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THE HIGH-PRIEST AARON OFFERING INCENSE ON THE

GOLDEN ALTAR.

(Exod. xxx. 1-10.) As the children of Israel were journeying through the wilderness, in their route from Egypt to Canaan, their leader, Moses, was called

up into the Mount Sinai, to receive the law by which they were to be governed, from the lips of the Almighty. He ascended it in the midst of thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud, which veiled the Holy One of Israel and his prophet from the gaze of the assembled and awe-stricken multitude.

Among the ceremonial statutes ordained on this occasion, none were more important than that connected with the altar of incense, and which reads thus:-" And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon : of shittim-wood shalt thou make it. A cubit shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof; four-square shall it be: and two cubits shall be the height thereof: the horns thereof shall be of the same. 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. 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. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim-wood, and overlay them with gold. And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy-seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee. And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meatoffering; neither shall ye pour drink-offering thereon. 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 high-priest was an important personage among the Hebrews.

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igned chiefly from what we believe to -{ on the arch of Titus, assisted by the desacred penman, which, being so minute, can

It was very small, being little more than half .1 it was higher in proportion than the other altars, ligh as it was broad. It had “ horns," with an

crown," and it also had rings with staves, by is carried about from place to place. Concerning the iered“ top,” there are different opinions. The Septuai Vulgate make it “a grate," while others suppose it was 1 containing fire upon the altar.

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the altar. Perhaps those are correct conclude, that, as the Hebrew word from whence it is derived * It is a curious fact, that the sculptures recently discovered in Yutacan, Cental America, display the same form of censer.

His functions were two-fold, political and sacerdotal, in which latter character he is represented in the engraving.

The sacerdotal duties of the high-priest were such as required his presence daily at the sanctuary. He alone could perform the most solemn acts of service; whence he was, in some sort, the mediator between God and the people. It was his to make atonement for the sins of the whole nation: it was his, also, to take the counsel of God on occasions of importance or difficulty, by Urim and Thummim.

On the great day of atonement, the high-priest wore a dress entirely of white linen; but his official dress, in which he appears in the engraving, consisted of the following articles :

1. The coat. This was an inner robe with sleeves to the wrist. 2. The drawers. These appear to have reached from above the waist to the knee. They had no opening, either before or behind, and were bound round the body by a sash. 3. The girdle of the ephod. This seems to have been used for the purpose of confining the ephod round the body of the high-priest. 4. The robe. This was a long linen gown of light blue, reaching to the middle of the leg, or perhaps to the ancle. It was made all in one piece, and was adorned by a fringe of pomegranates and bells. 5. The

This was an embroidered frock, worn over the coat and robe. 6. The breastplate. The breastplate was a piece of rich cloth, set with the following twelve precious stones :—a sardius, or cornelian; a topaz, or modern chrysolite; a carbuncle, the noble garnet of Theophrastus; an emerald; a sapphire; a diamond; a ligure, or hyacinth; an agate; an amethyst; a beryl, or aqua marine; an onyx; and a jasper. 7. The mitre. This seems to have been a turban of fine cotton, ornamented on the front with a plate of pure gold, on which was inscribed, “Holiness to the Lord.” 8. The girdle of needlework. This was a sash of fine twined linen, embroidered with blue, purple, and scarlet, and which went round the body over the coat.*

The usual representations of the high-priest offering incense on the golden altar are derived from the popish mass.

The altar, the censer, and the priestly vestments are, indeed, decidedly popish. Their prototypes are common in all the Romish places of worship, and may be traced in the illuminations of the papal Fathers.

* For a more detailed account of the dress of the high-priest, the reader is referred to “ Eastern Arts and Antiquities,” published by the Religious Tract Society.

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Such representations, especially in the case of educational books, should be carefully avoided, as they tend to invest the characters of Scripture with an air of popery. In designing for Scripture histories, the artist should seek his materials in the treasure-houses of antiquity, and in the unchanging usages and localities of oriental nations. The “mass,” and the “great masters,” who were its devotees, will only help him to perpetuate their glowing falsehoods, and to prepare the way for greater.

In designing the annexed engraving, the artist had three things especially to consider: 1. The vestments of the high-priest; 2. the form of the censer; and, 3. the style of the altar.

For the vestments the artist has taken the minute description of Scripture, noticing the corresponding dresses and embellishments in the Egyptian costumes, with which, doubtless, they in the main agreed.

The censer has been designed from a comparison of Egyptian and Roman examples, both of which were long-handled shovel-like spoons, with various degrees of decoration. In using them, the priest took the handle“ in his hand,” and extending the bowl, or shovel end, placed it over the flame of the altar, till the incense it contained ignited, and then, slowly pouring it on the fire, “ burnt it before the Lord.” * This is a widely different proceeding to the fumigation of a pontiff, or “ an altar,” by the air-swung scent-pots of the popish choristers; and, if properly understood, it throws much light on many expressions of Scripture, which are otherwise difficult.

The altar has been designed chiefly from what we believe to be a representation of it on the arch of Titus, assisted by the description given by the sacred penman, which, being so minute, can scarcely be mistaken. It was very small, being little more than half a yard square; but it was higher in proportion than the other altars, being twice as high as it was broad. It had “ horns,” with an ornamental rim, or crown,” and it also had rings with staves, by which it was carried about from place to place. Concerning the word rendered “ top,” there are different opinions. The Septuagint and Vulgate make it “a grate,” while others suppose it was a vessel containing fire upon the altar. Perhaps those are correct who conclude, that, as the Hebrew word from whence it is derived

* It is a curious fact, that the sculptures recently discovered in Yutacan, Central America, display the same form of censer.

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