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Jesus and the Temple
It was the Passover, and both Jewish and non-Jewish pilgrims alike from all
over the world would come to Jerusalem to seek after God at the Temple. They
would come marching through the hills singing and rejoicing of the great things
that God has done. It was a wonderful time of joy and festivity. Once they
arrived, the foreigners would come to the Court of the Gentiles (or in its porch), and
they would be confronted with the "moneychangers." When Jesus saw them He made
a whip of cords and drove them all out of the Temple and said "Do not make My
Father's house a house of merchandise!"
The large outer court was called "the Court of the Gentiles" because it was
devoted to the foreigners who had come to worship God at the Temple and they
could proceed no further. It is interesting that Jesus chose to stop at this place
to show forth His anger toward the moneychangers, the Court of the "Gentiles,"
and this was not the first time that He came to the aid of non-Jews.
The profanity and abuse of the moneychangers was no small thing. They treated
the foreign guests with much contempt and even the Jewish authorities
constantly scorned this place and abused the pilgrims who came to worship.
The Money Changers
The word "moneychanger" means money-banker or money-broker. They would make
large profits at the expense of the pilgrims. Every Israelite, rich or poor, who
had reached the age of twenty was obligated to pay a half shekel as an offering
to Jehovah into the sacred treasury. This tribute was in every case to be paid
in the exact Hebrew half shekel. At Passover everyone in the world who was an
adult male and wished to worship at the Temple would bring his "offering" or
purchase a sacrificial animal at the Temple. Since there was no acceptance of
foreign money with any foreign image the money changers would sell "Temple
coinage" at a very high rate of exchange and assess a fixed charge for their services.
The judges, who sat to inspect the offerings that were brought by the
pilgrims, were quick to detect any blemish in them. This was expensive for the wealthy
pilgrims, not to say how ruinous this was for the poor who could only offer
their turtle-doves and pigeons. There was no defense for them or court of appeal,
seeing that the priestly authorities took a large percentage on every
The House of God or the National Treasury
Jesus referred to the Temple as the "House of God" and called it a "House of
Prayer," not just for the Jews, but for all nations. When Jesus arrived with the
mass of pilgrims, He overturned the tables and called it a den of thieves and
a house of merchandise. The Temple was in some sense the national bank. It was
a great public treasury with vaults containing immense stores of private
wealth. These deposits never sat idle, but were loaned at high rates of interest. The
Jewish historian Josephus wrote an account of the burning of the archives in
Jerusalem and it gives an appalling picture of the incredible debts that were
owed by the poor to the rich. It is believed that the intention of the burning
was to 'destroy the money-lenders' tallies and to prevent the exaction of debts.
After reading about how an infuriated mob (around 30 years later) robbed the
Temple booths and dragged the sons of Annas to their death, it can only be
imagined how much the Jewish authorities were hated by the humble commoners.
The Wealthy and the Poor
There was tremendous wealth in Jerusalem. Many of the rich publicans
(tax-gatherers) and influential leaders resided in Jerusalem, not only in their houses,
but their summer residences, their large parks, and their country estates.
Their vast wealth reached unbelievable proportions in the days of Herod. These
plutocratic families were powerful in government circles and "prided themselves in
their excesses." The gulf between the rich and the poor was immense and the
very poor families were often driven from their homes to become the slum-dwellers
By the time of Jesus Jerusalem had become a parasitic city, lying in wait for
the multitudes of pilgrims who flocked into the city in their hundreds of
thousands at each Festival. At the Passover there would be at least a million
visitors, and Josephus multiplies this figure by four.
Jesus promised the religious aristocracy that their "Temple would be left
desolate," and not a single stone of the Temple would be left on top of another
that would not be thrown down. Not even forty years passed when it all happened,
for in 70 A.D. the legions of Rome came, led by Titus, and the Words of Christ
See also Chief Priests, Sadducees, Scribes and Caiphas