'And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.'- Luk_1:8-10
Before proceeding to describe the 'morning sacrifice,' it is necessary to advert to a point of considerable interest and importance. There can be no doubt that, at the time of Christ, public prayer occupied a very prominent place in the ordinary daily services of the Temple. Yet the original institution in the law of Moses contains no mention of it; and such later instances as the prayer of Hannah, or that of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, afford neither indication nor precedent as regards the ordinary public services. The confession of the high-priest over the scape-goat (Lev_16:21) cannot be regarded as public prayer. Perhaps the nearest approach to it was on occasion of offering the firstfruits, especially in that concluding entreaty (Deu_26:15): 'Look down from Thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Thy people Israel, and the land which Thou hast given us, as Thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.' But, after all, this was again private, not public prayer, and offered on a private occasion, far different form the morning and evening sacrifices. The wording of King Solomon's prayer (1 Kings 8) implies indeed an act of united and congregational worship, but strictly speaking, it conveys no more than that public supplication was wont to be offered in times of public necessity (1Ki_8:30-52). Nor can anything definite be inferred from the allusions of Isaiah to the hypocrisy of his contemporaries (Isa_1:15) in spreading forth their hands and making many prayers. *
* Such language as that of Psa_27:4 seems also to point to the absence of any liturgy: 'to behold the beauty of the Lord.'
Regulations of the Rabbis
It was otherwise after the return from Babylon. With the institution and spread of synagogues- for the twofold purpose, that in every place Moses should be read every Sabbath day, and to provide a place 'where prayer was wont to be made'- practice of public worship soon became general. In Neh_11:17 we find already a special appointment 'to begin the thanksgiving in prayer.' Afterwards progress in this direction was rapid. The Apocrypha afford painful evidence how soon all degenerated into a mere form, and how prayer became a work of self-righteousness, by which merit might be obtained. This brings us to the Pharisees of the New Testament, with their ostentatious displays of devotion, and the hypocrisy of their endless prayers, full of needless repetitions and odious self-assertion. At the outset we here meet, as usual, at least seeming contradictions. On the one hand, the Rabbis define every attitude and gesture in prayer, fix the most rigid formulas, trace each of them up to one of the patriarchs, * and would have us believe that the pious have their nine hours of devotion, laying down this curious principle, suited to both worlds-'Prolix prayer protracts life.'
* The Rabbis ascribe the origin of the morning prayers to Abraham, that of the afternoon prayers to Isaac, and of the evening prayers to Jacob. In each case supposed Scriptural evidence for it is dragged in by some artificial mode of interpretation.
On the other hand, they also tell us that prayer may be contracted within the narrowest limits, and that a mere summary of the prescribed formulas is sufficient; while some of their number go the length of strenuously contending for free prayer. In fact, free prayer, liturgical formulas, and special prayers taught by celebrated Rabbis, were alike in use. Free prayer would find its place in such private devotions as are described in the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. It also mingled with the prescribed liturgical formulas. It may be questioned whether, even in reference to the latter, the words were always rigidly adhered to, perhaps even accurately remembered. Hence the Talmud lays it down (in the treatise Berachoth), that in such cases it sufficed to say the substance of the prescribed prayers.
That liturgical formulas were used not only in the Temple, but in the daily private devotions, cannot be doubted. The first trace of them appears so early as in the arrangement of the Psalter, each of its first four books closing with a 'eulogy,' or benediction (Psa 41; 72; 89; 106), and the fifth book with a psalm which may be designated as one grand doxology (Psa 150). Although it is a task of no small difficulty to separate the ancient prayers of Temple-times from the later additions, which have gradually swelled into the present Jewish prayer-book, it has, in great measure, successfully been accomplished. Besides such liturgical formulas, some prayers taught by celebrated Rabbis have been preserved. It was in accordance with this practice that John the Baptist seems to have given forms of prayer to his followers, and that the disciples asked the Saviour to teach them to pray (Luk_11:1).
