In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood... Luke 1:5a

Blessed is he who chose Aaron and his sons to stand to serve before the Lord in the house of the Holy of Holies.  Mishnah: Middot, 5:4K

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A Description of Temple Worship in the First Century AD
Click here for a picture of the Jerusalem Temple as it would have looked before it was destroyed in 70 AD.

All Biblical passages are from the New American Bible translation unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible) or LXX (Septuagint Greek Old Testament translation). LORD or GOD in all capital letters in the NAB refer to the divine Name, YHWH (Yahweh).
Luke 1:5-7 ~ Zechariah is assigned to priestly duty in the Temple
5 In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.

The priest Zechariah had traveled with his brother priests of the clan of Abijah (1 Chronicles 24:3-4, 10, 19; Luke 1:5) four miles from their village Ein Karem to the holy city of Jerusalem.  They had come to fulfill their week long obligation to serve God in the offering of the daily Tamid and the other sacrifices at the holy Jerusalem Temple. (1)The last time this elderly descendant of Aaron served in the Temple was during the most recent pilgrim feast when all the priestly clans were required to present themselves for service to Yahweh. (2)  Zechariah had reached a venerable old age, and he knew his years of serving God in His holy Temple were coming to an end.    

The gleaming white marble Jerusalem Temple was one of the most beautiful buildings in antiquity. The Temple's large precincts included outer courts like the Court of the Gentiles and inner courts like the Court of the Women, the Court of the Priests, and the Court of Israel to which only members of the covenant had access. The Court of the Priests contained the great bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings and the bronze laver for ritual hand and foot purification. The Court of the Priests was opened to a colonnade known as the Court of Israel where the men of the covenant attended the worship services. The Court of the Priests was directly in front of the Temple Sanctuary with its impressive Portico and huge double doors. A large oil lamp which was suspended above the door was kept burning continually to signify the presence of God in His Temple. The Sanctuary was composed of two rooms: the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. These holy spaces contained the sacred furniture Moses had been commanded to replicate from what he saw in the heavenly Sanctuary (Exodus 25:8-9).

Within the first sacred space known as the Holy Place, in the center of the room but to the right side, was the golden table upon which rested the "Bread of the Presence" of God (Exodus 25:30; Leviticus 24:5-9).  Across from the table on the left side of the room was the golden lampstand whose burning oil lamps signified the presence of God's Spirit in His Temple (Exodus 25:31-40), and at the far end of the room, in the center of the space in front of the Holy of Holies, stood the golden Altar of Incense upon which the sacred incense was burned.  The covenant people believed that the people's prayers were carried in the rising cloud of the burning incense to the heavenly Sanctuary in the hands of a ministering angel (Exodus 30:1-8; Revelation 8:3-5). Separated from the Holy Place by a large curtain was the cube shaped room which was the most sacred part of the Sanctuary; it was the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the Lord.  In the days of King Solomon's Temple, the Holy of Holies held the most sacred relic of worship, the golden box known as the Ark of the Covenant that was covered by a golden lid called the Mercy Seat.  It was above the Mercy Seat that the presence of God resided with His covenant His people (Exodus 25:10-16, 22).  But in the first century AD, the Holy of Holies was an empty space and the only visible object was the foundation stone which was part of the bedrock of the Temple.(3)

During the non-festival season, or "ordinary time" in the liturgical calendar, the Temple priests fulfilled numerous daily duties.  These duties included hearing the confessions of the repentant sinner as he placed his hands upon the animal to be sacrificed, its blood offered in atonement for his sins (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:7, 21-22).  The priests were also obligated to cook and eat the sin sacrifice and to preside over the repentant sinner's individual communion sacrifice that was followed by the communion sacred meal that the covenant member and his family and friends ate in the Sanctuary Holy Place.  In addition to these sacrifices and the offering of the other classifications of blood sacrifices and grain offerings as Yahweh's spiritual representatives to the people, the priests' ministerial services were required in the liturgy of the Tamid sacrifice, a twice daily worship service which included the daily preparation the Temple Sanctuary.(4)

Zechariah understood that his most important Temple duty was service in the daily worship which surrounded the sacrifice of the Tamid lambs.  The Hebrew word Tamid meant "standing" as in continual or perpetual.  The Tamid sacrifice was the first communal sacrifice God established at Mt. Sinai before the sin of the Golden Calf (Ex 29:39-42). This very holy sacrifice, which took precedence over all other sacrifices, required a liturgical service in concert with the daily offering of two unblemished male lambs. One lamb was offered in the morning, and the second lamb was offered in the afternoon, but the offerings of the Tamid lambs were understood to be a single sacrifice (Exodus 29:42)  This perpetual sacrifice was to be kept burning on the altar continually day and night so long as the Sinai Covenant endured.  The blood of the Tamid lamb atoned for the communal sins of the covenant people and re-established fellowship with God.  No other sacrifice was as important as the daily sacrifice of the Tamid lambs, which was entirely consumed in the altar fire, each lamb offered with unleavened flour mixed with oil and with an unleavened wafer-like griddle cake and a red wine libation. The Tamid was to be offered daily without exception; it preceded and superseded all other sacrifices, even the sacrifices of the annual feasts like the Passover (Numbers 28:4-29:39).(5)

When Zechariah and his kinsmen arrived at the Temple on the Sabbath to begin their week of service, the clan was divided into seven groups of priests, each group assigned to one day of service.  For Zechariah and the other priests assigned to that particular day's service of the Tamid, the preparation for the liturgical service began before dawn.  The ministerial duties of the priests for the Tamid service were assigned by the drawing of lots.  Those who wanted to participate in the drawing of the first lot had to rise before the trumpet signal at the hour of cockcrow (3:00 AM) (6) to ritually purify themselves by immersion in the pool of the Temple mikveh and to dress in their priestly tunics of white linen, woven all in one piece with no seams (Mishnah: Tamid 1:1Q; John 19:23-24). The priestly tunic was only worn during liturgical services (Ezekiel 42:14). (7)

At or near the 3:00 AM hour of the cockcrow trumpet signal, the Temple superintendent called the priests who were assigned to that day's service who were ready to participate in the first drawing of lots. The priests, dressed in their seamless white linen liturgical garments, assembled in the Chamber of Hewn Stones (Mishnah: Tamid 1:2E).  This hall was located near the inner Temple court, the Court of the Priests, where the great bronze sacrificial altar stood.   The drawing of the first round of lots selected the priests who were to cleanse the sacrificial altar, collecting the ashes of the Tamid sacrifice from the day before that had to be disposed of outside the gates of the city, and to select and pile the wood for the altar fire that was never allowed to be extinguished.

The second round of lots occurred when the priests reassembled in the Chamber of Hewn Stones after the sacrificial altar had been prepared.  The priests who drew in the second round were assigned the duties of sacrificing the Tamid lamb of the morning sacrifice and preparing the Sanctuary's Holy Place for the morning service.  The preparations for the Holy Place included the cleansing of the golden lampstand, replacing the burnt out wicks, filling the cups with oil, and removing the ashes and cleansing the golden Altar of Incense.

