Exodus, Lesson 28: Proper Worship Contrasted with Improper Worship

Incense before the Altar (610x351)God had just told Moses about the bronze basin, from which the Priests would purify themselves before entering God’s presence.  If they were not so purified, they would die.  Last week, we learned that the water in the bronze basin was a (but not the only) foreshadowing of New-Covenant baptism. 

Now God tells Moses about anointing oil and incense (incense again?!).


The Anointing Oil

Read Exodus 30:22-25

–          At this point, what do we know about the oil that God commands Moses to make?


The Spices in the Anointing Oil

Free-flowing Myrrh: An aromatic gum, which would ooze from the bark of the Commiphora tree.  This tree grew in Arabia and was expensive to obtain.  The resin from the tree sap would form into globules, which were then collected, ground down, and blended with the oil.  So, “free flowing” is a better translation than “liquid.”  The formula required about 16 pounds, 10 ounces of myrrh.

Cinnamon: From the inner bark of a particular type of evergreen, the Cinnamomum tree.  It was not native to Israel and so was also expensive to obtain.  The formula required about 8 pounds, 5 ounces of myrrh.

Qaneh Bosum: We cannot say with certainty as to what this was (and so Pastor transliterated this from the Hebrew).  The Greek Septuagint has the word for a plant stalk, calamus.  Some scholars say that the Hebrew Qaneh Bosum and its similarity to the Scythian cannabis is beyond mere coincidence and refers to the same plant, which spread from the Hebrew language during their various exiles in Babylon, living in Persia, and their various diasporas in southwest Asia.  The formula required about 8 pounds, 5 ounces of qaneh bosum.

Kiddah: This is another ingredient that we cannot clearly identify (and so Pastor also transliterated this from the Hebrew).  The word kiddah only appears in the Bible here and Ezekiel 27:19.  Based on context, we can surmise that this was an aromatic plant.  The best guess we have would be that kiddah was the bark from the Cassia Lignea tree, a tree in the cinnamon family.  This tree is not indigenous Israel and, thus, would be expensive to obtain.  The formula required about 16 pounds, 10 ounces of myrrh.

Hin: That was about a gallon of oil.

–          Discuss how these spices were blended into the oil.


Read Exodus 30:26-29

–          What was supposed to be anointed with the oil?


–          Why?


–          Discuss what being “holy” means.


Read Exodus 30:30-33

–          Who was to be anointed?


–          What was not to be done with this oil? (vs. 32-33)


–          How long is this anointing oil to be used? (vs. 32)


–          What was to happen to the person who misuses this oil?


–          Discuss the New-Covenant’s Church use of oil immediately following baptism.  What did that signify?


More on Incense

When we look in Leviticus, where God give his instructions for the Levitical Priesthood, we find that frankincense, by itself, was specified to be used as part of the sacrificial system.  It was used as part of the grain offerings (Leviticus 2:1, 15-16; 6:15) and guilt offerings (Leviticus 5:11).  It was also burned next to the Bread of the Presence (Leviticus 24:7).  From this we find that, like olive oil was the base for the anointing oil, frankincense is the base for the incense.

Read Exodus 30:34-35 

Like some of the ingredients in the anointing oil, we are uncertain what these three substances are.  This is the only place where the Old Testament mentions these three spices.  We do know that this mixture of incense was half frankincense and half a mixture of these three spices (Exodus 30:24).

Stacte: From the Hebrew nataf, which means “to drip, drop.”  This then probably referred to resin droplets from a bush or tree.  The Septuagint has staktna, the oil of myrrh, from which the ESV gets “stacte.”

Onycha: The Hebrew word is shehelet.  We don’t know what the word means.  So our translators looked to the Septuagint’s onuxa, which literally means “nail.”  From that, scholars surmise that this substance comes from a nail-shaped mollusk from which an aromatic substance was derived.  For we know that the closing flap of some mollusks emit a pungent aroma when burned.  It is from the Septuagint that the ESV gets “onycha.”

Galbanum: The Hebrew word is helbenah, which we also do not know what it means.  The translators, thus, get their term from the Septuagint’s kalbana, which is a gum resin extracted from the ferula class of plants.  Like the other two spices, the ESV gets it rendering from the Septuagint.

Salt was put in the incense but we do not know for what reason.

Bottom line: other than the frankincense, we do not know what else was in this incense mixture.

–          Who was to make this incense?


–          What did that indicate?


Read Exodus 30:36

–          What was the purpose of this incense?


–          Although we are unsure of the ingredients in this incense other than frankincense, we can surmise what one was supposed to smell when this incense burned.  What should the sensation in our noses be when smelling the incense?


Excursus: God’s Anger and His Nose

When our Old-Testament translations describe God becoming angry, they usually say that God became angry.  Sometimes, they will try to convey the imagery of the Hebrew and say that God “burned with anger.”  And although our translations are accurate in describing God’s “emotion” as anger, they lack the description and metaphor which conveys that.

In Exodus 4:14, we first find in Scripture a graphic description of what happens when God becomes angry.  That’s when Moses was trying to finagle out of being God’s spokesperson to Pharaoh, to tell him to let the people of Israel go to worship God in the wilderness.  It was then that the text from Exodus says, “Then the nose of God burned against Moses.”

Later, in Exodus 22:24, when God gave Moses laws about social justice, if the people of Israel mistreated a foreigner among them, God’s nose would burn.

God’s nose has much prominence in the Hebrew of the Old Testament.  God’s anger is described as His nose burning.  God’s life is given by breath from His nostrils, His power is blasted out in nose-smoke, and what gives Him pleasure are the sweet-smells of sacrifice and the burning of incense.

When we don’t know about God’s “nose theology,” we then miss out on the power of the descriptive nature of how the sweet-smelling savor of burnt offerings and incense were soothing with God.  Using anthropomorphisms, God’s nose no longer burned but, instead, delighted in what it smelled.


–          Discuss: Incense in light of God’s “nose theology.”


Read Exodus 30:37-38

–          What happened if someone improperly used the incense set apart for Tabernacle use?


–          Discuss why God was being such a “hard nose” about the use of Tabernacle incense.


The Craftsmen to Make the Tabernacle and Its Furnishings

Read Exodus 31: 1-11

–          Who did God specify would be the foremen to build the Tabernacle and its furnishings?


–          What would God do to ensure that they had the skill sets to do those tasks?


The Purpose of the Sabbath

Read Exodus 31: 12-13

–          What did the Sabbath signify to the people of Israel about what God had done for them?


Read Exodus 31:14-15

–          What spiritually would happen to those who did not keep the Sabbath? (vs. 14)


–          What physically would happen to those who did not keep the Sabbath? (vs 14-15)


–          How was the physical to show what happened spiritually?


–          If the above is true, discuss the connection between God signifying and doing on the Sabbath.


Read Exodus 31:16-17

–          How long was the Sabbath mandate to go on? (vs. 16)


–          How then is this fulfilled in Jesus Christ and the New Covenant?


–          If God rested and was refreshed on the 7th day (although He does not need rest or refreshment), what does that say about the purpose of worship?


Read Exodus 31:18



Next Week: We study what happens when Moses finally comes down from Mt. Sinai.


Click here to go to Lesson 29.