The Lord's Prayer
The prayer spoken by the Lord far transcended any that Jewish Rabbis ever conceived, even where its wording most nearly approaches theirs. *
* It must always be kept in mind that such expressions as 'Our Father,' 'Thy kingdom come,' and others like them, meant in the mouth of the Rabbis a predominance of the narrowest Judaism; in fact, the subjection of all the world to Rabbinical ordinances, and the carnal glory of Israel.
It is characteristic that two of its petitions find no real counterpart in the prayers of the Rabbis. These are: 'Forgive us our trespasses,' and 'Lead us not into temptation.' In the Temple the people never responded to the prayers by an Amen, but always with this benediction, 'Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom for ever!' *
* Thus the words in our Authorised Version, Mat_6:13, 'For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen,' which are wanting in all the most ancient MSS, are only the common Temple-formula of response, and as such may have found their way into the text. The word 'Amen' was in reality a solemn asseveration or a mode of oath.
This formula was traced up to the patriarch Jacob, on his death-bed. In regard to 'the kingdom,' whatever the Rabbis understood by it, the feeling was so strong, that it was said: 'Any prayer which makes not mention of the kingdom, is not a prayer at all.'
Attitude in Prayer
The attitude to be observed during prayer is very accurately defined by the Rabbis. The worshipper was to stand, turning towards the Holy Place; he was to compose his body and his clothes, to draw his feet close together, to cast down his eyes, at least at the beginning of his prayer, to cross his hands over his breast, and to 'stand as a servant before his master, with all reverence and fear.' Even the priests, while pronouncing the priestly blessing, were to look to the ground. In regard to the special manner of bowing before the Lord, a distinction was made between bending the knees, bending the head, and falling prostrate on the ground. The latter was not deemed 'fit for every man, but only for such as knew themselves righteous men, like Joshua.
The Two Elements in Prayer
In general the Rabbis distinguish two elements in prayer, on the ground of the two terms used by Solomon (1Ki_8:28),- and petition. To these correspond the two kinds of early Jewish prayer: the Eulogies and the Tephillah. And thus far correctly, as the two Hebrew words for prayer indicate, the one adoration, the other supplication, or, rather, intercession. Both kinds of prayer found expression in the Temple services. But only after the manifestation of Him, who in His person united the Divine with the human nature, could adoration and supplication be fully called out. Nay, the idea of supplication would only be properly realised after the outpouring of the Spirit of adoption, whereby the people of God also became the children of God. Hence it is not correct to designate sacrifices as 'prayers without words.' The sacrifices were in no sense prayers, but rather the preparation for prayer. The Tabernacle was, as its Hebrew designation shows, the place 'of meeting' between God and Israel; the sacrificial service, that which made such meeting possible; and the priest (as the root of the word implies), he who brought Israel near to God. Hence prayer could only follow after the sacrifice; and its appropriate symbol and time was the burning of incense. This view is expressed in the words: 'Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense' (Psa_141:2), and authoritatively confirmed in Rev_5:8, where we read of the 'golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of saints.'
Burning the Incense
It is this burning of incense which in the Gospel is alluded to in connection with the birth of John the Baptist (Luk_1:9). Zacharias had come up from the hill country of Judea, from the neighbourhood of priestly Hebron, to minister in the Temple. His course- of Abia- on duty for the week, and the 'house of his fathers' for that special day. More than that, the lot had fallen on Zacharias for the most honourable service in the daily ministry- of burning the incense on the golden altar within the Holy Place. For the first time in his life, and for the last, would this service devolve on him. As the pious old priest ministered within the Holy Place, he saw with such distinctness that he could afterwards describe the very spot, Gabriel standing, as if he had just come out from the Most Holy Place, between the altar and the table of shewbread, 'on the right side of the altar.' So far as we know, this was the first and only angelic appearance in the Temple. For we cannot attach serious importance to the tradition that, during the forty years of his pontificate, an angel always accompanied Simeon the Just, when on the Day of Atonement he entered and left the Most Holy Place, except the last year, when the angel left him in the Sanctuary, to show that this was to be the end of his ministry. What passed between Gabriel and Zacharias is beside our present purpose. Suffice it to notice several details incidentally mentioned in this narrative, such as that a special lot was cast for this ministry; that the priest was alone in the Holy Place while burning the incense; and that 'the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.'
