Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 11 June 2012; Revised 15 March 2017
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations.
Grammar: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament. Explanation of grammatical abbreviations and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ). I use the title "The Good News of Mark" because Mark describes his book as "good news" (1:1). Please see the article Witnesses of the Good News for background information on Mark and his book.
Mark immediately transitions to the key events that will fulfill Yeshua's prophecy of his sufferings, death and resurrection. In all the apostolic narratives the events of Yeshua's final days occupies the greatest number of chapters. Previous chapters took note of the season and year as a general calendar. Beginning in this chapter I provide the specific dates of Yeshua's passion week.
On the Hebrew calendar this is the month of Nisan (Abib in Exodus), the first month of the sacred year (Ex 12:2; 13:4). The month begins with the New Moon celebration (Heb. Rosh Chodesh) on the first (Num 29:6), then Passover (Heb. Pesach) and the slaying of the Seder lambs on the fourteenth (Ex 12:6), the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Heb. Hag HaMatzah) on the fifteenth (Ex 12:18; 23:15; Lev 23:6), and First Fruits of Harvest (Heb. Reishit Katzir) on the sixteenth (Lev 23:10). Coincidental with First Fruits was Counting the Omer (Heb. Sfirat Haomer) or beginning the count of fifty days until the Feast of Weeks (Heb. Shavuot or Pentecost).
Since Yeshua died following the Passover Seder on Nisan 15, which was Friday (John 19:14, 31, 42), then Nisan 1 must have occurred on a Friday. According to the U.S. Naval Observatory chart, Spring Phenomena 25 BCE to 38 CE the new moon to start Nisan in A.D. 30 occurred on at 8 P.M. (Jerusalem time), Wednesday, March 22 (Julian calendar). We should note that calendars of ancient times (e.g., Hebrew-Roman Calendar) are based on mathematical calculations, not observation. The reason that actual date of the new moon was not set as Nisan 1 is because a new moon is not visible to an observer on the earth for 18 to 48 hours afterward. Nisan 1 would have been set once a sliver of the moon became visible and reported by witnesses to the Sanhedrin.
The determination of Yeshua's ride into Jerusalem on the first day of the week is calculated from the time references in the book of John. He arrived in Bethany six days before Passover (John 12:1), which would have been Friday, Nisan 8. He ate a supper meal which began the Sabbath and spent the Sabbath day in Bethany ministering to a large crowd (John 12:9). Then he departed Bethany for Jerusalem the "next day," which would have been the first day of the week or Sunday (John 12:12).
Date: Nisan 10, A.D. 30 (Sunday)
Parallel Passages: Matthew 21:1-9; Luke 19:29-38; John 12:12-19
1 As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples,
As they approached: Grk. eggizō, pres. [from eggus, "near"], to come or draw near a geographical location. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim, which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). See the note on 3:8 concerning the city of Jerusalem. The approach likely took place as pilgrims were en route to celebrate the Spring feasts, calling to mind the words of David, "Jerusalem - built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord" (Ps 122:3-4 ESV). Bible versions typically label the chapter as "The Triumphal Entry," but the title seems premature given that no victory had yet been gained and the accolades cease at the city gate.
at: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." Bethphage: Grk. Bēthphagē, which transliterates Aram. Beit-Pagey ("house of unripe figs"), a small village on the Mount of Olives between Jerusalem and Bethany. Bethphage was considered as a suburb of Jerusalem and the outer limit for a Sabbath day's journey (Men. 11:2; 63a; 78b; 96a; cf. Josephus, Ant. XX, 8:6). A sabbath day's journey was reckoned at 2,000 cubits or about 1,000 yards (Ex 16:29; Num 35:5; Josh 3:4; cf. Acts 1:12). and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). Kai also has a special adverbial usage (BAG 394), and that likely applies here. The translation of "even" would be better than "and," to adverbially convey a description of the proximity of the two villages to one another.
