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transacted. This was occupied by the buyers and sellers, and the money changers, and Jesus purified it by casting them
The inclosure within the second wall was nearly twice as long from east to west as from north to south. This inclosure was also divided. The eastern part of it was called the court of the women; so called because women might advance thus far, but no further. It was entered by three gates: one on the north, one on the east, directly opposite to the beautiful gate, and one on the south. This court of the women was inclosed with a double wall, with a space between the walls about fifteen feet in width, paved with marble. In the corners of that court were different structures for the various uses of the temple. It was in this court that the Jews commonly worshipped. Here, probably, Peter and John, with others, went up to pray, Acts iii. 1. Here too the pharisee prayed; the publican standing far off in the outer court, Luke xviii. 9-14. Paul also was seized here, and charged with defiling the temple, by bringing Gentiles into that holy place, Acts xxi. 26-30.
A high wall on the west side of the court of the women divided it from the court of the Israelites; so called because all the males of the Jews might advance there. To this court there was an ascent of fifteen steps. These steps were in the form of a half circle.
Within the court of the Israelites was the court of the priests, separated by a wall about a foot and a half in height. Within that court was the altar of burnt-offering, and the laver standing in front of it. Here the priests performed the daily service of the temple.
The temple, properly so called, stood within this court. It surpassed in splendour all the other buildings of the holy city; perhaps in magnificence it was unequalled in the world. It fronted the From the mount of Olives there was a beautiful and commanding view of the whole sacred edifice. It was there that our Saviour sat, when the disciples directed his attention to the goodly stones with which the temple was built, Mark xiii. 1. The entrance into the temple itself was from the court of the priests, by an ascent of twelve steps. The porch in front of the temple was a hundred and fifty feet high, and as many broad. The open space in this porch through which the temple was entered, was one hundred and fifteen feet high, and thirty-seven broad, without doors of any sort. The appearance of this, built, as it was, with white marble, and decorated with plates of silver, was exceedingly splendid. Josephus says, that in the rising of the sun it reflected so strong and dazzling an effulgence, that the eye of the spectator was obliged to turn away.
The temple itself was divided into two parts: the first called the sanctuary, or holy place, was sixty feet in length, sixty feet
in height, and thirty feet in width. In this was the golden can dlestick, the table of shew-bread, and the altar of incense. The holy of holies, or the most holy place, was thirty feet each way. In the first temple, this contained the ark of the covenant, the tables of the law, the mercy-seat, and the cherubim. Into this place no person entered but the high-priest, and he but once in the year. These two apartments were separated only by a vail, very costly and curiously wrought. It was this vail which was rent from the top to the bottom when the Saviour died, Matt. xxvii. 51.
'And cast out them that bought and sold in the temple.' The place where this was done was the outer court, or the court of the Gentiles. This was esteemed the least sacred part of the temple. The things which they bought and sold were, at first, those pertaining to the sacrifices. It is not improbable, however, that the traffic afterwards extended to all kinds of merchandise. 'The tables of the money-changers.' The money in current use was Roman coin. But the Jewish law required that every man should pay a yearly tribute to the service of the sanctuary of half a shekel, Ex. xxx. 11-16. This was a Jewish coin; and it must be paid in that coin. It became, therefore, a matter of convenience to have a place where the Roman coin might be exchanged for the Jewish half shekel. This was the professed business of these men. They would demand a small sum for the exchange; and among so many thousands as came up to the great feasts, it would be a very profitable employment. The seats of them that sold doves.' Doves were required to be offered in sacrifice, Lev. xiv. 22. Luke ii. 24. Hence it became a business to keep them to sell to those who were required to offer them.
Mark adds, xi. 16, that Christ would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. That is, probably, any of the vessels or implements connected with the traffic in oil, incense, wine, &c., that were kept for sale in the temple.
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.
This is written in Isa. lvi. 7. The first part of this verse only is quoted from Isaiah. The rest 'but ye have made it a den of thieves,' was added by Jesus, denoting their abuse of the temple. In their dens thieves devise and practise iniquity. These buyers and sellers imitated them. They made the temple a place of gain; they cheated and defrauded; robbed the poor by selling what they had at an enormous price.
The following reasons may be given why this company of buyers and sellers obeyed Christ: 1. They were overawed by his authority; struck with the consciousness that he had a right to command. 2. Their own consciences reproved them; they knew they
were guilty, and dared make no resistance. 3. It had always been the belief of the Jews that a prophet had a right to change, regulate, and order the various affairs relating to external worship.
