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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

 Exodus 30:1;  Exodus 30:9;  Exodus 30:34, 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 of Solomon 3:6;  Matthew 2:11; obtained from India through the Sabeans of S. Arabia; the tree is Βoswellia Thurifera , the native Salai ; the gum is called Oliban , Arabic Looban , from whence the Hebrew Lebonah comes).

These were "tempered together," Hebrew "salted"; compare  Leviticus 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 ( Leviticus 30:10). 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,"  Leviticus 30:9) 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 ( Luke 1:9). King Uzziah for usurping the office was smitten with leprosy ( 2 Chronicles 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  Exodus 30:7-8;  Revelation 8:1;  Revelation 8:3-5). 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);  Luke 1:10, "the whole multitude ... were praying without, at the time of incense," silently, which accords with  Revelation 8:1;  Revelation 8:3. The priest avoided lengthening his stay within, lest the people outside should fear he had been struck dead for some defect in his offering ( Leviticus 16:13). This gives point to  Luke 1:21, "the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple." On coming forth he pronounced the blessing ( Numbers 6:24-26); the Levites broke forth into sacred song, accompanied by the temple music (Mishna); compare  Revelation 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 ( Leviticus 16:12-13).

"He shall take a (Hebrew the) censer (see  Hebrews 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 .) ( Revelation 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" ( Hebrews 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 ( Leviticus 16:16;  Leviticus 16:18;  Exodus 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" ( Psalms 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  Malachi 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" ( Malachi 1:7;  Malachi 1:12-15;  Acts 10:34-35;  Acts 17:23;  Romans 2:14-15;  Romans 2:27-29).

The incense which shall yet be offered "in every place" is prayer accepted through Christ ( 1 Timothy 2:8). This shall be consummated at Christ's appearing ( Zechariah 14:9;  Zephaniah 3:9). The "pure offering" is the "body, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable. unto God" ( Romans 12:1); the "broken and contrite heart" ( Psalms 51:17); "praise, the fruit of the lips"; "doing good," and imparting to the needy ( Hebrews 13:10;  Hebrews 13:15-16;  1 Peter 2:5;  1 Peter 2:12). In  Revelation 5:8 it is the golden vials not the incense odors (not Thumiamata but Fialas , Hai ) which are the prayers of saints. In  Revelation 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 ( Revelation 19:10;  Revelation 22:8-9).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

INCENSE. —The English word comes from the Lat. incensus , ‘burnt’ ( incendere , ‘to burn’), and is applied to the materials used for making a perfume which was emitted by the materials being burned. These materials consist of fragrant gums, spices, and scents.

‘Incense’ is the usual translation of θυμιαυα, which occurs in the NT 6 times only:  Luke 1:10-11,  Revelation 5:8;  Revelation 8:3-4;  Revelation 18:13. In the passages in Rev. it is always in the plural, and in  Revelation 18:13 is rendered in Authorized Version by ‘odours.’ θυμιαμα is the LXX Septuagint equivalent of Heb. קִטרָת, which comes from קטר ‘to raise an odour by burning,’ and so ‘to burn incense.’ Cognate Gr. words are θυμιάω, ‘to burn incense,’  Luke 1:9 (ἅτ. λεγ. in NT); and θυμιατήριον,  Hebrews 9:4 ‘censer,’ or ‘altar of incense.’ The root of these words is θύω = (1) ‘to be in heat,’ (2) ‘to burn,’ (3) ‘to sacrifice (by burning)’; see Grimm-Thayer, s.v. , and cf. θυμίς and θυμόω. The word θυμίαμα is to be carefully distinguished from λίβανος, ‘frankincense’ (Heb. לְבוֹנָה). The latter was an ingredient of the former. λίβανος is found twice in NT ( Matthew 2:11 and  Revelation 18:13, in the latter together with θυμιάματα).

