International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
in'-sens (qeTorah; in Jer 44:21, qiTTer; in Mal 1:11, qaTar, "In every place incense shall be offered unto my name"; the word lebhonah, translated "incense" in several passages in Isa and Jer in the King James Version, is properly "frankincense," and is so rendered in the Revised Version (British and American)): The offering of incense, or burning of aromatic substances, is common in the religious ceremonies of nearly all nations (Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, etc.), and it is natural to find it holding a prominent place in the tabernacle and temple-worship of Israel. The newer critical theory that incense was a late importation into the religion of Israel, and that the altar of incense described in Ex 30:1 ff is a post-exilian invention, rests on presuppositions which are not here admitted, and is in contradiction to the express notices of the altar of incense in 1 Ki 6:20,22; 7:48; 9:25; compare 2 Ch 4:19 (see discussion of the subject by Delitzsch in Luthardt's Zeitschrift, 1880, 113 ff). In the denunciation of Eli in 1 Sam 2:27 ff, the burning of incense is mentioned as one of the functions of the priesthood (2:28). The "smoke" that filled the temple in Isaiah's vision (Isa 6:4) may be presumed to be the smoke of incense. The word keTorah itself properly denotes. "smoke." For the altar of incense see the article on that subject, and TABERNACLE and TEMPLE. The incense used in the tabernacle service--called "sweet incense" (keToreth ha-cammim, Ex 25:6, etc.)--was compounded according to a definite prescription of the perfumes, stacte, onycha, galbanum and pure frankincense (Ex 30:34 f), and incense not so compounded was rejected as "strange incense" (keTorah zarah, Ex 30:9). In the offering of incense, burning coals from the altar of burnt offering were borne in a censer and put upon the altar of incense (the "golden altar" before the oracle), then the fragrant incense was sprinkled on the fire (compare Lk 1:9 f). Ample details of the rabbinical rules about incense may be seen in the article "Incense," in DB.
Figuratively, incense was symbolical of ascending prayer. The multitude were praying while Zacharias offered incense (Lk 1:10, thumiama), and in Rev 5:8; 8:3 f, the incense in the heavenly temple is connected and even identified (5:8) with "the prayers of the saints."
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'INCENSE'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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