The lesser ministerial order of the Levites (men of the tribe of Levi who were not descendants of Aaron), whose clan was also called for their weekly duty, saw to the baking of the unleavened wafer offerings of the High Priest (or his representative chief priest) and other necessary preparations that did not require the attention of the chief priests (2 Chronicles 23:28-32).  They served in the Temple orchestra and choir, and they were also the Temple guards and doorkeepers.  The Levites, however, were not permitted to enter the Sanctuary or the Chamber of Hewn Stones, or to offer sacrifices at the altar (Numbers 18:1-7).(8)

When a Levite who was positioned on the pinnacle of the Temple announced that the first rays of dawn were visible, the first unblemished male Tamid lamb was led out from the lamb enclosure.  The lamb of sacrifice was given a drink from a golden bowl and inspected by the anointed High Priest (or by a priest acting as his representative) one last time.  When he pronounced that the victim was "without fault" (without blemish or defect), it was tied to the north side of the sacrificial altar (Mishnah: Tamid 3:4).  In addition to ritual immersion that morning before assembling in the Chamber of Hewn Stones after drawing their assigned duties, all the priests ritually sanctified their hands and feet in the holy water of the Temple water basin (Mishnah: Tamid 2:1B; M. Yoma 4:5; M. Kelim 1:9; Exodus 30:17-21).

At nine in the morning three blasts on the silver trumpets announced the beginning of the morning liturgy as the great Temple gates slowly opened.  The covenant people streamed through the gates into the Temple precincts for the morning worship service as the first Tamid lamb was sacrificed.  When the Temple gates were opened to admit the people to the Temple complex, the doors that led into the Temple Sanctuary were also opened to admit the priests who had been assigned the various duties to prepare the Holy Place.(9)

As the morning Tamid was sacrificed, the blood of the lamb was collected in a chalice, and the body of the lamb was skinned, cut into pieces, cleaned, and salted in preparation for the sacrificial altar as the priests in the Holy Place went about their duties.  When the Holy Place was prepared, all the priests assigned to that day's service, including Zechariah, assembled one last time in the Chamber of Hewn Stones.  The assembled priests, together with the High Priest and other permanent Temple priests, joined together in reciting the prescribed prayers and in pronouncing God's blessings on the people (Mishnah: Tamid 5:1).

Luke 1:8 ~ Once when he was serving as priest in his division's turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord to born incense.

After the priestly ceremony, it was time for the drawing of the third and fourth lots.  The third lot was for burning of the incense on the golden Altar of Incense and the fourth round of lots was to select those priests who would carry the parts of the sacrificed lamb and the grain offering and wine libation to the Altar of Burnt Offerings. If it was the morning service, it was in the third lot that Zechariah was chosen for the burning of the holy incense on the Altar of Incense that stood in front of the Holy of Holies (Exodus 30:1-10).  If it was the afternoon liturgical service, when the second unblemished male lamb was sacrificed at 3:00 in the afternoon, the lot for burning the incense was the only lot cast.(10) The burning of the incense was the only duty which was not repeated by the priests selected by lot in the morning service. (11)  According to the ordinances of the Sinai Covenant, only the high priests descended from Aaron were permitted to burn the sacred incense for the morning and afternoon sacrifices (Exodus 30:7-8).  To offer incense improperly or to offer incense without proper authorization was to incur the wrath of God.  Men had died for such offenses, including two sons of Aaron and a Davidic king (Numbers 16:1-35, 40; 2 Chronicles 26:16-21).

When Zechariah drew the lot to burn the incense, tears must have welled up in the old man's eyes.  For so many years he had drawn this lot and had not been chosen.  To be selected to burn the incense for the Tamid sacrifice was an once-in-a-lifetime event for a priest.  Only those priests who had never been selected for this honor could participate in the drawing of the lot for burning the incense (Mishnah: Tamid, 5:2A).  It was the belief of the covenant people that an angel carried the prayers of the people, enveloped in the smoke of the holy incense, into the heavenly Sanctuary, laying the people's petitions before the throne of Yahweh.  With the exception of the High Priest, who burned the afternoon offering of the incense before entering the Holy of Holies once a year at the feast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement; Mishnah: Yoma, 5:1), and during the other annual feast days but usually designated another chief priest as his representative on other days, no other priest would come so close to the presence of God as the priest who offered the prayers of the people in the burning of the sacred incense at the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the morning and afternoon Tamid sacrifice (Leviticus 16:2-14).

As the sacrificed Tamid lamb was being prepared for the altar, Zechariah and the priests who were selected to assist him walked from the Chamber of Hewn Stone into the Court of the Priests.  As the men of the covenant watched from the Court of Israel, a colonnaded area to the side of the sacrificial courtyard, and the women were in prayer in the Court of the Women, one of the priests assisting Zechariah climbed up the ramp to the sacrificial altar.  The priest took burning embers from the altar fire and placed them in a golden vessel, while a second priest spooned the sacred incense into a golden censer.   Then Zechariah and his brother priests slowly walked from the inner courtyard of the Priests, up the steps of the Portico and into the Holy Place of the Temple.  As they walked into the Holy Place, a priest struck a gong-like instrument called the magrefah (Mishnah: Tamid, 5:6).  Its deep notes resonated against the Temple walls and echoed far into the city of Jerusalem, announcing that the incense was about to be offered and the people's prayers, enveloped in the holy smoke, was to be carried by an angel to God in His heavenly Sanctuary.  The Levitical choir and orchestra quickly assembled on the steps that led from the Court of the Women to the Court of the Priests in preparation for the hymns of praise they would offer to Yahweh, with the congregation singing "Hallelujah" and repeating every first line of the daily psalms in response to the choir (Mishnah: Tamid, 7:4).

In the morning service with the sounding of the gong, the blood of the lamb, which had been collected in a chalice at the moment of sacrifice, was first sprinkled against the sides of the sacrificial altar and then poured out at the altar's base, presenting to Yahweh the atoning blood of the sacrifice for the sins of the people (Leviticus 17:11).  After the pouring out of the blood, the supervising priest announced that the incense was about to be offered.  At that moment trumpets were sounded (Mishnah: Tamid, 7:3), the incense was offered, and the Tamid victim was placed on the sacrificial altar as the High Priest, or the officiating priest, offered a round unleavened wheat wafer, which was held up before the people and then broken in pieces before being placed on the altar fire (Mishnah: Tamid, 3:3; 4:3).  The offerings were accompanied by the music of the Levitical orchestra and choir and the singing of the psalm of the day. (12) The sacrifice was concluded with sounding of two trumpets as the red wine libation was poured out on the sacrificial altar and the assembly of priests, who were now standing on the steps of the Sanctuary Portico, prayed aloud with their arms extended palms upward, the final priestly benedictions and priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24-27).

But if Zechariah was offering the incense in the afternoon service, the order of the service was slightly different.  The blood was sprinkled and then poured out, the Tamid was placed on the sacrificial altar as the priest held up the unleavened wheat wafer, broke it and placed it on the altar fire, and then came the offering of the incense followed by the pouring out of the red wine libation.  In this way the offering of the prayers of the covenant people in the holy incense embraced the sacrificial offering of the Tamid, in the morning service being offered before the victim was placed on the altar fire and in the afternoon, being offered after the victim was placed on the altar (Mishnah: Tamid, 5:2-6:3; M. Yoma 3:5).

