A dry, aromatic gum, exuding from a tree which grows in Arabia and India. It is called also frankincense, from the freedom with which when burning it gives forth its odors. Other spices were mixed with it to make the sacred incense, the use of which for any other purpose was strictly forbidden, Ex 30:34-38. To offer incense, among the Hebrews, was an officer peculiar to the priests; for which purpose they entered into the holy apartment of the temple every morning and evening. On the great day of expiation, the high-priest burnt incense in his censer as he entered the Holy of Holies, and the smoke which arose from it prevented his looking with too much curiosity on the ark and mercy seat, Le 16:13. The Levites were not permitted to touch the censers; and Korah, Dathan, and Abiram suffered a terrible punishment for violating this prohibition. Incense was especially a symbol of prayer. While it was offered, the people prayed in the court without, and their prayers ascended with the sweet odor of the incense, until the priest returned and gave the blessing. So Christ presents his people and their prayers to God, accepted through his merits and intercession, and gives them the blessing, "Your sins are forgiven; go in peace," Ps 141:2; Lu 2:9; Re 5:8; 8:4. "Incense" sometimes signifies the sacrifices and fat of victims, as no other kind of incense was offered on the altar of burnt-offerings, Ps 66:15. For a description of the altar of incense, see ALTAR.
a fragrant composition prepared by the "art of the apothecary." It consisted of four ingredients "beaten small" (Ex 30:34-36). That which was not thus prepared was called "strange incense" (Ex 30:9). It was offered along with every meat-offering; and besides was daily offered on the golden altar in the holy place, and on the great day of atonement was burnt by the high priest in the holy of holies (Ex 30:7-8). It was the symbol of prayer (Ps 141:1-2; Re 5:8; 8:3-4).
Ex 30:1,9,34, etc. The altar of incense was more closely connected with the holiest place than the other things in the holy place, the shewbread table and the candlestick. The incense consisted of four aromatic ingredients (representing God's perfections diffused throughout the four quarters of the world): stacte (Hebrew nataph, "a drop," the gum that drops from the storax tree, Styrax officinalis, found in Syria; the benzoin, or gum benjamin, is from Java and Sumatra; the liquid storax of commerce is from a different tree, the Liquidambar Syraciflua), onycha (Hebrew: shecheleth, probably the cap of the wing shell, strombus, abounding in the Red Sea, used for making perfumes), galbanum (a yellowish brown gum, imported from Persia, India, and Africa), and pure frankincense (the chief of the aromatic gums: Song 3:6; Mt 2:11; obtained from India through the Sabeans of S. Arabia; the tree is Boswellia thurifera, the native salai; the gum is called oliban, Arabic looban, from whence the Hebrew lebonah comes).
These were "tempered together," Hebrew "salted"; compare Le 2:13, but that was in the case of offering what was used as food, and salt is not used in compounding the incense of any other people; still God might herein designedly distinguish Israel from other peoples. Salt symbolized incorruptness; the wine of drink offerings, the blood, and the wood, were the only offerings without it. A portion beaten small was to be "put before the testimony in the tabernacle," i.e. outside the veil, before the golden altar of incense; from its relation to the ark thus it became" most holy," as was also the altar of incense (Le 27:34). This incense was to be kept exclusively for Jehovah; the penalty of making like incense for ordinary perfume was "cutting off." Incense of other ingredients ("strange," Le 27:34) was forbidden to be offered.
A store of it was constantly kept in the temple (Josephus, B. J., vi. 8, section 3). Aaron originally offered it, but in the second temple one of the lower priests was chosen by lot to offer it daily morning and evening (Lu 1:9). King Uzziah for usurping the office was smitten with leprosy (2Ch 26:16-21). The morning incense was offered when the lamps were trimmed in the holy place, before the sacrifice. Between the earlier and later evenings, after the evening sacrifice and before the drink offerings, the evening incense was Burnt (margin Ex 30:7-8; Re 8:1,3-5). A part of the temple was devoted to a family, "the house of Abtines," whose duty it was to compound the incense, according to the rabbis. One of the memunnim, or 16 prefects of the temple, had charge of the incense, that it might be always ready.
