And the settle shall be fourteen cubits long and fourteen
broad in the four squares thereof
Here Kimchi confesses his ignorance. Jarchi interprets it, the top of the altar, with the place of the horns, and of the feet of the priests, and was twenty eight cubits by twenty eight, the fourteen mentioned being to be measured from the middle F26; and he seems to be right in making it to be the upper part of the altar, and not the lower settle, as some; the focus or hearth where the wood was laid, and the sacrifice burnt; and which had a projection of a cubit on each side, and so made the twelve cubits, the length and breadth of the altar, fourteen: and the border about it shall be half a cubit;
or the enclosure, as the Targum; the ledge about it, which went round the altar, to keep the fire or sacrifice from falling, or that the feet of the priests might not slip: the Jews expound it of the horns: and the bottom thereof shall be a cubit about;
or the foundation, as the Targum; which was between the altar, and the border on which the priests walked, when they went round it, to do the business of it: here Kimchi owns his ignorance again; and his stairs shall look towards the east;
steps to the altar were forbidden by the law of Moses, ( Exodus 20:26 ) wherefore, as the height of the altar of Solomon, and so of the second temple, required some way and method of ascent to the top of it, to do the business upon it; the Jews had what they call "kibbesh", a way made of earth thrown up, which rose gradually, and led to the top of it, and was about two and thirty cubits long, and sixteen broad F1; but here steps or stairs are expressly mentioned, which show that this refers to times when the Mosaic and ceremonial laws should be abolished. These stairs were placed eastward, so that those that went up them looked toward the west, toward the temple and house of God, where he dwelt; and turned their backs to the east, or rising sun, in direct opposition to the worshippers of the sun, whose faces were to the east. How many steps or stairs there were to the altar is not said; Starckius conjectures there might be twelve or fourteen of them, and allows for each step half a cubit; but as the altar was ten, or, as others, eleven cubits high, there should be twenty steps or more, of such a measure. These may signify the several ways and means of coming to, and increasing in, the knowledge of the doctrine of the altar, or of Christ's satisfaction for sin; as hearing, reading, prayer, meditation
F26 So Lipman. Tzurath Beth Hamikdash, sect. 40. Vid. Misn. Middot, c. 3. sect. 1.
F1 So Lipman. Tzurath Beth Hamikdash, sect. 43.