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11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.

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9. According to the custom of the priest’s office The law enjoined that incense should be offered twice every day, that is, every morning and at even, (Exodus 30:7, 8.) The order of courses among the priests had been appointed by David, as we have already explained; and, consequently, what is here stated as to incense was expressly enjoined by the law of God. The other matters had been arranged by David, (1 Chronicles 24:3,) that each family might have its own turn, though David ordained nothing which was not prescribed by the law: he only pointed out a plan by which they might individually perform the service which God had commanded.

The word temple (νὰος) is here put for the holy place; which deserves attention, for it sometimes includes the outer court. Now, Zacharias is spoken of as going into the temple, which none but priests were permitted to enter. And so Luke says that the people stood without, there being a great distance between them and the altar of incense; for the altar on which the sacrifices were offered intervened. It ought to be observed also that Luke says before God: for whenever the priest entered into the holy place, he went, as it were, into the presence of God, that he might be a mediator between him and the people. For it was the will of the Lord to have this impressed upon his people, that no mortal is allowed to have access to heaven, without a priest going before; nay that, so long as men live on the earth, they do not approach the heavenly throne, so as to find favor there, but in the person of the Mediator. Now, as there were many priests, there were not two of them permitted to discharge, at the same time, the solemn office of intercession for the people; but they were so arranged in classes, that only one entered the Holy Place, and thus there was but one priest at a time. The design of the incense was to remind believers that the sweet savor of their prayers does not ascend to heaven except through the sacrifice of the Mediator; and in what manner those figures apply to us must be learned from the Epistle to the Hebrews.