The Gospel dealt with Zecharih, the future father of John the Baptist. It said he was “of the priestly division of Abijah,” and it goes on to say that “he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary.” Let me tell you what I understand by those two statements.
My understanding of his “belonging to the priestly division of Abijah” is that two thousand years earlier. Jacob assigned all the priestly duties to his son Levi. Levi went on to have twenty-four grandsons who took turns serving the temple. John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, was the direct descendent of Jacob’s grandson Abijah. He and his fellow descendents of Abijah took over all the temple duties for two weeks every year.
They drew lots to see what duties each would perform. Some would tend the fire. Others would help sacrificing the animals. It might have been the first time that Zechariah happened to have the noble task of entering the Holy Place to offer incense before the Holy of Holies.
On meeting the angel, he was startled near dying; and he could not believe it when Gabriel told him the and his elderly wife would bear a son who would prepare the way before the Savor. Finding that hard to belief, Gabriel punished Zechariah's lack of faith, by striking him dumb.
My understanding of the ground plan of the temple is at the center it had a small oblong building called the tabernacle. The tabernacle, including the Holy Place with a curtained-off third of it known as the Holy of Holies. It was only the High Priest, and he only once a year, who entered the Holy of Holies. A descendent of Levi, like Zechariah, burnt incense there once a day.
The inner courtyard for only the priests, was walled off around the tabernacle. That courtyard was enclosed by the much larger Courtyard of Israel. It contained the great barbecue-like altar; and even Jewish women could enter there. That courtyard was enclosed in the much lager Courtyard of the Gentiles where the animals were sold. That great courtyard had porticoes as meeting places along the outer walls.
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