When the priest entered the holy place with the incense, the people were all put out of the temple, and from between the porch and the altar (Maimonides); Lu 1:10, "the whole multitude ... were praying without, at the time of incense," silently, which accords with Re 8:1,3. The priest avoided lengthening his stay within, lest the people outside should fear he had been struck dead for some defect in his offering (Le 16:13). This gives point to Lu 1:21, "the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple." On coming forth he pronounced the blessing (Nu 6:24-26); the Levites broke forth into sacred song, accompanied by the temple music (Mishna); compare Re 8:5. On the day of atonement the high priest, after offering the bullock for himself, took incense in his left hand and a golden shovel full of live coals from the western side of the brazen altar in his right, and went into the most holy place, his first entrance there (Le 16:12-13).
He shall take a (Hebrew the) censer (see Heb 9:4) full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the Lord, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil; and he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercyseat that is upon the testimony, that he die not. In the second temple, where there was no ark, a stone was substituted. The truth symbolized by "incense" is the merit of Christ's obedience and atoning death. It is this, when it is by faith made the accompanying foundation of our prayers, which makes them rise up to God as a sweet and acceptable perfume. (See CENSER.) (Re 8:1-5). The incense of the golden altar of incense within the sanctuary had to be lighted from the fire of the atoning altar of burnt offering outside, otherwise the fire was "strange fire". (See ALTAR; ABIHU; NADAB.)
So Christ intercedes now in the heavenly sanctuary as He died for us outside; and the believer's prayer ascends from his inner heart to God within the heavenly veil, Because it rests on Christ's atoning sacrifice once for all offered "without the gate" (Heb 13:12). The altar of incense was connected with the altar of burnt offering by its horns being sprinkled with the blood of the sin offering on the altar of burnt offering on the day of atonement (Le 16:16,18; Ex 30:10). Incense symbolizes not merely prayer, but prayer accepted before God because of atonement: "let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, and the lifting up (answering to the rising up of the incense smoke) of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Ps 141:2).
For prayer was offered by the pious Jews at the times of the morning and evening sacrifices on the altar of burnt offering, which were accompanied with the incense on the altar of incense, thus marking that prayer rests upon propitiation By sacrifice. In Mal 1:11 there is no "shall be" in Hebrew. Probably then the ellipse is to be filled up with is as much as shall be. By the Jews' wide dispersion already some knowledge of Jehovah was being imparted to the Gentiles, and an earnest existed of the future magnifying of Jehovah's name among the Gentiles "from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same." The Gentiles already were having glimmerings of the true light, and in every nation a few were heartily trying to serve God so far as they knew. Their worship, as yet imperfect but sincere, is "pure" in comparison with your "polluted bread" (Mal 1:7,12-14; Ac 10:34-35; 17:23; Ro 2:14-15,27-29).
The incense which shall yet be offered "in every place" is prayer accepted through Christ (1Ti 2:8). This shall be consummated at Christ's appearing (Zec 14:9; Zep 3:9). The "pure offering" is the "body, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable. unto God" (Ro 12:1); the "broken and contrite heart" (Ps 51:17); "praise, the fruit of the lips"; "doing good," and imparting to the needy (Heb 13:10,15-16; 1Pe 2:5,12). In Re 5:8 it is the golden vials not the incense odors (not thumiamata but fialas, hai) which are the prayers of saints. In Re 8:3-4 the incense is distinct from, yet offered with, their prayers, the angel presenting them before God. It is not said he intercedes for us, still less that we should pray to him to do so; nay this is expressly forbidden (Re 19:10; 22:8-9).
