John 2:14
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
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John 2:14. And found in the temple those that sold oxen, &c. — Used for sacrifice. It seems the officers, whose province it was to take care of the temple, permitted a market of these animals, and other things necessary for sacrifice, to be kept in the court of the Gentiles, in order that the worshippers might be supplied with victims requisite for the altar. The consequence of which was, that there was often such a bustle and confusion there, that the proselytes who came to worship could not but be much disturbed in their devotions; as the reader will easily believe, when he is informed that, according to Josephus, “no fewer than two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred victims were sometimes offered at one passover. But the abuse did not rest here; for it is generally supposed that the priests let out this part of the temple for profit, and that the sellers, to enable themselves to pay the rent of their shops and stalls, demanded an exorbitant price for their commodities. Nay, it is said that the priests and Levites very often sold the animals they had received for sacrifices to the dealers in cattle, at a lower rate, that they might sell them again with profit; so that the same sacrifices were often sold to different persons, and the spoils, or gain of them, were divided between the priests and the salesmen. In order to expedite this traffic, there were money-changers at hand, who gave the Jews who came from foreign countries the current money of Judea, in lieu of the money of the countries from whence they came; and for this service they took a premium, which, upon the whole, became very considerable. Thus was the temple profaned by the avarice of the priests, and literally made a den of thieves. When our Lord viewed this scene of iniquity, we need not wonder at his indignation; for it was an honest zeal, which showed his high regard to religion, and his implacable enmity to vice; while, at the same time, it illustrated the character given of him by Malachi, (Malachi 3:1,) and established the pretensions he made of being the messenger mentioned by that prophet.” See Josephus, Bell., John 6:9, and note on Matthew 21:12-13.

2:12-22 The first public work in which we find Christ engaged, was driving from the temple the traders whom the covetous priests and rulers encouraged to make a market-place of its courts. Those now make God's house a house of merchandise, whose minds are filled with cares about worldly business when attending religious exercises, or who perform Divine offices for love of gain. Christ, having thus cleansed the temple, gave a sign to those who demanded it, to prove his authority for so doing. He foretells his death by the Jews' malice, Destroy ye this temple; I will permit you to destroy it. He foretells his resurrection by his own power; In three days I will raise it up. Christ took again his own life. Men mistake by understanding that according to the letter, which the Scripture speaks by way of figure. When Jesus was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered he has said this. It helps much in understanding the Divine word, to observe the fulfilling of the Scriptures.Found in the temple ... - The transaction here recorded is in almost all respects similar to that which has been explained in the notes at Matthew 21:12. This took place at the commencement of his public ministry; that at the close. On each occasion he showed that his great regard was for the pure worship of his Father; and one great design of his coming was to reform the abuses which had crept into that worship, and to bring man to a proper regard for the glory of God. If it be asked how it was that those engaged in this traffic so readily yielded to Jesus of Nazareth, and that they left their gains and their property, and fled from the temple at the command of one so obscure as he was, it may be replied,

1. That their consciences reproved them for their impiety, and they could not set up the "appearance" of self-defense.

2. It was customary in the nation to cherish a profound regard for the authority of a prophet; and the appearance and manner of Jesus - so fearless, so decided, so authoritative led them to suppose "he" was a prophet, and they were afraid to resist him.

3. Even then, Jesus had a wide reputation among the people, but it is not improbable that many supposed him to be the Messiah.

4. Jesus on all occasions had a most wonderful control over people. None could resist him. There was something in his manner, as well as in his doctrine, that awed men, and made them tremble at his presence. Compare John 18:5-6. On this occasion he had the manner of a prophet, the authority of God, and the testimony of their own consciences, and they could not, therefore, resist the authority by which he spoke.

Though Jesus thus purified the temple at the commencement of his ministry, yet in three years the same scene was to be repeated. See Matthew 21:12. And from this we may learn:

1. How soon people forget the most solemn reproofs, and return to evil practices.

2. That no sacredness of time or place will guard them from sin. In the very temple, under the very eye of God, these people soon returned to practices for which their consciences reproved them, and which they knew that God disapproved.

3. We see here how strong is the love of gain - the ruling passion of mankind. Not even the sacredness of the temple, the presence of God, the awful ceremonials of religion, deterred them from this unholy traffic. So wicked men and hypocrites will always turn "religion," if possible, into gain; and not even the sanctuary, the Sabbath, or the most awful and sacred scenes, will deter them from schemes of gain. Compare Amos 8:5. So strong is this grovelling passion, and so deep is that depravity which fears not God, and regards not his Sabbaths, his sanctuary, or his law.