Filling the Laver
The lot for burning the incense was, as we have seen, the third by which the order of the ministry for the day was determined. The first lot, which in reality had been cast before the actual break of day, was that to designate the various priests who were to cleanse the altar and to prepare its fires. The first of the priests on whom this lot had fallen immediately went out. His brethren reminded him where the silver chafing-dish was deposited, and not to touch any sacred vessel till he had washed his hands and feet. He took no light with him; the fire of the altar was sufficient for his office. Hands and feet were washed by laying the right hand on the right foot, and the left hand on the left. *
* Perhaps this might therefore be appropriately described as washing 'the feet only,' (Joh_13:10).
The sound of the machinery, as it filled the laver with water, admonished the others to be in readiness. This machinery had been made by Ben Catin, who also altered the laver so that twelve priests could at the same time perform their ablutions. Otherwise the laver resembled that in the Temple of Solomon. It was of brass. All the vessels in the Sanctuary were of metal, the only exception being the altar of burnt-offering, which was solid, and wholly of stones taken from virgin soil, that had not been defiled by any tool of iron. The stones were fastened together by mortar, pitch, and molten lead. The measurement of the altar is differently given by Josephus and the Rabbis. It seems to have consisted of three sections, each narrower than the former: the base being thirty-two cubits wide, the middle twenty-eight, and the top, where the fire was laid (of course, not including the horns of the altar nor the space where the priests moved), only twenty-four cubits. With the exception of some parts of the altar, in which the cubit was calculated at five hand-breadths, the sacred cubit of the Temple was always reckoned at six hand-breadths. Lastly, as readers of the New Testament know, whatever touched the altar, or, indeed, any sacred vessel, was regarded as 'sanctified' (Mat_23:19), but no vessel could be dedicated to the use of the Temple which had not been originally destined for it.
Preparing the Altar
But to return. While the assistant priests were waiting, the first priest had taken the silver chafing-dish, and scraped the fire on the altar, removing the burnt coals, and depositing them at a little distance north of the altar. As he descended, the other priests quickly washed hands and feet, and took shovels and prongs, with which they moved aside what of the sacrifices had been left unburned from the previous evening, then cleaned out the ashes, laying part on the great heap in the middle of the altar, and the rest in a place whence it was afterwards carried out of the Temple. The next duty was to lay on the altar fresh wood, which, however, might be neither from the olive nor the vine. For the fire destined to feed the altar of incense the wood of the fig-tree was exclusively used, so as to secure good and sufficient charcoal. The hitherto unconsumed pieces of the sacrifice were now again laid upon the fire.
The Second Lot
These preliminaries finished, the priests gathered once more for the second lot. The priest on whom it fell was designated, along with the twelve who stood nearest to him, for offering the sacrifice and cleansing the candlestick and the altar of incense. Immediately after casting this second lot, the president directed one to ascend some 'pinnacle,' and see whether it was time to kill the daily sacrifice. If the priest reported, 'The morning shineth already,' he was again asked, 'Is the sky lit up as far as Hebron?' If so, the president ordered the lamb to be brought from the chamber by the Beth-Moked, where it had been kept in readiness for four days. Others fetched the gold and silver vessels of service, of which the Rabbis enumerate ninety-three. The sacrificial lamb was now watered out of a golden bowl, and anew examined by torch-light, though its Levitical fitness had been already ascertained the evening before. Then the sacrificing priest, surrounded by his assistants, fastened the lamb to the second of the rings on the north side of the altar- the morning in the western, in the evening in the eastern corner. *
* The sacrifice was always offered against the sun.
The sacrifice was held together by its feet, the fore and hind feet of each side being tied together; its head was laid towards the south and fastened through a ring, and its face turned to the west, while the sacrificing priest stood on the east side. The elders who carried the keys now gave the order for opening the Temple gates. As the last great gate slowly moved on its hinges, the priests, on a signal given, blew three blasts on their silver trumpets, summoning the Levites and the 'representatives' of the people (the so-called 'stationary men') to their duties, and announcing to the city that the morning sacrifice was about to be offered. Immediately upon this the great gates which led into the Holy Place itself were opened to admit the priests who were to cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense.
