And he shall take a censer
A fire pan, a sort of chafing dish or perfuming pot; this was a golden one, as appears from ( Hebrews 9:4 ) ; hence Christ, the Angel of God's presence, our interceding High Priest, is said to have such an one, ( Revelation 8:3 ) ; and so Josephus says F7, it was a golden one the high priest used on the day of atonement; with which agree the Misnic doctors F8, who say, on other days he took off the coals with a silver one, and poured them into a golden one, but on this day he took them off with a golden one: full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord;
these were bright lively coals, not smoking and half extinct; and they were taken from off the altar of burnt offering, from the western side of it, as Jarchi says, which was towards the holy of holies, where the Lord had his dwelling: these burning coals denoted the sufferings of Christ, which were properly punishments for the sins he bore, flowed from the wrath of God comparable to fire, were the curses of a fiery law, and equal to the sufferings of the wicked, often expressed by fire; they were many, and very painful and excruciating, though no ways inconsistent with the love of God to him as his Son, for they were endured by him as the surety of his people, and by which he expressed his flaming love and affection for them: he himself is altar, sacrifice, and priest, the altar which sanctifies the gift; and the coals as on the altar, denote the sufferings of Christ as upon him, which he was able to bear; and the taking off the coals signifies the cessation of his sufferings; and the altar, coals, and taking of them off, being before the Lord and in his sight, show that Christ, as a divine Person, is, and always was before him; that his sufferings were ever in view, being appointed and foretold by him, and when endured were grateful to him, a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour; and that the cessation of them was in his presence, and according to his will; and Christ now is the Lamb in the midst of the throne, as though he had been slain, where, as such, he is always beheld with pleasure and acceptance by the Lord: and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small;
both his hands, as Aben Ezra, two handfuls of this he took and put into a cup: of this sweet incense and its composition, see ( Exodus 30:34-37 ) ; this was small itself, but on the evening of the day of atonement it was put into the mortar again, as Jarchi says, and beaten very small, and so was, as expressed in the Misnah F9, "small of small": this may represent the intercession of Christ our high priest for his people; for as the prayers of the saints are set before the Lord as incense, ( Psalms 141:2 ) ; so the intercession and mediation of Christ in favour of the acceptance of their prayers is signified by "much incense", ( Revelation 8:3 ) ; and which is always acceptable to God, and may well be expressed by sweet incense: handfuls of it may denote the largeness of his intercession, being for all the elect of God, and for all things for them they stand in need of; and the infinite perfection and virtue of his person, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, to make his intercession effectual: and being "beaten small" may signify his intercession made for particular persons, and those the meanest, and for particular things of every sort they want; as well as it may point at the fragrance and acceptance of Christ's mediation on such accounts, the incense being more fragrant the smaller it is beaten: and bring [it] within the vail:
not the incense only, but the burning coals of fire also, the one in one hand, and the other in the other hand; so the Misnah F11; they brought out to him (the high priest) the cup and the censer; he took his handful and put it into the cup, a large one according to its largeness, and a small one according to its smallness, and so was its measure; he took the censer in his right hand, and the cup in his left, and went into the sanctuary, until he came between the two rails which divide between the holy and holy of holies: this was typical of Christ our high priest, who is entered within the vail into the holiest of all, with his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice, where he ever lives to make intercession for us; not that Christ is considered in heaven as in a suffering state, for he is in a most exalted one; but the virtue and efficacy of his sufferings and death always continue, and which he ever improves on the behalf of his people, by interceding for them; and their faith and hope enter within the vail, and deal with him as having suffered for them.
F7 Antiqu. l. 3. c. 8. sect. 3.
F8 Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4.
F9 Misn. Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4.
F11 lb. c. 5. sect. 1.