14-17. in the temple—not the temple itself, as Joh 2:19-21, but the temple-court.

sold oxen, &c.—for the convenience of those who had to offer them in sacrifice.

changers of money—of Roman into Jewish money, in which the temple dues (see on [1771]Mt 17:24) had to be paid.

Matthew 21:12 Luke 19:45, is a piece of history so like this, that some have questioned whether it mentions not the same individual matter of fact; but it is apparent that it doth not:

1. Because St. John mentions it as done three years before it, at the first passover; all the other evangelists mention what they report as done at the fourth passover.

2. The circumstances of the narrative make it appear.

a) John mentions only the ejection of the sellers; all the others mention the ejection both of the buyers and sellers.

b) Here, he only saith they had made his Father’s house a place of merchandise; the others say, that whereas it was written, it should be called a house of prayer, they had made it a den of thieves.

c) Here he only bids them that sold doves take their goods away; the others say he overturned the seats of them that sold doves: so as our Saviour plainly appeareth to have done this twice, at his first passover and at the last.

For the more full explication of the parts of this history, See Poole on "Matthew 21:12". See Poole on "Mark 11:15". See Poole on "Luke 19:45". The reason of their bringing oxen, and sheep, and doves into the temple, was to supply those that came afar off, and could not bring their sacrifices with them, with such sacrifices as the law required in several cases. The money changers were there, to change the people’s money into half shekels, every one being obliged to offer his half shekel, Exodus 30:13. Our Saviour did not condemn this course of accommodating of people; but blames the covetousness of the priests, who for their private lucre had made the temple their marketplace, whenas there was room enough elsewhere.

And found in the temple,.... Not in the holy place itself, nor in the court of the priests, where the sacrifices were offered, nor in the court of the women, nor in the court of the Israelites, where the people worshipped; but in the court of the Gentiles, or the outward court, even all that space of ground which was between the wall which divided the whole from common ground, and the buildings of the temple, and which was open to the air; for the whole sacred enclosure, or all within the wall, went by the name of the temple. Into this all strangers might come; and the passover now being at hand, here were

those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves: the oxen, or bullocks, were for the Chagigah, or feast kept on the second day of the passover; See Gill on John 18:28; and the sheep, or lambs, as the Persic version reads, for the passover supper; and the doves were for the offerings of the poorer sort of new mothers: with these they were supplied from the Mount of Olives. It is said (c),

"there were two cedar trees on the Mount of Olives, and under one of them were four shops of them that sold things for purification; and out of one of them they brought forty bushels of young doves every month: and out of them the Israelites had enough for the nests, or the offerings of turtle doves;''

See Gill on Matthew 21:12;

and the changers of money sitting: who changed foreign money into the current coin of the Jews, strangers coming, at this feast, from several parts of the world; and sometimes there was need of changing shekels into half shekels, which, at certain times, were paid for the ransom of Israelites; see the note on the place above mentioned.

(c) Echa Rabbati, fol. 52. 4.

{4} And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

(4) Christ being ordained to purge the Church with great zeal begins his office both of Priest and Prophet.