The Slaying of the Lamb
The opening of these gates was the signal for actually slaying the sacrificial lamb. The sacrifice was offered in the following manner. One priest drew forward the windpipe and gullet of the sacrifice, and quickly thrust upwards the knife, while another caught the blood in a golden bowel. Standing at the east side of the altar, he sprinkled it, first at the north-east, and then at the south-west corner, below the red line which ran round the middle of the altar, in each case in such manner as to cover two sides of the altar, or, as it is described, in the form of the Greek letter (gamma). The rest of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar. Ordinarily, the whole of this service would of course be performed by priests. But it was valid even if the sacrifice had been killed by a layman, or with an ordinary knife. Not so if the blood were caught up in any but a consecrated vessel, or sprinkled by other than the hands of a priest who at the time was Levitically fit for the service.
The Altar of Incense and the Candlestick
We proceed to describe the service of those whose duty it was to cleanse the altar of incense and to dress the golden candlestick in the Holy Place. A few particulars as to each of these will not be out of place. The triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome bears a representation of the golden mortars in which the incense was bruised, and of the golden candlestick, but not the altar of incense. Still, we can form a sufficiently accurate idea of its appearance. It was square, one cubit long and broad, and two cubits high, that is, half a cubit higher than the table of shewbread, but one cubit lower than the candlestick, and it had 'horns' at each of its four corners. It was probably hollow, and its top covered with a golden plate, and like an Eastern roof, surrounded by what resembled a balustrade, to prevent the coals and incense from falling off. Below this balustrade was a massive crown of gold. The incense burned upon this altar was prepared of the four ingredients mentioned in Exo_30:34, with which, according to the Rabbis, seven others were mixed, besides a small quantity of 'Ambra,' and of a herb which gave out a dense smoke. To these thirteen substances (Jos. Wars, v. 5. s.) salt was of course added. The mode of preparing the incense had been preserved in the family of Abtinas. The greatest care was taken to have the incense thoroughly bruised and mixed. Altogether 368 pounds were made for the year's consumption, about half a pound being used every morning and evening in the service. The censer for the Day of Atonement was different in size and appearance from that for ordinary days. The golden candlestick was like that delineated in Exo_25:31, etc., and is sufficiently known from its representation on the Arch of Titus.
Now, while one set of priests were busy in the Court of the Priests offering the sacrifice, the two on whom it devolved to trim the lamps of the candlestick and to prepare the altar of incense had gone into the Holy Place. As nearly as possible while the lamb was being slain without, the first of these priests took with his hands the burnt coals and ashes from the golden altar, and put them into a golden vessel- 'teni'- withdrew, leaving it in the sanctuary. Similarly, as the blood of the lamb was being sprinkled on the altar of burnt-offering, the second priest ascended the three steps, hewn in stone, which led up to the candlestick. He trimmed and refilled the lamps that were still burning, removed the wick and old oil from those which had become extinguished, supplied fresh, and re-lit them from one of the other lamps. But the large central lamp, towards which all the others bent, and which was called the western, because it inclined westward towards the Most Holy Place, might only be re-lit by fire from the altar itself. Only five, however, of the lamps were then trimmed; the other two were reserved to a later period of the service.
Salting the Sacrifice
Meantime in the Court of the Priests the sacrifice had been hung on one of the hooks, flayed, cut up according to rules, cleaned, and handed to the six priests who were successively to carry up the pieces to the rise of the altar, where they were salted and deposited. For 'every sacrifice must be salted with salt'-, everything that was laid on the altar, except the drink-offering. At the same time, three other priests carried up to the rise of the altar the daily meat-offering, that of the high-priest, and the drink-offering. The skins of the sacrifices were salted, and on the eve of each Sabbath distributed among the 'course' of priests that had been on ministry. *
* This in the case of burnt-, sin-, or trespass-offerings. The skins of the other offerings belonged to the offerers themselves.
