And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the Lord,
&c.] Both the incense and burning coals of fire being carried within the vail, the incense was put upon the coals, and so it burned before the Lord, whose seat was between the cherubim; and from whence it appears, that this was done, not without but within the vail: the Sadducees under the second temple would have it, that the incense was put upon the fire without the vail, wherefore the high priest, on the evening of this day, was sworn by the messengers of the sanhedrim not to make any alteration in what they should say to him; and this oath was given him in the house of Abtines, where the incense was made, with a special respect to that, since it being within the vail, they could not see it performed: the manner of his performance of this part of his service is thus related; he went in between the rails, till he came to the north; when he was come to the north, he turned his face to the south; he went on his left hand near the vail, till he came to the ark; he put the censer between the two bars, and heaped the incense upon the top of the coals, and the whole house was filled with the smoke; he then went out backwards, and prayed a short prayer in the outward house (the holy place), and he did not continue long in prayer, lest the people of Israel should be frightened F12: the prayer he made is given us by the Jews F13: now the incense being put upon the coals may denote the fervour and ardency of Christ's intercession, and that his sufferings are the foundation of it, on which it proceeds, and are what give it a grateful odour, or make it acceptable to the Lord:
and this was done, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy
seat that [is] upon the testimony;
where was the Shechinah, or glorious majesty of God, and which was not to be seen, and therefore to be covered after this manner; which shows, that there is no access to God but as upon a seat of mercy and a throne of grace; and even that there is no coming to him upon that, but through the mediation and intercession of Christ:
that he die not;
as his sons did, boldly intruding where, and doing what they should not: there is no approaching to God as an absolute God, and live; but through Christ the Mediator, and his intercession, believers may draw nigh and see the face of God in Christ, and live, as Jacob did, ( Genesis 32:30 ) .
F12 Misn. Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1.
F13 Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.