(Heb. mizbe’ah, from a word meaning “to slay”), any structure of earth ( Exodus 20:24 ) or unwrought stone ( Exodus 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 first altar we read of is that erected by Noah ( Genesis 8:20 ). Altars were also erected by Abraham ( Genesis 12:7 ; 13:4 ; 22:9 ), by Isaac ( Genesis 26:25 ), by Jacob ( 33:20 ; Genesis 35:1 Genesis 35:3 ), and by Moses ( Exodus 17:15).
In the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, two altars were erected.
- 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 ).In Solomon’s temple the altar was of larger dimensions ( 2 Chronicles 4:1 . Compare 1 Kings 8:22 1 Kings 8:64 ; 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 ).
- 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 ; Revelation 8:3 Revelation 8:4 ).
These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,