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Exodus 30:1-21  The Altar, Atonement Money and the Laver

The Tabernacle was the central focal point of worship, sacrifice, fellowship, and gathering of YeHoVaH’s people during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, as well as after entering into the land of promise. Prior to the construction of the Temple, the Tabernacle was the place the people of Israel were to gather for all the Feasts.

Once the Priests were consecrated, YeHoVaH resumed giving Moses the instructions for the construction of items that were to be placed in the Tabernacle and the services to be performed with those items. Each item had a specific function, the Priests had specific instructions given to them, and the responsibility of keeping the Tabernacle financially supported was given to the people.

In this portion of Exodus, Moses is given the instructions for the construction of the Altar of Incense and the strict instructions for its purpose and service. Before being given the instructions for the Brazen Laver, Moses is given instructions for the people on how the Tabernacle would be financially supported in perpetuity.

  • Ex 30:1 And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it. 
  • Ex 30:2 A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; foursquare shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. 
  • Ex 30:3 And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, the top thereof, and the sides thereof round about, and the horns thereof; and thou shalt make unto it a crown of gold round about. 
  • Ex 30:4 And two golden rings shalt thou make to it under the crown of it, by the two corners thereof, upon the two sides of it shalt thou make it; and they shall be for places for the staves to bear it withal. 
  • Ex 30:5 And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold. 
  • Ex 30:6 And thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.

This is the second place YeHoVaH would meet with Moses in the Tabernacle.

The first place He would meet Moses was given in the previous Chapter.   It was at the door of the Tabernacle.

  • Ex 29:42 This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee. 
  • Ex 29:43 And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. 
  • Ex 29:44 And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar: I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest's office. 
  • Ex 29:45 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.
  • Ex 30:7 And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. 
  • Ex 30:8 And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. 
  • Ex 30:9 Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.

Aaron’s sons offered strange fire on the altar and were killed on the spot.

  • Lev 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. 
  • Lev 9:24 And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. 
  • Lev 10:1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 
  • Lev 10:2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

The altar of incense was also used to make atonement once a year.

  • Ex 30:10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the LORD.

The cost to build the Tabernacle, the cost to perform the daily, weekly and annual services, and the cost to maintain the Tabernacle/Temple was very, very expensive!

Messianic and Hebrew Roots people who reject tithing for today have tried to make the argument that the tithe was for the support of the Temple, and since there is no Temple, there is no more the requirement to tithe. Tithing was never for the support of the Temple. The atonement money from the ransom of twenty-year-old males and above was for that purpose.

Atonement money for the service of the Tabernacle and later the Temple:

  • Ex 30:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 
  • Ex 30:12 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
  • Ex 30:13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD. 
  • Ex 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD. 
  • Ex 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. 
  • Ex 30:16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

It is not given in this passage how often the census was to be taken. Because it was a ransom offering to make atonement for them that were twenty years and older, and the atonement was done once a year, it is safe to conclude that this census was done annually. 

Furthermore, every year there were those who turned twenty-years-old and would have been required to make the ransom offering for the atonement of their souls.

It is written in 2nd Chronicles:

  • 2Ch 24:8 And at the king's commandment they made a chest, and set it without at the gate of the house of the LORD. 
  • 2Ch 24:9 And they made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in to the LORD the collection that Moses the servant of God laid upon Israel in the wilderness. 
  • 2Ch 24:10 And all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest, until they had made an end. 
  • 2Ch 24:11 Now it came to pass, that at what time the chest was brought unto the king's office by the hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, the king's scribe and the high priest's officer came and emptied the chest, and took it, and carried it to his place again. Thus they did day by day, and gathered money in abundance. 
  • 2Ch 24:12 And the king and Jehoiada gave it to such as did the work of the service of the house of the LORD, and hired masons and carpenters to repair the house of the LORD, and also such as wrought iron and brass to mend the house of the LORD. 
  • 2Ch 24:13 So the workmen wrought, and the work was perfected by them, and they set the house of God in his state, and strengthened it.

Nehemiah wrote that after the Torah had been read, the people covenanted to return to the annual giving of the …

  • Ne 10:32 Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God;
  • Ne 10:33 For the showbread, and for the continual meat offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

According to Exodus 38:25-26

  • Ex 38:25 And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: 
  • Ex 38:26 A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.

603,550 men over 20 years old

100 talents = 300,000 shekels + 

1775 shekels = 301,775 shekels @ 

current value = $320 per shekel at 

today’s cost = $96,000,000.00

  • Ex 30:17 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 
  • Ex 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.

Water would have to be fetched from a pond, stream, or river wherever they went during the time of sojourning in the wilderness. The Children of Israel were totally dependent on YeHoVaH to lead them and provide for them all their basic needs.

My God will supply…

Ex 30:19 For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: 

Ex 30:20 When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD: 

Ex 30:21 So they shall wash their hands and their feet, that they die not: and it shall be a statute for ever to them, even to him and to his seed throughout their generations.

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