Luke 1:10
And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) The whole multitude.—Knowing as we do from this Gospel, what hopes were cherished by devout hearts at this time, we may well believe that the prayers of the people, no less than those of the priest, turned towards the manifestation of the kingdom of God. In that crowd, we may well believe, were the aged Simeon (Luke 2:25), and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36), and many others who waited for redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). What followed was, on this view, an answer to their prayers.

Luke 1:10. The whole multitude of the people, &c. — The manner in which the evangelist expresses himself here, shows that a more than ordinary concourse of the people was in the temple on this occasion, from which we may infer that it was a sabbath, or some high festival time; for often on ordinary week-days, few of the people were present at the morning and evening sacrifices, and therefore “four and twenty men were employed to attend this service, as representatives of the people of Israel, to lay their hands on the head of the sacrifice, to pray, and to receive the blessing. These were called, from their office, stationary men.” — Macknight. This circumstance of there being a multitude present, would give great publicity to the facts here recorded, and cause them to become the subject of much inquiry and conversation, both in Jerusalem and through all the country. In consequence of which, doubtless, an expectation would be excited in the minds of many, that God was about to visit his people in some extraordinary way; which would tend greatly to prepare them for the reception of the gospel, when it should be offered to them. The people were praying without at the time of incense — This the pious Jews constantly did, and that not only in the temple, but everywhere else; choosing to present their supplications to God at the hours of sacrifice and incense, while the ministers of religion interceded for the nation. Hence these hours were called the hours of prayer, Acts 3:1. And this was the foundation of that elegant figure, by which prayer is, in Scripture, so often compared to incense. And perhaps one reason of ordaining incense might be, to intimate the acceptableness of those pious prayers which accompanied it, as well as to remind the worshippers of that sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour, which was in due time to be offered to God for them, and of that incense which was and is continually offered with the prayers of the saints, upon the golden altar that is before the throne, Revelation 8:3-4. Observe, reader, 1st, All the prayers which we offer to God here, in his courts, are acceptable and successful only by virtue of Christ’s intercession in the temple of God above. 2d, We cannot expect to have an interest in his intercession, if we do not unite our own supplications to his, and sincerely and fervently pray for ourselves. Nor, 3d, is it sufficient for us to be present where God is worshipped, if our hearts do not join in the worship, and go along with the minister in all the parts of it. If he burn the incense ever so well; if he pray in ever so pertinent, judicious, and lively a manner, if we be not at the same time engaged in prayer in concurrence with him, what will it avail us?1:5-25 The father and mother of John the Baptist were sinners as all are, and were justified and saved in the same way as others; but they were eminent for piety and integrity. They had no children, and it could not be expected that Elisabeth should have any in her old age. While Zacharias was burning incense in the temple, the whole multitude of the people were praying without. All the prayers we offer up to God, are acceptable and successful only by Christ's intercession in the temple of God above. We cannot expect an interest therein if we do not pray, and pray with our spirits, and are not earnest in prayer. Nor can we expect that the best of our prayers should gain acceptance, and bring an answer of peace, but through the mediation of Christ, who ever lives, making intercession. The prayers Zacharias often made, received an answer of peace. Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten. Prayers made when we were young and entering into the world, may be answered when we are old and going out of the world. Mercies are doubly sweet that are given in answer to prayer. Zacharias shall have a son in his old age, who shall be instrumental in the conversion of many souls to God, and preparing them to receive the gospel of Christ. He shall go before Him with courage, zeal, holiness, and a mind dead to earthly interests and pleasures. The disobedient and rebellious would be brought back to the wisdom of their righteous forefathers, or rather, brought to attend to the wisdom of that Just One who was coming among them. Zacharias heard all that the angel said; but his unbelief spake. In striking him dumb, God dealt justly with him, because he had objected against God's word. We may admire the patience of God towards us. God dealt kindly with him, for thus he prevented his speaking any more distrustful, unbelieving words. Thus also God confirmed his faith. If by the rebukes we are under for our sin, we are brought to give the more credit to the word of God, we have no reason to complain. Even real believers are apt to dishonour God by unbelief; and their mouths are stopped in silence and confusion, when otherwise they would have been praising God with joy and gratitude. In God's gracious dealings with us we ought to observe his gracious regards to us. He has looked on us with compassion and favour, and therefore has thus dealt with us.The whole multitude - This was the regular time of evening prayer, and multitudes came up to the temple to worship.

Praying without - That is, in the courts around the temple, particularly in the court of the women.