John 2:14. On reaching Jerusalem Jesus as a devout Jew visited the Temple καὶ εὗρεν ἐν τῷ ἰερῷ, that is, in the outer court of the Temple, the court of the Gentiles.—τοὺς πωλοῦντας βόας καὶ πρόβατα καὶ περιστεράς, cattle and sheep and doves, the sacrificial animals. It was of course a great convenience to the worshippers to be able to procure on the spot all requisites for sacrifice. Some of them might not know what sacrifice was required for their particular offence, and though the priest at their own home might inform them, still the officiating examiner in the Temple might reject the animal they brought as unfit; and probably would, if it was his interest to have the worshippers buying on the spot. That enormous overcharges were sometimes made is shown by Edersheim, who relates that on one occasion Simeon, the grandson of Hillel, interfered and brought down the price of a pair of doves from a gold denar, 15s. 3d., to half a silver denar, or 4d. This Temple tyranny and monopoly and these exorbitant charges naturally tended to make the Temple worship hateful to the people; and besides, the old charm of sacrifice, the free offering by a penitent of what he knew and cherished, the animal that he valued because he had watched it from its birth, and had tested its value in the farm work—all this was abolished by this “convenient” abuse. That the abuse was habitual is shown by John Lightfoot, who quotes: “Veniens quadam die Bava Ben Buta in atrium, vacuum pecoribus illud reperit,” as an extraordinary thing. It was not the presence of oxen and sheep which was offensive, for such animals must pass into the Temple with their usual accompaniments. But it was an aggravation to have these standing all day in the Temple, and to have the haggling and chaffering of a cattle market mingling with the sounds of prayer. But especially was it offensive to make the Temple service a hardship and an offence to the people of God. Not only were there those who provided sacrificial animals but also τοὺς κερματιστὰς καθημένους, money changers seated, at their tables, for a regular day’s business—not a mere accidental or occasional furnishing with change of some poor man who had hitherto not been able to procure it.—κέρμα is a small coin, from κείρω, to cut short.—τὸ κέρμα used collectively in the next verse would be in Attic τά κέρματα.—κερματιστής is one who gives small change, a money changer (such as may be seen sitting on the open street at a table in Naples or elsewhere). In the fifteenth verse they are called κολλυβισταί, from κόλλυβος, a small coin, this again from κολοβός, docked, snipped short. Maimonides, quoted by Lücke, says the κόλλυβος was the small coin given to the money changer for exchanging a shekel into two half-shekels. The receiver of the change “dat ipsi aliquid superabundans,” gives the changer something over and above, and this aliquid superabundans vocatur collybus. In fact the word was transliterated, and in the Hebrew characters was read “kolbon”. This kolbon was about 2d., which was pretty high for providing the sacred half-shekel, which could alone be received into the Temple treasury and which every Jew had to pay. It was not only on the exchange of foreign money brought up to Palestine by Jews of the dispersion these money changers must have made a good percentage; but especially by exchanging the ordinary currency of Galilee and Judaea into the sacred half-shekel, which was the poll-tax or Temple tribute exacted from every Jew. This tax was either paid a week or two before Passover in the provinces or at the Passover in the Temple itself. To Jesus the usage seemed an intolerable abuse. καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων. φραγέλλιον is the Latin flagellum. Many commentators represent the matter as if Jesus made a whip of the litter; but John does not say ἐκ σχοῖνων, “of rushes,” but ἐκ σχοινίων, of ropes made of rushes. In the account of Paul’s shipwreck (Acts 27:32) σχοίνια are the ropes which held the boat to the ship; so that it is impossible on this ground to say with Dr. Whitelaw that “the whip could only have been designed as an emblem of authority”. It is quite probable it was not used; as Bengel says: “neque dicitur hominibus ictum inflixisse; terrore rem perfecit”.—πάντας ἐξέβαλεν. Holtzmann and Weiss consider that the following clause is epexegetical of the πάντας, as, grammatically, it is; and that πάντας therefore refers to the sheep and oxen, not to the men. In the Synoptical Gospels πάντας ἐξέβαλεν certainly refers to the men, and as the masculine is here retained it is difficult to refer it to the πρόβατα. After driving out the oxen and their owners, ἐξέχεε τὸ κέρμα καὶ τὰς τραπέζας ἀνέστρεψεν, or as W.H[36] read ἀνέτρεψεν.—τραπέζας were specifically “bankers’ tables,” hence τραπεζίται, bankers, so that we might translate “counters”. These He overturned, and poured the coin on the ground. We cannot evacuate of forcible meaning these plain terms. It was a scene of violence: the traders trying to protect their property, cattle rushing hither and thither, men shouting and cursing, the money changers trying to hold their tables as Jesus went from one to another upsetting them. It was indeed so violent a scene that the disciples felt somewhat scandalised until they remembered, then and there, not afterwards, that it was written: Ὁ ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου καταφάγεταί με, words which are found in the sixty-ninth Psalm, the aorist of the LXX being changed into the future. In ordinary Greek ἐσθίω has for its future ἔδομαι, but in Hellenistic Greek it has φάγομαι for its future. See Genesis 3:3, Luke 17:8. The disciples saw in their Master’s act a consuming zeal for God’s house. It was this zeal which always governed Christ. He could not stand by and wash His hands of other men’s sins. It was this which brought Him to this world and to the cross. He had to interfere. It might have been expected that the words of Malachi would rather have been suggested to them, “The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to His temple: but who may abide the day of His coming? for He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver”. Their interpretation of His act was suggested by His words: μὴ ποιεῖτε τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου οἶκον ἐμπορίου. At His first visit to the Temple He had called it His Father’s house. There is, no doubt, in the μον an appropriation from which others are excluded. He does not say “your Father’s house” nor “our Father’s,” but “my Father’s”. In this word and in His action His Messiahship was implied, but directly the act and even the word were no more than a reforming prophet might have felt to be suitable. Weiss (Life of Jesus, ii., 6) says: “He felt Himself to be the Son of Him who in a unique way had consecrated this place for His temple, and He exercised the authority of a Son against the turmoil which defiled His Father’s house. Those who looked deeper must ultimately have seen that the Messiah alone had a right to feel Himself in this sense the Chosen of Jehovah. As yet, however, there were no such observers. The followers by whom He was already surrounded did not require to deduce His Messiahship from this: they knew He was the Messiah.” Make not my Father’s house οἶκον ἐμπορίου. In Mark 11:17 the words are given as running, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves”; which seems to be a combination of Isaiah 56:7, “Mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all people,” and Jeremiah 7:11, “Is this house which is called by my name become a den of robbers in your eyes?” In the οἶκος ἐμπορίου there may be a reminiscence of Zechariah 14:21.

