The Morning and The Evening Sacrifice
Filling the Laver
This was the third lot by which the order of the ministry for the day was determined. The first lot was cast before the actual break of day, and it was to designate the various priests who were to cleanse the altar and to prepare its fires. The very first priest on to whom the lot was cast, went out immediately. He would be over the other priests for that day.
He would be reminded where the silver chafing dish was deposited, and not to touch any sacred vessel until he had washed his hands and feet. He took no light with him, because the fire of the altar would be sufficient for his office.
Hands and feet were washed by laying the right hand on the right foot, and the left hand on the left foot. The sound of the machinery as it filled the laver with water, would be the sign to the other priests that they needed to get ready to wash themselves also.
Ben Catin, the maker, had made the laver so that 12 priests could be around it at the same time to perform their duties. This laver resembled the one that was in the Temple of Solomon. It was of brass.
All the other vessels in the Sanctuary were of metal, with the only exception being the altar of burnt-offering. This was made very solid and wholly of stones taken from virgin soil, that had not been defiled by any tool of iron. The stones were fastened together by mortar, pitch, and molten lead. We don’t know the exact measurement, as Josephus wrote down a different size than the Rabbis did.
It seems to have consisted of three sections, each narrower than the former: the base being 48 feet wide, the middle 42 feet wide, and the top being 36 feet wide. The fire was laid on the top, and the 36 feet did not include the horns of the altar nor the space where the priests moved. These are approximate, as the actual measurements were done in cubits. A cubit was five hand-breaths, or considered as about 18 inches. The sacred cubit of the Temple, though, was always measured at six hand-breadths, so these figures could be even larger than what is written here. This will give you a word picture, though.
Whatever touched the altar, or any sacred vessel was regarded as ‘sanctified’, but no vessel could be dedicated to the use of the Temple if it had not originally been destined for that use in the first place.
Preparing the Altar
While the assistant priests were waiting, the first priest had taken the silver chafing-dish, and scraped the fire on the altar, removing the burnt coals, and depositing them at a little distance north of the altar. As he descended, the other priests quickly washed their hands and feet, took shovels and prongs, and moved aside what of the sacrifices had been left unburned from the previous evening. Then they cleaned out the ashes and laid part of them on the great heap in the middle of the altar, and the rest in a place where put in a place where they would be picked up and carried out of the Temple.
The next duty was to lay on the altar fresh wood which could not be from the olive tree nor from its vine. The fire destined to feed the altar of incense could only be wood from the fig tree, so as to secure good and sufficient charcoal. Then the unconsumed pieces of the previous sacrifices were again laid upon the fire to be finished burning up.
The Second Lot
With the preliminaries finished, the priests gathered once more for the second lot to be cast. The priest on whom it fell was designated for offering the sacrifice and cleansing the candlestick and the altar of incense. The 12 priests who stood closest to him were also picked for this duty, with the first priest picked being head over them.
Immediately after casting the second lot, one of the priests was asked to ascend a hill to see if “the morning shineth already and if the sky was lit up as far as Hebron?’ If so, the head priest ordered the lamb to be brought from the chamber by the Beth-Moked, where it had been kept in readiness for four days. Others fetched the gold and silver vessels of service, of which the Rabbis wrote that there were 93.
The sacrificial lamb was watered out of a golden bowl, and examined once more by torch-light to make sure that it would be a perfect offering. Then the sacrificing priests and his assistants fastened the lamb to the second of the rings on the north side of the altar – in the morning in the western corner, and in the evening in the eastern corner.
The sacrifice was held together by its feet, with the fore and hind feet of each side being tied together. Its head was laid towards the south and fastened through a ring, and its face was turned to the west, while the sacrificing priest stood on the east side. The elders who carried the keys now gave the order for opening the Temple gates.
At long last, the great gate slowly moved on its hinges. On a signal that was given, the priests blew three blasts on their silver trumpets and summoned the Levites and the ‘representatives’ of the people to their duties. The trumpets announced to the city that the morning sacrifice was about to be offered. Immediately the great gates were opened which led into the Holy Place itself, so that the priests could cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense.
The Altar of Incense and The Candlestick
This section is to describe the service of those whose duty it was to cleanse the altar of incense and to dress the golden candlestick in the Holy Place.
The Altar of Incense was square, being 18 inches long and broad, and 36 inches high. That makes it 9 inches higher than the table of shewbread, but 18 inches lower than the candlestick. It had ‘horns’ on each of its four corners. It was probably hollow, and its top was covered with a golden plate (like an eastern roof) to prevent the coals and incense from falling off. Below was a massive crown of gold.
The incense that was burned upon this altar was prepared of the four ingredients mentioned in Exodus 30:34 – And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight. According to the Rabbis, there were also 7 other spices that were mixed together along with a small quantity of ‘Ambra’, which was an herb that gave out a dense smoke. Salt was also added to these 13 spices.
The mode of preparing the incense had been preserved in the family of Abtinas. Great care was taken to have it thoroughly bruised and mixed together. There were 368 pounds of it made for the year’s consumption, with about half of it being used for just the daily morning and evening sacrifices.
The censer for the Day of Atonement was different in size and appearance from that on ordinary days. The golden candlestick was made from the instructions given in Exodus 25:3 1.
While one set of priests were busy in the Court of the Priests offering the sacrifice, the two priests who had been chosen for the special duties of trimming the lamps of the candlestick and preparing the altar of incense had gone into the Holy Place. As nearly as possible while the lamb was being slain, the first of these priests took with his hands the burnt coals and ashes from the golden altar, and put them into a golden vessel called a ‘teni’ and then withdrew, leaving the vessel in the sanctuary.
Similarly, as the blood of the lamb was being sprinkled on the altar of burnt-offering, the second priest ascended the three steps, hewn in stone, which led up to the candlestick. He trimmed and refilled the lamps that were still burning, removed the sick and old oil from those which had gone out, supplied fresh oil, and then re-lit them from the other lamps. The lamp in the very center was called the western, because it was facing westward toward the Most Holy Place. The other lamps were all bent so as to face the middle one. If the fire went out of the middle one, it could only be re-lit by fire from the altar itself.
Salting the Sacrifice
Meantime in the Court of the Priests, the sacrifice had been hung on one of the hooks. Then it was flayed and cut up according to very detailed rules, cleaned, and handed to the six priests who were successively to carry up the pieces to the rise of the altar. It was here that they were salted and deposited on the altar. The Bible had said that ‘every sacrifice must be salted with salt’ except the drink-offering. At the same time, three other priests carried up to the rise of the altar the daily meat-offering, that of the high-priest, and the drink-offering. The skins of the sacrifices were salted, and on the eve of each Sabbath they were distributed among the ‘course’ of priests that had been on ministry for that week.
Below is a picture of what the Candlestick may have looked like. The following picture is reproduced by kind permission of Angus Hudson Ltd/Kregel Pictorial Guide to the Temple.