Exodus 20:26

26 Don't use steps to climb to my Altar because that will expose your nakedness.'

Exodus 20:26 Meaning and Commentary

Exodus 20:26

Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar
That is, you priests, the sons of Aaron, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem paraphrase the words; the altar of burnt offering built when the tabernacle was seemed not to require any, being but three cubits high, ( Exodus 27:1 ) but that in Solomon's temple did, being ten cubits high, ( 2 Chronicles 4:1 ) and therefore some method must be used to ascend it, and do the business that was to be done on it: now the Jews say F2, there was what they call "Kibbesh", a sort of a causeway made of earth thrown up, which rose gradually and led to the top of the altar, and was about thirty two cubits long and sixteen broad: and so the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases the words,

``thou shalt not go up by steps to mine altar, but by bridges;''

express mention is made of stairs to the altar in Ezekiel's vision, ( Ezekiel 43:17 )

that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon;
that part of the body which is not to be named, and ought not to be seen, and which would be exposed if there were many steps, and these at a distance from each other; which would oblige them to take large strides, and so be in danger of discovering those parts which would make them the object of contempt and ridicule with the people; since as yet breeches were not used, and the garments were long loose ones, which were easily turned aside, or the parts under them seen by those below; to prevent which, afterwards linen breeches were ordered to be made for the priests, and to be used by them in their service: Maimonides F3 thinks the reason of this was, because formerly the idolatrous worship of Peor was performed by uncovering of their nakedness before it; and so by this is expressed God's detestation of such an impure and abominable practice; but this is uncertain; however, this we may be sure of, that this is the will of God, that all immodesty and indecency, and whatever tends to create impure thoughts and stir up unclean lusts, should be carefully avoided in his worship.


F2 Middot, c. 3. sect. 3.
F3 Ut supra. (Apud L'Empereur in Middot, ib.)

Exodus 20:26 In-Context

24 Make me an earthen Altar. Sacrifice your Whole-Burnt-Offerings, your Peace-Offerings, your sheep, and your cattle on it. Every place where I cause my name to be honored in your worship, I'll be there myself and bless you.
25 If you use stones to make my Altar, don't use dressed stones. If you use a chisel on the stones you'll profane the Altar.
26 Don't use steps to climb to my Altar because that will expose your nakedness.'
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.