[36] Westcott and Hort.

At John 2:18 the cleft begins to open between faith and unbelief. In the act in which the disciples had seen the fulfilment of a Messianic Psalm, the Jews see only an unauthorised interference and assumption, of authority. Characteristically they ask for a sign.—οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, as frequent in John, means “the Jewish authorities”; and ἀπεκρίθησαν is used as elsewhere of a reply to what has been suggested or affirmed not by word but by deed.—τί σημεῖον δεικνύεις ἡμῖν, ὅτι ταῦτα ποιεῖς; ὅτι on is used similarly in John 9:17 = εἰς ἐκεῖνο ὅτι. The blindness of the Jews is enough to put external evidence for ever out of repute. They never will see the sign in the thing itself. The fact that Jesus by one blow accomplished a much needed reform of an abuse over which devout men must often have sighed and which perhaps ingenuous Levites had striven to keep within limits, the fact that this unknown youth had done what none of the constituted authorities had been able to do, was surely itself the greatest σημεῖον. Might they not rather have said: Here is one who treats things radically, who does not leave grievances to mend themselves but effectively puts His hand to the work? But this blindness is characteristic. They never see that Jesus Himself is the great sign, but are always craving for some extraneous testimony. This Gospel throughout is an exhibition of the comparative value of external and internal evidence. To their request Jesus could not answer, “I am the Messiah”. He wished that to be the people’s discovery from their knowledge of Him. He therefore answers (John 2:19), Λύσατε τὸν ναὸν τοῦτον, καὶ ἐν τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἐγερῶ αὐτόν. The saying was meant to be enigmatical. Jesus spoke in parables when He wished to be understood by the spiritual and to baffle the hostile. Those who cross-question Him and treat Him as a subject to be investigated find no satisfaction. John tells us (John 2:21) that here He spoke of the “temple of His body”. Bengel suggests that He may have indicated this, “adhibito nutu gestuve”; others suggest that He may have given such an emphasis to τοῦτον as to suggest what He intended; but this is excluded by John 2:22, which informs us that it was only after the resurrection that the disciples themselves understood what was meant. Those who heard considered it an idle challenge which He knew could not be put to the proof. He knew they would not destroy their unfinished Temple. His words then had one meaning for Himself; another for those who heard. For Himself they meant: “Destroy this body of mine in which dwells the Father and I will raise it in three days”. He said this, knowing they would not now understand Him, but that this would be the great sign of His authority. Paul refers the resurrection of Christ to the Father or to the Spirit; John here, as in John 10:17-18, refers it directly to Christ Himself.

Holtzmann suggests, as had previously been suggested by others, that “to do anything in three days” merely meant to do it quickly. Reference is made to Hosea 6:2, Matthew 13:40. This may be. Holtzmann further maintains that such an announcement as Jesus is here represented as making was impossible at so early a period of the ministry, that it must have been uttered on some other occasion and have been inserted here to suit John’s purpose. The origin of the expression he finds in the Pauline-Alexandrian conception of the body as the temple of God. If this was believed of ordinary men much more must that body be the temple in which dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).

That the saying itself was historical is put beyond doubt by its quotation at the trial of Jesus, Mark 14:58; cf. Mark 15:29. There were those who had heard Him say that He would destroy the Temple; which gives this saying with just the kind of misunderstanding and perversion one would expect. But if the saying itself is historical, can Jesus have meant anything else by it than John tells us He meant? That He considered His body the Temple of God goes without saying.

