The Tabernacle, it’s Spiritual Significance, Part 6

The “Brazen Altar”

“Build an altar of acacia (shittim) wood three cubits high; it is to be square, five cubits long and five
cubits wide. Make horns at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are of one
piece and overlay the altar with copper (in Hebrew
nechosheth, mistranslated as bronze or brass)…
make a grating for it, a copper network, and make a copper ring at each of the four corners of the
network. Put it under the ledge of the altar so that it is halfway up the altar.” (
Exodus 27:1-5)

Having gain entry into the courtyard through faith in Christ as pictured in the “
Entrance Curtain”,
the first item of notice to the tentatively justified is the great altar made of copper positioned
midway between the entrance and the Tabernacle. It was our faith in Christ which allowed us entry,
but here now we witness the great sacrifice, the
ransom which was paid which proved necessary
for our redemption.

It will be noted that faith in Christ precedes faith in the “ransom” that is because not until one
has passed the “
Wall of Unbelief” (represented in the lien curtains which surrounded the
courtyard) are they yet prepared to understand and truly appreciate the true significance of the
ransom” and what it implies.

“The “
Brazen Altar”… represents the perfect humanity (copper) of the Man Christ Jesus,
who as the Lamb of God
(John 1:29, 36) gave himself as a ransom (Greek anti-lurton, a price
to correspond or a corresponding price)
for ALL (See Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim 2:5, 6);
and thus this altar in a particular sense represents also the ransom sacrifice itself.”
Tabernacle Shadows, Page 22, Par. 1)

“This ‘
Altar’ stood just inside the gate within the court of the tabernacle of the congregation,
making it necessary for anyone who would approach the dwelling place of Jehovah first to
pass it, thus figuratively setting forth the fact that none can have communion with God
except he first recognize and appreciate the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus
.” (Notes on
the Tabernacle
” page 116)

Here’s another one of those valuable “keys” to understanding found in the Scriptures, there are
several of these keys, but this one is of great prize.

The holding of the ransom (a proper understanding of the ransom and its true significance) is
key to every truth; the "hub" from which all other truths must radiate (that is to say if it
doesn’t square with the ransom it most likely is error
). R1452:5

A ramp or not?

Some believe that this altar had a ramp approaching it, if for no other reason than we read: “And
Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from
offering of the sin-offering
.” (Lev 9:22)

However it will be noted that, the text does not say that Aaron came down
from the altar, but
rather from the offering of the offerings. (
Although it’s true that some translations imply the latter
through ignorance not having grasped the true thought
). We are inclined to think that the word
down” is here a provincialism and is not, therefore, to be understood literally, but rather
figuratively, much as we might say to one thinking too highly of himself, “
get down off your high

Surely, the offering of the sacrifices of
Leviticus 9 was something which was above the common
of their daily tasks! Aaron might thus be said to have “come downfrom his lofty position
following the Day of Atonement offerings
to bless the people. (Notes on the Tabernacle”,
Pages 130-133

Now of course, if this altar had been as large as some have imagined it, it’s no wonder that it would
require a ramp or steps of some kind to ascend to the top in order to offer the sacrifices. The two
pictures above are prime examples.
The first supposedly an actual representation of the Tabernacle
and the second a Jewish toy model of the Tabernacle, both are wrong, but the second one is the
most extreme case I’ve found yet, that altar is as high as the curtain wall five cubits or 7 ½ ft. in

However the dimensions of the “Altar” are quite clear to us, five cubits long and five cubits wide (7
½ ft. X 7 ½ ft.) with
a height of three cubits (about 4 ½ ft.), Exod 27:1 Now at this height the
priest could easily offer the appropriate sacrifices, however if one were to add an additional base
beneath the altar (
as is most likely the case judging by the height of the man standing on the
ramp in the first example
) this would logically increase the height of the altar placing its top out of
reach of the priest without the aid of some sort of ascending device (a ramp, steps or ladder of
some kind) of course the solution to this for some is to detract from the height measurements of
the Altar itself in order to accommodate their base and grating structure, thus maintaining the
proper height, however a proper reading of the texts shows that the Altar itself, that part which
was made of acacia wood covered in copper was of itself 5 X 5 X 3, nor more no less.

In the end however we have the Lord’s word on the matter which should put an end to any
dispute, “
Neither shall thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not
.” (Exod 20:26)

“What constituted “
nakedness” insofar as the ancient priesthood of Israel was concerned? Surely
not the fact of the hands and feet being exposed! Seemingly, however, if any part of the body
from the loins (waist) down to the ankles was unduly exposed, it was considered not only
indecent, but also unlawful! To guard against this, no altar of Jehovah-God’s was to have steps
(nor a ramp ascending) lest the priest’s “
nakedness” be discovered.

“Nakedness of itself was no sin, for both Adam and Eve were brought forth naked, and they were
perfect in the day of their creation.

And they were both naked. The man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.” (Gen 2:

However it was sin which perverted their minds, bringing to them a consciousness of their
nakedness, so that in shame they sought to be covered.