10. praying without—outside the court in front of the temple, where stood the altar of burnt offering; the men and women in separate courts, but the altar visible to all.

the time of incense—which was offered along with the morning and evening sacrifice of every day; a beautiful symbol of the acceptableness of the sacrifice offered on the altar of burnt offering, with coals from whose altar the incense was burnt (Le 16:12, 13). This again was a symbol of the "living sacrifice" of themselves and their services offered daily to God by the worshippers. Hence the language of Ps 141:2; Re 8:3. But that the acceptance of this daily offering depended on the expiatory virtue presupposed in the burnt offering, and pointing to the one "sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savor" (Eph 5:2), is evident from Isa 6:6, 7.

We are told, that the order of the Jewish daily service was this: twice in the day the priests whose course it was to minister, or such of them whose lot it was, went into the holy place to burn incense, according to the law, Exodus 30:7. When they went in, a bell rung, to give notice that it was the hour of prayer. There were constantly there,

1. The rest of the priests of the same course.

2. The Levites.

3. Their stationary men, who represented the whole congregation, and laid their hands upon the beast slain.

4. So many more of the people as would voluntarily come; and it was very ordinary for many to go.

Thus we read, Acts 3:1, of Peter and John going into the temple at the hour of prayer. These made the multitude, of whom it is said, that while the priest was burning incense they were without, not without the temple, but in the court of Israel, without the holy place, in which the priests were burning incense, praying; so they used to do privately by themselves. There is a text in Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastes 1:15, which (though it be not canonical Scripture) is as credible as any other civil history, and will much help to make the readers understand the order of the Jewish service, and what this text saith. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without,.... In the court of the Israelites, whilst Zacharias was in the holy place; though not in the holy of holies, where only the high priest entered: it looks, as Dr. Lightfoot conjectures, as if this was on a sabbath day, since there was such a multitude of people together; for on the weekday, there were only the priests and Levites of the course, and the stationary men, which represented the Israelites, and some of the more devout sort of the people; but here was the whole multitude of the people; or as the Ethiopic version renders it, "all the people were in a full congregation praying": prayer, was wont to be made at the time of incense; hence it is compared to it, Psalm 141:2. And hence it is, that Christ is said to offer up the prayers of all saints, with his much incense, Revelation 8:3.

in the time of incense: whether it was morning or evening, the people were obliged to be at a distance, whilst that was burning; the Jewish canons confirm this (i):

"in the time they burn the incense in the temple every day, , "they separate all the people", from the temple, and from between the porch and the altar; there is not a man there, till he comes out that burns the incense.

(i) Maimon. Hilch. Tamidin, c. 3. sect. 3. 9. & Yore. haccipurim, c. 4. sect. 2. Vid. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 44. 1.

And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 1:10. And now, while this burning of incense (symbol of adoration; see Bähr, Symbol. I. p. 463–469; Leyrer, l.c. p. 510 f.) allotted to him was taking place in the sanctuary, the entire multitude of the people (which expression does not exactly presuppose a festival, as Chrysostom, Chemnitz, and Calovius hold) was found (ἦν) in the forecourts, silently praying. This was implied in the arrangements for worship; see Deyling, Obss. III. p. 343 f.; Leyrer, l.c. p. 509.

τοῦ θυμιάματος] not: of burning incense (θυμίασις), but: of incense (see Luke 1:11; Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4; Wis 18:21; Sir 45:6; 1Ma 4:49; 2Ma 2:5; Plat. Pol. ii. p. 373 A, Legg. viii. p. 847 C; Herod, i. 198, iv. 71, viii. 99; Soph. O. R. 4), namely, at which this was burnt.Luke 1:10. πλῆθος: there might be a crowd within the temple precincts at the hour of prayer any day of the week, not merely on Sabbath or on a feast day (“dies solennis, et fortasse sabbatum,” Bengel).10. the whole multitude] This seems to shew that the vision took place either on a sabbath, or some great feast-day.

praying] The Temple was mainly used for sacrifice. Prayer in the Tabernacle is only once mentioned in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 26:12-15). But the Temple had naturally become a ‘House of Prayer’ (Isaiah 56:7; Nehemiah 11:17; Matthew 21:13). One of the Rabbis went so far as to argue that prayer was a Rabbinic not a Mosaic institution! See Cohen, Jud. Gottesdienst, p. 186.Luke 1:10. Πᾶν, all) It must therefore have been a solemn day, and perhaps the Sabbath, on which Zacharias entered upon his duty, Luke 1:22-23.Verse 10. - And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. This would indicate that the day in question was a sabbath or some high day. Dean Plumptre suggests that, lost among that praying crowd, were, "we may well believe, the aged Simeon (Luke 2:25) and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36), and many others who waited for redemption in Jerusalem."
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