What were the aloes that were used in Bible times?
The Bible says that aloes were used to perfume garments and beds. (Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17; Song of Solomon 4:14) The aloes of the Bible likely came from Agarwood (a species of Aquilaria). As the wood decays, it secretes fragrant oil and resin. The wood was ground into a powder, which was then sold as “aloes.”
The Bible compares the tents of Israel to “aloes that Jehovah has planted.” (Numbers 24:5, 6) This may refer to the shape of the Agarwood tree, which can reach a height of about 100 feet (30 m) and spreads outward. Although this tree is not found in modern Israel, A Dictionary of the Bible states that “there is nothing to forbid the idea that this and other trees not now known in [the region] were cultivated in the then wealthy and populous Jordan Valley.”
What offerings were acceptable at the temple in Jerusalem?
God’s Law stated that all the sacrifices offered at the temple were to be of the best quality possible. God would not accept blemished sacrifices. (Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 22:21-24) According to the first-century C.E. Jewish writer Philo, priests at that time scrutinized animals “from head to foot” to ensure that they were sound in all respects and “without spot or defect of any kind.”
Scholar E. P. Sanders states that possibly the temple officials “authorized reliable sellers of sacrificial victims to sell only animals and birds that priests had previously inspected. In this case, the seller would have to give the buyer some kind of chit, indicating that the victim was unblemished.”
In 2011, archaeologists found just such a chit, or token, in the vicinity of the temple—a coin-size clay seal dating from between the first century B.C.E. and 70 C.E. Its two-word Aramaic inscription has been rendered “Pure for God.” It is thought that temple officials would have attached such tokens to products for ritual use or to animals intended for sacrifice.