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Exodus Chapter 30
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The Incense Altar
30:1 Make an altar to burn incense out of acacia wood.
30:2 It shall be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and 2 cubits high, including its horns.
30:3 Cover it with a layer of pure gold, on its top, its walls all around, and its horns. Make a gold rim all around it.
30:4 Place two gold rings under [the altar's] rim on its two opposite sides as receptacles to hold the poles with which it is carried.
30:5 Make the carrying poles out of acacia wood and cover them with a layer of gold.
30:6 Place [this altar] in front of the cloth partition concealing the Testimony Ark - before the cloth partition concealing the testimony area where I commune with you.
30:7 Aaron shall burn incense on [this altar] each morning when he cleans out the lamps.
30:8 He shall [also] burn [incense] before evening when he lights the lamps. Thus, for all generations, there will be incense before God at all times.
30:9 Do not burn any unauthorized incense on it. Furthermore, do not offer any animal sacrifice, meal offering, or libation on it.
30:10 [Furthermore,] once each year Aaron shall make atonement on the horns of [this altar]. For all generations, he shall make atonement with the blood of the atonement sacrifice once each year. [This altar] shall be a holy of holies to God.

Instructions for a Census
30:11 God spoke to Moses saying:
30:12 When you take a census of the Israelites to determine their numbers, each one shall be counted by giving an atonement offering for his life. In this manner, they will not be stricken by the plague when they are counted.
30:13 Everyone included in the census must give a half shekel. This shall be by the sanctuary standard, where a shekel is 20 gerahs. It is half of such a shekel that must be given as an offering to God.
30:14 Every man over 20 years old shall be included in this census and give this offering to God.
30:15 The rich may not give more, and the poor may not give less than this half shekel. It is an offering to God to atone for your lives.
30:16 You will take this atonement money from the Israelites and use it for making the Communion Tent. It will thus be a remembrance for the Israelites before God to atone for your lives.

The Washstand
30:17 God spoke to Moses saying:
30:18 Make a copper washstand along with a copper base for it. Place it between the altar and the Communion Tent, and fill it with water for washing.
30:19 Aaron and his sons must was their hands and feet from [this washstand].
30:20 If they are not to die, they must wash with the water [of this washstand] before entering the Communion Tent or approaching the altar to perform the divine service, presenting a fire offering to God.
30:21 If they are not to deserve death, they must first wash their hands and feet. This shall be for [Aaron] and his descendants a law for all time, for all generations.

The Anointing Oil
30:22 God spoke to Moses, saying:
30:23 You must take the finest fragrances, 500 [shekels] of distilled myrrh, [two] half portions, each consisting of 250 [shekels] of fragrant cinnamon and 250 [shekels] of fragrant cane,
30:24 and 500 shekels of cassia, all measured by the sanctuary standard, along with a gallon of olive oil.
30:25 Make it into sacred anointing oil. It shall be a blended compound, as made by a skilled perfumer, [made especially for] the sacred anointing oil.
30:26 Then use it to anoint the Communion Tent, the Ark of Testimony,
30:27 the table and all its utensils, the menorah and its utensils, the incense altar,
30:28 the sacrificial altar and all its utensils, the washstand and its base.
30:29 You will thus sanctify them, making them holy of holies, so that anything touching them becomes sanctified.
30:30 You must also anoint Aaron and his sons, sanctifying them as priests to Me.
30:31 Speak to the Israelites and tell them, 'This shall be the sacred anointing oil to Me for all generations.
30:32 Do not pour it on the skin of any [unauthorized] person, and do not duplicate it with a similar formula. It is holy, and it must remain sacred to you.
30:33 If a person blends a similar formula, or places it on an unauthorized person, he shall be cut off [spiritually] from his people.

The Incense
30:34 God said to Moses: Take fragrances such as balsam, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, all of the same weight, as well as [other specified] fragrances.
30:35 Make [the mixture] into incense, as compounded by a master perfumer, well-blended, pure and holy.
30:36 Grind it very finely, and place it before the [Ark of] Testimony in the Communion Tent where I commune with you. It shall be holy of holies to you.
30:37 Do not duplicate the formula of the incense that you are making for personal use, since it must remain sacred to God.
30:38 If a person makes it to enjoy its fragrance, he shall be cut off [spiritually] from his people.