Incense came to be used in connexion with the Levitical worship in the Temple. Special care was to be taken in the making of it ( Exodus 30:34 f. P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ). Several passages in the OT indicate that the Israelites came to regard it (as they did other ceremonies) per se , apart from its spiritual meaning. Hence the denunciations of the prophets ( Isaiah 1:13 etc.). In the NT it is referred to only in connexion with the daily service of the Temple (Luke 1), and also as part of the symbolical heavenly worship in the Apocalypse. In  Revelation 5:8;  Revelation 8:3-4 it is associated with the prayers of the saints; in  Revelation 5:8 apparently being identified with the prayers, and in  Revelation 8:3-4 added to the prayers (cf. ταῖς προσευχαῖς in both verses), as though to render them acceptable. Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘with’ in  Revelation 8:4 seems impossible.

The symbolism seems to be generally that of worship, which, like incense, ascends from earth to heaven. In  Psalms 141:2 prayer is thus likened to incense. Godet (on  Luke 1:10) thinks there was a close connexion between the two acts of burning incense and offering prayer.

‘The one was the typical, ideal, and therefore perfectly pure prayer; the other the real prayer, which was inevitably imperfect and defiled. The former covered the latter with its sanctity, the latter communicated to the former its reality and life. Thus they were the complement of each other.’

Incense is used in worship in the Greek and Roman Catholic Churches, and by some congregations in the Anglican Church. Its earliest use in the Christian Church seems to have been as a fumigant (so Tertullian). No liturgical use is known for at least 4 if not 5 centuries. Up till then it was regarded as a relic of heathenism. As the Holy Communion came to be regarded as a sacrifice, and in some respects analogous to the Jewish sacrifices, incense became gradually associated with Christian worship. It is at least noteworthy that there is an entire absence of any reference to incense in the Christian Church of the NT in Acts and the Epistles, the only allusions being those in the symbolism of the Apocalypse. May not this be rightly regarded as an argumentum e silentio  ? Having the substance, what need is there of the shadow? ( John 4:23-24).

Literature.—Artt. ‘Incense,’ ‘Frankincense’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible; ‘Incense’ in Smith’s DC A [Note: CA Dictionary of Christian Antiquities.] ; Godet and Plummer on  Luke 1:9-11; Speaker’s Com . on  Revelation 5:8;  Revelation 8:3;  Revelation 18:13.

W. H. Griffith Thomas.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

Incense was a substance produced by grinding and blending certain spices. When burnt it gave off thick white smoke and a strong smell, characteristics that gave incense its ceremonial usefulness.

Part of Israel’s religious ritual was to burn incense on the altar inside the tabernacle in a symbolic offering of prayer to God ( Exodus 30:1;  Psalms 141:2;  Revelation 8:3; cf.  Malachi 1:11). In addition to burning incense at certain ceremonies (e.g.  Leviticus 16:12-13), the priests burnt incense every morning and evening, to symbolize before God the unceasing devotion of his people ( Exodus 30:7-8;  Luke 1:10).

Israel’s law allowed only the priests to burn incense ( Exodus 30:7-9;  Numbers 3:10). This restriction prompted Korah and other Levites to rebel against Moses and Aaron. Moses tested them by telling them to burn incense to see whether God approved. The outcome was that God destroyed them in a fiery judgment ( Numbers 16:1-11;  Numbers 16:35).

The art of preparing incense was well known in Egypt and Arabia, and the Israelites had apparently learnt such skills from these people. But the formula God gave to Moses was to be used only for the incense of the tabernacle ( Exodus 30:34-38). One ingredient of the incense, frankincense, was also burnt with the cereal offering, and was placed on the sacred bread that was kept inside the tabernacle ( Exodus 30:34;  Leviticus 6:15;  Leviticus 24:7). The wise men who visited the baby Jesus presented frankincense as an expression of their homage ( Matthew 2:11).

Spices used in the making of incense came from the gum of certain trees and from various plants and herbs (Song of  Song of Solomon 4:14). Some of these were grown locally, but many were imported from the east and were an important source of income for ancient traders ( Genesis 37:25; Song of  Song of Solomon 3:6;  Isaiah 60:6;  Jeremiah 6:20). (For details of the ointments, medicines, cosmetics and perfumes that were made from spices and vegetable oils see Oil ; Spices .)

