Bible Commentary: Exodus 30

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Exodus 30

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Incense, Water and Oil, Ransom Money 

In Exodus 30, we pick up the rest of the instruction for the furnishings that were to be placed in the tabernacle. In this chapter Moses was given the instructions on making an altar to burn incense upon. This altar was to be located just before the veil that separated the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place (verse 6). Sweet and compelling, the incense represented the prayers of God’s people coming before His throne (compare Psalms 141:2 Psalms 141:2Let my prayer be set forth before you as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
American King James Version×
; Revelation 5:8 Revelation 5:8And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.
American King James Version×
). He therefore wanted His typical throne room filled with this incense. But He certainly did not want “strange incense” (Exodus 30:9 Exodus 30:9You shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall you pour drink offering thereon.
American King James Version×
), for as the book of Proverbs explains concerning “one who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9 Proverbs 28:9He that turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
American King James Version×
). The bronze laver was placed outside of the Holy Place for Aaron and his sons to wash their hands and feet in water before entering to officiate—symbolic for spiritual cleansing. Also, instructions were given for making the holy anointing oil, which—like the incense—was not to be copied by others in the congregation for personal use. Only the priests could administer the holy anointing oil, just as only ordained elders today can anoint the sick with oil. Oil in such contexts is clearly representative of God’s Holy Spirit.

One other thing in Exodus 30 that is very interesting is the offering for atonement collected at the census, also known as the ransom money. Moses was instructed that when he took a census of those 20 years of age and older, an offering of one half-shekel was to be taken up from each person for the service of the tabernacle. The point here was that each person was paying a price for his life—acknowledging that his life was from God and that God was owed because of it. It is noteworthy that the same amount was required of everyone, be they rich or poor.