Luke 1:10

ESV And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.
NIV And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
NASB And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.
CSB At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside.
NLT While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
KJV And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

What does Luke 1:10 mean?

Exodus 30:1–8 describes God's instructions for offering incense, twice a day, using a purpose-built altar. This object was placed inside the Holy Place of the temple (Exodus 40:26–27). The honor associated with this sacrifice apparently led Israel to a system of chance: casting lots to see which priest would perform that ritual. Given that the rite was only performed twice a day, it's conceivable an individual priest might only participate once, if at all, in his lifetime. Zechariah is an aging, childless priest, known for his godly life and the similar character of his wife, Elizabeth (Luke 1:5–7). It is his opportunity to offer incense in one of these moments (Luke 1:9).

To make this offering, Zechariah would have been alone, in between curtains separating the courtyard from the Holy Place, and the inner curtain which covered the Most Holy Place. As he burnt the incense, the people would be outside, in the courtyard, praying. While he executes this rite, perhaps for the only time, Zechariah will be visited by an angelic messenger (Luke 1:11).
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