|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
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."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
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