upon his disciples. Jesus Christ, being resurrected in the spirit, could actually enter into the real “holy place,” the heavens of Jehovah’s presence, and with his ransom sacrifice make it possible for his anointed followers to enter also into heaven. Thus he could be said to have begun, innovated or inaugurated the way into the heavens which would thereafter be used by others.—Heb. 10:19, 20.
We also read of solemn ceremonies involving the offerings by the tribal chieftains at the inauguration of the tabernacle altar in the wilderness. (Num. 7:10, 11, 84-88) There was a special assembly for the inauguration of Solomon’s temple and its great sacrificial altar.—1 Ki. 8:63; 2 Chron. 7:5, 9.
When the temple was rebuilt under Zerubbabel following the Babylonian exile, there were solemn initiation ceremonies in which hundreds of animals were sacrificed. (Ezra 6:16, 17) Later, the walls around the rebuilt Jerusalem were restored under the direction of Nehemiah, and again an elaborate inauguration festival was held, with two large thanksgiving choirs participating in the praising of Jehovah.—Neh. 12:27-43.
In addition to these impressive national ceremonies of inauguration, we read of a man inaugurating or initiating his house (Deut. 20:5), and the superscription of Psalm 30, ascribed to David, designates it as “A song of inauguration of the house.”
When Nebuchadnezzar completed the erection of the huge image of gold on the Plain of Dura, he called together all the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, police magistrates and all administrators of the jurisdictional districts for the impressive ceremonies of inauguration. Nebuchadnezzar thus hoped to unite all his subjects in worship. The three young Hebrews present at this affair refused to compromise their worship of Jehovah by participating in this national religion.—Dan. 3:1-30.
To this day the Jews annually celebrate what they call Hanukkah in the month of December. This is in remembrance of the inauguration (Heb., hhanuk·kahʹ) festival that followed the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C.E. after it had been polluted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.—John 10:22; see FESTIVAL OF DEDICATION.
A compound of aromatic gums and balsams that will burn slowly, giving off a fragrant aroma. The Hebrew words qetoʹreth and qetoh·rahʹ are from the root qa·tarʹ, meaning ‘to burn, fumigate or to smoke, especially, by burning fragrant wood or spices; to make sacrificial smoke or to send up sacrifices in smoke.’ The equivalent in the Christian Greek Scriptures is thu·miʹa·ma, from thu·mi·aʹo.
The sacred incense prescribed for use in the wilderness Tabernacle was made of costly materials that the congregation contributed. (Ex. 25:1, 2, 6; 35:4, 5, 8, 27-29) In giving the divine formula for this fourfold mixture, Jehovah said to Moses: “Take to yourself perfumes: stacte drops and onycha and perfumed galbanum and pure frankincense. There should be the same portion of each. And you must make it into an incense, a spice mixture, the work of an ointment maker, salted, pure, something holy. And you must pound some of it into fine powder and put some of it before the Testimony in the tent of meeting, where I shall present myself to you. It should be most holy to you people.” Then, to impress upon them the exclusiveness and holiness of the incense, Jehovah added: “Whoever makes any like it to enjoy its smell must be cut off from his people.”—Ex. 30:34-38; 37:29.
At a later time the rabbinical Jews added other ingredients to the temple incense, Josephus saying it was made of thirteen sweet-smelling spices. (Wars of the Jews, Book V, chap. V, par. 5) According to Maimonides, some of these extra items included amber, cassia, cinnamon, myrrh, saffron and spikenard.
At the W end of the Holy compartment of the Tabernacle, next to the curtain dividing it off from the Most Holy, was located the “altar of incense.” (Ex. 30:1; 37:25; 40:5, 26, 27) There was also a similar incense altar in Solomon’s temple. (1 Chron. 28:18; 2 Chron. 2:4) Upon these altars, every morning and evening the sacred incense was burned. (Ex. 30:7, 8; 2 Chron. 13:11) Once a year on the Day of Atonement coals from the altar were taken in a censer or fire holder, together with two handfuls of incense, into the Most Holy, where the incense was made to smoke before the mercy seat of the Ark of the Testimony.—Lev. 16:12, 13.
High Priest Aaron initially offered the incense upon the altar. (Ex. 30:7) However, his son Eleazar was given oversight of the incense and other tabernacle items. (Num. 4:16) It appears that the burning of incense, except on the Day of Atonement, was not restricted to the high priest, as underpriest Zechariah (father of John the Baptist) is mentioned as handling this service. (Luke 1:8-11) Soon after the tabernacle service began to function, Aaron’s two sons Nadab and Abihu were struck dead by Jehovah for attempting to offer up incense with “illegitimate fire.” (Lev. 10:1, 2; compare Exodus 30:9; see ABIHU.) Later, Korah and 250 others, all Levites but not of the priestly line, rebelled against the Aaronic priesthood. As a test they were instructed by Moses to take fire holders and burn incense at the tabernacle entrance so that Jehovah might indicate whether he accepted them as his priests. The group perished while in the act, their fire holders in hand. (Num. 16:6, 7, 16-18, 35-40) So, too, King Uzziah was stricken with leprosy when he presumptuously attempted to burn incense in the temple.—2 Chron. 26:16-21.
As time went on, the nation of Israel became so negligent in the prescribed worship of Jehovah that they closed the temple and burned incense on other altars. (2 Chron. 29:7; 30:14) Worse than that, they burned incense to other gods before whom they prostituted themselves, and in other ways they desecrated the holy incense, all of which was detestable in Jehovah’s sight.—Ezek. 8:10, 11; 16:17, 18; 23:36, 41; Isa. 1:13.
The Law covenant having a shadow of better things to come (Heb. 10:1), the burning of incense under that arrangement seemed to represent prayer. The psalmist declared, “May my prayer be prepared as incense before you [Jehovah].” (Ps. 141:2) Likewise, the highly symbolical book of Revelation describes those around God’s heavenly throne as having “golden bowls that were full of incense, and the incense means the prayers of the holy ones.” “A large quantity of incense was given him [an angel] to offer it with the prayers of all the holy ones upon the golden altar that was before the throne.” (Rev. 5:8; 8:3, 4) In several respects the burning incense served as a fitting symbol of the prayers of the holy ones that are “offered up” (Heb. 5:7) night and day (1 Thess. 3:10), and are pleasant to Jehovah.—Prov. 15:8.
Incense, of course, could not make the prayers of false worshipers acceptable to God. (Prov. 28:9; Mark 12:40) On the other hand, the prayers of a righteous one are effectual. (Jas. 5:16) So, too, when a plague from God broke out, Aaron quickly “put the incense on and began making atonement for the people.”—Num. 16:46-48.
NOT BURNED BY CHRISTIANS
Though incense is burned today in certain religions of Christendom, as also in Buddhist temples, yet we find no basis for such practice by Christians in Scripture. Censers are not listed among church vessels for the first four centuries of the Common Era, and not until Gregory the Great (latter part of the sixth century) is there clear evidence of incense being used in church services. Obviously, this is because with the coming of Christ and the nailing of the Law covenant and its regulations to the torture stake (Col. 2:14), and especially after the temple