The Tapuach (which means “apple”) was a pile of ashes in the middle of the Altar. It was called this because of its round shape. Each morning, the kohanim would clear the wood piles of consumes coals and remove these coals to the ash-pile (Tapuach). They would use shovels and pitch-forks. When the Tapuach got too large it was removed. For this task a large vessel called a Psachter was used. It was made of copper and it resembled a wheel-barrow or a cart. These ashes were brought to a clean location outside the north wall, very near where Yeshua was crucified, called the “place of burning.” The people took special pleasure in seeing the Tapuach especially large during the festivals because that meant many people had their hearts right before God because they brought so many korbanot.
In the Olah, you would derive no benefit from it. This is not what is taught today by many ministries. People today give and “plant seed” for a “harvest” and want to “get rich” but that is the wrong motivation. Prosperity in the Bible doesn’t deal with financial prosperity, but spiritual prosperity. The Lord does bless people who give, but that should not be the motive. People need to give, like the Olah, without expecting anything in return or deriving any benefit from their giving.
One of the most important verses in the Bible is Lev 17.11 and it concerns the life in the blood. That blood is on the Altar. That blood is more important than the slaughter of the animal and the pieces on the Altar. The blood is the key element.
At night, the fires kept burning the Olah and there were a lot of them on the Altar fire on a busy day. The Altar had to be large and there was much work that went into all of this. You had all the animals for the korbanot, and those animals needed to be fed. There was the sound of all these animals and a large work force was needed to watch over all of these animals, and to supply the wood and so on. The Altar, as we have said before, was approximately 50 feet x 50 feet square and 15 feet high. It was huge. At Solomon’s dedication, 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep (2 Chr 7.5) were offered over seven days, plus all the ordinary korbanot. That is about 20,000 animals a day for seven days. At Passover, Josephus says there were 256,500 lambs offered, plus all the ordinary korbanot (Jospehus, Wars, 6.9.3). Now, Josephus gave this number because the Syrian Governor Gallus wanted to show Nero the importance of the city of Jerusalem. At Passover, you needed at least 10 and no more than 20 to eat one Passover lamb. If you multiplied 256,500 x 10 (at least) it equaled 2,565,000 people in the city. So, the Altar had to be big enough to accommodate so many worshippers.
We have talked about three fires on the Altar. The largest fire was used for the Olah and the animal parts were burned there. Another fire was used for coals for the Altar of Incense, and the third fire had to burn continually with nothing on it. The Tapuach was the ash-pile from all three fires. On most days, this was removed but on festivals it remained. The ashes were taken to a clean place “outside the camp” (Lev 6.10-11; Ezek 43.21). In time, the west wind would blow these ashes to the east, symbolizing what the Lord was saying about our sins in Psa 103.12.
There was also a place called the Miphkad Altar which was located on the Mount of Olives (Middot 2.4). So, there were three altars associated with the Temple. Miphkad can mean “appointment, mandate, designated spot, mustering, numbering in a census” (1 Chr 21.1-22.2; Ezekiel 43.21). The Miphkad Altar was where the Parah Adamah (Red Heifer) was slain on the Mount of Olives. It was about 3000 feet from the Temple. A special bridge was erected from the Temple to the Miphkad Altar (Parah 3.6 of the Mishnah) and it was considered an eastern extension of the Temple. The ashes of the Red Heifer were then collected after it was burned. For more information on this, see our teaching on the Red Heifer on this site.
There was also a “place of ashes” near the Altar in the Temple. A kohen, after he washed his hands and his feet, took a silver shovel and ascended the Altar. He uses the shovel to gather the remaining ashes in a receptacle in the courtyard floor on the east side of the Altar. It was 2 feet square and it had ashes from the Altar, the Menorah and the Incense Altar. It also had the feathers and the crop from the bird Olah. There was never a need to clear this “place of ashes” since it’s contents became reconstituted into the soil of the Temple.
Let’s look at the Psachter a little more. This was a vessel, like a cart, that could be easily led up and down the Altar ramp if the Tapuach got too big. It was guided up and down the ramp with chains. According to Maimonides, these ashes were brought to a clean place north of Jerusalem, outside the city walls called the “place of burning” (Temple Institute article on “Burning the bull” based on Lev 16.27). These ashes were removed every morning according to Maimonides and taken outside the city. Other scholars say that these ashes remained on the Altar until the pile got too big. The area called the “place of burning” north of the city would be very near where Yeshua was crucified.
We have already discussed the Tamid ceremony (Num 28.1-8) and more information can be found on this in the tractate Yoma of the Mishnah, in addition to the tractate Tamid. What we should be seeing at this point is that the actions and services in the Temple are very detailed and it teaches us we need to be detailed when studying the Scriptures, like a priest in the Temple. Our study should have an order to it. Like the kohanim, it should start early and we should be prepared. They were also eager to do what was required (Tamid 2.1).
1 Chr 9.17-34 is another place you can learn much about the Temple. We will see the Sha’arim (the gatekeepers-v 17)) who opened and closed the gates (See Tamid 1.1; Middot 1.1) and were in 21 places. We will see the three camps called the Machane Kohanim, which was the Azarah; the Machane Levi’im who had the Temple Mount and the Machane Israel who were within the walls of Jerusalem (v 18). You will see a man named Shallum, who was a “memunay” (v 19) and people who came at the time of the courses like the priests in v 25.
When we discussed the Tamid service, we mentioned that this was offered two times a day, around 9 am and 3 pm daily (Num 28.4). We discussed the fact that the Tamid lamb was an Olah, along with a Minchah (bread) and a Nesek (libation of wine). You will also have a Ketoret (Incense) service, which is seen in Luke 1. The Ketoret service is discussed in Tamid. You enter the Heichal (Holy Place) through the Great Gate (Tamid 3.7). There was a small door on each side of this Great Gate to the Heichal. You entered through the north gate into a cell which led to a corridor to the Great Gate and it was unlocked in the morning. The south gate remained closed (Exek 44.2). Everything from this point on was gold.
Here is an important concept. We know that the kohanim were to teach the difference between the Kedusha and the Chol (holy and common-Ezek 44.23). When you left one level of kedusha to the next higher level, the previous level was now seen as “common” compared to the new level of kedusha. Every court prior to the KOdesh ha Kodeshim was seen as “Chol” or “common” by comparison.
In Part 4, we will pick up here with more concepts concerning the ceremonies in the Temple.