Seemingly, the root (שרש) of מזבח is "זבח".

The word זבח means sacrifices composed of animals.

Therefore, how some the מזבח הזהב was called מזבח if there were no animal sacrifices offered upon it, rather incense?

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    Your question would be improved by showing your source that זבח is limited to animal sacrifices
    – Dude
    Commented Mar 6 at 0:37
  • Animal blood was offered on it once a year
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 6 at 0:40
  • @DoubleAA Spraying blood is considered sacrifice? Also, once a year to get a permanent name מזבח?
    – Moishe
    Commented Mar 6 at 1:28
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    – Chatzkel
    Commented Mar 6 at 1:39
  • You should look at the subject of מזבח in Sefer Kehillat Yaacov by Rabbi Yaacov Tzvi Yolles. He explains in detail the distinction between the inner altar (of gold) and the outer altar (of earth & stone). In that context, looking at the word מזבח in Jastrow will also indicate at least 2 possible meanings for the word itself. Commented Mar 6 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


Nechama Leibowitz references Cassuto on Exodus 30,1 that the root of מזבח is זבח (salughtering), however the meaning was widened to include the altar for incense sacrifices since that altar is similar in form and function to an altar used for animal sacrifices.

Radak in Sefer HaShorashim says that the מזבח הזהב is a מזבח because it was used for the blood of the Yom Kippur animal sacrifices.


The Zohar (Vayakhel 219a) explains that the Golden Altar is called a mizbeach because the incense offered upon it has the powers to subdue evil forces (see Num. 17:11-15 in which Aaron’s offering incense on the Golden Altar had the power to stop a plague). Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (1717-1786) adds that the sacrifices on the Golden Altar effectively “slaughter” those evil forces, so it is therefore appropriately called a mizbeach,which is related to the word for “slaughtering”. Alternatively, Rabbi Yonah Ibn Janach (990-1050) and Rabbi Avraham Maimuni (son of Maimonides) write that it is called a mizbeach simply because it was fashioned in the same shape as the main altar, albeit on a smaller scale, as it too was required to be square and have four “horns” (Ex. 30:2). According to this explanation, the word mizbeach as applied to the Golden Altar is actually a “borrowed term” used because the Golden Altar resembles the Outer Altar. Radak in Sefer HaShorashim explains that because in some rare situations (like on Yom Kippur) sacrificial bloods are brought to this altar, it is justifiably called a mizbeach.

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    Please cite your source. judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/75/…
    – Joel K
    Commented Mar 6 at 7:35
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    @Moishe Please bring your post in line with the citation guidelines that Joel K posted. As currently posted, your answer (which was copy/pasted from Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein's treatment here: ohr.edu/7592) is misrepresented as being your own material in your own voice. Commented Mar 6 at 16:45

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