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Ancient Altars

Altars are mentioned frequently in The Bible, from the Old Testament Hebrew word pronounced miz-bay-akh, and the New Testament Greek word pronounced thoo-see-as-tay-ree-on. Both meant a place of sacrifice, or a place of slaughter.

Altar

  • The first altar to God recorded in the Bible was that made by Noah after The Flood (Genesis 8:20). Many others were made, including by Abraham (Genesis 12:7, 13:4; 22:9), Isaac (Genesis 26:25), Jacob (33:20; 35:1, 3), and Moses (Exodus 17:15).

  • Immediately after the receiving of The Ten Commandments, God specified that altars to Him at that time could be made of earth (Exodus 20:24) or uncut stone (Exodus 20:25).

  • The Tabernacle In The Wilderness had 2 altars -

    • The Altar of Incense was about 3 feet (1 meter) high, 1½ feet (50 cm) square. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It was located just before the curtain on the Most Holy Place, where incense was burned morning and evening (Exodus 30:1-8). It signified prayer of the saints (Revelation 8:3-5)

    • The Altar of Burnt Offering was about 7½ feet (2.3 meters) square and 4½ feet (1.4 meters) high. Constructed of acacia wood, covered with brass, hollow and filled with earth. It had a ledge half-way up, all around, for Levites to stand on. It was located east of the Tabernacle, near the entrance to the courtyard. The fire in it was started miraculously and never went out (Leviticus 9:24, 6:9)

  • The Temple built by King Solomon in Jerusalem had the same plan of altars as the Tabernacle, although they were proportionately larger (2 Chronicles 4:1, 1 Kings 8:22, 64, 9:25). The altar of burnt offering was made completely of brass, covering the stone or earth. This altar was later repaired by Asa after the Israelites had corrupted themselves (2 Chronicles 15:8). After other involvement by Ahaz and Hezekiah, it was finally destroyed and carried away by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 52:17-19). (see Why Babylon? and King Nebuchadnezzar)

  • Jesus Christ made reference to the altar in the Herodian Temple of that time in His rebuking the hypocritical behavior of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 23:16-22)

  • In Athens, Paul found an altar "To the unknown God" (Acts 17:23), which gave him the opportunity to introduce the truth of The Gospel there (see Paul In Athens)

  • Altars are mentioned frequently in The Seven Seals of the Book of Revelation, including in the martyrdom of Saints (Revelation 6:9), and the ministry of The Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:1-4).

Fact Finder: Is Jesus Christ the True Altar on which the sacrifice for our salvation has been made?
Hebrews 13:10


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