An altar of earth thou shall make unto me
This was a temporary precept, and only in force until the tabernacle was built, and respects occasional altars, erected while on their travels, and were to be made of turfs of earth, and so easily and quickly thrown up, as their case and circumstances required, and as easily thrown down, as it was proper they should, after they had no more use for them, lest they should be abused to superstitious uses; for afterwards the altar for burnt offerings was made of Shittim wood covered with brass, and that in the temple was wholly a brazen one, ( Exodus 27:1 Exodus 27:2 ) ( 2 Chronicles 4:1 ) this precept seems to suggest the plainness and simplicity in which God would be worshipped, in opposition to the pomp and gaudy show of idolaters intimated in the preceding verse; though Tertullian F20 relates of the Romans in the times of Numa Pomptitus, that they had neither images, nor temples, nor capitols, only altars made of turfs of earth hastily thrown up; and this altar of earth might be, as Ainsworth observes, a figure of the earthly or human nature of Christ, who is the altar, whereof believers in him have a right to eat, ( Hebrews 13:10 )
and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace
offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen;
which were the creatures offered in the said sacrifices, as also in the sin offerings and trespass offerings, which, though not mentioned, are included:
in all places where I record my name;
or, "cause it to be mentioned", or "remembered" F21; where he manifested himself, displayed the glory of his nature and perfection; or, as the Targum of Jonathan expresses it, caused his Shechinah or divine Majesty to dwell, or gave any intimations of his presence, as at the altar now erected to him, and at the sacrifices offered up thereon, and afterwards in the tabernacle, between the cherubim over the mercy seat, and ark of the testimony; which was removed to various places before the temple was built at Jerusalem, where he took up his residence, and his name was called upon, made mention of, and recorded for many generations: but that being destroyed and worship there at an end, men may now worship God in any place, so be it they do it in spirit and in truth; and wherever the name of God is truly called upon, and the glory of his divine perfection, as displayed in the salvation of sinners by Christ, is set forth, and Christ and him crucified is preached; and mention is made of his name as the only one in which salvation is; of his glorious person and offices, of his righteousness, blood, and sacrifice, for justification, remission of sins, and atonement; and his ordinances are administered, which are memorials of his love and grace; there Jehovah grants his presence:
I will come unto thee:
not locally or by change of place, nor by his omnipresence merely, so he is everywhere; nor in any visible way, but in a spiritual manner, by the communications of his grace and favour, see ( John 14:21-23 ) , and I will bless thee; with his presence, than which nothing is more desirable and delightful; with the supplies of his grace, with peace and pardon, with a justifying righteousness, with a right and title to eternal life, with enlarged views of these blessings and of interest in them.
F20 Apologet. c. 25.
F21 (ymv ta rykza) "memorare faciam nomen meum", Pagninus, Montanus; "ubi recordari faciam nomen meum, seu ubi faciam ut recordemini nominis mei", Piscator.