Commentary - Year 2 Sabbath 16

Exodus 30:1-10   -   Malachi 1:11 - 2:7   -   Psalm 61  -   Luke 1:5-25; Revelation 8:3-4, 14:11


Tammuz 19, 5762 / Jun 29, 2002

Tammuz 23, 5765 / July 30, 2005 

Tammuz 23, 5768/ July 26, 2008 see Y2-16/17

Tammuz 21, 5771/ July 23, 2011 see Y2-16/17

Tammuz 21, 5774/ July 19, 2014 see Y2-16/17

Tammuz 21, 5777/ July 15, 2017


V'ashit Mizbe'ach / You Shall Make an Altar   SCRIPTURES (should be read first)


(V.1 & 10) “And you shall make an altar to burn incense upon: . . .  it is most holy to Yahweh”


This altar is called the Golden Altar, the Incense Altar, and the Inner Altar (in contrast to the Brazen Altar for sacrifice in the outer court). It was located in the Holy Place, in front of the center of the veil, where the poles of the Ark of the Covenant protruded from the other side. It was about 20" (1 cubit) square and 40" (2 cubits) tall, with four extensions on its upper corners and two carrying poles through support rings.


Incense was to be burned on this Golden Altar every morning when ashes of the wicks were cleaned from the menorah, and every evening when flames were made to ascend from the menorah. Perpetual or continual means every day regularly, but not all day.


The incense required a special formula, which was not to be made for any other purpose. Incense of any other formula, or for any other purpose (such as freewill offering), was called "strange fire."


Each year on the Day of the Atonements (Yom haKippurim), blood from the Goat for Yahweh (the elevation offering burned on the Outer Altar) was to be sprinkled on this Inner Altar. The High Priest walked to the right of the Incense Altar to enter the Holy of Holies once a year.

“For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same My Name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered to My Name, and a pure offering: for My Name shall be great among the heathen, says Yahweh of hosts” – Malachi 1:11.


From this prophet we learn that incense offerings to Yahweh relate to the world beyond Israel.

“Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of Your wings” – Psalm 61:1-4.


From Psalm 61 being tied to this week's Torah portion, we find that prayer is related to the Incense Altar. We also find them relating to defense against sin and dwelling forever in God's tabernacle. Praising the Name of Yahweh forever (v.8) is a part of praying without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17).

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zachariah, of the course of Abia: . . . And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the Temple of Yahweh. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of Yahweh standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  And when Zachariah saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zachariah: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” – Luke 1:5-13.


Being of the course of Abia shows that Zachariah was serving the week following the Feast of  the Firstfruits (Pentecost), the tenth week of the Festival Year (the eight courses of I Chronicles 24:1-10 begin with the first Sabbath of Nisan, and two weeks are added for festivals when all priests served).


Even if Zachariah did not recognize the man as an Angel, he might be fearful of seeing someone at the (right side of the Altar) entrance to the Holy of Holies – where entering would bring a man immediate death. And only a properly prepared priest could enter even the Holy Place where Zachariah was. If he did recognize the man as an Angel, why would he be so doubtful of an Angel's words?


Note that the multitude outside was praying while Zachariah was at the Incense Altar.

“And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand” – Revelation 8:3-4.


In seeking the symbolism of offering incense on the Golden Altar, it may be clearly seen from these passages that it is related to the prayers of God's people. The word for "perpetual" or "continual" incense offerings is the same as the word for prayer "without ceasing," which means to pray at all the appointed times – evening, morning, and noon (Psalm 55:17 and Daniel 6:13-16; remember that the Biblical day begins with evening).


Two types of elevation offerings are noted. Animal sacrifices are burned at the Brasen Altar in the Outer Court: their aroma ascends to the heavens. Incense offerings are burned on the Golden Altar in the enclosed Inner Court: their sweet aroma also ascends to the heavens. The former is the aroma of the sin sacrifice, representing Yeshua's crucifixion, without which one's own torment will be as smoke ascending forever. The latter is the sweet aroma of prayers of those who bear His Name – His saints.


"And you shall make an altar to burn incense upon" is seen as instruction to establish a place for regular prayer – every day at the appointed times in the appointed manner – no strange fire. (The Shemoneh Esrei and the Disciples Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 teach the appointed manner.)


And as usual, we see that the spiritual (prayer) and the physical (incense) counterparts are seen together – not one or the other, not one without the other – both are commanded, both were done together at the Tabernacle in the wilderness and in the Holy Temple at Jerusalem.


We often consider the Commandments of God: how we are to love Yahweh with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbor as our self. But Yeshua gave us a “new” commandment – a concept bringing the second commandment to a new level: from loving our neighbor as our self, to loving one another as He loved us!


Consider: we might pray for physical prosperity for our neighbor, as we would like for our self. But we should pray for spiritual prosperity for one another, as Yeshua prayed for us. It often seem easier to desire natural things, than to desire spiritual growth – which can mean we have to change our habits, to repent.


What if every time we realized that we had sought our own will instead of God’s, we had to bring an animal offering?  We are supposed to do what that represents – confess to God and change our habits!


[Portions 16 & 17 combined for this Cycle - add Y2-17 for this Sabbath]



"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."


Reader 1 Amen. 1 "Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 "Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit, it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 "You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it. 4 "You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two side walls – on opposite sides – and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. 5 "You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.

Reader 2Amen. 6 "You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you. 7 "Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. 8 "When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before Yahweh throughout your generations. 9 "You shall not offer any strange incense on this altar, or burnt offering or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it. 10 "Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to Yahweh."


[Add Y2-17 Torah portion and Blessing]



"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."


Malachi 1:11 - 2:7

Reader 8 Amen. 11 "For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations," says Yahweh of hosts. 12 "But you are profaning it, in that you say, 'The table of Yahweh is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.' 13 "You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it," says Yahweh of hosts, "and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?" says Yahweh. 14 "But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to Yahweh, for I am a great King," says Yahweh of hosts, "and My name is feared among the nations."

Reader 9 Amen. 2:1 "And now this commandment is for you, O priests. 2 "If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name," says Yahweh of hosts, "then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. 3 "Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. 4 "Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi," says Yahweh of hosts. 5 "My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. 6 "True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. 7 "For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of Yahweh of hosts.


Psalm 61:1    (To be sung.)    For the choir director; on a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.

Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3 For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. 4 Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. 5 For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name. 6 You will prolong the king's life; his years will be as many generations. 7 He will abide before God forever; appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him. 8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may pay my vows day by day.


Luke 1:5-25

Reader 10 Amen. 5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. 8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

Reader 11 Amen. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,and you will give him the name John. 14 "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. 16 "And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17 "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 18 Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years." 19 The angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

Reader 12 Amen. 21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home. 24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25 "This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men."


Revelation 8:3-4, 14:11

Reader 13Amen. 3 Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. 4 And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand.

 11 "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."

[Add Y2-17 Haftarah portion and Blessing]


© 2005  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)