Exodus 30

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts:  gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matt. 2:11)


Exodus 30:1-6 thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon



Exodus 30:6 thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony… where I will meet with thee


If the incense is symbolic of the prayers of the saints (Rev. 5:8), then it makes sense to place it right before the veil of the temple.  The Presence of God was there on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant.  The incense was to ascend up before Him.


And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand. (Rev. 8:4)



Exodus 30:7-8 burn thereon sweet incense every morning… and at even


Though there is a veil which separates us from the Presence of God, we are to offer our prayers to him twice a day—at least.


Joseph F. Smith

Observe that great commandment given of the Master, always to remember the Lord, to pray in the morning, and in the evening, and always remember to thank him for the blessings that you receive day by day. (Gospel Doctrine, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 218)


Russell M. Nelson

I am so grateful that our children have never given their mother or dad the silent treatment. Now I sense how our Heavenly Father may appreciate our prayers, morning and night. I can imagine also the pangs of his sorrow because of silence from any of his children. To me, such ingratitude seems comparable to sullen goldfish oblivious to kind providers who sprinkle food in their bowl. Indeed, those who pray can "worship God with exceedingly great joy." (Alma 45:1.) (The Power within Us [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 78)


Exodus 30:10 Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering


We dedicate our meetinghouses, temples, and homes with a prayer, asking God to make them holy places of worship.  The Law of Moses corollary is to sanctify the altars of the tabernacle with the blood of the sacrifice on an annual basis.



Exodus 30:13-15 an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord… to make an atonement for your souls


A half shekel was later called the temple tax—a flat fee offering to the Lord to fund the temple.  It was NOT meant to imply that monetary offerings could free the individual from sin.  That was the abomination of the sale of indulgences in the Middle Ages—the idea that money could buy forgiveness—that is not what this is about.


To be truthful, there was a price paid for the redemption of souls.  It was paid once by the Master.  How great was that price?  How precious were his drops of blood?  How much is it worth to you to be free from sin?  If you could pay money for forgiveness, what would you pay? 


Paul understood the symbolism.  The cumulative collection of everybody’s half shekel was a great sum.  That great sum was symbolic of a fraction of the infinite price paid by the Savior for the souls of men.   Paul says it was for the temple of our bodies, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price:  therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20, italics added). 


Exodus 30:18-21 Thou shalt also make a laver of brass… for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat

laver of brass.jpg

For the Tabernacle of Moses, this laver did not have oxen under it.  It was not used for baptism.  For Solomon’s temple, the command was to make “a molten sea… upon twelve oxen” (1 Kgs. 7:23-39) in addition to “ten lavers of brass” containing “forty baths” each (equivalent to 232 gallons).  The lavers were for washing the arms and legs so that the priest could be clean before God to act in the priest’s office.


By the time of Christ, the spiritual cleansing had been neglected, but the priests were fanatical about cleansing the outer vessel.


   Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.

   And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

   For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.

   And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.

   Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?

   He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

   Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

   For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do…


   There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

   If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 7:1-16)


Exodus 30:23-25 of pure myrrh… thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment


And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matt. 2:11)


In chapter 30 of Exodus, we have the temple tax, the holy ointment of myrrh, and the holy perfume of frankincense.  These three elements were represented in the gifts of the Magi to the Christ Child.  Many have wondered what the gifts symbolize.  Obviously, the gold signifies a gift fit for a king—an acknowledgment of his royal birth.  From Exodus 30, we learn that the gold also represents the price the Master would pay for the souls of men.  As Paul said, “ye are bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20).  With the background of a Pharisee, Paul understood that the temple tax had no power of redemption without the Ultimate Sacrifice.  Indeed, none of the practices of Moses’ Tabernacle were of any efficacy without the Christ. 


The frankincense represents the perfume placed before the Lord, where God would meet with man (a reconciliation made possible only through Christ’s atonement).  “Thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony… where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy” (Ex. 30:36).  And finally, the myrrh represents the holy anointing oil—the sanctification by the Spirit that would make men holy. “And behold, this is the whole meaning of the a law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.  And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who believe on his name” (Alma 34:14-15).