The Brazen Altar

Exodus 27:1‑8; 2 Chronicles 4:1; Ezekiel 43:13‑17; Leviticus 6:9; 1 Kings 1:50‑51; Exodus 21:14; 1 Corinthians 10:18‑21; Hebrews 13:10; Revelation 8:3‑5; Revelation 9:13; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 6:9; Isaiah 6:6  •  2 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The brazen altar was to be made of shittim wood overlaid with brass, whence its name; it was to be 3 cubits high and 5 cubits on each side1 (Ex. 27:1-81And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits. 2And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass. 3And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass. 4And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brazen rings in the four corners thereof. 5And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar. 6And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass. 7And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it. 8Hollow with boards shalt thou make it: as it was showed thee in the mount, so shall they make it. (Exodus 27:1‑8)). In the temple built by Solomon this altar was made of brass, and was 10 cubits high and 20 cubits in length and breadth (same size as the holiest of all) (2 Chron. 4:11Moreover he made an altar of brass, twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof. (2 Chronicles 4:1)). (See Ezekiel 43:13-1713And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar. 14And from the bottom upon the ground even to the lower settle shall be two cubits, and the breadth one cubit; and from the lesser settle even to the greater settle shall be four cubits, and the breadth one cubit. 15So the altar shall be four cubits; and from the altar and upward shall be four horns. 16And the altar shall be twelve cubits long, twelve broad, square in the four squares thereof. 17And the settle shall be fourteen cubits long and fourteen broad in the four squares thereof; and the border about it shall be half a cubit; and the bottom thereof shall be a cubit about; and his stairs shall look toward the east. (Ezekiel 43:13‑17) for the altar in the future temple.) The brazen altar was also called “the altar of burnt offering”; on it a fire was constantly burning (Lev. 6:99Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it. (Leviticus 6:9)), and on it the offerings were consumed, that is, on the “grate” that was placed in its midst. It had horns at each of its corners, on which the blood of the sin offering was placed. There men fled for refuge and caught hold of the horns for safety (1 Kings 1:50-5150And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar. 51And it was told Solomon, saying, Behold, Adonijah feareth king Solomon: for, lo, he hath caught hold on the horns of the altar, saying, Let king Solomon swear unto me to day that he will not slay his servant with the sword. (1 Kings 1:50‑51); compare Ex. 21:1414But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die. (Exodus 21:14)). The position of the brazen altar arrested the offerer as he entered the court, and pointed out that the only way of access to the Lord was by a sacrifice. Death must take place ere fallen man could enter the dwelling place of God.
To the Hebrew believers it was said, “We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle” (Heb. 13:1010We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. (Hebrews 13:10)). This refers to the sin-offering, whose blood was carried into the holiest, the flesh of which was not eaten, but burnt without the camp. Jesus had suffered without the gate, and hence to be in company with Him, believers were instructed to quit the camp; that is, to leave Judaism. As still serving the tabernacle they had no right to the Christian’s altar.
In the Revelation there is the golden altar in heaven, and much incense ascends with the prayers of the saints; but fire from the brazen altar is east upon the earth, and it is followed by judgments (Rev. 8:3-53And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 4And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand. 5And the angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar, and cast it into the earth: and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightnings, and an earthquake. (Revelation 8:3‑5); compare also Revelation 9:1313And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, (Revelation 9:13)). And John heard the altar say (as the passage should read) “Yea, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” (Rev. 16:77And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments. (Revelation 16:7)); this is no doubt the brazen alter (compare Rev. 6:99And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: (Revelation 6:9) and Isa. 6:66Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: (Isaiah 6:6)).