solomon 3:6; Matthew 2:11; obtained from India through the Sabeans of S. Arabia; the tree is Boswellia thurifera, the native salai; the gum is called oliban, Arabic looban, from whence the Hebrew lebonah comes).
        These were "tempered together," Hebrew "salted"; compare Leviticus 2:13, but that was in the case of offering what was used as food, and salt is not used in compounding the incense of any other people; still God might herein designedly distinguish Israel from other peoples. Salt symbolized incorruptness; the wine of drink offerings, the blood, and the wood, were the only offerings without it. A portion beaten small was to be "put before the testimony in the tabernacle," i.e. outside the veil, before the golden altar of incense; from its relation to the ark thus it became" most holy," as was also the altar of incense (Leviticus 30:10). This incense was to be kept exclusively for Jehovah; the penalty of making like incense for ordinary perfume was "cutting off." Incense of other ingredients ("strange," Leviticus 30:9) was forbidden to be offered.
        A store of it was constantly kept in the temple (Josephus, B. J., vi. 8, section 3). Aaron originally offered it, but in the second temple one of the lower priests was chosen by lot to offer it daily morning and evening (Luke 1:9). King Uzziah for usurping the office was smitten with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). The morning incense was offered when the lamps were trimmed in the holy place, before the sacrifice. Between the earlier and later evenings, after the evening sacrifice and before the drink offerings, the evening incense was Burnt (margin Exodus 30:7-8; Revelation 8:1; Revelation 8:3-5). A part of the temple was devoted to a family, "the house of Abtines," whose duty it was to compound the incense, according to the rabbis. One of the memunnim, or 16 prefects of the temple, had charge of the incense, that it might be always ready.
        When the priest entered the holy place with the incense, the people were all put out of the temple, and from between the porch and the altar (Maimonides); Luke 1:10, "the whole multitude ... were praying without, at the time of incense," silently, which accords with Revelation 8:1; Revelation 8:3. The priest avoided lengthening his stay within, lest the people outside should fear he had been struck dead for some defect in his offering (Leviticus 16:13). This gives point to Luke 1:21, "the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple." On coming forth he pronounced the blessing (Numbers 6:24-26); the Levites broke forth into sacred song, accompanied by the temple music (Mishna); compare Revelation 8:5. On the day of atonement the high priest, after offering the bullock for himself, took incense in his left hand and a golden shovel full of live coals from the western side of the brazen altar in his right, and went into the most holy place, his first entrance there (Leviticus 16:12-13).
        "He shall take a (Hebrew the) censer (see Hebrews 9:4) full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil; and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercyseat that is upon the testimony, that he die not." In the second temple, where there was no ark, a stone was substituted. The truth symbolized by "incense" is the merit of Christ's obedience and atoning death. It is this, when it is by faith made the accompanying foundation of our prayers, which makes them rise up to God as a sweet and acceptable perfume. (See CENSER.) (Revelation 8:1-5). The incense of the golden altar of incense within the sanctuary had to be lighted from the fire of the atoning altar of burnt offering outside, otherwise the fire was "strange fire". (See ALTAR; ABIHU; NADAB.)
        So Christ intercedes now in the heavenly sanctuary as He died for us outside; and the believer's prayer ascends from his inner heart to God within the heavenly veil, Because it rests on Christ's atoning sacrifice once for all offered "without the gate" (Hebrews 13:12). The altar of incense was connected with the altar of burnt offering by its horns being sprinkled with the blood of the sin offering on the altar of burnt offering on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:16; Leviticus 16:18; Exodus 30:10). Incense symbolizes not merely prayer, but prayer accepted before God because of atonement: "let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, and the lifting up (answering to the rising up of the incense smoke) of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Psalm 141:2).
        For prayer was offered by the pious Jews at the times of the morning and evening sacrifices on the altar of burnt offering, which were accompanied with the incense on the altar of incense, thus marking that prayer rests upon propitiation By sacrifice. In Malachi 1:11 there is no "shall be" in Hebrew. Probably then the ellipse is to be filled up with is as much as shall be. By the Jews' wide dispersion already some knowledge of Jehovah was being imparted to the Gentiles, and an earnest existed of the future magnifying of Jehovah's name among the Gentiles "from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same." The Gentiles already were having glimmerings of the true light, and in every nation a few were heartily trying to serve God so far as they knew. Their worship, as yet imperfect but sincere, is "pure" in comparison with your "polluted bread" (Malachi 1:7; Malachi 1:12-15; Acts 10:34-35; Acts 17:23; Romans 2:14-15; Romans 2:27-29).
        The incense which shall yet be offered "in every place" is prayer accepted through Christ (1 Timothy 2:8). This shall be consummated at Christ's appearing (Zechariah 14:9; Zephaniah 3:9). The "pure offering" is the "body, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable. unto God" (Romans 12:1); the "broken and contrite heart" (Psalm 51:17); "praise, the fruit of the lips"; "doing good," and imparting to the needy (Hebrews 13:10; Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5; 1 Peter 2:12). In Revelation 5:8 it is the golden vials not the incense odors (not thumiamata but fialas, hai) which are the prayers of saints. In Revelation 8:3-4 the incense is distinct from, yet offered with, their prayers, the angel presenting them before God. It is not said he intercedes for us, still less that we should pray to him to do so; nay this is expressly forbidden (Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8-9).


Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew Robert M.A., D.D., "Definition for 'Incense' Fausset's Bible Dictionary".
bible-history.com - Fausset's; 1878.

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