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The Cleansing of the Temple - Carl Bloch (about 1860)

Upon entering Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. He said to the people there:

“It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.”

The blind and the lame came to visit Jesus at the temple and he healed them. When the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the things Jesus did and heard the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

Jesus replied,

“Yes, Have you never read ‘from the lips of children, you, Lord, have called forth your praise?”

And Jesus left them and went out of the city to Bethany where he spent the night.

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What the story means to us today

Misuse of a house of worship robs the people of their spirit

Christ driving the money-changers from the Temple - Cecco del Caravaggio (1610)

Jesus was disgusted by those who were selling in the Court of the Gentiles in the Great Temple. To use the temple for such commercial activities was disgraceful. The people were not just being robbed of their money, but of their spirit too. Thus Jesus, who has begun revealing his role as the messiah to the people, lays claim to his authority over his house. It is his right to drive out the money changers from God’s house of worship. But Jesus does not stop there. He replaces their pagan activities with healings of the sick and the lame.

Additional thoughts and considerations

All four gospels record the event, but John puts it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all put the event at the end of Jesus’ ministry, shortly before his death. Although there is evidence that the New Testament writers arranged some materials topically, it is unclear why John’s account places the event earlier. It is generally believed there was only one cleansing of the temple. That there were two cleansings however, cannot be discounted.

Jesus openly admits he is the messiah

Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple - Valentin de Boulogne (1618)

When the high priests hear the children calling Jesus the messiah, they ask Jesus if he hears what the little children are saying about him. Jesus responds with verses from Psalm 8:2,

“Have you not read, ‘from the mouths of children, you, Lord, have called forth your praise”.

In effect, Jesus’ acceptance of the children’s praise is openly admitting to the authorities that he is indeed the messiah written about in the Old Testament.

The science and history behind the story

Money changers and merchants in the temple

Because people could not easily travel great distances with animals to sacrifice at the temple, merchants in Jerusalem sold animals for sacrifices, often at inflated prices. Doves were sold to the poor in place of more expensive lambs.

Merchants and money changers were responsible for converting Greek and Roman currency to temple currency. This would have been done so the half-shekel temple tax could be paid. Money changers of course, charged a fee for the monetary conversion transaction.

It would seem logical that the money changers would take advantage of the crowds arriving for Passover celebrations setup inside the temple. All of this – the commercialism of sacrifices while taking advantage of travelers arriving in Jerusalem for Passover – angered Jesus.

Bethany

Christ Driving the Money-changers from the Temple - Theodoor Rombouts (about 1600)

The story closes with information about Jesus’ travels. Jerusalem would have been overflowing with people during the Passover. It makes sense that Jesus would have to leave Jerusalem to find housing (many pilgrims stayed in the outlying villages). After leaving Jerusalem, Jesus travelled to Bethany, located about 2 miles over the Mount of Olives, where he spent the night. In Bethany, he may have stayed at the homes of Mary, Martha, or Lazarus – all three were said to be from Bethany and Jesus had stayed at their homes before.

Bible Text

NIV

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ e but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

         “ ‘From the lips of children and infants

         you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

Driving of the merchants from the temple - Scarsellino (about 1580)

21:12 Then Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those who were selling and buying in the temple courts, and turned over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 21:13 And he said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are turning it into a den of robbers!”

21:14 The blind and lame came to him in the temple courts, and he healed them. 21:15 But when the chief priests and the experts in the law saw the wonderful things he did and heard the children crying out in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 21:16 and said to him, “Do you hear what they are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and nursing infants you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 21:17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”

14 Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”

And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,

    ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants

    You have perfected praise’?”

17 Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

Christ cleansing the Temple - El Greco (about 1570)

      12–14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

           My house was designated a house of prayer;

           You have made it a hangout for thieves.

      Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

      15–16 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, “Hosanna to David’s Son!” they were up in arms and took him to task. “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

      Jesus said, “Yes, I hear them. And haven’t you read in God’s Word, ‘From the mouths of children and babies I’ll furnish a place of praise’?”

      17 Fed up, Jesus turned on his heel and left the city for Bethany, where he spent the night.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

12 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? 17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database
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