The position of the prescriptive unit regarding the construction of the incense altar (Exod 30:1–10) has been identified in previous scholarship as problematic. In support of Julius Wellhausen’s diachronic solution to this problem, several additional irregularities in this unit can be adduced, as well as indications in the larger Priestly texts in the Pentateuch that an independent altar for incense was not in use. An explanation for the entire array of irregularities is based on the suggestion that the incense altar was meant to replace another vessel, the menorah. The current command regarding the function of the menorah (Exod 25:37b) raises doubts regarding its originality. Based on other features in the menorah unit (Exod 25:31–38) an alternative, original command designating the menorah for burning incense can be reconstructed. When the incense altar replaced the menorah in that role, the author of its prescriptive unit had to argue in favor of its legitimacy through direct polemics with the menorah’s function, and through the incorporation of it in the highly esteemed annual ritual of atonement.

You do not currently have access to this content.