Luke 1:8
And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
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(8) In the order of his course.—This was settled by rotation. Attempts have been made by reckoning back from the date of the destruction of the Temple, when it is known that the “course” of Joiarib was ministering on the ninth day of the Jewish month Ab, to fix the precise date of the events here narrated, and so of our Lord’s Nativity, but all such attempts are necessarily more or less precarious.

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.Before God - In the temple, where God dwelt by the symbols of His presence. The temple was regarded by the Jews as the "house" or dwelling of God; and in the "first" temple there was, in the most holy place, a "cloud" called the Shechinah, or a visible sign of the presence of God. It was thus "before God" that Zechariah offered incense. 7. So with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Elkanah and Hannah, Manoah and his wife.Ver. 8,9. The priests were multiplied to an exceeding number; we find an account of more than four thousand upon the return out of the captivity of Babylon, Ezra 2:36-39; they were doubtless afterward multiplied to a far greater number. Josephus tells us there were a thousand in a course; whether they held to twenty-four courses, as in David’s time, or no, I cannot tell. There were several parts of the priestly office, which it seemeth, by this text, the priests of the course that ministered divided amongst themselves by lot. One part of their work was to burn incense morning and evening. It seems this was that part of the priestly office which Zacharias was by lot to exercise. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office,.... To which he was called and ordained, even to offer gifts and sacrifices for men; whilst he was in the way of his duty, when oftentimes God appears to, and in favour of his people; whilst he was performing it,

before God; in the temple, where was the symbol of the divine presence, before the altar of the Lord; and as having the fear of God before his eyes; considering himself as in the sight of God, and doing his work faithfully and sincerely:

in the order of his course; taking his turn in the order of the course of Abia, to which he belonged; See Gill on Luke 1:5.

And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
Luke 1:8 f. Ἐγένετοἔλαχε] thus without interposition of καί. Both modes of expression, with and without καί, are very frequent in Luke. See generally, Bornemann in loc.

κατὰ τὸ ἔθος τῆς ἱερατ.] according to the custom of the priesthood, does not belong to what precedes (Luther, Kuinoel, Bleek), to which ἔθος would be inappropriate, but to ἔλαχε τοῦ θυμιᾶσαι; the usual custom, namely, was, that the priest of the class on service for the week, who was to have the honourable office of burning incense, was fixed every day by lot, just as in general the several offices were assigned by lot. See Tr. Tamid, v. 2 ff.; Wetstein, and Paulus, exeget. Handb.; Lund, Jüd. Heiligth., ed. Wolf, p. 804 f. How the casting of lots took place, see Gloss. Joma, f. 22, 1, in Lightfoot, p. 714.

The genitive τοῦ θυμιᾶσαι (not to be accented θυμιάσαι[18]) is governed by ἔλαχε. See Matthiae, p. 800; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 2. On the mode of burning incense, see Lightfoot, p. 715; Lund, l.c. p. 618 ff.; Leyrer in Herzog’s Encykl. XII. p. 506 ff. With this office specially divine blessing was conceived to be associated (Deuteronomy 33:10 f.); and during it John Hyrcanus received a revelation, Josephus, Antt. xiii. 10. 3.

Whether, we may ask, are we to understand here the morning (Grotius) or the evening (Kuinoel) burning of incense? The former, as the casting lots has just preceded.

εἰσελθὼν κ.τ.λ.] can neither be something that follows after the ἔλαχε τ. θυμ. (so Luther and others, de Wette and Bleek), nor can it belong merely to θυμιᾶσαι (so Winer, p. 316 [E. T. 443], and Glöckler, following the Vulgate), in which case the words would be quite idle. Rather must they be, in the same relation as the following καὶ πᾶν τὸ πλῆθοςἔξω τῇ ὥρᾳ τοῦ θυμιάματος, an essential portion of the description. It is, namely, the moment that preceded the ἔλαχε τοῦ θυμιᾶσαι: the duty of burning incense fell to him, after he had entered into the temple of the Lord. After his entrance into the temple he received this charge.

εἰς τὸν ναόν] not εἰς τὸ ἱερόν (see on Matthew 4:5), for the altar of incense, the θυσιαστήριον, Luke 1:11, stood in the sanctuary (between the table of shewbread and the golden candlestick).

[18] Comp. generally, Lipsius, Gramm. Unters. p. 38 ff.Luke 1:8-10. Hope preternaturally revived.—ἐν τῷ ἱερατεύειν: Zechariah was serving his week in due course, and it fell to his lot on a certain day to perform the very special service of burning incense in the holy place. A great occasion in a priest’s life, as it might never come to him but once (priests said to be as many as 20,000 in our Lord’s time). “The most memorable day in the life of Zechariah” (Farrar, C. G. T.).8. executed the priest’s office] The priest who had the highest functions allotted to him was called ‘the chief of the course.’ There are said to have been some 20,000 priests in the days of Christ, and it could therefore never fall to the lot of the same priest twice to offer incense. Hence this would have been, apart from the vision, the most memorable day in the life of Zacharias.Luke 1:8. Ἐν τῇ τάξει τῆς ἐφημερίας αὐτοῦ, in the order of his course) As to the chronological clue afforded by this passage, we have treated in the Ordo Temporum, p. 230 [Ed. ii. p. 200]. [In twenty-four weeks the courses of the priests returned back in rotation; and this alternation of courses prevailed even up to the destruction of the temple.—V. g.]
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