Ever since, nakedness has typified sin, though more particularly, inbred-sin, and it is
therefore a most apt symbol thereof
. It represents that sin in which we were born—our
imperfection as children of Adam—partakers of the Adamic curse! Thus antitypically speaking,

We cannot come to Christ by steps (as represented here in the “Brazen Altar). But rather
we must come as we are and come at once
. When we realize our degradation and sin, human
nature says: do not present yourself in this present degraded condition, no! First tone up, break
off bad habits, try to be good, and after climbing up a few steps, come to Christ. Vain resolve!
Ending only in broken vows and bitter disappointment; and as the pure light of Heaven streams
upon us, we realize our own weakness and nakedness and poverty; that our righteousness is but
filthy rags, and that our great want is the spotless robe of Christ's righteousness to cover us
completely, that the shame of our nakedness does not appear.” (
R 101:8)

Having considered the importance of the altar we note in the distance that there yet lays still one
more item positioned before us, before we reach the Tabernacle, however before we take a look at
this item let us back track a bit and recall how we arrived where we presently find ourselves.
Excerpt taken from WPRS Q310:1)

“Those who leave the Camp to come into the Court of the Tabernacle are
feeling after God with
the desire to find Him
(Acts 17:27).

“The implication is that even in the fallen and depraved condition of the heart there is a
dissatisfaction, a lack of ease, a restless feeling, a longing desire to be something better than we
are, to have the nobler elements of our being in close touch with our Creator and to render to him
the obedience of righteousness which to some extent is instinctively recognized as his due.” (
Page 331

such come up to the Tabernacle enclosure they find that there is only one entrance (Faith in
Lord Jesus Christ), and that that one way is the only way of approaching the Tabernacle. They
enter, and as they enter they must pass
the Brazen Altar of Sacrifice before they have gone
very far within the enclosure, the
individual who sees (who grasp the true significance of this altar)
sees more than ever before of the matter. But he or she is not yet at the Tabernacle proper. Those
who have come thus far must remember that they have still to go on for a bit more yet. At that
Altar they have seen the fact that God has provided a way from sin. Recognizing this, they may
stop there for a longer or shorter period.
A danger however is that some are so pleased with
that portion that they would sit down there content with that. It is good that we thank
God for having made that provision for salvation, but there must be a going
forward for a
distance yet
. What is there after seeing this Altar and its meaning?

The “Laver”

The next step is to yonder Laver, and towards yonder Laver they go next. What do they find?
Water! This surely means Cleansing. O!
To put away the filth of this flesh and make myself--
or rather allow myself to be made--as nearly as possible right with God! Have I wronged
anybody? Such questions as that must be asked of ourselves and answered by ourselves. This is
the attitude of those who have reached the Laver for cleansing. We may cleanse ourselves at the
Laver, but still we have not fully come to God. Is there not something I can do? That is the next
question which turns up in the mind of those who have reached the Laver.
We remain in a
justified condition so long as we keep
moving forward in our way, and we become more
right with God, more justified, if we might say, every step of the way onward

If by chance we have allowed the cares and concerns of this world (jobs, family and etc.) to
temporally occupy our time it is a good idea before approaching the LORD’s, dwelling place to
once again cleanse both our minds and bodies through a look into the Word, the “
water of life”,
which tends to have a cleansing affect upon the individual.

“The laver between the altar and the house . . . is not described in the specifications. It provided,
however, for a very significant ceremony, since it contained a supply of water that the priests might
wash their hands and their feet when they went into the habitation, or ministered at the altar. The
entire function of the priesthood consisted in the two branches of service here indicated, since it
was with the feet that they entered the sanctuary, and with the hands that they served the altar,
hence the requirement that
the hands and the feet, rather than other parts of the body, should
be washed. It denoted that, though consecrated to the sacred office, they nevertheless on account
of their uncleanness by nature and by contact with the impurities of the people needed a special
purification before every official act. They might not touch the vessels of Jehovah with their hands,
nor place their feet within his dwelling, without a reminder that he is holy, and has chosen his
people that they also may become holy.” (
Atwater, The Sacred Tabernacle of the Hebrews, p.

“As stated, the Priest did not bathe in the laver, but merely washed their hands and feet (
Exod 40:
31, 32
) from the water in the laver, so too we cleanse our hands that they being clean, may do the
will of God, and our feet that they might walk in Jesus’ footsteps, along the straight and narrow
way in which he walked. The “
copper pitcher” was of great help and convenience to the typical
priesthood for obviously reasons for naturally the priest could not wash their feet in the Laver, but
with the aid of the pitcher both hands and feet could easily be cleaned.
So too we are greatly
aided by those vessels
(pitchers, basins, containers and etc.) provided for by the Lord which
aid us in getting the water from the laver, the Bible, the Word of God, such as our
Concordances, Lexicons, the Volumes, Reprints and etc.

“Since there are no measurements given for the Laver, may it not be intended to reflect the fact
that God’s provision for the cleansing of his people by the Word (the Word of Truth) is so great
that it may be said to be
immeasurable!” “That the Word has an unlimited cleansing power.”

The Laver was never covered (despite what the Septuagint and Samaritan versions may say to
the contrary,
See McClintock & Strong, Cyclopedia, on the “Laver) whether within the court
or without when it traveled with the camp, because it represents God’s Word, the truth
especially as centered in Christ Jesus
, anyone whether in or out of the courtyard condition,
whether tentatively justified or not, by looking unto the Word of God (the Bible, the revelation of
God, typified by the Laver
) may see therein depicted the perfection of the Man Christ Jesus, and
reflecting upon this will see his own imperfections and need for cleansing, this is the reason why
this vessel, unlike all the rest of the Tabernacle’s furniture, remained uncovered.”

Now although the Laver was not covered while in transport it is only logical to assume that it
was emptied of its contents before being moved
, thus although the bible itself as pictured in
the laver is visible to the world much of the truths (the “
water”) contained there is hidden from
their eyes, nevertheless reflected in its surface is the perfection, the righteousness and goodness
of the Savior which only serves to remind them of how far short they come up to the divine
requirements, and of their need for that cleansing which only the Lord can provide

We will continue with our next post.

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