Incense altar, found at Samaria. 

Incense was a compound that was proscribed solely for worship within the tabernacle and temple. “Strange” incense was offered by Nadab and Abihu at the consecration of the tabernacle and was the cause for the disaster in the death of these sons of Aaron, Lev 10.  The prescribed incense is described as being “sweet” Ex 40:7; Lev 4:7 etc. The results of both types of incense are so in marked contrast. One ended disaster, the other in sweet smell or pleasing “fragrance” NASB. Incense was incorporated as a representation of the very nation itself in Num 7 and 16 and was a component seen alongside the nation’s sacrifices and access to the deity they worshipped, Deut 33:10.

The apostacy marked in the actions of Nadab and Abihu became a national apostacy under the times of the kings, with incense offered in high places eg 1Kings 22:43; 2Kings 22:17; 23:5,8.

Incense became a token of prayer Ps 141:2; Rev 8:3,4 and the building of the incense altar was a model for the parapets of the roof of the houses of the Israelites, and it was at this very place that should have been dedicated to Yahweh that David later would fall to temptation, 2Sam 11:2. Access to the roof was often via outer staircases so no distraction by daily concerns would interrupt the value of being connected with Deity.

There was also a proscribed “time” of incense Luke 1:10 where the national prayers were offered by the priests, and the nation awaited anxiously outside for the answer of acceptance and the provision of forgiveness and the announcement of liberty.

Incense was an habitual and continuing activity of the spiritual Israelite and offered on his behalf by the priests. Regular prayer by Daniel was undertaken at times when incense would have been offered, and indicates that the lesson of incense is the continuing interaction with deity during every day. The regular prayer seen by the unrolling of rugs and ritual of facing Mecca is a small token of the greater significance once seen in regular offering of incense with its national call to love their God with their heart, soul and mind.

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