It is indeed extremely unlikely that Jesus should at the very beginning of His ministry have spoken of His death and resurrection openly. Hence even Weiss seems to think that the words meant: Destroy this Temple, as you are doing by allowing such abuses in it, prohibit me from those reforms on the Temple which can alone save it, and eventually this Temple must be completely destroyed, its purpose gone, and its services extinct. But I will in its place raise a spiritual temple, the living Church. But if already Jesus had thought out the Messianic career, then He already was sure both that He would die and that He would rise again. Being in perfect fellowship with the living God He knew that He must be hated of men, and He knew that He could never fall from that fellowship but must conquer death. At no time then after His baptism and temptation could it be impossible to Him to speak covertly as here of His death and resurrection. On this point see Schwartzkopff, Die Weissagungen Christi.

14–22. The First Cleansing of the Temple

14. in the temple] i.e. within the sacred enclosure, in the Court of the Gentiles. The traffic would be very great at the approach of the Passover. The account is very graphic, as of an eyewitness. Note especially ‘the changers of money sitting:’ the sellers of cattle, &c., would stand.

changers of money] Not the same Greek word as in John 2:15. There the word points to the commission paid on exchanges; here the word indicates a change from large to small coins.

John 2:14. Βόας καὶ πρόβατα καὶ περιστεράς, oxen, and sheep, and doves) which were used in sacrifices.—καθημένους, sitting) in the very act of negotiation: [going on so much the more briskly, as the Passover festival was at hand.—Harm., p. 161.]

Verse 14. - He found in the temple (ἱερόν); the vast enclosure, surrounded by colonnades, where the courts of the Gentiles were situated beyond and outside the courts of "the women" and "the priests." Within the latter was the sanctuary (ναός), or sacred adytum, where the altars of sacrifice and incense faced the veil of the holiest of all. In the court of the temple had been allowed a secular market for sacrificial beasts. An exchange for money was also set up,where Jews were ready to furnish, on usurious terms, the proper coin, the sacred half shekel (value, one shilling and threepence), in which form alone was the temple tax received from the provincial visitors or pilgrims from distant lands. No coin bearing the image of Caesar, or any foreign prince, or any idolatrous symbol then so common, would be allowed in the sacred treasury. So the Lord found those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the exchangers of money sitting; a busy bazaar, deteriorating the idea of the temple with adverse associations. The three sacrificial animals mentioned were those most frequently required. The strangers, doubtless, needed some market where these could be obtained, and where the sufficient guarantee of their freedom from blemish could be secured. It was also indispensable that exchange of coins should have been made feasible for the host of strangers. The profanation effected by transacting these measures in the temple courts was symptomatic of widespread secularism, an outward indication of the corruption of the entire idea of worship, and of the selfishness and pride which had vitiated the solemnity and spirituality of the sacrificial ritual. Geikie has given a very brilliant description of this scene; so also Edersheim, 'Life of Jesus the Messiah.' The money (κέρμα) was probably derived from a word (κείρω) meaning "to cut," and referred to the minute coins which were required for convenient exchange. The κόλλυβος, which gives its name to κολλυβιστής of the following verse, is also the name of a small (κολοβός, equivalent to "mutilated") coin used for purposes of exchange. The smaller the coin the better, as the minute differences of weight of the foreign coins would thus be more easily measured. John 2:14The temple (ἱερῷ)

The temple inclosure: not the sanctuary (ναόξ). See on Matthew 9:5; see on Mark 11:16.

Those that sold (τοὺς πωλοῦντας)

The article defines them as a well-known class.

Changers of money (κερματιστὰς)

Only here in the New Testament. The kindred noun κέρμα, money, which occurs only in John 2:15, is from κείρω, to cut into bits, and means therefore small coin; "small change," of which the money-changers would require a large supply. Hence changers of money means, strictly, dealers in small change. Matthew and Mark use λυβιστής (see John 2:15), of which the meaning is substantially the same so far as regards the dealing in small coin; but with the difference that κόλλυβος, the noun from which it is derived, and meaning a small coin, is also used to denote the rate of exchange. This latter word therefore gives a hint of the premium on exchange, which John's word here does not convey. The money-changers opened their stalls in the country towns a month before the feast. By the time of the first arrivals of passover-pilgrims at Jerusalem, the country stalls were closed, and the money-changers sat in the temple (see on Matthew 17:24; see on Matthew 21:12; see on Mark 11:15). John's picture of this incident is more graphic and detailed than those of the Synoptists, who merely state summarily the driving out of the traders and the overthrow of the tables. Compare Matthew 21:12, Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45, Luke 19:46.

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