Commentary:

a cubit long...
  It was therefore 18' x 18' x 36'. Some say that it was 15' x 15' x 30' (Eruvin 4a; Maaseh Choshev 7:1). It appears that it was made of solid wood (cf. Exodus 27:8), although some say that it was like an inverted box (Maaseh Choshev 7:1).

horns
  Or 'protrusions' (see Exodus 27:2). Some say that these protrusions were small cubes, three fingerbreadths (2 1/4') on each side (Maaseh Choshev 7:1). Others, however, maintain that they were horn-like protrusions. See note on Exodus 27:2.

layer...
  The Talmud notes that this layer was as thick as a dinar (Eruvin 19a). See note on Exodus 38:24.

two gold rings...
  Some say that they were on opposite corners of the altar (Maaseh Choshev 7:1). Others say that it had four rings, one on each corner (Abarbanel; cf. Baaley Tosafoth).

in front of the cloth partition
  Between the table and the lamp (see Exodus 26:34; Yoma 33b; Yad, Beth HaBechirah 3:17).

testimony
  Eduth in Hebrew. Or, 'communion place.'

unauthorized
  Donated by an individual and not made special for this purpose (Rashi). Or, made with unauthorized ingredients (Ibn Ezra; Ramban).

animal sacrifice
  Literally, 'burnt offering.'

once each year
  On Yom Kippur (Rashi; Yoma 61a). See Leviticus 16:18. See Leviticus 4:7.

make atonement
  By placing blood (Rashi).

God spoke...
  Some say that this was after the sin of the Golden Calf (Yerushalmi, Shekalim 2:3).

take a census
  (Targum; Saadia). Literally, 'when you lift the head.' See Genesis 40:13,20.

to determine their numbers
  Or, 'to count each one separately' (Saadia). Pakad in Hebrew. See Genesis 21:1.

sanctuary standard
  Literally, 'sanctuary shekel' or 'holy shekel.'

a shekel is 20 gerahs
  A gerah is the same as a ma'ah (Targum), a weight equivalent to 1.14 grams. Hence, a shekel is 22.8 grams or 0.8 ounces. Josephus notes that it is around 4 drachmas (Antiquities 3:8:2). A half shekel was a silver coin around the size of a half dollar.

washstand
  Kiyyor in Hebrew. It looked like a large kettle with two spigots for washing (Rashi; Maaseh Choshev 6:8; Yoma 37a). According to others, it was apparently like a basin with spigots (Radak, Sherashim, who says it was like a cuenca, Spanish for basin). It was later made with 12 spigots (Yoma 37a). See 1 Samuel 2:14.

base
  (Targum; Rashi; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). Kan in Hebrew. See 1 Kings 7:38, 2 Chronicles 4:14 (cf. Ibn Ezra). In shape, the base was somewhat like an inverted pot (Tosafoth, Zevachim 22a, s.v. Kal VeChomer; Maaseh Choshev 6:9), or like an open box (Tosafoth). Some say that it was 3 handbreadths (9') high (Rabbenu Meyuchas).

Later, this base was made to include a mechanism to fill the washstand with water (Yad, Beth HaBechirah 3:18), as well as machinery to lower the entire washstand into a well (Raavad ibid.; Yoma 37a; Zevachim 20a; Yad, Biyyath HaMikdash 5:14). A similar mechanism may have existed in the Tabernacle (see Torah Sh'lemah 38:6).

500 shekels
  Around 25 pounds.

distilled
  (Septuagint). Deror in Hebrew. Or, 'free of impurities' (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim); or 'wild' (Ramban; Bachya). On the basis of Semitic cognates, some suggest 'flowing' or 'congealed into pearls.'

myrrh
  (Raavad, Kley HaMikdash 1:3; Ramban; Bachya; Septuagint). Mor in Hebrew. Myrrh is a gum resin produced by trees and shrubs of the family Burseracea, most notably Commiphora myrrha, Commiphora abysinica, and Commiphora schimperi. The resin is obtained from Arabia and adjacent Africa, and is taken from the small, prickly gray-barked trees. Pearls of myrrh are brown, red or yellow, with an oily texture, becoming hard and brittle with age. It has a pleasing fragrance, very much like balsam, and a lasting, bitter, aromatic taste, hence the name mor, which signifies bitterness.

