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  • Writer's pictureAnita Tosh

The Altar of Incense/Prayer (Lesson 1)

Updated: Sep 22, 2019

In the temple there were two altars; one for sacrificing animals located in the outer court and one in the Holy place for burning incense. It is the altar of incense we will study here.

It is described in detail in Exodus 30. The Hebrew symbol for thirty is the lamed (la-med). It is shaped like a shepherd's staff and represents learning/teaching and something that keeps you on the right path. This is a good start to talk about prayer. We need prayer in our lives to keep us on the right path. This is also a place where GOD can speak to us and teach us.

The altar of incense symbolizes prayer and was made of shitteem, or acacia wood (verse 1, strongs #7848). In Hebrew it is spelt; Shin, tet, yod, mem. We will look at the meaning of each letter one at a time and also the gematria (number corresponding to each letter and the number's meaning). Following each letter's definition will be my personal note of application to prayer.

Shin: teeth, fire, destruction

this is on the mezuzah as a ONE GOD reminder to love GOD with all your heart, soul and strength.

gematria: 300: symbolizes a supernatural victory of the faithful soul over evil-- Resurrection

Note: We should come to God repenting, asking him to forgive us and destroy any evil thing that has a hold on us and/or in us. If there is evil, (i.e.; jealousy, envy, malice, pride), these must be destroyed for they keep us from a close walk with Jesus and we can not be pleasing to GOD with such things in us.

Tet: surround, contain, basket, store, container

the concealed good

inner beauty

pyridoxal: also means a snake

gematria: 9 -- completeness, finality, (Christ died at the ninth hour)

- good hidden in bad/evil (Christ's crucifixion was evil but brought -good- salvation to man)

- bad/evil hidden in good (Hezekiah was given fifteen more years to live. Sounds good, but he lost his soul)

Note: We need to be thankful for all things. We can't see what God is working out. Even things that seem disastrous God can turn into a blessing.

Yod: The smallest of all Hebrew letters

most frequently occurring in scriptures

used to form all other letters

humble, starting point


a drop of water

gematria: 10 -- law, responsibility and completeness of order

note: Each prayer is like a drop of water filling a vessel until it tips the scale and the action happens, the prayer is answered. Do not lose hope. With each prayer you are closer to an answer.

Mem: water

The Torah is said to be like a spring of water from an underground source: A flowing stream of inner wisdom.

can also mean people, nations, languages and tongues

gematria: 40 a period of testing, trial or probation.

note: When you are going through a trial or test, pray until the Spirit is flowing like a river.

Also, the mem is made from the two Hebrew letter vav (6) and kaf (20). The gematria for these letters combined is 26 = to the Gematria of Yahway, (yod, (10) hey(5), vav(6), hey(5) The Name of God. In English we use the name Jesus, in which we pray.

In the word Shiteem (Shin, tet, yod, mem) the tet has the shin on one side and yod and mem on the other. We are like the tet, the vessel in the middle. On the one side we need the fire of God to destroy any sin in our lives. On the other we need the hand of God working through us and his refreshing Spirit flowing through us to accomplish His will.

Remember the paradoxical meaning of the tet? It shows there is good hiding inside of things that don't look good, and also bad hiding inside of things that look good. The central meaning of the Mem,is water, of yod, a hand, and of the Shin, fire. All three of these things can be used for either good or evil. Fire can warm and nourish or be destructive. Water can give life or take it. And we can use our hands for evil or good.

If we stay in prayer, God will guide our hands for good and keep the waters and the fire channeled according to His will.

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