The Bible

Bible Usage:


  • Included in Eastons: Yes
  • Included in Hitchcocks: No
  • Included in Naves: Yes
  • Included in Smiths: Yes
  • Included in Websters: Yes
  • Included in Strongs: Yes
  • Included in Thayers: Yes
  • Included in BDB: Yes

Strongs Concordance:

Easton's Bible Dictionary

(Heb. mizbe'ah, from a word meaning "to slay"), any structure of earth (Exodus 20:24) or unwrought stone (20:25) on which sacrifices were offered. Altars were generally erected in conspicuous places (Genesis 22:9; Ezekiel 6:3; 2 Kings 23:12; 16:4; 23:8; Acts 14:13). The word is used in Hebrews 13:10 for the sacrifice offered upon it--the sacrifice Christ offered.

Paul found among the many altars erected in Athens one bearing the inscription, "To the unknown God" (Acts 17:23), or rather "to an [i.e., some] unknown God." The reason for this inscription cannot now be accurately determined. It afforded the apostle the occasion of proclaiming the gospel to the "men of Athens."

The first altar we read of is that erected by Noah (Genesis 8:20). Altars were erected by Abraham (Genesis 12:7; 13:4; 22:9), by Isaac (Genesis 26:25), by Jacob (33:20; 35:1, 3), and by Moses (Exodus 17:15, "Jehovah-nissi").

In the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, two altars were erected.

1. The altar of burnt offering (Exodus 30:28), called also the "brasen altar" (Exodus 39:39) and "the table of the Lord" (Malachi 1:7).

This altar, as erected in the tabernacle, is described in Exodus 27:1-8. It was a hollow square, 5 cubits in length and in breadth, and 3 cubits in height. It was made of shittim wood, and was overlaid with plates of brass. Its corners were ornamented with "horns" (Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:18).

In Exodus 27:3 the various utensils appertaining to the altar are enumerated. They were made of brass. (Comp. 1 Samuel 2:13, 14; Leviticus 16:12; Numbers 16:6, 7.)

In Solomon's temple the altar was of larger dimensions (2 Chronicles 4:1. Comp. 1 Kings 8:22, 64; 9:25), and was made wholly of brass, covering a structure of stone or earth. This altar was renewed by Asa (2 Chronicles 15:8). It was removed by Ahaz (2 Kings 16:14), and "cleansed" by Hezekiah, in the latter part of whose reign it was rebuilt. It was finally broken up and carried away by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 52:17).

After the return from captivity it was re-erected (Ezra 3:3, 6) on the same place where it had formerly stood. (Comp. 1 Macc. 4.47.) When Antiochus Epiphanes pillaged Jerusalem the altar of burnt offering was taken away.

Again the altar was erected by Herod, and remained in its place till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans ( 70 A.D. ).

The fire on the altar was not permitted to go out (Leviticus 6:9).

In the Mosque of Omar, immediately underneath the great dome, which occupies the site of the old temple, there is a rough projection of the natural rock, of about 60 feet in its extreme length, and 50 in its greatest breadth, and in its highest part about 4 feet above the general pavement. This rock seems to have been left intact when Solomon's temple was built. It was in all probability the site of the altar of burnt offering. Underneath this rock is a cave, which may probably have been the granary of Araunah's threshing-floor (1 Chronicles 21:22).

2. The altar of incense (Exodus 30:1-10), called also "the golden altar" (39:38; Numbers 4:11), stood in the holy place "before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony." On this altar sweet spices were continually burned with fire taken from the brazen altar. The morning and the evening services were commenced by the high priest offering incense on this altar. The burning of the incense was a type of prayer (Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8; 8:3, 4).

This altar was a small movable table, made of acacia wood overlaid with gold (Exodus 37:25, 26). It was 1 cubit in length and breadth, and 2 cubits in height.

In Solomon's temple the altar was similar in size, but was made of cedar-wood (1 Kings 6:20; 7:48) overlaid with gold. In Ezekiel 41:22 it is called "the altar of wood." (Comp. Exodus 30:1-6.)

