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Daniel Doriani: We call this episode “the cleansing of the temple” but that phrase understates the significance of Jesus’ action.  By taking such decisive action, Jesus is asserting his authority over the center of Israel’s religion and identity. Like the prophets of old, he protests against abuses in the temple. As Israel’s great high priest, he oversees the proper use of the temple, its worship and its sacrifices. As king, he exercises authority by governing the central symbol of Israel’s faith, the centerpiece of Israel’s identity as God’s people.

When Jesus cast out the money changers, he judged the priests and leaders who allowed such corruption of the temple. In fact, Mark says that at least for a while Jesus shut the temple down: he “would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple courts” (11:16). If animals and people cannot go in or out, the temple is closed, at least temporarily.

Grant Osborne: The authority of Jesus Messiah, recognized at the entry into Jerusalem, is now demonstrated at the temple. The next two chapters center on this authority, seen first in cleansing the temple of evil practices, portrayed as judgment in the parabolic act that follows (vv. 18–22), and second in the temple debates with the leaders (21:23 – 22:46).

Jesus, called a prophet by the people (21:11, 46), now acts like a prophet and condemns the leaders for corrupting God’s temple. Via another prophetic symbolic action (as in 21:1–11) he purifies the temple of its false commercial activity (vv. 12–13) and then as the Son of David heals “the blind and the lame” (vv. 14–17). . .

Jesus has revealed himself not only as Messiah but also as eschatological Judge of his people. As royal Davidic Messiah, Jesus is also Lord of all and has complete authority to stand in judgment over the nation and the temple. So Jesus is the humble King whose office is to die as the suffering Servant, yet also the great King who will sit on his judgment seat over all, including the church. He has come to humble the proud leaders and exalt the powerless and the children.

Donald Hagner: When the Son of David, the messianic king, comes to Jerusalem, he goes directly to the temple, the physical center of the Jewish faith. There he performs a symbolic act in clearing the temple of mercantile activity by which he points to his own authority and identity as well as to a symptom of the failure of Judaism. In the temple, furthermore, he heals the blind and the lame, thereby pointing to the real presence of the messianic kingdom in and through his ministry, the rule of God wherein the unhindered communion between God and humanity—the very thing the temple had symbolized—alone is realized. He finally allows himself to be proclaimed Son of David and accepts the affirmation as he had in the entry into the city. One “greater than the temple” is here (12:6). The Messiah is thus among his people in judgment and in healing. The truth of Jesus’ identity can be made public; the claim will not be widely received but instead will bring Jesus to the cross.


A.  (:12) Physical Confrontation and Cleansing of Corrupt Temple Commerce

  1. Bold Entrance into the Temple

And Jesus entered the temple

Grant Osborne: “The temple” (τὸ ἱερόν) refers to the whole complex, not just the “inner sanctuary” (ναός).

R. T. France: On arriving in Jerusalem from the east the first area reached was the temple precinct. The importance of this sacred area for Jewish ideology can hardly be exaggerated. It was not only the focus of the nation’s religious life, but also a symbol of national identity and pride, particularly since the Maccabean revolt of the second century BC had succeeded in reclaiming it from the deliberate paganization attempted by Antiochus Epiphanes. The purification and rededication of the temple in 164 BC were commemorated annually thereafter in the Festival of Dedication. The rebuilding and enlargement of the temple by Herod the Great had been on a scale to match its patriotic significance; as a later rabbi remembered, “It used to be said: He who has not seen the temple of Herod has never seen a beautiful building.” (b. B. Bat. 4a)

Matthew’s account reads as if Jesus went straight into the temple area and took action straight away, whereas Mark 11:11–15 inserts a day’s delay. In Matthew’s account Jesus’ second dramatic gesture thus follows directly and appropriately from the first, and the effect is no less startling and provocative.  The day’s delay mentioned by Mark suggests, however, that it was less a spontaneous outburst of anger than a planned act of defiance and public demonstration of the Messiah’s authority.

