The altar of wood was three cubits high, and the length
thereof two cubits
This was the altar of incense, and was typical of Christ in his intercession and mediation. It was made of "wood"; that in the tabernacle of Moses was of shittim wood, a kind of cedar; and that in Solomon's temple was of cedar, ( Exodus 30:1 ) ( 1 Kings 6:20 ) and may signify the human nature of Christ, in which he mediates and intercedes; which is excellent as the cedars: fair and beautiful, strong, durable, and incorruptible: though its original is of the earth, as wood: or was made of a woman; of the earth, earthly; but produced without sin. This altar, both in the tabernacle and temple, was covered with gold; as it was fit it should be with some hard substance that would bear incense to be burned on it; and therefore was called the golden altar, ( Exodus 30:3 ) ( Numbers 4:11 ) ( 1 Kings 6:20 1 Kings 6:22 ) and so the altar at which our Lord officiates as Mediator and Intercessor is called a golden one, ( Revelation 8:3 ) , which may denote the deity of Christ, that gives virtue to his mediation; or the glorification of his human nature in heaven, in which he ministers; and also the preciousness of his intercession, and the duration of it. The incense burnt on this altar may signify both the mediation of Christ, which is pure and holy, though for sinners; large and frequent, continually made, and very fragrant and acceptable; and the prayers of the saints which are offered up on this altar, which sanctifies them; and through the much incense, which perfumes them, whereby they ascend up to God, and are sweet odours to him, being fragrant and fervent, pure and holy. This altar in the tabernacle of Moses, and probably in the temple of Solomon, though its dimensions there are not given, was foursquare, ( Exodus 30:2 ) very likely so was this; and indeed the Septuagint version adds, and the breadth two cubits;
which, being the same with its length, made it foursquare; and so may point at the firmness, unchangeableness and perfection of this part of Christ's priesthood, his intercession, which is true of the whole of it, ( Hebrews 7:19 Hebrews 7:24 Hebrews 7:25 ) and it may be observed, that the altar here was a cubit longer, and a cubit broader, as well as a cubit higher, than the Mosaic one, ( Exodus 30:2 ) . Kimchi says this altar was not like to that which Moses or Solomon, or the children of the captivity, made; it was larger than any of them; which shows that the intercession of Christ our high priest is larger and more extensive than that of the priests under the law; they offered incense only for the people of Israel: but Christ, as he is the propitiation, so the advocate for Gentiles, as well as Jews; though not for the whole world of men, yet for the world of the elect; and of all blessings of grace and glory for them, ( 1 John 2:1 1 John 2:2 ) ( John 17:9 John 17:20 ) and, moreover, that under the Gospel dispensation there would be more praying souls, and more use made of the Mediator, of his name, blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and intercession; and a greater spirit of grace and supplication poured out, especially in the latter day; hence we read of Christ's much incense, ( John 16:23 John 16:24 ) ( Zechariah 12:10 ) ( Revelation 8:3 ) : and the corners thereof, and the length thereof, and the walls thereof,
were of wood;
that is, the horns that were at the four corners of it; and the top of it, which was its length and breadth; and the sides of it, called its walls, were all of wood, though covered with gold. The mystical sense of which has been given; only it may be observed, that the four corners or horns of it may denote the strength of Christ's intercession; and to which men have recourse, and lay hold on for their relief, even from all parts of the world, east, west, north, and south: and he said unto me, this is the table that is before the Lord;
that is, either the altar before described is the table before the Lord, which he has spread, and where his people feed in his presence; the intercession of Christ being a feast to the faith of saints: or it may be, that the divine guide of the prophet, turning himself to the right hand of the altar, pointed to the table of shewbread, which stood in the same place; and said this or that which stands yonder is the table before the Lord; and which also was typical of Christ, the true bread that comes down from heaven, who is the food of his people; for quality, the finest of the wheat; for quantity, enough and to spare; for savour, such as gracious souls desire always to have; for duration, continual bread, set forth by priests, and only eaten by them; and, like that, bread of faces,
as the shewbread is called F16; denoting the intercession of Christ, the Angel of God's presence; and who always appears in the presence of God for his people, bearing on him the names of the children of Israel, to which the twelve shewbread loaves answered. The "table" on which they were set signifies the communion saints have with Christ in his word and ordinances; which are called a feast, of which Christ is the sum and substance; and where, as at a table, he sits and favours them with fellowship with himself; see ( Proverbs 9:2 ) ( Song of Solomon 1:12 ) ( 5:1 ) ( Revelation 3:20 ) The Jews F17 have an observation upon this text, that it begins with an altar, and ends with a table; and further observe, that, while the temple stood, the altar atoned for a man, but now a man's table atones for him: but this is not a man's table, but the Lord's table; and Christ the sacrifice held forth on this table does indeed atone for a man.
F16 (Mynp Mxl) "panis facierum", Exod. xxv. 30.
F17 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 55. 1. Chagiga, fol. 26. 1. Menachot, fol. 97. 1.