Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Q&A - Why was the Altar of Incense overlayed with gold?

I have answered this question in my previous post, but I wanted to elaborate a little bit more. Here is the rendering of the Altar of Incense:

The reason for overlaying Altar of Incense with gold was pretty much the same as that for the overlaying The Ark of The Covenant - to provide choice.

The Children of Israel could either have God presence dwelling among them or they could have gold of the Altar of Incense, but never both.

Removing gold overlay from the Altar, which by reasonable calculations accounted to ~7.6kg (major ~80%portion of gold used in the construction of the Altar), we would end up with this:

Removing the solid gold parts of the Altar (its golden Crown and its 2 golden rings), we would end up with this:

As you can see from the image above, the Altar of Incense is now completely useless as it is now nothing but a fancy wooden box with a couple of wooden poles and cannot be carried around.

Among other reasons for overlaying the Altar of Incense with gold were:
  1. Aesthetic reasons, so that Altar looks nice and grand; worthy of the presence of God, so to speak.
  2. Protection from the elements, as gold practically does not oxidize (rust). And gold overlay would protect Shittim Wood base of the Altar from deterioration.
  3. Perhaps, gold overlay was also required to help "channel" God's presence to the Tabernacle, so it was essential to have Altar overlayed.
Either way and as you can see, gold overlay of the Altar of Incense (and of the other parts of the Tabernacle) played extremely important symbolic and practical role. 

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