  1. Beat-down Expulsion of the Marketplace Participants

and cast out all those who were buying and selling in the temple,

Stu Weber: The practice of selling sacrificial animals in Jerusalem originated as a good and helpful idea. Jews coming to worship from all over Israel and other parts of the known world needed animals to sacrifice (birds for the poor people, larger animals for those who could afford more). Most of them traveled days—some even weeks—and it was easier to carry money to buy a sacrifice at their destination than to herd an animal along and carry supplies for its upkeep on the journey.

But there was no reason to carry on any of this business inside the temple itself. We can also assume that the priesthood gained a healthy profit from sales in the temple and that Jesus’ disruption was an attack on one of their sources of wealth. It is likely that financial corruption was the order of the day; animals were sold and the money exchanged at exorbitant prices. The Jewish leaders were misusing the house of prayer for worldly profit.

Leon Morris: Worshipers had to make their offerings in Tyrian currency, and the money changers performed a necessary function. So did the sellers of sacrificial animals and birds. It was not practicable for people coming from all over the Roman world to bring their beasts or birds with them. If they were to offer sacrifice, there had to be some place where they could purchase them. But the point is that that place did not have to be within the temple precincts, and it is to this that Jesus was objecting.

Grant Osborne: The ingressive aorist (Wallace, 558–59) “began to throw out” (ἐξέβαλεν) was not just anger but a calculated act. Jesus obviously realizes this will not be a long-term solution but still considers the violent act a symbolic action aimed at the leaders for corrupting the temple with their mercantile activity.  Most likely the activity resumes almost immediately (note the present participles emphasizing the ongoing activity of “selling” and “buying”).

  1. Break-down of the Marketplace Environment

and overturned the tables of the moneychangers

and the seats of those who were selling doves.

Warren Wiersbe: The purpose of the court of the Gentiles in the temple was to give the “outcasts” an opportunity to enter the temple and learn from Israel about the true God.  But the presence of this “religious market” turned many sensitive Gentiles away from the witness of Israel.  The court of the Gentiles was used for mercenary business, not missionary business.

B.  (:13) Prophetic Condemnation of the Subversion of Temple Worship

  1. Intended Function of Worship in the Temple

And He said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer’;

Daniel Doriani: In Mark, we have the additional phrase that it was to be “a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17). In this context, “prayer” is a synecdoche for all the elements of public worship—prayer, teaching, sacrifice, and praise.

R. T. France: Jesus’ explicit protest is against the misuse of God’s house for trade instead of prayer. The phrase “bandits’ cave,” traditionally translated “den of thieves,” has sometimes been taken to mean that he was attacking unfair trade practices which exploited the poor pilgrims, but that is not the most likely reason for this allusion to Jer 7:11. Nor would it explain his expulsion of the buyers along with the sellers. It is where the trade is being carried out rather than how that is the focus of his displeasure. And that means that the protest is directed not so much against the traders themselves but against the priestly establishment who had allowed them to operate within the sacred area. Commercial activity, however justified in itself, should not be carried out where people came to pray, and a temple régime which encouraged this had failed in its responsibility. This was, therefore, apparently a demonstration against the Sadducean establishment.

  1. Illegitimate Function of Commerce in the Temple

but you are making it a robbers’ den.

Donald Hagner: The messianic king cannot countenance proceedings within the temple precincts that violate its divinely intended purpose.

Michael Wilkins: The religious leaders were treating the temple as robbers do their dens—a place of refuge for both accumulating illicitly gained wealth and for plotting future illegal activities. Caves in Palestine were regularly used as robbers’ dens, so the metaphor was clear to Jesus’ hearers.  The temple’s primary purpose, as a house for communing with God, was lost in the frenzy of temple activity.

Daniel Doriani: The Greek word translated “robber” (lēstēs) always carries the connotation of violent action, so that it refers to more than economic dishonesty. The word ordinarily means bandit, revolutionary, or insurrectionist, and never means thief. When we link this with Luke 19:42, where Jesus laments that the city did not know “the things that make for peace” (ESV) and predicts a devastating defeat at Rome’s hands, we realize that Jesus foresaw that the nationalism that led to this abuse of the temple would lead Israel to rebel against Rome—and lose—forty years later. When Israel rebelled and Rome counterattacked, as Jesus predicted, Jewish armed forces chose the temple as their primary fortress, thinking, apparently, that the temple would protect them. Thus Jesus foretold the fall of Jerusalem, the temple, and the nation.  To use the temple to guarantee military victory perverts the very purpose of Israel, whom God called to be a light to the nations. Nationalism breeds corruption and he will clean it out, then and now!