In the temple built after the Exile the altar was restored. Antiochus Epiphanes took it away, but it was afterwards restored by Judas Maccabaeus ( 1 Macc. 1.23; 4.49 ). Among the trophies carried away by Titus on the destruction of Jerusalem the altar of incense is not found, nor is any mention made of it in Hebrews 9. It was at this altar Zacharias ministered when an angel appeared to him (Luke 1:11). It is the only altar which appears in the heavenly temple (Isaiah 6:6; Revelation 8:3, 4).

Naves Topical Index

Built by:

Genesis 8:20

Genesis 12:7-8; Genesis 13:18; Genesis 22:9

Genesis 26:25

Genesis 33:20; Genesis 35:1-7

Exodus 17:15; Exodus 24:4

Numbers 23:1; Numbers 23:14; Numbers 23:29

Deuteronomy 27:4-7; Joshua 8:30-32

Reubenites and Gadites
Joshua 22:10; Joshua 22:34

Judges 6:26-27

1 Samuel 7:17

1 Samuel 14:35

2 Samuel 24:18-19

1 Kings 18:31-32

Mosaic commandments prescribing the construction of
Exodus 20:24-26; Deuteronomy 27:5-7; Joshua 8:30-31; Ezekiel 43:13

Used in idolatrous worship
Judges 6:25; 1 Kings 12:32; 1 Kings 16:32; 1 Kings 18:26; 2 Kings 16:10; 2 Kings 23:12; 2 Kings 23:15; Isaiah 27:9; Isaiah 65:3; Hosea 8:11; Acts 17:23

Of burnt offerings:

Called Brazen Altar
Exodus 39:39; 1 Kings 8:64

Called Altar of God
Psalms 43:4

Called Altar of the Lord
Malachi 2:13

In the tabernacle:

Pattern of
Exodus 27:1-8

Constructed by Bezaleel
Exodus 38:1-7; Exodus 37:1

Location of
Exodus 40:6; Exodus 40:29; Ezekiel 8:16; Matthew 23:35

Furniture of
Exodus 27:3-7; Exodus 38:3-7; 1 Samuel 2:13-14

Horns of
Exodus 27:2

Uses of the horns
Psalms 118:27

How sanctified
Exodus 29:36-37; Exodus 29:44; Exodus 30:26-28; Exodus 40:10; Leviticus 8:10-11; Leviticus 4:7; Ezekiel 43:18-27

Sanctified everything that touched it
Exodus 29:37; Exodus 30:29; Matthew 23:18-19

A place of refuge
Exodus 21:14; 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28

In Solomon's temple:

Description of
2 Chronicles 4:1

Renewed by Asa
2 Chronicles 15:8

Removed by Ahaz, and one of idolatrous fashion substituted
2 Kings 16:14-17

Cleansed by Hezekiah
2 Chronicles 29:18-24

Repaired by Manasseh
2 Chronicles 33:16

Furniture of, taken to Babylon
2 Kings 25:14

In second temple
Ezra 3:1-6

Ezekiel's vision of
Ezekiel 43:13-27
Tabernacle; Temple

Of incense

Called Golden Altar
Exodus 39:38; Numbers 4:11

Called Altar of Sweet Incense
Leviticus 4:7

Called Altar Before the Lord
Leviticus 16:18

Pattern of
Exodus 30:1-5

Exodus 37:25-28

Location of
Exodus 30:6; Exodus 40:5; Exodus 40:26

A cover made for the censers of Korah
Numbers 16:36-40

Uses of
Exodus 30:7-10; Exodus 30:26-27; Exodus 40:27; Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 4:18; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 9:9; Leviticus 16:12; Leviticus 16:18