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

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,   Psalms 141:2;  Revelation 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,  Psalms 51:7;  Daniel 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  Exodus 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,  Leviticus 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.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

A — 1: Θυμίαμα (Strong'S #2368 — Noun Neuter — thumiama — thoo-mee'-am-ah )

denotes "fragrant stuff for burning, incense" (from thuo, "to offer in sacrifice"),  Luke 1:10,11; in the plural,  Revelation 5:8;  18:13 , RV (AV, "odors");  Revelation 8:3,4 , signifying "frankincense" here. In connection with the tabenacle, the "incense" was to be prepared from stacte, onycha, and galbanum, with pure frankincense, an equal weight of each; imitation for private use was forbidden,  Exodus 30:34-38 . See Odor. Cp. thumiaterion, "a censer,"   Hebrews 9:4 , and libanos, "frankincense,"  Revelation 18:13; see Frankincense.

B — 1: Θυμιάω (Strong'S #2370 — Verb — thumiao — thoo-mee-ah'-o )

"to burn incense" (see A), is found in  Luke 1:9 .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Incense. 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.  Exodus 30:9.

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.  Exodus 30:7-8. 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. Compare  Luke 1:10.

Profound silence was observed among the congregation who were praying without, compare  Revelation 8:1, 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.  2 Chronicles 34:25;  Jeremiah 11:12;  Jeremiah 11:17;  Jeremiah 48:35.

It would seem to be symbolical, not of itself, but of that which makes acceptable, the intercession of Christ . In  Revelation 8:3-4, the incense is of as something distinct from offered with the prayers of, all the saints, compare  Luke 1:10 and in  Revelation 6:8, it is the golden vials, and not the odors or incense, which are said to be the prayers of saints.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

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,  Exodus 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,  Leviticus 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,"  Psalm 141:2   Luke 2:9   Revelation 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,  Psalm 66:15 . For a description of the altar of incense, see Altar .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]

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.  Exodus 30:34-38 . This incense was to be burnt on the golden altar morning and evening: "a perpetual incense before the Lord."  Exodus 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.  Leviticus 16:12,13 . We find that while the high places remained, incense was burnt there as well as sacrifices offered.  1 Kings 22:43 , etc. The burning of incense to Baal and other false gods is also often spoken of.  Jeremiah 1:16;  Jeremiah 7:9 , etc. Satan has his incense and perfume, and makes it a delight to his willing devotees.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [9]

INCENSE . (1) lebônâh , which should always be tr. [Note: translate or translation.] ‘frankincense’ (wh. see). It was burnt with the meat-offering (  Leviticus 2:1-2;   Leviticus 2:15-16;   Leviticus 6:15 etc.), and offered with the shewbread (  Leviticus 24:7-9 ). (2) qetôreth , lit. ‘smoke,’ and so used in   Isaiah 1:13 ,   Psalms 66:15;   Psalms 141:2; used for a definite substance,   Leviticus 10:1 ,   Ezekiel 8:11 etc. (3) thumiama (Gr.),   Luke 1:10 ,   Revelation 5:8;   Revelation 8:3;   Revelation 18:13 . The holy incense (  Exodus 30:34 ) was made of stacte, onycha, galbanum, and frankincense, but the incense of later times, which was offered daily ( Jdt 9:1 ,   Luke 1:8-10 ), was more complicated. According to Josephus, it had thirteen constituents ( BJ V. v. 5). Incense was originally burned in censers , but these were latterly used only to carry coals from the great altar to the ‘altar of incense.’

E. W. G. Masterman.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [10]

Incense. The sacred perfume offered to God by burning on the incense altar. The gums which composed it are mentioned in  Exodus 30:34-38, including salt, for v. 35 reads, "seasoned with salt" in the R. V. Incense was to be burnt on the altar made for the purpose twice a day, in the morning when the lamps were dressed, and also when they were lighted in the evening. It might seem as if this work were restricted to the high priest,  Exodus 30:7-8; but certainly the ordinary priests are found burning incense,  Leviticus 10:1; and, in later times at least, those who so officiated were chosen by lot,  Luke 1:8-9; the people being of course without, v. 10, and probably praying in silence: comp.  Revelation 8:1;  Revelation 8:3. There was another solemn burning of incense—and this was the high priest's peculiar office—on the great day of atonement.  Leviticus 16:13. Jewish writers have said that the incense was to counteract the unpleasant smell which might arise from the carcases of victims. But it had a higher purpose. The psalmist,  Psalms 141:2, indicates this, his words implying that prayer was in reality what incense was in symbol.

