24 You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it. 26 You shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.’ Exodus 20:24-26WEB
This passage contains a positive command, directed toward Israel: "You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle.".
The command is followed by some brief parameters for altar construction:
- If the altar is made of stone, it shall not be cut stones; because if you use your tool on it, you have polluted it (other translations use the word "defile" or "profane" in place of "pollute").
- (implicit in prior) You shall not tool the materials for the altar.
- The altar shall not have steps, so that your nakedness shall not be exposed on it.
- (implicit in prior) Your nakedness shall not be exposed on it
This command is part of the Typological/Ceremonial Law.
The command fits with laws pertaining to Loving God, Ritual Cleanness, and Sacrificial Regulations. It is arguably a One-time Command, although it is reasonable to interpret the statement in verse 24, "wherever I cause my name to be honored", to indicate that this command applies to the production of altars in several locations.
This command was fulfilled in an immediate sense when Israel prepared altars for God. It was fulfilled in ultimate when Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice, such that no altar for sacrifice is necessary anymore (see Hebrews 10). This command places no direct obligation for modern believers, except that they trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Notes on Interpretation/Application