According to many authorities, however, the mur here is not myrrh but musk (Saadia; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:3; Abarbanel; cf. Radak, Sherashim; Ibn Janach). This is an extract taken from the musk deer (Moschus moschiferus) which lives in Nepal and Tibet (see Ibn Ezra).

two half portions
  (Rashi, Kerithoth 5a; Bachya; Ralbag; cf. Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:2). According to Josephus, however, it would be translated, 'a half portion...' (Antiquities 3:8:3).

fragrant cinnamon
  (Rashi; Septuagint; Abarbanel, Canela in Spanish; Ibn Janach; Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1, but see Ramban on Exodus 30:34). Kinman in Hebrew. This is the dried bark of the cinnamon tree, Cinnamomum zeylanicum, a species of laurel cultivated mainly in Ceylon (cf. Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:3; cf. Theophrastus, Plants 9:7; Herodatus 3:111).

According to others, however, the kinman of the Bible is aloeswood or lignum aloes (Radak, Sherashim; cf. Saadia; see Ramban on Exodus 30:34). This is the resinous hartwood, Aquilaria agallocha of the family Thymalaeaceae, which grows in the East Indies and tropical Southeast Asia, and is still used for incense and perfumes.

According to other ancient sources, the 'cinnamon' of antiquity was not the Ceylonese product, but an herb coming from Arabia (Theophrastus, History of Plants 9:4; Strabo 16:778; Diodorus Sicculus 2:49, 3:46) or Ethiopia (Pliny 12:42). Some identify it with 'Mecca Straw' (paja de Mecca in old Spanish; Ramban; Abarbanel), which was used as fodder for camels (Shir HaShirim Rabbah on Exodus 4:4). There are also indications that the 'cinnamon' of antiquity grew in the Holy Land (Yerushalmi, Peah 7:4; Bereshith Rabbah 65:17; see Kaftor Va Pherach 10, 31a).

fragrant cane
  Keneh bosem in Hebrew. Ancient sources identify this with the sweet calmus (Septuagint; Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1; Saadia; Ibn Janach). This is the sweetflag or flag-root, Acoras calamus which grows in Europe. It appears that a similar species grew in the Holy Land, in the Hula region in ancient times (Theophrastus, History of Plants 9:7). Other sources apparently indicate that it was the Indian plant, Cympopogan martini, which has the form of red straw (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:3). On the basis of cognate pronunciation and Septuagint readings, some identify Keneh bosem with the English and Greek cannabis, the hemp plant.

There are, however, some authorities who identify the 'sweet cane' with cinnamon bark (Radak, Sherashim). Some say that kinman is the wood, and keneh bosem is the bark (Abarbanel).

cassia
  (Radak, Sherashim; Peshita; Vulgate). Kidah in Hebrew; ketzia in Aramaic (Targum; Rambam on Kelayim 1:8). Cassia is the common name for the bark of the tree Cinnamomum cassia or Cassia lignea belonging to the laurel family, which grows in China. (Pachad Yitzchak, s.v. Ketoreth; cf. Pliny 12:43; Theophrastus, History of Plants 9:7; Diodorus Siculus 3:46; Herodatus 3:110).

There are some, however, who identify the 'cassia' of the ancients, and hence kidah here, with costus, known as kosh't in the Talmud (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:3; Saadia; Ibn Janach; cf. Rashi). Costus is the root of the annual herb, Sausurea lappa, which grows on the mountain slopes of Kashmir, and is used for incense and perfume.

The Septuagint translates kidah here as iris, possibly Castus speciosus. Others suggest that it is kitto or mosylon, a plant very much like cassia, coming from Meuzel on the African coast (cf. Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 1:13).

gallon
  Hin in Hebrew. Actually 0.97 gallon, or 3.6 liter.

blended compound
  The anointing oil was made by soaking the aromatic substances in water until the essential essences are extracted. The oil is then placed over the water, and the water slowly cooked away, allowing the essences to mix with the oil (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 1:2; from Kerithoth 5a). According to another opinion, the oil was cooked with the aromatic herbs, and then filtered out (Ibid.).

cut off
  See note on Genesis 17:14.

balsam
  (Yad, Kley HaMikdash 2:4; cf. Kerithoth 6a; Rashi; Radak, Sherashim; Saadia; Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1). Nataf in Hebrew. Some say that nataf denotes the wood of the balsam, rather than the sap (Ramban). Balsam is also known as tzori in Hebrew (see Genesis 37:25). It is derived from the balsam tree, Commiphora opobalsamum, known as kataf in the Talmud, which grows wild in Yemen and around Mecca.