Prayer Before the Third Lot
And now the most solemn part of the service was about to begin. For the third time the priests assembled in the 'Hall of Polished Stones,' to draw the third and the fourth lots. But before doing so the president called on them to join in the prescribed prayers. Tradition has preserved these to us. Subjecting them to the severest criticism, so as to eliminate all later details, the words used by the priests before the third and fourth lots were as follows:
'With great love hast Thou loved us, O Lord our God, and with much overflowing pity hast Thou pitied us. Our Father and our King, for the sake of our fathers who trusted in Thee, and Thou taughtest them the statutes of life, have mercy upon us, and enlighten our eyes * [in Thy law; cause our hearts to cleave to Thy commandments; unite our hearts to love and to fear Thy name, and we shall not be put to shame, world without end. For Thou art a God who preparest salvation, and us hast Thou chosen from among all nations and tongues, and hast, in truth, brought us near to Thy great name, Selah, in order] that we in love may praise Thee and Thy Unity. Blessed be the Lord, who in love chose His people Israel.'
* The words here and afterwards within square brackets are regarded by Jost (Gesch. d. Jud.) as a later addition.
After this prayer the ten commandments were (at one time) wont to be repeated, a practice discontinued, however, lest the Sadducees should declare them to be the only essential part of the law. Then all assembled said the so-called 'Shema' * which may be designated as a sort of 'credo' or 'belief.' It consisted of these three passages- Deu_6:4-9; Deu_7:13-21; and Num_15:37-41.
* So named from the first word, Shema, 'Hear,' viz. 'O Israel,' etc. By one of the strangest mistakes, Lightfoot confounds the contents of the 'Shema' with those of the phylacteries.
The Lot for Incense
After this the lot was cast for burning the incense. No one might take part in it who had ministered in that office before, unless in the very rare case that all present had previously so officiated. Hence, while the other three lots held good for the evening service, that for the incense required to be repeated. He on whom this lot fell chose from among his friends his two assistants. Finally, the third was succeeded by the fourth lot, which designated those who were to lay on the altar the sacrifice and the meat-offerings, and to pour out the drink-offering.
Offering the Incense
The incensing priest and his assistance now approached first the altar of burnt-offering. One filled with incense a golden censer held in a silver vessel, while another placed in a golden bowl burning coals from the altar. As they passed from the court into the Holy Place, they struck a large instrument (called the 'Magrephah'), at sound of which the priests hastened from all parts to worship, and the Levites to occupy their places in the service of song; while the chief of the 'stationary men' ranged at the Gate of Nicanor such of the people as were to be purified that day. Slowly the incensing priest and his assistants ascended the steps to the Holy Place, preceded by the two priests who had formerly dressed the altar and the candlestick, and who now removed the vessels they had left behind, and, worshipping, withdrew. Next, one of the assistants reverently spread the coals on the golden altar; the other arranged the incense; and then the chief officiating priest was left alone within the Holy Place, to await the signal of the president before burning the incense. It was probably while thus expectant that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zacharias. As the president gave the word of command, which marked that 'the time of incense had come,' 'the whole multitude of the people without' withdrew from the inner court, and fell down before the Lord, spreading their hands * in silent prayer.
* The practice of folding the hands together in prayer dates from the fifth century of our era, and is of purely Saxon origin. See Holemann, Bibel St. i. p. 150, quoted by Delitzsch, u.s.
Imagery in the Apocalypse
It is this most solemn period, when throughout the vast Temple buildings deep silence rested on the worshipping multitude, while within the sanctuary itself the priest laid the incense on the golden altar, and the cloud of 'odours' (Rev_5:8) rose up before the Lord, which serves as the image of heavenly things in this description (Rev_8:1, Rev_8:3-4): * 'and when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour...And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand.'
* According to Tamid, vi. 3, the incensing priest 'bowed down,' or prayed, on withdrawing backwards from the Holy Place.