Webster's Dictionary [11]

(1): ( v. t.) To inflame with anger; to endkindle; to fire; to incite; to provoke; to heat; to madden.

(2): ( v. t.) To set on fire; to inflame; to kindle; to burn.

(3): ( n.) To offer incense to. See Incense.

(4): ( n.) Also used figuratively.

(5): ( n.) To perfume with, or as with, incense.

(6): ( n.) The perfume or odors exhaled from spices and gums when burned in celebrating religious rites or as an offering to some deity.

(7): ( n.) The materials used for the purpose of producing a perfume when burned, as fragrant gums, spices, frankincense, etc.

King James Dictionary [12]

IN'CENSE, n. in'cens. L. incensum, burnt, from incendo, to burn.

1. Perfume exhaled by fire the odors of spices and gums, burnt in religious rites, or as an offering to some deity.

A thick cloud of incense went up.  Ezekiel 8 .

2. The materials burnt for making perfumes. The incense used in the Jewish offerings was a mixture of sweet spices, stacte, onycha, galbanum, and the gum of the frankincense tree.

Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein and put incense thereon. Lex 10

3. Acceptable prayers and praises. Mal.l. 4. In the Materia Medica, a dry resinous substance known by the name of thus and olibanum.

IN'CENSE, in'cens. To perfume with incense. In the Romish church, it is the deacon's office to incense the officiating priest or prelate, and the choir.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [13]

 Exodus 30:1 (c) A figure of the sweet, fragrant life of the Lord Jesus offered up to GOD during His life of suffering and death of agony wherein and wherewith GOD was well pleased.


 Exodus 30:9 (c) In this case, the strange incense is a figure of human activities and religious performances which are offered to GOD for His acceptance in competition with and instead of the life of the Lord JESUS. It is human merit substituted for CHRIST's merit.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [14]

 Exodus 30:34-36 Psalm 141:1,2 Revelation 5:8 8:3,4

Holman Bible Dictionary [15]

 Exodus 25:6 Luke 1:8-20

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [16]

No text for this entry.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [17]

( ק 2 ַ 2 ְטוֹרָה , Ketorah',  Deuteronomy 33:10; usually קְטֹרֶת , Keto'Reth, which is once applied likewise to The Fat of rams, being the part always burned in sacrifice; once קַטֵּי , kitter'.  Jeremiah 44:21; all forms of the verb קָטִּי , prop. to Smoke, hence to cause an odor by burning, often itself applied to the act of burning incense; Greek, Θυμίαμα and cognate terms; sometimes לְבוֹנָה :, Lebonah',  Isaiah 43:23;  Isaiah 60:6;  Isaiah 66:3;  Jeremiah 6:20;  Jeremiah 17:26;  Jeremiah 41:5, frankincense, as elsewhere rendered), a perfume which gives forth its fragrance by burning, and in particular, that perfume which was burned upon the Jewish altar of incense. (See Weimar, De sufftu aromatum, Jen. 1678.) (See Altar).

Indeed, the burning of incense seems to have been considered among the Hebrews so much of an act of worship or sacred offering that we read not of any other use of incense than this among them. Nor among the Egyptians do we discover any trace of burned perfume except in sacerdotal use; but in Persian sculptures we see incense burned before the king. The offering of incense has formed a part of the religious ceremonies of most ancient nations. The Egyptians burned resin in honor of the sun at its rising, myrrh when at its meridian, and a mixture called kuphi at its setting (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 5, 315). Plutarch (De Is. Et Os. c. 52, 80) describes kuphi as a mixture of sixteen ingredients. "In the temple of Siva incense is offered to the Lingam six times in twenty-four hours" (Roberts, Oriental Illust. p. 368). It was also an element in the idolatrous worship of the Israelites ( Jeremiah 11:12;  Jeremiah 11:17;  Jeremiah 48:35;  2 Chronicles 34:25).