On a day that would alter the course of the old priest's life forever, Zechariah and his assisting priests entered the Sanctuary, walking the length of the Holy Place to the golden Altar of Incense that stood at the end of the room in front of the great curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.  The priest carrying the live coals from the sacrificial altar carefully placed the burning coals on the Altar of Incense, a square, gold covered column, as the second priest handed the censer and its golden spoon to Zechariah.  The altar was twice as tall as it was wide and stood chest high.  Its recessed gold top had four horn-like protrusions, one at each corner, and the top was trimmed with a golden fence to contain the coals and the incense (Exodus 30:1-8).  The priest who positioned the burning embers prostrated himself before the incense altar and the Holy of Holies, and then rising stepped back for Zechariah to approach the golden altar.  The officiating high priest standing at the doorway of the Sanctuary then gave the command that the time of incensing had come.  As Zechariah moved forward, his brother priests bowed low and withdrew, leaving Zechariah alone in the Holy Place (Mishnah: Tamid 6:3).

Luke 1:10 ~ Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering...

The old priest solemnly approached the Altar of Incense that stood in front of curtain that shielded the Holy of Holies and spooned the incense on to the fire of the incense altar.  In the outer court, the congregation had been facing the Altar of Burnt Offerings, watching as the cloud of white smoke, called in Hebrew the Olah, rose high into the sky.  The rising column of smoke from the altar reminded the people of the pillar of cloud that signified the presence of God in the Exodus experience and assured the people that God had graciously accepted the covenant community's offering of the Tamid lamb in atonement for their sins and for the restoration of God's fellowship with His people.  But now the congregation turned away from the sacrificial altar and toward the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies where the smoke from the incense came spilling out from the entrance to the Sanctuary, reminding them of the dedication to Solomon's Temple when the glory of God manifested in the Glory Cloud filled the Sanctuary (1 Kings 8:10-11; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3). The people fell to their knees and then spreading their hands, humbly prostrated themselves in prayer and submission to Yahweh as their prayers rose in the smoke of the incense. At this time a profound silence enveloped the entire Temple complex (Revelation 8:1; Mishnah Tamid 3:6, 9; 5:5-6; 6:1-3).

After he placed the incense upon the altar, Zechariah was startled by a sudden movement.  Turning he saw an angelic being standing to the right side of the Altar of Incense: Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incenseAnd the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.  And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense (Luke 1:8-11).

Question: The Temple liturgy was patterned after the Divine Liturgy Moses witnessed in the heavenly Sanctuary (Exodus 25:8-30:37).  The celebration of the Roman Catholic Mass and the Divine Liturgy of our Eastern Rite brothers are patterned after the Divine Worship St. John witnessed in the heavenly Sanctuary that he recorded in the Book of Revelation.  What elements of the daily Tamid service are familiar to you in the celebration of the Mass?

The New Covenant people of God are the inheritors of the liturgical worship offered to God in the liturgy of the Tamid Sacrifice.  Only in the Mass and in the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Rites can these elements still be found.  For a comparison between St. John's vision of Heavenly Liturgy and the Mass see the chart: "The Liturgy of the Mass Reflected in St. John's Vision of Divine Worship in the Book of Revelation" in the Appendix to this study.

Please read Luke 1:1-22 ~ Zechariah's encounter with the angel
11 the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12 Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will not drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb, 16 and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord." 18 Then Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." 19 And the angel said to him in reply, "I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. 20 But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time." 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the Sanctuary. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

It was during the reign of the Roman client king, Herod the Great, that the priest Zechariah was performing his priestly duties in Yahweh's Temple.  The Temple, on Mt. Moriah in the city of Jerusalem, was the only place on earth where sacrifice could be offered to Yahweh (Deuteronomy 12:8-12; 2 Samuel 24:18-25; 1 Chronicles 21:18-22:1; 2 Chronicles 3:1).  As he was serving in Yahweh's earthly Sanctuary, Zechariah was startled by the sudden appearance of a messenger from God.

Question: What was the priest Zechariah doing when the angel came to him? See Luke 1:8-10, Exodus 30:1-10, and Revelation 8:3-4.
Answer: He was fulfilling his priestly duty by burning incense in the Sanctuary of Yahweh on the golden Altar of Incense in front of the Holy of Holies.

Question: What was the significance of the incense altar, and what did the burning of the incense represent?  See Psalm 141:2, Exodus 25:8-9, 30:1-10, and Revelation 5:8; 8:1-4.
Answer: The burning of incense on the golden Altar of Incense was established as part of liturgical worship according to the commands of the Sinai Covenant.  The Altar of Incense was patterned after the incense altar Moses saw in the heavenly Sanctuary.  The incense represented the prayers of the covenant people that an angel of the Lord carried to the heavenly Sanctuary, presenting the prayers of the people to God.

Incense was burned twice each day during the daily worship services at the Jerusalem Temple.  The daily worship of Yahweh revolved around the sacrifice of the Tamid lambs, the first and most important sacrifice of the Sinai Covenant (Exodus 29:38-42; Mishnah: Tamid 1:1-7:4).  The sacrifice known as the "standing" (meaning of the Hebrew word Tamid), as in a perpetual, never-ending sacrifice, was offered as a communal sacrifice in atonement not only for the sins of the covenant people, but according to the 1st century AD Jewish theologian, Philo of Alexandria, for all mankind: Accordingly, it is commanded that every day the priests should offer up two lambs, one at the dawn of day, and the other in the evening [afternoon]; each of them being a sacrifice of thanksgiving; the one for the kindnesses which have been bestowed during the day, and the other for the mercies which have been vouchsafed in the night, which God is incessantly and uninterruptedly pouring upon the race of men (Philo, Special Laws, I, 169).  The body of the sacrificial victim, which had to be an unblemished male lamb, was to remain slowly burning on the sacrificial altar in the Court of the Priests day and night, so long as the Sinai Covenant endured.

In the morning service, the first Tamid lamb was slain at 9:00 AM as the gates to the Temple area were opened to admit the people and the doors to the holy Sanctuary were opened to admit the priests.(13)  Incense was burned on the Altar of Incense just before the morning Tamid lamb (having been sacrificed, cut into pieces and salted) was laid on the great bronze Altar of Burnt Offerings in the courtyard of the priests (Exodus 27:1-8; 38:1-7; 1 Kings 8:62-64).  In the afternoon service (the Jewish evening equates to our afternoon, since the Jewish day ended at sundown), the second Tamid Lamb was slain at 3:00 PM, and just after the victim was laid on the altar fire the priest in the Sanctuary burned the incense on the Altar of Incense. (14) In the daily worship services, the incense embraced the sacrifice of the Tamid lambs, being offered just before the morning Tamid and just after the afternoon Tamid.  Each service lasted about two hours as we count time and three hours as the ancients counted time (ancient peoples counted time and a sequence of days the way we count objects; they did not have the concept of a 0-place value). (15)

Once a year the Altar of Incense and the Ark of the Covenant also became altars of sacrifice (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:12-15).  The only time blood was smeared on the Altar of Incense and the Ark of the Covenant was during Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), which according to the liturgical calendar was observed in the fall (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 16:1-34; Hebrews 9:7-8).  Some Fathers of the Church believed the visitation of the angel Gabriel to Zechariah occurred on the feast of Yom Kippur.  If it was on this feast that Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist, it would explain the selection of John's feast day celebrated in the Church nine months later on June 24th, assuming that Yom Kippur fell on the 24 or 25th of September that year and making the event of Jesus' Incarnation six months later (see Luke 1:26, 36) on about March 25th and His birth nine months later on December 25th.  A number of the Church Fathers wrote that Jesus died on the exact same month and day that He was conceived.  March/April is the time of the Passover and therefore it is possible that the Passover circa 30 AD occurred, as some Fathers of the Church suggested, late in March.  It has been calculated that the date of Passover 30 AD was April 7th, but since the calculations for the year which accounted for making up the difference between the ancient solar and lunar calendars were rather arbitrary calculations, it is impossible to know the exact date according to our modern calendar.

