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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 9 - Verse 4
Verse 4. Which had the golden censer. The censer was a fire-pan, made for the purpose of carrying fire, in order to burn incense on it in the place of worship. The forms of the censer were various; but the following cuts will represent those which are most common. Some difficulty has been felt respecting the statement of Paul here, that the "golden censer" was in the most holy place, from the fact that no such utensil is mentioned by Moses as pertaining to the tabernacle; nor in the description of Solomon's temple, which was modelled after the tabernacle, is there any account of it given. But the following considerations will probably remove the difficulty.
(1.) Paul was a Jew, and was familiar with what pertained to the temple, and gave such a description of it as would be in accordance with what actually existed in his time. The fact that Moses does not expressly mention it does not prove that, in fact, no such censer was laid up in the most holy place.
(2.) Aaron and his successors were expressly commanded to burn incense in a "censer" in the most holy place before the mercy-seat. This was to be done on the great day of atonement, and but once in a year, Le 16:12,13.
(3.) There is every probability that the censer that was used on such an occasion was made of gold. All the implements that were employed in the most holy place were made of gold, or overlaid with gold, and it is in the highest degree improbable that the high priest would use any other on so solemn an occasion. Comp. 1 Ki 7:50.
(4.) As the golden censer was to be used only once in a year, it would naturally be laid away in some secure situation—and none would so obviously occur as the most holy place. There it would be perfectly safe. No one was permitted to enter there but the high priest; and being preserved there it would be always ready for his use. The statement of Paul, therefore, has the highest probability, and undoubtedly accords with what actually occurred in the tabernacle and the temple. The object of the incense burned in worship was to produce an agreeable fragrance or smell. See Barnes "Lu 1:9".
And the ark of the covenant. This ark or chest was made of shittim-wood, was two cubits and a half long, a cubit and a half broad, and the same in height, Ex 25:10. It was completely covered with gold, and had a lid, which was called the "mercy-seat," on which rested the Shekinah, the symbol of the Divine Presence between the out. stretched wings of the cherubim. It was called "the ark of the covenant," because within it were the two tables of the covenant, or the law of God written on tables of stone. It was a simple chest, coffer, or box, with little ornament, though rich in its materials. A golden crown or moulding ran around the top, and it had rings and staves in its sides by which it might be borne, Ex 25:12-16. This ark was regarded as the most sacred of all the appendages of the tabernacle. Containing the law, and being the place where the symbol of the Divine Presence was manifested, it was regarded as peculiarly holy; and in the various wars and revolutions in the Hebrew commonwealth, it was guarded with peculiar care. After the passage over the Jordan it remained for some time at Gilgal, (Jos 4:19,) whence it was removed to Shiloh, 1 Sa 1:3. From hence the Israelites took it to their camp, apparently to animate them in battle, but it was taken by the Philistines, 1 Sa 4. The Philistines, however, oppressed by the hand of God, resolved to return it, and sent it to Kirjath-Jearim, 1 Sa 7:1. In the reign of Saul it was at Nob. David conveyed it to the house of Obed-Edom, and thence to his palace on Mount Zion. 2 Sa 6. At the dedication of the temple it was placed in the Holy of Holies by Solomon, where it remained for many years. Subsequently, it is said, the wicked kings of Judah, abandoning themselves to idolatry, established idols in the most holy place itself; and the priests removed the ark, and bore it from place to place to secure it from profanation. Calmet. When Josiah ascended the throne he commanded the priests to restore the ark to its place in the sanctuary, and forbade them to carry it about from one place to another as they had before done, 2 Ch 35:3. The subsequent history of the ark is unknown. It is probable that it was either destroyed when the city of Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, or that it was carried with other spoils to Babylon. There is no good reason to suppose that it was ever in the second temple; and it is generally admitted by the Jews that the ark of the covenant was one of the things that were wanting there. Abarbanel says, that the Jews flatter themselves that it will be restored by the Messiah.
Wherein, That is, in the ark for so the construction naturally requires. In 1 Ki 8:9, however, it is said that there was nothing in the ark, "save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb:" and it has been supposed by some that the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron were not in the ark, but that they were in capsules, or ledges made on its sides for their safe keeping, and that this should be rendered "by the ark." But the apostle uses the same language respecting the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron which he does about the two tables of stone; and as they were certainly in the ark, the fair construction here is that the pot of manna and the rod of Aaron were in it also. The account in Ex 16:32-34; Nu 17:10, is, that they were laid up in the most holy place, "before the testimony," and there is no improbability whatever in the supposition that they were in the ark, Indeed that would be the most safe place to keep them, as the tabernacle was often taken down, and removed from place to place. It is clear, from the passage in 1 Ki 8:9, that they were not in the ark in the temple, but there is no improbability in the supposition that before the temple was built they might have been removed from the ark and lost. When the ark was carried from place to place, or during its captivity by the Philistines, it is probable they were lost, as we never hear of them afterwards.
The golden pot. In Ex 16:33, it is simply a "pot," without specifying the material. In the Septuagint it is rendered "golden pot;" and as the other utensils of the sanctuary were of gold, it may be fairly presumed that this was also.
That had manna. A small quantity of manna which was to be preserved as a perpetual remembrance of the food which they had eaten in their long journey in the wilderness, and of the goodness of God in miraculously supplying their wants. As the manna, also, would not of itself keep, Ex 16:20, the fact that this was to be laid up to be preserved from age to age was a perpetual miracle in proof of the presence and faithfulness of God. On the subject of the manna, see Bush's Notes on Ex 16:15.
And Aaron's rod that budded. That budded and blossomed as a proof that God had chosen him to minister to him. The princes of the tribes were disposed to rebel, and to call in question the authority of Aaron. To settle the matter each one was required to take a rod or staff of office, and to bring it to Moses with the name of the tribe to which it appertained written on it. These were laid up by Moses in the tabernacle; and it was found, on the next day, that the rod marked with the name of Levi had budded and blossomed, and produced almonds. In perpetual remembrance of this miracle, the rod was preserved in the ark, Nu 17. Its subsequent history is unknown. It was not in the ark when the temple was built; nor is there any reason to suppose that it was preserved to that time.
And the tables of the covenant. The two tables of stone on which the ten commandments were written. They were expressly called "the words of the covenant" in Ex 34:28. On the word covenant, See Barnes "Ex 34:28".
of this chapter. These two tables were in the ark at the time the temple was dedicated, 1 Ki 8:9. Their subsequent history is unknown. It is probable that they shared the fate of the ark, and were either carried to Babylon, or were destroyed when the city was taken by Nebuchadnezzar.
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