1. The incense employed in the service of the tabernacle was distinguished as קְטֹרֶת הִסִּמַּים (Ketdoeth Has-Sammim;  Exodus 25:6, Incense Of The Aromnas; Sept. Σύνθεσις Τοῦ Θυμιάματος ; Vulg. Thymiamata Boni Odores; A.V. "sweet incense"). The ingredients of the sacred incense are enumerated with great precision in  Exodus 30:34-35 : "Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte ( נָטָ , Nataph), and onycha ( שְׁחֵלֶת , Shecheleth), and galbanum ( חֶלְבְּנָה . Chelbenah); these sweet spices with pure frankincense ( לְבֹנָה , Lebonah): of each shall there be a like weight. And thou shalt make of it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy." See each of these ingredients in its alphabetical place. All incense which was not made of these ingredients was called קְטוֹרָה זָרָה (ketorah zarah), "strange incense,"  Exodus 30:9, and was forbidden to be offered. According to Rashi on  Exodus 30:34, the above-mentioned perfumes were mixed in equal proportions, seventy manehs being taken of each. They were compounded by the skill of the apothecary, to whose use, according to Rabbinical tradition, was devoted a portion of the Temple, called, from the name of the family whose especial duty it was to prepare the incense, "the house of Abtines." So in the large temples of India "is retained a man whose chief business it is to distil sweet waters from flowers, and to extract oil from wood, flowers, and other substances" (Roberts, Oriental Illust. p. 82). The priest or Levite to whose care the incense was intrusted was one of the fifteen ממונים (Memunnim), or prefects of the Temple. Constant watch was kept in the house of Abtines that the incense might always be in readiness (Buxtorf, Lexicon Talmud. s.v. אבטינם ). In addition to the four ingredients already mentioned, Jarchi enumerates seven others, thus making eleven, which the Jewish doctors affirm were communicated to Moses on Mount Sinai. Josephus (War, 5, 5, 5) mentions thirteen. The proportions of the additional spices are given by Maimonides (Cele Hammnikddsh, 2, 2, § 3) as follows: of myrrh, cassia, spikenard, and saffron, sixteen manehs each; of costus, twelve manehs; cinnamon, nine manehs; sweet bark, three manehs. The weight of the whole confection was 368 manehs. To these was added the fourth part of a cab of salt of Sodom, with amber of Jordan, and an herb called the smoke-raiser" ( מעלה עשׁן , Maaleh Aishan), known only to the cunning in such matters, to whom the secret descended by tradition. In the ordinary daily service one maneh was used, half in the morning and half in the evening. Allowing, then, one maneh of incense for each day of the solar year, the three manehs which remained were again pounded, and used by the high priest on the day of atonement ( Leviticus 16:12).

A store of it was constantly kept in the Temple (Joseph. War, 6, 8, 3). The further directions are that this precious compound should be made or broken up into minute particles, and that it should be deposited, as a very holy thing, in the tabernacle "before the testimony" (or ark). As the ingredients are so minutely specified, there was nothing to prevent wealthy persons from having a similar perfume for private use: this, therefore, was forbidden under pain of excommunication: "Ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people" (v.  Exodus 30:37-38). So in some part of India, according to Michaelis (Mosaische Recht, art. 249), it was considered high treason for any person to make use of the best sort of calcambak, which was for the service of the king alone. The word which describes the various ingredients as being "tempered together" literally means salted ( מְמֻלָּה , Memulnlach). The Chaldee and Greek versions, however, have set the example of rendering it by Mixed or Tempered, as if their idea was that the different ingredients were to be mixed together. just as salt is mixed with any substance over which it is sprinkled. Ainsworth contends for the literal meaning, inasmuch as the law ( Leviticus 2:13) expressly says, "With all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt." In support of this he cites Maimonides, who affirms that there was not anything offered on the altar without salt, except the wine of the drink offering, and the blood, and the wood; and of the incense he says, still more expressly, that "they added to it a cab of salt." In accordance with this, it is supposed, our Savior says. "Every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" ( Mark 9:49). Ainsworth further remarks: "If our speech is to be always with grace, seasoned with salt, as the apostle teaches ( Colossians 4:6), how much more should our incense, our prayers unto God, be therewith seasoned!" It is difficult, however, to see how so anomalous a substance as salt could well be combined in the preparation; and if it was used, as we incline to think that it was, it was probably added in the act of offering. (See Salt).