And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

Daniel Doriani: While he was still there, Jesus reopened the temple for the neediest people in Israel: “The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them” (Matt. 21:14). The healings are acts of love, but also a protest and a correction. At that time, the Qumran community banned the lame and blind from their assembly, and the law of Moses barred them from the temple precincts (Lev. 21:18–20).  So Jesus expelled those whom the authorities permitted and permitted those whom the authorities expelled: he drove out the money changers and he welcomed the crippled. He gave grace to those whom the leaders excluded from the realm of grace.

David Turner: Jesus also acts on behalf of those who are physically needy. This account of healing the blind and lame is the last healing account in Matthew (cf. 9:27–28; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30–31; 20:30). Evidently, it occurs in the outer Court of the Gentiles, since blind and lame people are to be excluded from the temple (Lev. 21:18–19; 2 Sam. 5:8; m. Ḥag. 1.1; cf. CD 15.15–17; 1QSa 2.8–9; 1QM 7.3–4; 4Q394 [MMTa] frg. 2.18–19; but cf. John 9:1; Acts 3:1–2). In any event, Jesus removes the barrier to their full participation in God’s house of prayer. His clearing the temple of financial dealings amounts to casting out the insiders; his healing amounts to welcoming the outsiders (Boring 1995: 406; Patte 1987: 290).

D. A. Carson: These two actions—cleansing the temple and the healing miracles—jointly declare his superiority over the temple (Heil, “Significant Aspects of the Healing Miracles,” 283–84) and raise the question of the source of his authority (v.23).

Grant Osborne: In the context, Jesus uses the healings to display what the temple should look like as a “house of prayer,” in contrast to the leaders who have turned into a place of commerce. His authority over the temple and over issues of uncleanness continues; Jesus is not only the “final interpreter of Torah” but has authority over Torah and temple (cf. 12:8). He is greater than the temple, and in the temple precincts themselves he heals and makes the impure pure.

Donald Hagner: The Messiah thus manifests the blessings of the kingdom precisely in the precincts of the temple (see Trautmann), which is thereby transformed from a commercial center to a place of healing (one cannot but think of Matthew’s earlier citation of Hos 6:6 [Matt 9:13; 12:7]).

David Thompson: The temple of God is a great place to be healed. The blind and lame came and He healed them. The aorist tense indicates He did this in one moment of time. A person can be healed from all sin in one moment of time and have their eyes opened to behold wonderful truth and they can begin to walk right and straight. The church of God should be a healing center, giving hope to those who have been crippled and blinded by sin.


A.  (:15-16a) Anger of the Religious Leaders over Messianic Acclamation

  1. (:15a)  Rejection of Messianic Acclamation

a.  Messianic Acclamation from the Healing Miracles of Jesus

But when the chief priests and the scribes

saw the wonderful things that He had done,

Donald Hagner: They had seen the θαυμάσια, “wonders” (the only occurrence of the word in the NT) performed by Jesus. Despite these remarkable healings, however, they were unwilling to draw the appropriate conclusion concerning Jesus’ messianic identity.

b.  Messianic Acclamation from the Praise of the Children in the Temple

and the children who were crying out in the temple

and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’

Leon Morris: Once again we notice Jesus’ attraction for little children; it is significant that on a day of such high drama Jesus should find time for children. They were using the acclamation “Hosanna” and speaking of Jesus as “the Son of David.” We have seen that this was a messianic term; it is unlikely that the children understood all that the term signified for their elders. But the priestly and academic people knew what it meant, and it annoyed them that children, however innocently, were using such a term for Jesus. In any case, in the usages of the time such exalted personages would not have cared greatly for children. So it does not surprise us that they were indignant. It was bad enough to have the enthusiasm of the crowds at Jesus’ entry to the city, but it was worse to have him invade the temple precincts (their own special territory) and destroy a lucrative source of income, and it was intolerable that there, in the temple courts, he was doing his miracles and now being acclaimed by children (who knew no better!) in messianic terms.

