At the beginning of Jesus' ministry,
he whipped the money changers out
of the temple to present himself as
the Messiah. It was appropriate for
him to take such authority and first
cleanse the temple of those who, under
the guise of being God's chief priests,
made God's house one of merchandizing.
It was even more appropriate at the
close of his career, when he entered
the city as a king and publicly claimed
authority. The first cleansing was
for teaching and warning; the second
cleansing was for symbolic judgment.
This was part of prophecy.1
Jesus "said unto them that sold
doves, Take these things hence; make
not my Father's house an house of
merchandise." (John 2:16)
That statement has a ring of the following
Scripture and they should get the
Isa 56:7 Even them will I
bring to my holy mountain, and make
them joyful in my house of prayer:
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
shall be accepted upon mine altar;
for mine house shall be called an
house of prayer for all people.
Jer 7:11 Is this house, which
is called by my name, become a den
of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even
I have seen it, saith the Lord.
There were two types of trading
1. Money changing.
- Every Jew had to pay a temple
tax of one half-shekel. This could
be paid before going to Jerusalem.
A month before Passover, booths
were set up in the towns for early
payment. After a certain date, it
had to be paid at the temple. It's
similar to buying tickets in advance
for a lower price than buying them
the day of the event for a higher
- This tax had to be paid in certain
currency, although for general purposes
all kinds of currencies were equally
valid in Palestine. The money changers
exchanged unsuitable currency for
correct currency for a price.
- Let's say that in US dollars
you owed $7. If you gave them
a $10 bill, they would take
the $7 and charge you $ 1 for
the exchange and another $1
for giving back the surplus
change. When the worker wage
was about $3 a day that was
a high price to pay.2
2. Selling of
- For most visits to the Temple
you were required to bring an offering.
Women needed to sacrifice doves
for purification after childbirth.
Likewise lepers when they needed
the priests to attest to their healing.
Animals cost a lot less outside
the Temple. All sacrificed animals
had to be without blemish. The official
inspectors for the Temple usually
rejected anything purchased outside
the Temple and would send people
to one of their booths to buy an
unblemished offering. A pair of
doves could cost as little as 4
cents outside the Temple and as
much as 75 cents inside the temple.
If you only earn a penny a day,
that's highway robbery. Jesus' anger
was directed against those who made
it impossible for simple people
to worship in the House of God.
In the noise and business of buying
and selling, prayer was impossible.3
As you can see, the money changers
weren't just providing a service.