While it is likely that Zechariah's experience with the divine took place near the time of Yom Kippur, it seems unlikely that Zechariah served as High Priest during this time.  Only the anointed High Priest could offer the incense of the afternoon Tamid on the Feast of Yom Kippur and smear the blood of the Yom Kippur sacrifice on the incense altar; there is no mention in Luke's passage of Zechariah offering blood on the incense altar (Mishnah: Yoma, 5:1), and of course there was only one High Priest so he was not chosen by lot, as Zechariah was chosen (Luke 1:9).  The 1st century AD historian Flavius Josephus and other sources provide comprehensive lists of the anointed High Priests until the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and Zechariah is not listed as an anointed High Priest (see the chart: "The Rulers of Judea" in the charts section as well as in Appendix II of Lesson VI of this study).  It is more likely that Zechariah was selected to perform this priestly duty during the daily Tamid worship service, a once-in-a-lifetime honor for a priest (Mishnah: Tamid 5:2). With the exception of the High Priest burning incense on Yom Kippur, at no other time was an ordinary priest in such close proximity to God.  It is also likely that Zechariah's encounter with the angel Gabriel took place at the time of the afternoon service because that is the same hour at which Gabriel visited the Prophet Daniel.  The only other time the angel Gabriel is mentioned in Sacred Scripture besides Luke 1:19 and 26 is in the Book of Daniel.

Question: Who was the prophet Daniel?  What was his history? See Daniel 1:1-7, 20.
Answer: Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple (destroyed 587/6 BC).  In 605BC, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon defeated Pharaoh Necho's armies at the Battle of Carchemish and seized the old Assyrian Empire, effectively making Babylon the regional superpower and Judah a vassal state of Babylon.  To ensure the loyalty of Judah as a vassal state, the reigning Davidic king and other royal captives were taken to Babylon.  Young Daniel and other children of noble or royal birth were taken captive at this time.  The captive children were raised and educated in the Babylonian court of King Nebuchadnezzar where several of them, including Daniel, eventually became court officials (Daniel 1:20).

Daniel's visions all involved the historical countdown to the coming of the Messiah.  The first revelation in the Book of Daniel concerned the four empires that would dominate the covenant people before the coming of a fifth kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms (Daniel 2:44).  It was revealed to Daniel that the first kingdom, in the succession of kingdoms, was Babylon (Daniel 2:37-38).  Babylon was to be succeeded by a kingdom not as great which would be conquered by a kingdom that would cover the known world of Daniel's time.  The third kingdom would be succeed by a fourth which in turn would be succeeded by a fifth kingdom that will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last for ever (Daniel 2:39-44).

Historically, Babylon was conquered by the Empire of the Medes and Persians (539BC).  The Medo-Persian Empire was conquered by the Greek armies of Alexander the Great (invasion of Asia Minor in 336BC).  The Greek Empire of Alexander, which was divided into four smaller kingdoms after his death (323BC), was conquered by the Romans (in successive conquests from 148-63BC).

Question: But is there a historical fulfillment of the fifth kingdom? Daniel prophesized that there would be a fifth kingdom that would succeed the fourth world empire (the Roman Empire) and rule forever in Daniel 2:44-45.  For other references to the fourth kingdom see Daniel 7:23-26 and to the fifth kingdom in Daniel 7:14, 18, and 27.
Answer: The fifth kingdom is the Kingdom of the Messiah, the "stone untouched by (human) hands" (Daniel 2:44-45).  The fifth kingdom is the kingdom John the Baptist came to proclaim (Matthew 3:2) and Jesus came to establish (Matthew 4:17) it is the kingdom promised to David that would be eternal (2 Samuel 7:16; 1 Chronicles 17:14), the universal Church of Jesus Christ, and upon His throne sit Christ's Vicars (Prime Ministers), the Popes of the Catholic Church.  Jesus told the Apostles in the Upper Room: .. and now I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father conferred one on me... (Luke 22:29).  Also see CCC# 551-53; 881-82; 763-65; 936.

Note: All the Davidic kings had vicars; for the description of the duties of a vicar during the reign of King Hezekiah see Isaiah 22:20-23.  Compare the description of Eliakim's authority to the authority Jesus conferred on St. Peter and Peter's successor, the current Pope of the Catholic Church, (see Matthew 7:24; 16:19).  The title "Pope" is a transliteration of the Greek word "pappas," a child's name for his father. This is the title of the Bishop of Rome because his authority is like a father's supreme authority over his children, and because his authority is to be exercised after Christ's example of loving, yet firm parental authority that was given to Him by the Father (John 15:7-17).

Please read Daniel 8:1, Daniel 8:11-26
1 After this first vision, I Daniel, had another, in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar... 11 It boasted even against the prince of the host, from whom it removed the daily sacrifice, and whose Sanctuary it cast down, 12 as well as the host, while sin replaced the daily sacrifice [Tamid]. It cast truth to the ground, and was succeeding in it undertaking. 13 I heard a holy one speaking, and another said to whichever one it was that spoke, "How long shall the events of this vision last concerning the daily sacrifice [Tamid] and desolating sin which is placed there, the Sanctuary, and the trampled host?" 14 He answered him, "For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the Sanctuary shall be purified." 15 While I, Daniel, sought the meaning of the vision I had seen, a man like figure stood before me, 16 and on the Ulai I heard a human voice that cried out, "Gabriel, explain the vision to this man." 17 When he came near where I was standing, I fell prostrate in terror. But he said to me, "Understand, son of man that the vision refers to the end of time." 18 As he spoke to me, I fell forward in a faint; he touched me and made me stand up. 19 "I will show you," he said, "what is to happen later in the period of wrath; for at the appointed time, there will be an end. 20 The two-horned ram you saw represents the kings of the Medes and Persians. 21 The he-goat is the king of the Greeks, and the great horn on its forehead is the first king. 22 The four that rose in its place when it was broken are four kingdoms that will issue from his nation, but without his strength. 23 After their reign, when sinners have reached their measure, there shall arise a king, impudent and skilled in intrigue. 24 He shall be strong and powerful, bring about fearful ruin, and succeed in his undertaking. He shall destroy powerful peoples; 25 his cunning shall be against the holy ones, his treacherous conduct shall succeed. He shall be proud of heart and destroy many by stealth. But when he rises against the Prince of princes, he shall be broken without a hand being raised. 26 The vision of the evenings and mornings is true, as spoken; do you, however, deep this vision undisclosed, because the days are to be many."