Mark and Luke add, that in consequence of this, the scribes and chief priests attempted to put him to death, Mark xi. 18, 19. Luke xix. 47, 48. This they did from envy, Matt. xxvii. 18. He drew off the people from them, and they envied and hated him.
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?
The chief men of the nation were envious of his popularity. They could not prevent it; but being determined to find fault, they took occasion to do so from the shouts of the children. Our Lord confounded them by appealing to a text of their own scriptures. This text is found in Ps. viii. 2. This quotation is not made directly from the Hebrew, but from the Greek translation. The point of the quotation was to prove that children might offer praise to God, which is expressed in both the Hebrew and the Greek.
17 And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.
'Bethany.' See note, Matt. ver. 1.
18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19 And when he saw a fig-tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig-tree
This tree was standing in the public road. It was, therefore, common property, and any one might lawfully take its fruit. Mark says, xi. 13, 'Seeing a fig-tree afar off, having leaves, he came,' &c. That is, not far off from the road; but seeing it at a considerable distance, having leaves appearing healthy and luxuriant, ne presumed that there would be fruit on it. And found nothing thereon, but leaves only.' Mark, xi. 13, gives as a reason for this, that the time of figs was not yet. That is, the time of gathering the figs was not yet, or had not passed. This took place on the week of the passover, or in the beginning of April.
The summer in Palestine begins in March, and it is no uncommon thing that figs should be eatable in April.
Mark, xi. 12, 13, says that this took place on the morning of the day on which he purified the temple. Matthew would lead us to suppose that it was on the day following. Matthew records briefly what Mark records more fully. Matthew states the fact that the fig-tree was barren and withered away, without regarding minutely the order, or the circumstances in which the event took place. Such circumstantial variations show that the writers did not conspire to deceive the world. And said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee,' &c. Mark calls this cursing the tree, ch. xi. 21. All the curse that was pronounced, was in the words, that no fruit should grow on it. The Jews used the word curse, not as implying always wrath and anger, but to devote to death, or to any kind of destruction, Heb. vi. 8. 'And presently the fig-tree withered away.' That is, before another day. See Mark. It is probable that they were passing directly onward, and did not stop then to consider it. Mark states that they made the discovery on the morning after it was cursed, xi. 20.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig-tree withered away!
And when the disciples saw it.' That is, on the morning following, Mark xi. 20. "They marvelled;' or wondered; and said,' &c. Peter said this, Mark xi. 21. Matthew means only to say that this was said to him: Mark tells us that it was Peter said it.
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily, I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig-tree, but also, if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
Jesus took occasion from this to establish their faith in God, Mark xi. 22. He told them that any difficulty could be removed by faith. To remove a mountain, denotes the power of overcoming any difficulty. The phrase was so used by the Jews.
22 And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.
He adds an encouragement for them to pray, assuring them that they should have all things which they asked. This promise was evidently a special one, given to them in regard to working miracles.
23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority
doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
See also Mark xi. 27–33. Luke xx. 1-8. When he was come into the temple.' That is, probably, into the inner court: the court of the Israelites. They took this opportunity when he was not surrounded by the multitude. By what authority,' &c. There was a show of propriety in this question. He was making great changes in the affairs of the temple, and they claimed to know why this was done, contrary to their permission. He was not a priest; he had no civil or ecclesiastical authority, as a Jew. These things.' The things which he had just done, in turning over the seats of those that were engaged in traffic, ver. 12.
24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
He took the wise in their own craftiness. Whatever answer they gave, he knew they would convict themselves. And so they saw, when they looked at the question. They reasoned correctly. If they said, from heaven, he would directly ask why they did not believe him. They professed to hear all the prophets. If of men, their reputation was gone, for all the people believed that John was a prophet. 'The baptism of John. The word baptism here probably includes all his work. This was his principal employment; and hence he was called the Baptist, or the Baptizer. But our Saviour's question refers to his whole ministry. The ministry of John: his baptism, preaching, prophecies was it from God, or not? If it was, then the inference was clear that Jesus was the Messiah; and then they might easily know by what authority he did these things. From heaven.' By divine authority, or by the command of God. 'From men.' By human authority.
26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.
'We fear the people.' They feared that the people would stone them. (Luke.) Such an unpopular sentiment as to profess that all John did was imposture, would have probably ended in tumult, perhaps in their death.
27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.