Precise instructions were given as to how the sweet incense was to be made that was burnt in the tabernacle. It was a compound of sweet spices: stacte, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankincense, an equal weight of each. It was to be compounded after the art of the apothecary, tempered together (or salted, marg.), pure, and holy. No one was to make any like it for their private use: anyone who did so was to be cut off from God's people. Ex 30:34-38. This incense was to be burnt on the golden altar morning and evening: "a perpetual incense before the Lord." Ex 30:7-8. It expressed the fragrance of the perfections of Christ's person for God's delight. It also characterised the worship of the priestly company of those in the light, as Christians are.
The incense was also to be put on burning coals in a censer and carried by the high priest into the most holy place on the Day of Atonement, that the cloud of incense might cover the mercy seat that was upon the testimony, 'that he die not.' It typified the personal perfection of Him who carried in the blood of atonement. Le 16:12-13. We find that while the high places remained, incense was burnt there as well as sacrifices offered. 1Ki 22:43, etc. The burning of incense to Baal and other false gods is also often spoken of. Jer 1:16; 7:9, etc. Satan has his incense and perfume, and makes it a delight to his willing devotees.
from the Latin "to burn," "a mixture of gums or spices and the like, used for the purpose of producing a perfume when burned;" or the perfume itself of the spices, etc., burned in worship. The incense employed in the service of the tabernacle walls compounded of the perfumes stacte, onycha, galbanum and pure frankincense. All incense which was not made of these ingredients was forbidden to be offered.
Aaron, as high priest, was originally appointed to offer incense each morning and evening. The times of offering incense were specified in the instructions first given to Moses.
When the priest entered the holy place with the incense, all the people were removed from the temple, and from between the porch and the altar. Cf.
Profound silence was observed among the congregation who were praying without, cf.
and at a signal from the perfect the priest cast the incense on the fire and, bowing reverently toward the holy of holies, retired slowly backward. The offering of incense has formed part of the religious ceremonies of most ancient nations. It was an element in the idolatrous worship of the Israelites.
It would seem to be symbolical, not of itself, but of that which makes acceptable, the intercession of Christ. In
the incense is of as something distinct from offered with the prayers of, all the saints cf.
and in Reve 6:8 it is the golden vials, and not the odors or incense, which are said to be the prayers of saints.
INCENSE. Thus; so called by the dealers of drugs in Egypt from thur, or thor, the name of a harbour in the north bay of the Red Sea, near Mount Sinai; thereby distinguishing it from the gum arabic, which is brought from Suez, another port in the Red Sea, not far from Cairo. It differs also in being more pellucid and white. It burns with a bright and strong flame, not easily extinguished. It was used in the temple service as an emblem of prayer, Ps 141:2; Re 8:3-4. Authors give it, or the best sort of it, the epithets white, pure, pellucid; and so it may have some connection with a word, derived from the same root, signifying unstained, clear, and so applied to moral whiteness and purity, Ps 51:7; Da 12:10. This gum is said to distil from incisions made in the tree during the heat of summer. What the form of the tree is which yields it, we do not certainly know. Pliny one while says, it is like a pear tree, another, that it is like a mastic tree; then, that it is like the laurel; and, in fine, that it is a kind of turpentine tree. It has been said to grow only in the country of the Sabeans, a people in Arabia Felix; and Theophrastus and Pliny affirm that it is found in Arabia. Dioscorides, however, mentions an Indian as well as an Arabian frankincense. At the present day it is brought from the East Indies, but not of so good a quality as that from Arabia. The "sweet incense," mentioned Ex 30:7, and elsewhere, was a compound of several drugs, agreeably to the direction in the thirty-fourth verse. To offer incense was an office peculiar to the priests. They went twice a day into the holy place; namely, morning and evening, to burn incense there. Upon the great, day of expiation, the high priest took incense, or perfume, pounded and ready for being put into the censer, and threw it upon the fire the moment he went into the sanctuary. One reason of this was, that so the smoke which rose from the censer might prevent his looking with too much curiosity on the ark and mercy-seat. God threatened him with death upon failing to perform this ceremony, Le 16:13. Generally incense is to be considered as an emblem of the "prayers of the saints," and is so used by the sacred writers.