Question: What was Daniel's first experience with the angel Gabriel?  What mysteries did Gabriel reveal to Daniel and what are the references to the morning and afternoon Tamid sacrifice in these passages from the Book of Daniel?  Note: The Tamid is mentioned by its Hebrew name (English translations will usually read "perpetual" or "daily" sacrifice) in the Book of Daniel five times: 8:11, 12, 13; 11:31; 12:11.  The Tamid is referred to as the "perpetual sacrifice" in 8:13, there is a reference to "evenings and the mornings" in Daniel 8:26 which may also be a reference to the Tamid, and the Tamid is mentioned as the "evening sacrifice" in 9:21 (their "evening" was our afternoon since the next day began at sundown).  The Tamid is mentioned in Daniel more times than any other Bible book with the exception of the Book of Numbers chapters 28-29.
Answer: In his first encounter with Gabriel, the angel was told to interpret a vision Daniel had of the Ram and the He-Goat and the four smaller horns that sprung out of the one horn of the He-goat (Daniel 8:5, 8). This vision was historically fulfilled in Alexander the Great, the "He-goat" Greek king in Daniel 8:21.  King Alexander of Greece conquered the empire that was the successor to the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire.  The Medo-Persian Empire, composed of the union of the Persians and the Medes, was represented in Daniel's vision as the two-horned Ram. But at the height of his power, Alexander suddenly died when he was only 32 years old (Daniel 8:8: "the big horn snapped").  His death resulted in his Greek world empire being divided into four lesser kingdoms ruled by Alexander's four most powerful Greek generals (Daniel 8:8: "four horns pointing to the four winds of heaven").  One of the kings of this Greek Syrian kingdom would successfully abolish the Tamid sacrifice for a period of time (Daniel 8:11-13, 26).  This was the first vision Gabriel interpreted for Daniel.

Vision of Daniel in chapter 8: The Ram and the He-Goat (vision circa 553BC)
Animals in vision Interpretation and historical fulfillment
Ram with two horns The Persian empire was formed from the Medes and the Persians
He-goat Greek king with one horn Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire (invasion 336BC; defeated Persians at Issus in 333; final victory at Arbela in 331 BC).
He-goat's one horn becomes four When Alexander the Great died, his empire was divided among his four Greek generals (323 BC).
The little horn that grows toward the "Land of Splendor" The Seleucid Greeks expanded the empire from Syria to Asia Minor and as far as the Indus River becoming the largest of the four Greek empires, dominating even the Promised Land of the Jews.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

The historical implication of Daniel's vision for Judah: When Alexander died in 323BC, his world empire that stretched across the known world from Greece to Egypt and across Asia Minor to the Indus River was divided among four of his generals into four lesser Greek kingdoms.  One of "the smaller horns" of the four small horns that grew out of the one horn of the "He-goat," "grew big" (Daniel 8:9).  This vision was fulfilled in the Greek kingdom of the Seleucids (Syria), the largest of the four Greek kingdoms which dominated the "Land of Splendor," controlled the Holy Land as part of their domain.  In the second century BC, the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes tried to destroy Jewish culture and religion in his attempt to force the Jews to adopt Hellenistic culture and the worship of the Greek gods.  For a time these efforts were successful and even the Tamid daily sacrifice was abolished (Daniel 8:11-14; 9:26; 1 Maccabees 1:10/11-15/16, 41/43-64/67).  The daily Tamid sacrifice and Temple worship were restored in the revolt led by the great Jewish leader Judah Maccabeus (2 Maccabees 10:1-8), and "the boastful king," Antiochus Epiphanes, died "at the hand of God" (of natural causes).  Before he died Antiochus attributed both his illness and impending death to his defilement of the Jerusalem Temple (1 Maccabees 6:1-13; 2 Maccabees 9:1, 5-29).

Daniel 9:1-4, 13-27 ~ Daniel's second encounter with the angel Gabriel (underlining added for emphasis). Daniel has calculated that the seventy years of exile prophesized by the prophet Jeremiah have come to an end (see Jeremiah 25:11-12), and he is praying for God's forgiveness of the covenant people.
1 It was the first year that Darius, son of Ahasuerus, of the race of the Medes, reigned over the kingdom of the Chaldeans; 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, tried to understand in the Scriptures the counting of the years of which the LORD spoke to the prophet Jeremiah: that for the ruins of Jerusalem, seventy years must be fulfilled. 3 I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD, my God, and confessed, "Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments ... 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, pardon! O Lord, be attentive and act without delay, for your own sake, O my God, because this city and your people bear your name!" 20 I was still occupied with my prayer, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, presenting my petition to the LORD, my God, on behalf of his holy mountain. 21 I was still occupied with this prayer, when Gabriel, the one whom I had seen before in vision, came to me in rapid flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me in these words: "Daniel, I have now come to give you understanding. 23 When you began your petition, an answer was given which I have come to announce, because you are beloved. Therefore, mark the answer and understand the vision. 24 Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and for your holy city: then transgression will stop and sin will end, guilt will be expiated, everlasting justice will be introduced, vision and prophecy ratified, and a most holy will be anointed. 25 Know and understand this: From the utterance of the word that Jerusalem was to be rebuilt until one who is anointed and a leader, there shall be seven weeks. During sixty-two weeks it shall be rebuilt, with streets and trenches, in tome of affliction. 26 After the sixty-two weeks an anointed shall be cut down when he does not possess the city; and the people of a leader who will come shall destroy the Sanctuary. Then the end shall come like a torrent; until the end there shall be war, the desolation that is decreed. 27 For one week he shall abolish sacrifice and oblation; on the Temple wing shall be the horrible abomination until the ruin that is decreed is poured out upon the horror."

Question: What was Daniel's second encounter with the angel Gabriel?  What time of the day did this encounter take place and what was Gabriel's message to Daniel?
Answer: In the second encounter, Daniel had calculated that the 70 years of exile prophesized by the Prophet Jeremiah were coming to an end (Jeremiah 25:11-12).  He was confessing his own sins, confessing the sins of his people, and was petitioning for the restoration of his people to their ancestral lands and the rebuilding of Yahweh's Temple on Mt. Moriah ("the holy mountain of my God").  Daniel was praying "at the hour of the evening sacrifice."

It was the time that would have been the afternoon Tamid service which started at 3:00 PM and was concluded at about 5:00 PM (Daniel 9:20-21).  In this second and final encounter, Gabriel revealed to Daniel that his people would be allowed to return to the Promised Land and to rebuild the city of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25), but then the angel revealed the prophecy of the coming of the "Anointed Prince" who would be put to death outside his city (Daniel 9:26).  At a time after the death of the "Anointed One," Gabriel told Daniel that Jerusalem and God's Sanctuary would be ruined by "a prince who is to come" who would desecrate the Temple, put an end to the all Temple sacrifice including the Tamid, and that a great persecution would follow these events (Daniel 9:26b-27).