The Septuagint translates nataf here as stacte, which some identify as storax gum (Pachad Yitzchak, s.v. Ketoreth; cf. Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 1:79). However, the Greek word can also mean 'an oozing substance', very much like the basic connotation of nataf, and hence, it can denote any gum (thus, stacte can also denote myrrh; Pliny 12:75). It can thus denote balsam gum as well.

onycha
  Shecheleth in Hebrew. The Targum translates this as tufra, the Talmud as tziporen (Kerithoth 6a), and the Septuagint as onyx, all denoting 'fingernail.' Some maintain that this is a spice actually prepared from human fingernails (cf. Arukh s.v. Tziporen), but most authorities see it as coming from an aquatic animal (Mossef HeArukh ibid.; Ramban). It is therefore usually identified as onycha (Hirsch; King James) or blatta byzantia (Abarbanel; Shiltey Gibborim 85), the fingernail-like operculum or closing flap of certain snails of the murex family, such as the Onyx marinus, Strombus lentiginosus, or Unguis Odaratus (Tifereth Yisrael, Chomer Bakodesh 2:67; Cf. Ben Sirah 24:15, Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 2:10). This emits a very pleasant smell when burned.

Other sources, however, state that shecheleth is a kind of root (Rashi). The Talmud also appears to indicate that it came from an annual plant (Kerithoth 6b). Some identify this plant with a species of rock-rose, Cistus ladaniferus, which has fingernail-like petals.

The onycha was rubbed with an alkali solution prepared from the bitter vetch (Vicia sativa) (cf. Rambam on Maaser Sheni 2:4) to remove all impurities. It was then soaked in the fermented juice of the caper berry (Caparis spinosa) (see Tosafoth, Betza 25b, s.v. VeTzalaf) or strong white wine to enhance its fragrance (Kerithoth 6a; Yad, Kley HaMikdash 2:5).

galbanum
  (Rashi; Septuagint). Chelbanah in Hebrew. It is a yellow-brown gum resin obtained from the Persian plant, Ferula galbaniflua (Pliny 12:56,24,13; Dioscorides, De Materia Medica 3:97). Alone it had a pungent, almost unpleasant odor (Kerithoth 6b).

According to some, the chelbanah here is the gum of the common storax tree (Rambam on Kerithoth 1:1).

frankincense
  Or oliban. (Septuagint). Levonah in Hebrew. This is a gum resin from trees of the genus boswellia, most notably Boswellia carterii and Boswellia frereana from Arabia, and Boswellia serratae from India. The gum is yellowish and semi-transparent, with a bitter nauseous taste. It is hard and capable of being pulverized, producing a strong aromatic odor when burned.

all of the same weight
  (Targum; Kerithoth 5a; Rashi; Saadia). Or, 'each ground separately' (Ibn Ezra; cf. Yad, Kley HaMikdash 2:5).

other specified fragrances
  By tradition, an additional 7 fragrances were added, besides the four mentioned here, to give a total of eleven.

The formula for the incense was given in terms of the maneh which was 100 shekels or 5 pounds. It was

70 maneh 350 lb. Balsam
70 maneh 350 lb. Onycha
70 maneh 350 lb. Galbanum
70 maneh 350 lb. Frankincense
16 maneh 80 lb. Myrrh
16 maneh 80 lb. Cassia
16 maneh 80 lb. Spikanard (shiboleth nard)
16 maneh 80 lb. Saffron (karkom)
12 maneh 60 lb. Costus (kosh't)
9 maneh 45 lb. Cinnamon
3 maneh 15 lb. Cinnamon bark
___ 365

The total amount was 365 maneh, so that one maneh (5 lb) could be burned each day of the solar year.

Besides these ingredients, 1/4 kav (1 cup) of Sodom salt (nitrate) and small amounts of maaleh ashan (probably Leptadenia pyrotechnica, which contains nitric acid) and kippath ha-yardan (probably cyclamen) were added. Besides this, 9 quarts (kab) of vetch lye (borith karshina) and 21 quarts (3 saah and 3 kab) of caper wine were used to prepare the onycha.

well-blended
  (Targum; Rashi; Radak, Sherashim; Saadia). Or, 'salted' (Ibn Ezra; cf. Ibn Janach), referring to the Sodom salt that was added, Or, 'finely ground' (Ramban).





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