Updated date:

Find Out About Biblical Altars as Revealed in the Bible

Inside the Iron Age fortress, archaeologists found remains of a temple used for several centuries during the time of the Divided Monarchy.  Though worship centers outside of Jerusalem were forbidden by Moses (Deut 12), high places flourished througho

Inside the Iron Age fortress, archaeologists found remains of a temple used for several centuries during the time of the Divided Monarchy. Though worship centers outside of Jerusalem were forbidden by Moses (Deut 12), high places flourished througho

Altars in the Bible--An Overview

An altar is primarily the place of sacrifice and hence it is to be found where sacrifice is offered (and may be a temporary construction.)

Normally it stood outside rather than inside ancient temples and was found on the high places of Canaan.Altars are mentioned in the patriarchal stories as well as the story of Noah.

The altars discovered in Canaanite sites are made of stone either a block table of hand-hewn stones or a one large block of stone. The altar described in Exodus is the oldest form of Israelite altar known and fairly primitive. This altar was created out of earth piled up or of a pile of uncarved stones.

Working or carving in the stone "profaned" it and modified it from the state in which it came from God and thereby it was unfit for sacred use. The biblical altar is not to have steps, although altars having such steps have been discovered at Megiddo.

The altar described in Ezekiel is built in three stages of which each stage is two cubits shorter than the side below which interestingly recalls the ziggurat of Mesopotamian temples. Some altars had horns at the corners which have appeared on altars discovered at Megiddo.

Biblical altars symbolized the deity in the sacrificial ritual and the victim was 'delivered' to the diety by physical contact with the altar. In earlier eras it does not appear that the altar was employed for burning the victim. The victim was offered up to the deity by applying the blood of the victim which symbolized its life to the altar.

The horns also symbolized the deity but with no distinct symbolism from the altar as a whole that can be detected.

In the year 732 B.C. Ahaz had an altar made after the model of an altar which he saw at Damascus but exact details of construction are not provided.

In the New Testament references to altars exclusively referred to either the altar of the temple in Jerusalem or the altar of incense or altars in pagan cults; in the New Testament there was as yet no altar in Christian cult. A single reference to a Christian altar is in Hebrews chapter 13 verse 10 which most probably refers to the Eucharist.

Biblical Altars

From earliest times in the history of the Israelites of the bible the Lord called upon His people, through His priests to set up a special, particular consecrated structure upon which an animal as a sacrifice, would be placed after death on a fire so that the smoke would rise to Heaven and as scholars tell us, the Jewish people would be made reconciled to their God. This altar may originally have been something rather makeshift but it soon became part of a tabernacle officiated by a high priest where burned the prayer-offering of the animal to the Lord God.

Listing of Altars Mentioned in the Bible

Altars in the Bible

  • constructed by Noah in Genesis Chapter 8 verse 20
  • onstructed by Abraham in Mariah Hebron and Shechem Genesis Chapter 12 verse seven and eight; chapter 13 verse 18; Chapter 22 verse two;
  • constructed by Isaac Genesis Chapter 26 first 25
  • constructed by Jacob at Bethel and Shechem Genesis Chapter 33 verse 20; chapter 35 verse one -- 7
  • constructed by Moses Exodus Chapter 17 verse 15
  • constructed by Balak the book of Numbers chapter 23 verse one; Chapter 4; Chapter 14
  • constructed by Joshua the book of Joshua Chapter 8 vers 30
  • constructed by the Hebrew tribes dwelling east of Jordan the book of Joshua Chapter 22 verse 10
  • constructed by Gideon the book of Judges chapter 6 first 24
  • constructed by Manoah the book of Judges chapter 13 verse 20
  • constructed by Israel the book of Judges chapter 21 verse four
  • constructed by Samuel in 1st Samuel Chapter 7 verse 15; Chapter 17
  • constructed by Saul in 1st Samuel Chapter 14 verse 35
  • constructed by David in 2nd Samuel Chapter 24 verse 25
  • constructed by Jeroboam in 1st Kings Chapter 12 verse 32
  • constructed by Ahab in 1st Kings Chapter 16 verse 32
  • constructed by Elijah in 1st Kings Chapter 18 verse 31
  • constructed by Uriah in 2nd Kings Chapter 16 verse 11
  • constructed by Manasseh in 2nd Kings Chapter 21 first three
  • constructed by Zerubbabel in the book of Ezra Chapter 3 verse two



Altar of Noah

Altar of Noah

Altar of Noah

Altar at Beersheba

altars-in-the-bible
altars-in-the-bible

Comments

jakewilson888 on April 26, 2020:

Thank you for this interesting article. May I ask where you got the photo of Noah's altar from? Do you have access to the original pic?

Ray on February 13, 2020:

how many altars were built during the book of judges only?

cliff on February 27, 2014:

then why do we give money to tv preachers if it only makes god jealous or other charities set up by hollywood actors? dannys or daniels

Rajam on October 25, 2013:

praise the lord, the information of altar is very useful to me, God Almighty will bless u. I want to know the altar which is called "Ed"- Joshua 22:34.

Michael Wilson on April 27, 2012:

i loved this presentation. Great for my term paper!

P. Komorowsky on June 04, 2011:

The common mistake made by most, if not all, Bible students that do not know Hebrew well enough is to translate the hebrew word"keren" as "horn" which is only one meaning of the word, as it mainly means "corner".

This misunderstanding led artists as Miguel Angelo to make the statue of Moses with horns...

The big alter found in Tel Beer Sheba and many small ones found in various places - Arad, Meguido etc. should put an end to the misunderstanding, what it really means is "raised corners" one can hold on to it and be safe (Ex.27:1,2 1Kings 1:50-53 etc.)

Leo on December 14, 2010:

thanks a ton, perfect help for my religion exam

debugs from Odessey777, Umbris on August 30, 2010:

Great info!

Pastor_Walt from Jefferson City, Tennessee on July 06, 2010:

Good and informative hub!

itakins from Irl on October 30, 2009:

Bookmarked! Brilliant information.

itakins from Irl on October 30, 2009:

Bookmarked! Brilliant information.

Chesterton Wilde (author) from Quebec on September 04, 2009:

Cresandra: I am so glad I was able to help out! :)

Cresandra Battle on August 30, 2009:

I am glad to have found this page. It has benefited me tremendously (Altars in the bible). It is easy to read and exactly what I needed to make some pointers in my message. Thank you very much.