This prophecy was fulfilled historically in Jesus the Messiah (in Hebrew masiyah or malkiyyahu means "Anointed One" or "Yahweh's Anointed"), the Son of God the King who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem in 30 AD (John 19:19-20) and in Prince Titus, son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who in 70 AD (40 years after Christ's Ascension) destroyed the Jerusalem Temple, set up the abomination of pagan standards with the Temple precincts (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.6.1 [316]) and ended the Tamid and all animal sacrifice at the Temple forever. The destruction of the Temple was followed by the enslavement of the people of Judea who had survived the war only to be sold into slavery throughout the Roman world.(16)

It is possible that Zechariah's encounter with Gabriel was also at the hour of the afternoon Tamid.  Zechariah was very familiar with the prophetic countdown to the coming of the Messiah promised in the Book of the Prophet Daniel.  He knew this was the only book of Sacred Scripture in which the angel Gabriel was named.  Just as Zechariah placed the incense on the golden Altar of Incense in the Temple Sanctuary, the angel Gabriel stepped from behind the curtain that shielded the Holy of Holies and stood to the right side of the Altar of Incense where the Archangels stand before the Heavenly Altar of Incense (Luke 1:11; Revelation 8:3).

Question: Without revealing his name, what did the angel tell Zechariah in Luke 1:13?
Answer: He told Zechariah not to be afraid and then he told him that God had heard Zechariah's prayers; he and his elderly wife would have a son who they were to name "John."

The best translation of John's Hebrew name, Yohanan (Yehohanan), is "Yahweh is mercy," or "Yahweh is merciful." Fr. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, page 442, translates the name as "Yahweh is gracious" while Fr. Fitzmyer, Gospel of Luke translated it as "Yahweh as shown favor." Hen is the Hebrew word for "grace" while hanum is favored, and hanan means to stoop or bend in kindness to an inferior = to show mercy (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Lexicon).

Question: The angel told Zechariah that the promised child was to be consecrated to God from his mother's womb, and he was never to drink wine or any fermented liquor (Luke 1:14-15).  Were there other men who were similarity consecrated by God from the womb? See Numbers 6:1-4; Jeremiah 1:4-5; Judges 13:3-7; 1 Samuel 1:11.
Answer: The child was to be consecrated from the womb like the priest Jeremiah and the Nazirites Samuel and Samson.

Many scholars believe that John the Baptist was also a Nazirite but Scripture only mentions that he never consume strong drink.  There is no mention of the other requirement that identified a Nazirite as there was in the case of Samson and Samuel –i.e. the requirement that the hair of his head was not to be cut, etc.

Question: What was a Nazirite?  What purpose did a Nazirite serve?  The word in Hebrew means "consecrated one." How long did one live as a Nazirite and could women make a Nazirite vow?  See Numbers 6:1-21.
Answer: Men or women could take a vow and serve God as a Nazirite.  During the period of the vow, the Nazirites could not drink wine or any product that came from the vine, nor could they cut their hair.  At the completion of their vow, the Nazirite cut his or her hair which was burned on the God's sacrificial altar in Jerusalem together with multiple animal sacrifices (Numbers 6:18-20).

The Nazirite stipulations are set forth in Numbers 6:1-21 and fall between the priestly obligations and duties (Numbers 3:1-4:49), purity laws (Numbers 5:1-31) and the priestly prayer (Numbers 6:22-27).  According to early Church historians, St. James, the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem, a kinsman of Jesus, and according to Church history the author of the New Testament Letter of James, was a lifetime Nazirite (see The Works of Hegesippus, Book 2 chapter 22 and Eusebius, Church History, 2.23.4). Jewish convert, Queen Helen of Adiabene, kept a Nazirite vow for almost 20 years.

Note: In 60 AD when St. James Bishop of Jerusalem asked St. Paul, as a gesture of good will, to pay for the sacrifices of four Nazirite Jewish Christians, this was no small gesture but was a rather expensive demonstration of Paul's Jewish solidarity (Acts 21:23-26).

Question: What was the purpose of the Nazirite?  Is it possible that John the Baptist was a Nazirite?  Why did the angel command that John was never to consume strong drink? See Leviticus 10:9; Numbers 6:1-21, and Acts 21:23-26.
Answer: Service in the priesthood was hereditary; however, if someone not of Aaron's line believed he or she was called to serve Yahweh, or if a man or a woman wanted to honor God for the granting of a petition, he or she could be consecrated and serve Yahweh as a Nazirite for a prescribed length of time or for life as in the case of the prophet Samuel and the judge Samson.  John the Baptist was the son of a priest and a priest himself; it would not be necessary for him to take a Nazirite vow to serve God.  That John was commanded not to drink wine or strong drink from his mother's womb may be associated with his mission as the precursor of Christ. Priests in service to Yahweh in the Temple were forbidden to drink wine or any fermented liquor. Leviticus 10:9 lists Yahweh's instructions to Aaron the high priest concerning consuming wine for priests when serving God in the Sanctuary: When you come to the Tent of Meeting, you and your sons with you, you may not drink wine or any other fermented liquor, to avoid incurring death.

Question: When would John, son of Zechariah, first come into the presence of God? See Luke 1:41.
Answer: John came into the presence of God when the pregnant Virgin Mary visited John's mother Elizabeth (Luke 1:41) and the as yet unborn John, becoming aware of the presence of God in Mary's womb, leaped for joy in his own mother's womb.

Then too, the drinking of wine to excess in Scripture is symbolic of rebellion and violation of God's Law (see Isaiah 5:11-12 and the Agape Bible Study lesson: "How to Study the Prophets").

Question: What examples are found in the Old Testament of men of God drinking to excess and becoming defiled?
Answer: Examples of the drinking of wine to excess leading to sin and rebellion are found in several narratives in the Old Testament:

Question: How would you define St. John's mission when he reached adulthood?  How could the prohibition against drinking strong drink impact his ministry?  What unique position does St. John hold in the history of salvation?? See Leviticus 10:9-11; Ezekiel 44:21; Matthew 3:1-2, 10-12.
Answer: St. John's mission was to travel throughout the Holy Land calling the covenant people to repentance to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah.  He was to serve as the precursor of the Messiah and as the anointing priest of the Son of God at Jesus' baptism.  Perhaps the restriction against drinking strong liquor was because John wasn't serving Christ in the Jerusalem Temple; he was serving Christ in the world and therefore, his priestly ministry was not limited to a building.  It could be that this was part of this priestly function and condition of purity in service to the Messiah.  John the Baptist is the last prophet of the Old Covenant.

Question: Gabriel compared the promised child to the 9th century BC prophet Elijah.  When he became an adult, how did John the Baptist resemble the Prophet Elijah?  See 2 Kings 1:7-8, Matthew 3:4-6, and Mark 1:4.
Answer: Both John and Elijah wore a camel hair cloak and a leather loincloth, and both men were sent by God to call the covenant people to repentance.

Question: What Old Testament prophecy did the angel quote to Zechariah in Luke 1:16-17 and how was this quote related to the Prophet Elijah?  The Old Testament quote is in bold type.  Gabriel said: And he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God.  With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him?
Answer: Malachi 3:23-24: Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and awesome Day of Yahweh comes.  He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, to forestall my putting the country under the curse of destruction.  The prophecy Gabriel quoted concerned the sign of the coming of Elijah prior to the Advent of the Messiah.   Also see Sirach 48:1, 10.

Luke 1:18-19: 18 Then Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." 19 And the angel said to him in reply, "I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news."
The "good news" that Gabriel brings is more than the birth of a son for Zechariah. In the Greek text the angel uses the verb euangelizesthai, which means "to preach the gospel" (good news). Zechariah received the honor of being the first one to whom the gospel of the Kingdom had been preached! St. Luke used this verb ten times in his Gospel and fifteen times in Acts.