How prepared for carrying
Numbers 4:4-15

Carried by the Kohathites
Numbers 3:27-31

In Solomon's temple
1 Kings 6:19-20; 1 Kings 7:48; 1 Chronicles 28:18

Seen in John's vision
Revelation 8:3; Revelation 9:13

Smith's Bible Dictionary

The first altar of which we have any account is that built by Noah when he left the ark. (Genesis 8:20) In the early times altars were usually built in certain spots hallowed by religious associations, e.g., where God appeared. (Genesis 12:7; 13:18; 26:25; 35:1) Though generally erected for the offering of sacrifice, in some instances they appear to have been only memorials. (Genesis 12:7; Exodus 17:15,16) Altars were most probably originally made of earth. The law of Moses allowed them to be made of either earth or unhewn stones. (Exodus 20:24,25) I. The Altar of Burnt Offering . It differed in construction at different times. (1) In the tabernacle, (Exodus 27:1) ff.; Exodus 38:1 ff., it was comparatively small and portable. In shape it was square. It as five cubits in length, the same in breadth, and three cubits high. It was made of planks of shittim (or acacia) wood overlaid with brass. The interior was hollow. (Exodus 27:8) At the four corners were four projections called horns made, like the altar itself, of shittim wood overlaid with brass, (Exodus 27:2) and to them the victim was bound when about to be sacrificed. (Psalms 118:27) Round the altar, midway between the top and bottom, ran a projecting ledge, on which perhaps the priest stood when officiating. To the outer edge of this, again, a grating or network of brass was affixed, and reached to the bottom of the altar. At the four corners of the network were four brazen rings, into which were inserted the staves by which the altar was carried. These staves were of the same material as the altar itself. As the priests were forbidden to ascend the altar by steps, (Exodus 20:26) it has been conjectured that a slope of earth led gradually up to the ledge from which they officiated. The place of the altar was at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.)" (Exodus 40:29) (2) In Solomon's temple the altar was considerably larger in its dimensions. It differed too in the material of which it was made, being entirely of brass. (1 Kings 8:64; 2 Chronicles 7:7) It had no grating, and instead of a single gradual slope, the ascent to it was probably made by three successive platforms, to each of which it has been supposed that steps led. The altar erected by Herod in front of the temple was 15 cubits in height and 50 cubits in length and breadth. According to (Leviticus 6:12,13) a perpetual fire was to be kept burning on the altar. II. The Altar of Incense , called also the golden altar to distinguish it from the altar of burnt offering which was called the brazen altar. (Exodus 38:30) (a) That in the tabernacle was made of acacia wood, overlaid with pure gold. In shape it was square, being a cubit in length and breadth and two cubits in height. Like the altar of burnt offering it had horns at the four corners, which were of one piece with the rest of the altar. This altar stood in the holy place, "before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony." (Exodus 30:6; 40:5) (b) The altar of Solomon's temple was similar, (1 Kings 7:48; 1 Chronicles 28:18) but was made of cedar overlaid with gold. III. Other Altars . In (Acts 17:23) reference is made to an alter to an unknown God. There were several altars in Athens with this inscription, erected during the time of a plague. Since they knew not what god was offended and required to be propitiated.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

AL'TAR, noun [Latin altare, probably from the same root as altus, high.

1. A mount; a table or elevated place, on which sacrifices where anciently offered to some deity. Altars were originally made of turf, afterwards of stone, wood or horn; some were round, others square, others triangular. They differed also in height, but all faced the east. The principal altars of the Jews were, the altar of incense, of burnt-offerings, and of shewbread; all of shittim wood, and covered with gold or brass.

2. In modern churches, the communion table; and, figuratively, a church; a place of worship.

3. In scripture, Christ is called the altar of Christians, he being the atoning sacrifice for sin.

We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat, who serve tabernacles. Hebrews 13:10.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

AL'TARAGE, noun The profits arising to priests from oblations, or on account of the altar. Also, in law, altars erected in virtue of donations, before the reformation, within a parochial church, for the purpose of singing a mass for deceased friends.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

AL'TAR-CLOTH, noun A cloth to lay upon an altar in churches.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

AL'TARIST, or AL'TAR-THANE, noun In old laws, an appellation given to the priest to whom the altarage belonged; also a chaplain.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

AL'TAR-PIECE, noun A painting placed over the altar in a church.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

AL'TARIST, or AL'TAR-THANE, noun In old laws, an appellation given to the priest to whom the altarage belonged; also a chaplain.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary

AL'TAR-WISE, adverb Placed in the manner of an altar.