The expression בִּד בְּבִד (Bad Bebad),  Exodus 30:34, is interpreted by the Chaldee "weight by weight," that is, an equal weight of each (comp. Jarchi, ad loc.); and this rendering is adopted by our version. Others, however, and among them Aben-Ezra and Maimonides, consider it as signifying that each of the spices was separately prepared, and that all were afterwards mixed.

2. Aaron, as high-priest, was originally appointed to offer incense, but in the daily service of the second Temple the office devolved upon the inferior priests, from among whom one was chosen by lot (Mishna, oma, 2, 4;  Luke 1:9) each morning and evening (Abarbanel, On  Leviticus 10:1). A peculiar blessing was supposed to be attached to this service, and in order that all might share in it, the lot was cast among those who were "new to the incense," if any remained (Mishna, Yoma, 1. c.; Bartenora, On Tamid, 5, 2). Uzziah was punished for his presumption in attempting to infringe the prerogatives of the descendants of Aaron, who were consecrated to burn incense ( 2 Chronicles 26:16-21; Joseph. Ant. 9, 10, 4). The officiating priest appointed another, whose office it was to take the fire from the brazen altar. According to Maimonides (Tamid Unus, 1', 8; 3:5), this fire was taken from the second pile, which was over against the S.E. corner of the altar of burnt offering, and was of fig-tree wood. A silver shovel ( מִחְתָּה machtah) was first filled with the live coals, and afterwards emptied into a golden one, smaller than the former, so that some of the coals were spilled (Mishna, Tamid, 5, 5; Yoma; 4, 4; comp.  Revelation 8:5). Another priest cleared the golden altar from the cinders which had been left at the previous offering of incense (Mishna, Tamid, 3, 6, 9; 6:1).

The times of offering incense were specified in the instructions first given to Moses ( Exodus 30:7-8). The morning incense was offered when the lamps were trimmed in the holy place, and before the sacrifice, when the watchman set for the purpose announced the break of day (Mishna, Yoma, 3:1, 5). When the lamps were lighted "between the evenings," after the evening sacrifice and before the drink-offerings were offered, incense was again burnt on the golden altar which "belonged to the oracle" ( 1 Kings 6:22), and stood before the veil which separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies, the throne of God ( Revelation 8:4; Philo, De Anim. ison. § 3).

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 (Maimonides, Tamid Ulmus, 3, 3; compare  Luke 1:10. The incense was then brought from the house of' Atines in a large vessel of gold called כִּ (Caph), in which was a phial ( בזי , ִ Bazik, properly "A Salver") containing the incense (Mishna, Tamid, 5, 4). The assistant priests who attended to the lamps, "he clearing of the golden altar from the cinders, and the fetching fire from the altar of burnt-offering, performed their offices singly, bowed towards the ark of the covenant, and left the holy place before the priest, whose lot it was to offer incense, entered. Profound silence was observed among the congregation who were praying without (comp.  Revelation 8:1), and at a signal from the prefect the priest cast the incense on the fire (Mishna, Tamid, 6, 3), and, bowing reverently towards the Holy of Holies, retired slowly backwards, not prolonging his prayer that he might not alarm the congregation, or cause them to fear that he had been struck dead for offering unworthily ( Leviticus 16:13;  Luke 1:21; Mishna, Yoma, 5, 1). When he came out he pronounced the blessing in  Numbers 6:24-26, the "magrephah" sounded, and the Levites burst forth into song, accompanied by the full swell of the Temple music, the sound of which, say the Rabbins, could be heard as far as Jericho (Mishna, Tamid, 3: 8). It is possible that this may be alluded to in  Revelation 8:5. The priest then emptied the censer in a clean place, and hung it on one of the horns of the altar of burnt-offering. (See Censer).

