•  1 min. read  •  grade level: 11
A structure on which to offer sacrifices to God: imitated by the heathen in honor of their false gods. The first altar we read of was built by Noah on leaving the ark, on which he offered burnt offerings of every clean beast and clean fowl (Gen. 8:2020And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20)). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob also built altars to the Lord: these would have been constructed of stone or earth, but it is remarkable that we seldom read of their offering sacrifices on them. At times it is simply said they built an altar unto the Lord and at other times they built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord. The altars appear to have been erected as places of drawing near to God, of which sacrifice was the basis.
Moses was told that in all places where God recorded His name they should build an altar of wood or of stone and offer thereon sheep and oxen for burnt offerings and peace offerings; but such altars if made of stone were not to be made of hewn stone; for had they lifted up a tool upon it, it would have been defiled (Ex. 20:25-2625And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. 26Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon. (Exodus 20:25‑26)). There must be nothing of man’s handiwork in approaching to God: a principle, alas, grossly violated in the professing church of God! It is added, “neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.” Man’s contrivance is here forbidden, for in divine things anything of his only manifests the utter shamelessness of that which springs from fallen nature (compare Col. 2:20-2320Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21(Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20‑23)). When the tabernacle was made, minute instructions were given to Moses, and he was to make everything as had been shown him in the mount.