“The Tabernacle its construction and furnishings”, Part 11

And thou shall make for it (the “Brazen Altar) a grate of network of brass [copper]; and upon
the net shall thou make four brazen [copper] rings in the four corners thereof; and thou shall
put it under the compass of the altar beneath that the net may be even to the midst of the altar
Exod 27:4, 5)

“Much of this description needs but little comment in the way of elucidation, but there is some question
regarding the `
grate of network,’ its form, place and use. The translation is generally accepted as
correct, though the word `
grate’ occurs only in this connection. It is derived from a word meaning to
plait,’ and from the same root we have the word `sieve’ in Amos 9:9. The `network’ which describes
it is manifest. This grating was under the `
compass’ of the altar. Here, too, we have a word nowhere else
used, and whose derivation is not absolutely clear. It is said to be derived from a word meaning to
surround’: hence `border’ or `compass’ would be the proper rendering.

“Regarding this `
border’ there have been various thoughts; some have regarded it as a shelf or ledge,
placed at right angles to the altar, midway between top and bottom. Its purpose was then said to be for
the priest to stand upon while offering sacrifice. Some consider that the `
grating of network’ hung
under this ledge, reaching to the ground, and making a sort of enlarged base or ornament to the altar,
but do not explain in a satisfactory way the rings which were attached to the four corners of the grate.
There would have to be four of these grates, and this carries us beyond the directions of Scripture.
Others again would have the grate as a sort of rim reaching out horizontally from the altar to catch the
fire that might fall off the altar. Still others have considered the `
compass’ to be inside the top of the
altar, filling up part of the space, and under it the grate filling up the hollow square which remained much
as a picture, surrounded by a frame, the compass. But this, while giving use for the grate and for the
rings, gives a somewhat forced meaning to `
the midst of the altar,’ as though it meant half the area of
the open top, the other half being filled by the `

“Another possible thought is that the grating of network was a large square, like a square net set under
the altar, and so much larger that when the staves were put in the rings, and the altar thus lifted, the
network reached to the midst, or halfway up the sides. The objection to this view is that it seems a
cumbersome and needless way of carrying the altar, giving no definite use to the net except the unusual
one of being a sort of sack to carry the altar.”

Once again we must refer you to the specific size of the “Altar” as given to us in the scriptures (Exod 27:
), five cubits long and five cubits wide (7 ½ ft. X 7 ½ ft.) with a height of three cubits (about 4 ½ ft.),
note especially that this is the measurements given for the “Altar” itself, NOT the “grating”
which was merely a part of it, therefore the “grating” must not in any way add or detract to
these measurements
either in length, width or height, as unfortunately the forgoing suggestions do.
Likewise we would here suggest another point which tends to be over looked in regards to the “
” and that is the fact that although the “Altar” itself was constructed of acacia wood overlaid with
the “grating” on the other hand was constructed of solid copper (Exod 27:4), this in order
that it might withstand the fires which were continually burned upon it (
See Lev 6:12, 13). Now as you
know all the holy furnishings were to be bore upon the backs of the sons of Kohath while in transport
Num 7:9) this includes the “Brazen Altar” the largest piece of furnishing involved in the Tabernacle,
and most likely the heaviest, considering the fact that
the “grating” itself encompassing the “Altar”
measured at least 7 ¼ X 7 ¼ foot across and was possibly a good three quarters to an inch
thick solid copper
, and that’s not even taking into consideration the addition of the means by which it
was positioned in the midst of the “
Altar” (it’s possible stand) nor the added weight of the four rings
which were attached to it. Now for a moment imagine if you will if we were to consider the much still
larger system of grating network and or base suggested in the previous suggestions, how much more
weightier would you imagine that would be? Bear in mind that the “
staves” used to carry the “Altar
were only made of wood overlaid in copper.

