he went into the sanctuary of the Lord, having been chosen by lot (according to the custom of the priesthood) to burn the incense offering, Bible other translations

“he went into the sanctuary of the Lord.” In this case, the context lets us know that the “sanctuary” was the holy place, the first room of the Temple, which in Herod’s Temple had ten menorahs, ten tables with bread of the presence, and the altar of incense. As the verse says, he went in to burn the incense on the golden altar of incense.

“lot.” The priest who got the privilege of burning incense on the golden altar in the Temple was chosen by the casting of lots. The honor was so great that a person was only allowed to do it one time in his life, and after that he was called “rich” (A. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, book II, p. 134). At the time of Christ there were many thousands of priests and Levites, many more than was necessary to do the required work of the Temple except perhaps during the feasts, so often jobs were assigned by casting lots. “There were many more priests and Levites than necessary (perhaps eighteen thousand) for any given function in the Temple” (Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, 2nd edition, p.179).

“to burn the incense offering.” The inside of Herod’s Temple would have followed the pattern of Solomon’s Temple, not Moses’ Tabernacle. So it would have had ten menorahs, not one, five on each side, and ten tables of the Bread of the Presence, not just one (2 Chron. 4:7-8). But, just as in Solomon’s Temple, there would have only been one golden altar of incense, but the entrance to the Holy of Holies would have been through doors, as in Solomon’s Temple, not curtains as in the Tabernacle (1 Kings 6:31).

Commentary for: Luke 1:9