Prayers with the Incense
The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows: * 'True it is that Thou art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers; our King and the King of our fathers; our Saviour and the Saviour of our fathers; our Maker and the Rock of our salvation; our Help and our Deliverer. Thy name is from everlasting, and there is no God beside Thee. A new song did they that were delivered sing to Thy name by the sea-shore; together did all praise and own Thee as King, and say, Jehovah shall reign who saveth Israel. **
* A few details for those who wish fuller information. Tradition has preserved two kinds of fragments from the ancient Jewish liturgy in the times of the Temple. The one is called the 'Tephillah,' or Prayer, the other the 'Eulogies,' or Benedictions. Of the latter there are eighteen, of which the three first and the three last are the oldest, though four, five, six, eight, and nine are also of considerable antiquity. Of the ancient Tephilloth four have been preserved- used before and two (in the morning, one) after the Shema. The first morning and the last evening Tephillah are strictly morning and evening prayers. They were not used in the Temple service. The second Tephillah before the Shema was said by the priests in the 'Hall of Polished Stones,' and the first Tephillah after the Shema by priests and people during the burning of incense. This was followed by the three last of the eighteen Eulogies. Is it not a fair inference, then, that while the priests said their prayers in 'the hall,' the people repeated the three first Eulogies, which are of equal antiquity with the three last, which we know to have been repeated during the burning of incense?
** Now follow in the text the three last 'Eulogies.'
'Be graciously pleased, Jehovah our God, with Thy people Israel, and with their prayer. Restore the service to the oracle of Thy house; and the burnt-offerings of Israel and their prayer accept graciously and in love; and let the service of Thy people Israel be ever well-pleasing unto Thee.
'We praise Thee, who art Jehovah our God, and the God of our fathers, the God of all flesh, our Creator, and the Creator from the beginning! Blessing and praise be to Thy great and holy name, that Thou hast preserved us in life and kept us. So preserve us and keep us, and gather the scattered ones into Thy holy courts, to keep Thy statutes, and to do Thy good pleasure, and to serve Thee with our whole heart, as this day we confess unto Thee. Blessed be the Lord, unto whom belongeth praise.
'Appoint peace, goodness, and blessing; grace, mercy, and compassion for us, and for all Israel Thy people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Thy countenance. For in the light of Thy countenance hast Thou, Jehovah, our God, given us the law of life, and loving mercy, and righteousness, and blessing, and compassion, and life, and peace. And may it please Thee to bless Thy people Israel at all times, and at every hour with Thy peace. [May we and all Thy people Israel be remembered and written before Thee in the book of life, with blessing and peace and support.] Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, who blessest Thy people Israel with peace.'
These prayers ended, he who had formerly trimmed the candlestick once more entered the Holy Place, to kindle the two lamps that had been left unlit; and then, in company with the incensing priest, took his stand on the top of the steps which led down to the Court of the Priests. *
* According to Maimonides, it was at this part of the service, and not before, that the sound of the Magrephah summoned the priests to worship, the Levites to their song, and the 'stationary men' to their duties.
The other three who had also ministered within the Holy Place gathered beside him, still carrying the vessels of their ministry; while the rest of the priests grouped themselves on the steps beneath. Meanwhile he on whom the fourth lot had fallen had ascended to the altar. They whose duty it was handed to him, one by one, the pieces of the sacrifice. Upon each he pressed his hands, and next flung them confusedly upon the fire, that so the flesh of the sacrifice might be scattered as well as its blood sprinkled. After that he ranged them in order, to imitate as nearly as possible the natural shape of the animal. This part of the service was not unfrequently performed by the high-priest himself.
The priests, who were ranged on the steps to the Holy Place, now lifted their hands above their heads, spreading and joining their fingers in a peculiar mystical manner. *
* The high-priest lifted his hands no higher than the golden plate on his mitre. It is well know that, in pronouncing the priestly blessing in the synagogue, the priests join their two outspread hands, by making the tip of the first fingers touch each other. At the same time, the first and second, and the third and fourth fingers in each hand are knit together, while a division is made between those fingers by spreading them apart. A rude representation of this may be seen in Jewish cemeteries on the gravestones of priests.
