Home » The Temple  »  THE BRASS ALTAR


The brass altar, which was used for burnt offerings to GOD, in the First Temple, was set squarely within the middle of the inner courtyard. The lamb or goat was killed at the north gate where tables were prepared. Some of the blood of the sacrifice was captured in a dish and then splashed on the base and 4 horns on the corners of the altar. The meat was then roasted and once finished eaten in the dining areas.

As this model of the First Temple shows the altar was built directly in front of the door of the Temple. Around the altar there were 10 mobile wash basins on wheels.

The altar in the Second Temple was built on the same foundation as the first altar. However because the Second Temple was moved farther to the north for the first time the high priest on Yom Kippur could see directly into the Sanctuary from the east on the Mount of Olives. It is a well established fact the altar in the Second Temple was built off centered to the south in the inner courtyard.

Such was not the case of the First Temple altar. That altar was built squarely in front of the Temple door and also set directly in front of the doors of the three gates. That altar was placed in the inner courtyard directly between the porch and the eastern gate as depicted here. This means that a person looking from the Mount of Olives at the First Temple through the two eastern gates was not able to see into the Sanctuary because the location of the first altar blocked his view. However in the Second Temple the Mishna records that someone standing on the Mt. of Olives could see directly into the Holy Chamber of the Temple.

So that all three sets of scripture match the ascending ramp also had to have a set of stairs to descend. The priests would deliver the sacrifice up the ramp and descend down the stairs.

As a matter of fact at the dedication services of the First Temple, King Solomon had built a platform in the inner courtyard between the altar and the porch. This elevated scaffolding was where he gave his public address and his dedication prayer. From his elevated position and those standing behind him on the altar they alone could see directly into the First Chamber. From this perched position King Solomon while looking West could see directly to the Holy Rock inside the Temple. Afterward he turned East and blessed the people.

The stairs and ramp for the First Temple altar faced east. The ramp for the Second Temple faced South. The second altar was built in the exact same spot as the first altar even though the Temples were in different locations. This also verifies why the Second Temple is not centered in the middle of the inner courtyard.

“Moreover Shelomo hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings.”

“So he measured the court, a hundred cubits long, and a hundred cubits broad, foursquare; and the altar was in front of the house.”

“So they offered up the daily sacrifices; but for the brazen altar, Solomon set it before the temple, over against the door, that when the door was opened, it might be expose to sight, and the sacred solemnities, and the richness of the sacrifices, might be thence seen..”
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, B-VIII, C-IV, V-1.

“Then stood up Yeshua the son of Yozadaq, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbavel the son of She’altie’el, and his brethren, and they built the altar of the God of Yisra’el, to offer burnt offerings upon it, as it is written in the Tora of Moshe the man of GOD. And they set the altar upon its bases.”
‘EZRA 3:2-3 JB

“Jeshua the high priest ….. then built the altar on the same place it had formerly been built, that they might offer the appointed sacrifices upon it to God, according to the laws of Moses.”
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, B-XI, C-IV, V-1.

“All the walls there were high, save only the eastern wall, because the (High) Priest that burns the (Red) Heifer and stands on the top of the Mount of Olives should be able to look directly into the entrance of the Sanctuary when the blood is sprinkled.” Mishna Middoth, 2.4

“And he stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Yisra’el, and spread out his hands: For Shelomo had made a
bronze scaffold of five cubits long, and five cubits broad and three cubits high, and had it set in the midst of the court: and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Yisra’el, and spread forth his hands toward heaven.” DIVRE HAYYAMIM 6:12-13 JB

“And King Shelomo, and all the congregation of Yisra’el, that were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen …. And the priests brought in the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD to its place, into the Sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, under the wings of the keruvim …..
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD. Then spake Shelomo, the LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. I have surely built thee a house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in forever.
And the King turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Yisra’el: (and all the congregation of Yisra’el stood).”

There appear to be some changes in the brass altar between Solomon’s measurements and Ezekiel’s measurements, but all of these extra details are just further explanations, which give a complete and total picture of the altar in the First Temple. In this model of the altar the cubits from all three measurements fit.