Rebuking the old priest's disbelief the angel said: "Look! Since you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this had happened."
Question: When Zechariah expressed doubt concerning the angel's message what happened and what was the significance of the revelation of the angel's name?  Hint: you may recall that the only other time this angel is named in Scripture is in the Book of the Prophet Daniel (8:15-16; 9:20-21).
Answer: For the first time, the angel revealed his name: I am Gabriel, who stand in God's presence, and then he silenced Zechariah by removing his power of speech.  At the moment the angel revealed his name, the elderly priest understood the reason for the birth of his son: this child was to serve God in the spirit of the Prophet Elijah, calling the people of God to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah. With the reference to Elijah and remembering the prophecies revealed to the Prophet Daniel by the angel Gabriel concerning the coming of the Anointed One, Zechariah must have immediately grasped that Gabriel was revealing to him the coming of the promised Messiah whose advent would be announced by Zechariah's own son, John.  It must have been divine intervention that kept that faithful old heart pumping!

Luke 1:21-22 ~ ~ 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the Sanctuary. 22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained mute.
While Zechariah was in the Holy Place, his brother priests had gathered on the Sanctuary steps.  When the incensing priest had finished, he was supposed to join them in giving the final priestly benediction.  As the congregation and the priests waited for him, they must have become increasingly concerned.  Men had died in offering up the holy incense—sinful men and men offering the incense inappropriately (Numbers 16:1-35, 40; 2 Chronicles 26:16-21).   The priests and the people must have been relieved when Zechariah finally appeared at the Sanctuary doors, but it was then that they realized he had lost his power of speech as a result of what had happened to him in the Sanctuary.

Luke 1:23-25 ~ 23 Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home. 24 After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, 25 "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others."
At the end of the week, the priestly division of Abijah returned home.  Although deprived of the power of speech, Zechariah could still write, and he must have written down his experience with the angel and shared with Elizabeth the tremendous blessing God was giving them.
Question: What was the humiliation that Elizabeth spoke of in Luke 1:25? See Genesis 16:1-5; 30:1, 23; 1 Samuel 1:5-8; 2 Samuel 6:20-23; and Hosea 9:11.
Answer: To be infertile was considered to be a humiliation and even a punishment as in the case of King Saul's daughter Michal who ridiculed her husband David for dancing before the Ark of the Covenant and as a result was barren.  Elizabeth's neighbors may have speculated that she was a failure as a woman or that God was punishing her for some reason.  The mother of the Prophet Samuel had been ridiculed and taunted by her husband's other wife before God granted her petition to bear a child.

Elizabeth must have thought of the Israelite heroine Hannah. For many years Hannah had suffered humiliation, but after years of bareness she was blessed by God when He opened her womb to receive the child who would one day become the great Prophet Samuel.  Elizabeth may have even prayed Hannah's prayer of praise which begins:

My heart exults in Yahweh, in my God is my strength lifted up, my mouth derides my foes, but I rejoice in your deliverance
(1 Samuel 2:1).

1. Since the time of King David, the priestly families and the families of the Levites were separated into divisions. There were twenty-four courses or clans of priests who were descendants of Aaron, the first High Priest, and there were twenty-four courses or clans of the lesser order of ministers known as the Levites (1 Ch 23:1-24; 24:7[8]-17[18]; 25:31). Each clan of both the higher and lower orders of ministers were expected to serve one week in the Jerusalem Temple from Sabbath to Sabbath, twice a year, and all the clans of both priests and Levites were required to come to Jerusalem to serve in the Temple for the three pilgrim feasts of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:16, 2 Ch 8:13).
2. Yahweh commanded that three times a year every man of the covenant must present himself before God with his sacrifices. The three "pilgrim feasts" were the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was celebrated in the spring on Nisan the 15th – 21st ; the Feast of Weeks, known by it Greek name as the Feast of Pentecost or fiftieth-day in the 1st century AD, celebrated fifty days from the day after the Sabbath that fell during the 7 days of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of Tabernacles that was celebrated in the fall from Tishri 15th -21st (Ex 23:14-18; 34:18-23; Dt 16:16; 2 Ch 8:13).
3. See the previous lesson; also 2 Maccabees 2:1-6. The stone was a raised part of the bedrock upon which the Temple stood that dated back to the time of the first Temple. A part of the rock was three fingers higher than the floor and was called the Shetiyyah (Mishnah: Yoma, 5:2). The Ark probably used to rest up this foundation stone.
4. The priest who offered the sin sacrifice of a covenant member ate the sin offering with his family in the Temple Holy Place (Lev 6:17- 7:10 [6:24-7:10]). With the exception of the Tamid and other whole burnt offerings which were completely consumed on the sacrificial altar (2 Ch 2:3/4), all sacrifices were eaten in a sacred meal, either by the priests or by the offerer and his family. The offer and his family ate the Todah (thanksgiving) communion sacrifice in the Holy Place of the Temple (Lev 7:1-38 [7:1-28]), with a portion given to the priests (Lev 7:28-34 [7:18-24]), the sacred meal of the Passover sacrifice eaten in Jerusalem at sundown of the first day of Unleavened Bread (Ex 12:8, Mishnah: Pesahim), and the hagigah festival communion offerings were eaten in the city of Jerusalem in a sacred meal during the pilgrim feasts (Mishnah: Hagigah). Sacrifices to Yahweh could only be offered at His holy Temple in Jerusalem (Dt 12:11-12; 2 Ch 3:1). See the chart on "The Seven Annual Remembrance Feasts of the Sinai Covenant" in the Chart section of Agape Bible Study.
5. The instructions for the Tamid sacrifice in Numbers chapters 28-28 records fifteen times that all other sacrifices are offered in addition to the daily Tamid. In the case of the Passover sacrifice, the afternoon Tamid was sacrificed an hour earlier and the Passover victims were sacrificed from 3-5PM unless Passover fell on the Eve of the Sabbath, on a Friday, at which time the Tamid was sacrificed at 12:30 PM (Mishnah:Pesahim, 5:1D).
6. During the era of Roman domination, the night was divided into four watches: sundown (6-9 PM), midnight (9 PM-midnight), cockcrow (midnight to 3 AM) and dawn (3 AM- dawn). These watches are mentioned in Mt 14:25, in Mk 6:48 & 14:35 (mentions all 4 watch signals), and in Lk 12:38. The trumpet that signaled the end of the third night watch and the beginning of the fourth at 3 AM was called the "cockcrow." The Roman watch blew the signal of the watch changes from the Antonia Fortress and the Temple guards blew their watch change signals from the Temple. The trumpet signal of the "cockcrow" is recorded in the Mishnah in M. Sukkah 5.4, M. Tamid 1:2, M. Yoma 1:8, and in Mt 26:34, 75; Mk 13:35 (watch signals including the "cockcrow"); 14:30 & 72 (mentions the two trumpet signals of the cockcrow); Lk 22:34, 61; Jn 13:38.
7. Like Catholic priests, the Old Covenant priests were only permitted to wear their liturgical garments when in service to the Lord: Once the priests have entered, they will not go out of the holy place into the outer court without leaving their liturgical vestments there, since these vestments are holy; they will put on other clothes before going near places assigned to the people (Ezekiel 42:14). Also see Mishnah: Tamid 5:3; The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 109.
8. The Levites and the lay members of the covenant (called "standing men") were forbidden access to the Sanctuary unless they were offering a personal communion sacrifice and laymen were forbidden entrance into the Court of the Priests except at the time of cultic requirements (Mishnah: Kelim 1:8; Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, page 209).
9. Mishnah: Tamid 3:7-4:2; Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 108 (morning sacrifice was at the third hour Jewish time, or 9AM).
10. The 1st century AD Jewish priest/historian, Flavius Josephus recorded in The Antiquities of the Jews 14.4.3 [65] concerning the time of the afternoon Tamid sacrifice: ...but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour, offer their sacrifices on the altar... The ninth hour Jewish time is 3 PM our time. This was the "evening sacrifice" because for the Jews, whose day began at sundown, the evening of the day began just as the sun passed high noon and began to descend into the end of the day. The afternoon Tamid lamb was brought to the altar bayin ha ereb, "between the twilights" of the day (between dawn and dusk), which is noon, and was sacrificed at 3 PM.
11. Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 127; The Works of Philo, Special Laws, I, 171; Mishnah: Tamid 5:2-6:1.
12. The Levitical choir began to sing after the offering of the incense. They sang a different psalm for each day of the week: Sunday they sang Psalm 24, Monday they sang Psalm 48, Tuesday they sand Psalm 82, Wednesday they sang Psalm 94; Thursday they sang Psalm 81, Friday they sang Psalm 93, and on the Sabbath they sang Psalm 92.
13. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, page 108: According to general agreement, the morning sacrifice was brought at the 'third hour,' corresponding to our nine o'clock.
14. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 14.4.3 [65]: ... but did still twice each day, in the morning and about the ninth hour, offer their sacrifices on the altar... The ninth hour Jewish time is 3:00 PM our time.
15. Christianity and the Roman Empire, page 282; Calendar: Humanity's Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year, page 189; Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, pages 77-78, 81. This is why Scripture records that Jesus was in the tomb three days from Friday to Sunday, instead of two days as we would count it.
16. Scholars have suggested that this prophecy of a murdered messiah was fulfilled in the death of the last legitimate Aaronic High Priest of the Zadok line, Onias III, who was assassinated in Antioch, Syria c. 172 BC. It is true that his death was followed by the desecration of the Temple and the temporary suspension of the Tamid and other sacrifices in c. 167-164, but the Sanctuary was not destroyed. Daniel's prophecy may have a double level of fulfillment in the events of the second century BC and in Jesus the Messiah. The Zadok line of Aaron was the line King David designated as High Priests. According to the Prophet Ezekiel, only the sons of Zadok are permitted to serve as high priests on the grounds that they alone were faithful to Yahweh when the Levites with the rest of Israel were unfaithful (Ez 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11). In Jesus' time, orthodox believers, like those at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, considered the non-Zadok High Priests, like Annas and Caiaphas, to be illegitimate, wicked priests.