“We return then to the primary and natural thought of the `
grate.’ It was for fire; therefore it must have
been within the compass of the altar, not outside of it. But here we have a suggestion as to the
compass,’ that is it was not something made, but simply the rim. The grating was under this,
that is, not level with the rim, but below it; in fact, midway between the top and bottom of the altar. The
only difficulty of a mechanical character would be the rings. If the grate was inside the altar and halfway
down, how could they receive the staves by which the altar was carried? It is confessed that here is a
question, and
we can only suggest that these rings might have been passed through holes in the
corners of the altar, and thus reached the outside
, where they would serve for their intended
purpose. This would give security to the altar as it was being carried
.” (Ridout, Lectures on the
, pages. 409–411)

“There is some ambiguity in the text relating to the “
grating” and its placement in the altar of burnt-
offering, which has led to a considerable amount of conjecture. At best, such conjectures are merely
guesses, and therefore never can satisfy the inquiring mind of the saint as much as a clear “
thus saith
the Lord
.” Nor are these matters of the physical construction of the altar of burnt-offering of utmost
importance; rather
the altar’s antitypical or spiritual import is what should chiefly concern us.”
Notes on the Tabernacle” page 125,126)

But alas for those of us whose minds can’t but help to question just how things are constructed (like
myself) these things stand as puzzles before our minds, puzzles which we feel compelled to assemble.

Generally most students of God’s Word accept the fact that the “
grating” was positioned within the
compass of the “
Altar” midway beneath the rim (Exod 27:5), however as was mentioned the problem
we encounter is that the scriptures likewise state that there were but “
four rings” used to carry the Altar
and that
these four were attached to the “grating” NOT to the Altar (Exod 27:4). Now note our
dilemma in the following illustration, how shall we insert the poles used to carry the Altar?

Since there is no mention of any rings directly attached to the Altar itself a way must be found by which
the rings may extrude out around or through the altar to facilitate the placement of the poles through
the rings in order to carry the altar. The following design is the one which I came up with the first time I
drew the Brazen Altar. The “grating” with its four rings attached would be properly positioned and then
lowered down into the altar there to rest at midpoint, then with copper pins inserted to secure the
attachment of the grating to the altar the altar as a whole could be lifted and carried, likewise with the
pins removed the grating could be lifted separately in order to easily facilitate the work of cleaning and
removing the ashes from the altar.

Now overtime I have come to see many variations to this dilemma explained on the web, while some
appear a little far fetched others seem to address the problem quite well such as the following which was
presented on the web page
Temple Builders.com

The following however is my latest idea of how the “Brazen Altar” might have been
, actually I still consider the idea of the outer "hollowed frame work" (Exod 27:8)
sliding up or down over the grating with slots to accommodate the extension of the “
rings” as the most
ideal method, however I think this particular method not only allows for easy assembly and disassembly
for transport and clean-up purposes, but likewise permits the four rings to be attached directly to the
four corners of the grating as is specified in the text (
Exod 27:4). This latest version seems to work even
better as it eliminates the need for the additional pins used to hold the grating in place when
transported, as became apparently necessary in my original rendering.

When the hollowed frame is lowered over the grating, the grating reaches “
midway up the altar under
the rim
” with the rings extending outside the altar so that the carrying poles can be easily inserted.

We would assume rightly we believe that due to the size and weight of the outer frame work of the
Brazen Altar that it would require at least six to eight men (depending upon the thickness of the walls of
the Altar) to remove and or install the outer frame work over the inner grating. As you know the outer
frame work was constructed of acacia wood overlaid in copper and of itself would not compose much of
a problem, however when combined with the network grating, which we assume logically to have been
constructed of solid copper the task of managing this the largest piece of furniture in the Tabernacle
would be doubled.

Considering the sheer size and weight of the Brazen Altar it would require at least we believe
to bear it upon their backs, and should we likewise include its cover! Well you do the math.

The number “
twelve” is a unique number referred to throughout the Scriptures; generally it is associated
with the Church, the “
Israel of God” the 144,000, but likewise it can equally be applied to the entire
world of mankind all who are heavy-laden with the burden of sin, the poor, the meek, the broken-hearted.

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke
upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your
souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light
(My Father’s requirement of you as a joint
participator in my yoke, following in my footsteps is no easy task, however if you trust in me I will be
there to help you to bear the load, to bring you through to victory, glory, honor and immortality, I will
not require of you more than you are able to bear, to carry all the load along, but will acquaint you with
my brethren that you should “
bear one another’s burdens”, share in the load of sorrows [as well as the
joy] as you all walk the narrow path which I have tread before you).”
Matt 11:28-30; Gal 6:2

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