John Walvoord: These were boys, who like Jesus, had come to the temple for the first time at the age twelve.

  1. (:15b)  Reaction to Messianic Acclamation

they became indignant,

  1. (:16)  Refutation of this Messianic Acclamation Demanded

and said to Him, ‘Do You hear what these are saying?’

Richard Gardner: The only feature that shatters this idyllic scene is the complaint of the chief priests and the scribes (vv. 15-16; cf. Luke 19:39-40), who represent the old order that Jesus is challenging. They are offended by what they see and hear. Jesus deflects their criticism, however, by interpreting the children’s praise as a fulfillment of the psalmist’s words in Psalm 8:2. (Note the question-and-answer format of verse 16, which resembles a rabbinic dispute.) In short, infants or little ones discern and rejoice in what they see in Jesus, as they have throughout the Gospel (cf. 11:25!), while the guardians of Israel fail to perceive what is happening.

B.  (:16b) Acceptance by Jesus of Praise and Worship from These Young Children

And Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read, Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself’?

R. T. France: The most striking feature of this quotation, however, is the bold assumption by Jesus that what the psalm says about the praise of God (in distinction from mere human beings, Ps 8:4) is applicable to the children’s praise of him.

Stu Weber: Their assumptions concerning Jesus’ identity led the chief priests and scribes to believe that pointing out the children’s “error” would cause Jesus to be horrified at their actions. Surely he would command the children to stop. Any Jewish teacher would have been horrified to be proclaimed “Son of David.” For anyone other than the Messiah to accept such acclaim was equivalent to blasphemy.

But the Son of David saw no problems with the children’s praise. When his attention was drawn to it, he affirmed its appropriateness, supporting it with a quote from Psalm 8:2. His have you never read revealed his enemies’ lack of understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures, on which they were supposed to be experts (cf. 12:3; 19:4; 21:42; 22:31). Jesus used the children’s praise to show how obvious it should have been that he was the Son of David.

Charles Swindoll: This scene reminds us that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah those scholars and priests were looking for. They had no interest in personal righteousness; they were concerned only with political power. They had no time for national repentance; they were looking only for military might. They weren’t longing for peace, justice, and mercy; they cared only about their own economic prosperity. If the Messiah came for anything other than their own personal gain, they weren’t interested.

Jesus could have stood there and debated the priests and scribes for hours. Instead, He let Scripture have the last word. Having made His point that things weren’t right with the religious and political heart of the nation of Israel, Jesus departed the way He had come and returned to Bethany (21:17).

Jeffrey Crabtree: Jesus (1) justified the children’s praise of Him with this verse from Psalm 8 and (2) thus identified Himself as the LORD of that Psalm. By using this verse, He (3) at least inferred that the children were praising Him as part of the Lord’s plan. Jesus was not going to forbid the children to call Him “Son of David,” because this was exactly what He wanted them to do. Rather, He used the objection from the priests and scribes to further state His claim that He was more than just the human descendant of David. In other words, as offended as they were that Jesus would assume the title “Son of David,” He was assuming even more than that.


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

Robert Gundry: Abandoning the chief priests and the scholars and lodging outside the city in Bethany symbolize judgment on both the city and the Jewish authorities there. Apart from this symbolism, the crowding of Jerusalem during festivals, especially during Passover, forced many pilgrims to find lodging outside the city.

Stu Weber: Having accomplished his grand entrance, the king left the priests and scribes. Matthew used the Greek verb kataleipo, meaning “to leave behind.” It is a stronger verb than leipo, implying a purposeful departure, possibly in disgust or righteous anger, after the confrontation. The same verb kataleipo was used in Matthew 16:4 when Jesus left his challengers to cross the Sea of Galilee, and in 19:5 of a man leaving his parents. There was calculated determination in Jesus’ action. In the flow of Matthew’s argument, this is most significant. Jesus (in light of the leaders’ rejection and opposition) had now deliberately abandoned the chief priests, the scribes, the temple, Jerusalem, and everything else related to official Israel and its false religion.