Introductory Rites
Celebration of the Mass
Introductory Rites
Reference Verses in the Book of Revelation John's Vision in Revelation
Sunday Worship 1:10 John's visions of heavenly worship on the Lord's day (Sunday)
  • Processional
(presiding priest in liturgical garment), assisting ministers

1:6; 4:4; 4:9-10; 5:6, 8-9, 14

Christ our High Priest in liturgical garment.
  • Entrance Antiphon
4:8-11; 5:9-14; 7:10-12 Antiphonal chant
  • Priest reverences the altar, which represents the meeting place between man and God, by kissing the altar and with incense, if a High or Solemn Mass.  He wears the appropriate vestments.
Liturgical music and singing

Celibate clergy

Sanctuary/Tabernacle and presider's chair

Baptismal candle, Eucharistic candle, altar candles

Congregation of the priesthood of believers/ the Church
6:9; 8:3-5; 9:13; 11:1; 14:18; 16:7
1:8; 4:2-3, 9; 5:1-13;
7:9-17; 19:4-9; 22:3-5

5:8; 8:3-5

1:12-13; 6:2, 11; 7:9, 14; 15:5-6; 19:8, 13-14

4:2-3; 5:9, 11-12; 14:2-4; 15:3


11:19; 14:15; 15:5
3:2; 4:2-10; 5:1-13; 6:16;
7:9-17; 8:3; 12:5; 14:3-5;
16:17; 19:4-5; 20:4, 11; 21:3, 5; 22:1; 22:3;
1:13; 2:5; 4:5

1:6; 19:7-9; 20:6

Worship in the presence of God


Liturgical vestments in the heavenly Sanctuary

Liturgical music and singing

Consecrated celibacy,

Throne in the Sanctuary

Lampstands, (menorah)

Priesthood of the Faithful
  • Sign of the Cross and Greeting
7:3; 14:1; 22:4 Sign of the Cross
(mark of the Lamb)
  • The Rite of Blessing
1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14 Blessing
  • The Penitential Rite
Chapters 2 and 3 Penitence
  • The Gloria
  • Opening Prayer
Opening Prayer
Liturgy of the Word
Celebration of the Mass
Liturgy of the Word
Reference Verses in Revelation John's Vision in Revelation
Reading from the Word of God
  • 1st Reading: Old Testament

  • Responsorial Psalms

  • 2nd Reading: New Testament
5:1-8; 10:8; 20:12
2:1 – 3:22

1:7 (ref. Dan 7:13; Zc 12:10, 14

12:1-2, 6, 13-14


Book or Scroll
Messages from Christ

Ref. Christ in O.T.

Prominence of the Woman: The Virgin Mary, daughter of David & Old Covenant;
Mary the Mother of Christ,
Mother of the Church
  • Alleluia and Gospel
19:1, 3, 4, 6
1:7 (Jn 19:34, 37)
Gospel reference
  • Intercessions
5:8; 6:9-10; 8:3-4 Intercession of angels and saints
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Celebration of the Mass
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Reference Verses in Revelation John's Vision in Revelation
The Eucharistic Host 2:17 The Hidden Manna
  • Preparation of the Gifts (the wine in chalices and the bread in bowls)
15:7; Chapter 16
(in Rev. = judgments; in Mass = to become gifts of grace)
Bowls; chalices
  • Eucharistic Prayer & intro. dialogue  = command "Lift up your hearts"
11:12 Heavenly command: I heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, 'Come up here'
  • Acclamation
    Holy, Holy, Holy
    (worshippers kneel after the Sanctus)

Heavenly congregation sings:
Holy, Holy, Holy, and
worshippers kneel
  • The Great Amen
  • Communion Rite
19:4; 22:21
5:1, 5-6
Great Amen
Sacrificed Lamb in the Sanctuary
Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world 5:6; entire book Lamb of God
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Happy are those who are called to his table 19:9; Chapter 19 (all) Marriage Supper of the Lamb
Silent Contemplation 8:1 Silent Contemplation
  • Concluding Rites/ final blessing
The Mass of the Catholic Church is celebrated around the world throughout  every generation

Final Blessing

Worldwide worship Catholic (Greek: katholikos) means "universal"
See Catechism of the Catholic Church references #s 1090; 1137-1139; 2642.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2002 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2002 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.