One of their number, probably the incensing priest, repeated in audible voice, followed by the others, the blessing in Num_6:24-26 : 'Jehovah bless thee, and keep thee: Jehovah make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Jehovah lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.' To this the people responded, 'Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.' In the modern synagogues the priestly blessing is divided into three parts; it is pronounced with a disguised voice and veiled faces, while the word 'Lord' is substituted for the name of 'Jehovah.' *
* Dr. Geiger has an interesting argument to show that in olden times the pronunciation of the so-called ineffable name 'Jehovah,' which now is never spoken, was allowed even in ordinary life. See Urschrift u. Uebers d. Bibel, p. 259, etc.
Of course all this was not the case in the Temple. But if it had been the duty of Zacharias, as incensing priest for the day, to lead in the priestly blessing, we can all the better understand the wonder of the people as 'he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless' (Luk_1:22) while they waited for his benediction.
After the priestly blessing the meat-offering was brought, and, as prescribed in the law, oil added to it. Having been salted, it was laid on the fire. Next the high-priest's daily meat-offering was presented, consisting of twelve cakes broken in halves- half-cakes being presented in the morning, and the other twelve in the evening. Finally, the appropriate drink-offering was poured out upon the foundation of the altar (perhaps there may be an allusion to this in Rev_6:9-10).
The Temple Music
Upon this the Temple music began. It was the duty of the priests, who stood on the right and the left of the marble table on which the fat of the sacrifices was laid, at the proper time to blow the blasts on their silver trumpets. There might not be less than two nor more than 120 in this service; the former in accordance with the original institution (Num_10:2), the latter not to exceed the number at the dedication of the first Temple (2Ch_5:12). The priests faced the people, looking eastwards, while the Levites, who crowded the fifteen steps which led from the Court of Israel to that of the Priests, turned westwards to the sanctuary. On a signal given by the president, the priests moved forward to each side of him who struck the cymbals. Immediately the choir of the Levites, accompanied by instrumental music, began the Psalm of the day. It was sustained by not less than twelve voices, with which mingled the delicious treble from selected voices of young sons of the Levites, who, standing by their fathers, might take part in this service alone. The number of instrumental performers was not limited, nor yet confined to the Levites, some of the distinguished families which had intermarried with the priests being admitted to this service. *
* It is a curious coincidence that of the two families named in the Talmud as admitted to this service, one- of Tsippariah- have been 'from Emmaus' (Luk_24:13).
The Psalm of the day was always sung in three sections. At the close of each the priests drew three blasts from their silver trumpets, and the people bowed down and worshipped. This closed the morning service. It was immediately followed by the sacrifices and offerings which private Israelites might have to bring, and which would occasionally continue till near the time for the evening service. The latter resembled in all respects that of the morning, except that the lot was only cast for the incense; that the incense was burned, not, as in the morning, before, but after the pieces of the sacrifice had been laid on the fire of the altar, and that the priestly blessing was generally admitted.
The Order of Psalms
The following was the order of the Psalms in the daily service of the Temple (Tamid, sect. vii, and Maimonides in Tamid). On the first day of the week they sang Psalm 24, 'The earth is the Lord's,' etc., in commemoration of the first day of creation, when 'God possessed the world, and ruled in it.' On the second day they sang Psalm 48, 'Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,' etc., because on the second day of creation 'the Lord divided His works, and reigned over them.' On the third day they sang Psalm 82, 'God standeth in the congregation of the mighty,' etc., 'because on that day the earth appeared, on which are the Judge and the judged.' On the fourth day Psalm 94 was sung, 'O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth,' etc., 'because on the fourth day God made the sun, moon, and stars, and will be avenged on those that worship them.' On the fifth day they sang Psalm 81, 'Sing aloud unto God our strength,' etc., 'because of the variety of creatures made that day to praise His name.' On the sixth day Psalm 93 was sung, 'The Lord reigneth,' etc., 'because on that day God finished His works and made man, and the Lord ruled over all His works.' Lastly, on the Sabbath day they sang Psalm 92, 'It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,' etc., 'because the Sabbath was symbolical of the millennial kingdom at the end of the six thousand years' dispensation, when the Lord would reign over all, and His glory and service fill the earth with thanksgiving.'