It is probably very hard to conceive Jerusalem during the time of Jesus without
its many Gentile inhabitants. No doubt they were many foreigners performing in
the great theater, conducting business in the many marketplaces, organizing the
main events in the hippodrome, and serving in Herod's personal court as his
After Archelaus was exiled in 6 A.D. the number of foreigners in the city greatly increased with the presence of the Roman army. Yet the city of Jerusalem was almost exclusively Jewish, and if we were to paint a picture of the foreigners we should probably paint them as specialists in various fields.
As for the Jews the variety of people was immense for Jews "from every nation under heaven" would gather for the feasts, and many of them actually lived in the city as residents. If we were to walk through the streets of ancient Jerusalem we would find every degree of religion devotion, as well as the great many who were set in their Hellenistic ways and not practicing the keeping of the Law.
Jerusalem, nevertheless was a predominantly Jewish city, but it's beautiful character belonged to the fact that is magnificent Temple was not only admired by the local Jews, but actually belonged to every Jew throughout the world. A great portion of religious devotion could only be performed in the Temple at Jerusalem, and the great Jerusalem Council, the "Sanhedrin", was the only central reference point in the entire world for the interpretation of the Torah. It is very interesting and ironic that even this body of rulers should have been called by a Greek name, because "Sanhedrin" is simply a rendering of synedrion, the Greek word for council.
This central status of Jerusalem for international Jewry had many financial benefits. Unlike any of the cities in Syria it received annual Temple dues from a large and organized "Dispersion", and unlike other cities, it received an immense cash flow. It is very unlikely that this cash was held in safekeeping within the Temple vaults. The Temple no doubt served as a bank, and put the cash back into circulation by lending, and financing businesses. As a matter of fact, we learned from Josephus that Pontius Pilate caused a disturbance by "spending of the sacred fund called Corbonus on a water supply" (War 2:175). This action provoked a monstrous demonstration against his authority. It is interesting that the complaint was not because he had somehow managed to obtain money given to the Temple authorities, but that he had received money from the wrong fund.
Nevertheless, the water supply probably doubled the population within Jerusalem, from around 35,000 to 70,000, throughout the reign of Herod the Great. This estimate is simply a likely guess. It is also important to know that there were an estimated 2 million people who worshipped at Jerusalem during the Passover.
It is probably very underestimated just how many non-Jewish admirers had come to Jerusalem as proselytes to worship at the Temple of the One and True God.
Throughout the ministry of Jesus, He ministered the love and mercy of God. People could see this by the look in His eyes, and by the tone of His voice. No one with an open hard could mistake the genuine love of God that was in Christ. He turned away no one, including the foreigners whose very presence was considered unclean to the Jews. This was not only an offense to the Jewish religious authorities, but one of the main reasons why they plotted His death.
When Jesus had finally set His face to go to Jerusalem, the religious leaders were hostile, and there is no doubt that by this time they had committed to His murder and dared Him to show His face openly in public. Jesus not only came to Jerusalem and showed His face, but he came riding into Jerusalem through the eastern gate, even the Golden gate, on a donkey. This was in direct fulfillment to several Old Testament prophecies, including Zechariah 9:9. The people began waving palm branches and shouting "hosanna" which means "save now" and called Him "the son of David" which was a common expression among the Jews for "Messiah".
When Jesus entered the Temple of Jerusalem, He passed by Solomon's porch in the Court of the gentiles where He saw the money changers and those selling sacrifices, and he drove them out of the Temple, saying that they had made His Father' House into a den of thieves. The common people, including the foreigners, had every right to seek God and not be treated with contempt, and taken advantage of. Jerusalem, the faithful city, had become a harlot. At the end of Jesus ministry, He uttered the horrifying statement about the Temple to his disciples, "not one stone will be left on top of another, which will not be thrown down."
Jesus gave his final indictment to the faithless city:
Matt 23:37-39 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' "
Gal 4:4 "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law"
The Court of the Gentiles was the outermost court in the Jerusalem Temple during the time of Jesus. No gentile or non-Jew could proceed any further into the inner temple areas, and even Roman citizenship did not protect a Gentile who intruded into prohibited areas.
The Story of the Bible
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