On the day of atonement the service was different. The high-priest, after sacrificing the bullock as a sin-offering for himself and his family, took incense in his left hand, and a golden shovel filled with live coals from the west side of the brazen altar (Jarchi, On  Leviticus 16:12) in his right, and went into the Holy of Holies. He then placed the shovel upon the ark between the two bars. In the second Temple, where there was no ark, a stone was substituted. Then, sprinkling the incense upon the coals, he stayed till the house was filled with smoke, and, walking slowly backwards, came without the veil, where he prayed for a short time (Maimonides, Yom hakkippur, quoted by Ainsworth, On Leviticus 16; Outram, De Sacrificiis, 1, 8, § 11). (See Day Of Atonement).

3. With regard to the symbolical meaning of incense, opinions have been many and widely different. While Maimonides regarded it merely as a perfume designed to counteract the effluvia arising from the beasts which were slaughtered for the daily sacrifice, other interpreters have allowed their imaginations to run riot, and vied with the wildest speculations of the Midrashim. Phile (Quis Rer. Div. Haer. Sit. § 41, p. 501) conceives the stacte and onycha to be symbolical of water and earth; galbanum and frankincense of air and fire. Josephus, following the traditions of his time, believed that the ingredients of the incense were chosen from the products of the. sea, the inhabited and the uninhabited parts of the earth, to indicate that all things are of God and for God (War, 5, 5, 5). As the Temple or tabernacle was the palace of Jehovah, the theocratic king of Israel, and the ark of the, covenant his throne, so the incense, in the opinion of. some, corresponded to the perfumes in which the luxurious monarchs of the East delighted. It may mean all this, but it must mean much more. Grotius, on  Exodus 30:1, says the mystical signification is "sursum habenda corda." Cornelius a Lapide, on  Exodus 30:34, considers it as an apt emblem of propitiation, and finds a symbolical meaning in the several ingredients. Fairbairn (Typology Of Scripture, 2, 320), with many others, looks upon prayer as the reality of which incense is the symbol, founding his conclusion upon  Psalms 141:2;  Revelation 5:8;  Revelation 8:3-4.

Bahr (Sym. D. Mos. Cult. vol. 1, c. 6: § 4) opposes this view of the subject of the ground that the chief thing in offering incense is not the producing of the smoke, which presses like prayer towards: heaven, but the spreading of the fragrance. His own exposition may be summed up as fallows. Prayer, among all Oriental nations, signifies calling upon the name of God. The oldest prayers consisted in the mere enumeration of the several titles of God. The Scripture places incense in close relationship to prayer, so that offering incense is synonymous with worship. Hence incense itself is a symbol of the name of God. The ingredients of the incense correspond severally to the perfections of God, though it is impossible to decide to which of the four names of God each belongs. Perhaps stacte corresponds to יְהֹוָה (Jehovah), onycha to אֵֹלהַים (Elohimn), galbanum to חִי (Chai), and frankincense to קָדוֹש ׁ (kadosh). Such is Bahr's exposition of the symbolism of incense, rather ingenious than logical. Looking upon incense in connection with the other ceremonial observances of the Mosaic ritual, it would rather seem to be symbolical, not of prayer itself, but of that which makes prayer acceptable, the intercession of Christ. In  Revelation 8:3-4, the incense is spoken of as something distinct from, though offered with, the prayers of all the saints (comp.  Luke 1:10); and in  Revelation 5:3 it is the golden vials, and not the odors or incense, which are said to be the prayers of saints.  Psalms 141:2, at first sight, appears to militate against this conclusion; but if it be argued from this passage that incense is an emblem of prayer, it must also be allowed that the evening sacrifice has the same symbolical meaning. (See Perfume).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [18]

in´sens ( קטרה , ḳeṭōrāh  ; in   Jeremiah 44:21 , קטּר , ḳiṭṭēr  ; in  Malachi 1:11 , קטר , ḳāṭar , "In every place incense shall be offered unto my name"; the word לבונה , lebhōnāh , translated "incense" in several passages in Isa and Jer in the King James Version, is properly "frankincense," and is so rendered in the Revised Version (British and American)): The offering of incense, or burning of aromatic substances, is common in the religious ceremonies of nearly all nations (Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, etc.), and it is natural to find it holding a prominent place in the tabernacle and temple-worship of Israel. The newer critical theory that incense was a late importation into the religion of Israel, and that the altar of incense described in  Exodus 30:1 is a post-exilian invention, rests on presuppositions which are not here admitted, and is in contradiction to the express notices of the altar of incense in   1 Kings 6:20 ,  1 Kings 6:22;  1 Kings 7:48;  1 Kings 9:25; compare  2 Chronicles 4:19 (see discussion of the subject by Delitzsch in Luthardt's Zeitschrift , 1880, 113ff). In the denunciation of Eli in  1 Samuel 2:27 , the burning of incense is mentioned as one of the functions of the priesthood ( 1 Samuel 2:28 ). The "smoke" that filled the temple in Isaiah's vision ( Isaiah 6:4 ) may be presumed to be the smoke of incense. The word keṭōrāh itself properly denotes. "smoke." For the altar of incense see the article on that subject, and Tabernacle and Temple . The incense used in the tabernacle service - called "sweet incense" ( keṭōreth ha - ṣammı̄m ,  Exodus 25:6 , etc.) - was compounded according to a definite prescription of the perfumes, stacte, onycha, galbanum and pure frankincense ( Exodus 30:34 f), and incense not so compounded was rejected as "strange incense" ( keṭōrāh zārāh ,  Exodus 30:9 ). In the offering of incense, burning coals from the altar of burnt offering were borne in a censer and put upon the altar of incense (the "golden altar" before the oracle), then the fragrant incense was sprinkled on the fire (compare  Luke 1:9 f). Ample details of the rabbinical rules about incense may be seen in the article "Incense," in DB . See Censer .

Figuratively , incense was symbolical of ascending prayer. The multitude were praying while Zacharias offered incense (  Luke 1:10 , θυμίαμα , thumı́ama ), and in  Revelation 5:8;  Revelation 8:3 f, the incense in the heavenly temple is connected and even identified (  Revelation 5:8 ) with "the prayers of the saints."

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [19]

Incense, a perfume which gives forth its fragrance by burning, and, in particular, that perfume which was burnt upon the altar of incense [[[Altar; Censer]]] Indeed, the burning of incense seems to have been considered among the Hebrews so much of an act of worship or sacred offering, that we read not of any other use of incense than this among them. Nor among the Egyptians do we discover any trace of burnt perfume except in sacerdotal use; but in the Persian sculptures we see incense burnt before the king. The prohibition of the Hebrews to make any perfume for private use—'to smell to'—like that prepared for the altar, merely implies, we apprehend, that the sacred incense had a peculiarly rich fragrance before being burnt, which was forbidden to be imitated in common perfumes.

The ingredients of the sacred incense are enumerated with great precision in : 'Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense; of each shall there be a like weight. And thou shalt make of it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy.' For an explanation of these various ingredients, we must refer to their several names in the present work. The further directions are, that this precious compound should be made or broken up into minute particles, and that it should be deposited, as a very holy thing, in the tabernacle 'before the testimony' (or ark). As the ingredients are so minutely specified, there was nothing to prevent wealthy persons from having a similar perfume for private use: and this, therefore, was forbidden under pain of excommunication: 'Ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord. Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people' .

According to Maimonides, the reason for the use of incense was to prevent the stench which would otherwise have been occasioned by the number of beasts every day slaughtered in the sanctuary, and to render the odor of the sanctuary, and of the vestments of those that ministered, exceedingly grateful.

This is very well; and no doubt the use of incense, which we always find in religions where worship is rendered by sacrifice, had its origin in some such considerations. But we are not to lose sight of the symbolical meaning of this grateful offering. It was a symbol of prayer. It was offered at the time when the people were in the posture and act of prayer; and their orisons were supposed to be presented to God by the priest, and to ascend to Him in the smoke and odor of that fragrant offering. This beautiful idea of the incense frequently occurs in Scripture (comp.;;;;; ).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [20]

A fragrance which arises from the burning of certain gums and burnt in connection with sundry religious observances, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, as an expression of praise presumably well pleasing to God; a practice which Protestants repudiate as without warrant in Scripture.