Bethany: Grk. Bēthania, which transliterates Heb. Beit-Anyah ("house of the poor"), a city located near the Mount of Olives on the road to Jericho about two miles southeast of Jerusalem (John 11:18). The mention of Bethany is not to imply that Yeshua was only now going into the village. In fact, he was coming from Bethany having arrived there six days before the Passover festival (Nisan 8), where he enjoyed supper at the home of Simon and was anointed by Miriam, sister of Lazarus (Mark 14:3; John 12:1-11). The mention of the villages stresses the fact of Yeshua's approach from the east. Matthew's narrative does not mention Bethany in this context.
near the Mount: Grk. oros means "mountain," "hill," or "hill-country." The corresponding Heb. word, har, is given in Scripture to a comparatively large ridge, a collection of small hills and to many hogbacks in Israel. Modern science distinguishes hills from mountains by classifying a hill as being less than 1,000 feet above its surroundings, but the distinction may depend upon local interpretation. Although oros is rendered here as "Mount," English Bible versions reflect the arbitrary standard of modern science in many passages, rather than recognizing that a single Hebrew and Greek word was used to refer to any natural topographical feature that rose above a valley, plain or other surroundings regardless of height.
of Olives: Grk. Elaia, "olive tree." The Hebrew name for the mountain (also called Mount Olivet) is Har HaZeitim, given for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. The Mount of Olives is located across the Kidron Valley, part of the two and a half mile-long mountain ridge that towers over the eastern side of Jerusalem, or more precisely, the middle of the three peaks forming the ridge. The ridge juts out in a north-south direction (like a spur) from the range of mountains running down the center of the region. The Mount of Olives rises 2,676 feet above sea level, but only about 175 feet higher than Jerusalem (NIBD 554, 731). In the days of the Israelite monarchy it provided a lookout base and signaling point for armies defending Jerusalem.
He sent: Grk. apostellō, pres., to cause to move from one position to another, to send away, out or off. The present tense, lit. "he sends," emphasizes the drama of the moment. two of His disciples: The identity of the two disciples sent to make arrangements is not given in the apostolic narratives, but two of the Twelve would seem most likely. I suggest Yeshua sent Andrew and Philip. Andrew found the boy with the lunch at the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:9). Andrew was a businessman (Mark 1:16) and was likely experienced in negotiations. Philip knew the price of things (John 6:5-7). (Judas Iscariot also knew the price of things, but was untrustworthy, John 12:4-6.) Andrew and Philip appeared to have been close friends (cf. John 1:44; 12:22).
2 and said to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.
Go: Grk. hupagō, pres. imp., to proceed from a position with focus on a destination, to go forth, to go. into the village: Grk. kōmē, a village, smaller and less prestigious than a polis, a population center such as Jerusalem. opposite: Grk. katenanti, prep., indicates a relative position that is opposite or in front of another position. Here Yeshua likely means "before you" or "straight ahead of you." ESV has "in front of you." Matthew 21:1-2 indicates that the intended village is Bethphage. you, and immediately: Grk. euthus, adv., "immediately" or "at once," a frequent occurrence in the book of Mark that dramatically stresses significant action. The adverb is preceded by a conjunction, kai, making "and immediately," a unique expression in Mark.
as you enter it: Grk. eisporeuomai, pres. mid. part., to go in, to come in, lit. "entering." The objective is just inside the village limits. "You can't miss it." you will find a colt: Grk. pōlos can mean the young of any animal; but here, as in the LXX and papyri, it means the colt of a donkey (cf. Matt 21:2; John 12:15) (Rienecker). Because of the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9, the donkey was considered to be the beast of the Messiah. This is the only time the word "colt" appears in the Besekh. tied: Grk. deō, perf. pass., to bind. The perfect tense indicates action completed in past time with continuing results to the present, in this case hinting at the Messianic appointment.
yet has ever sat: Grk. kathizō, aor. act., to sit, to take one's seat. Yeshua stipulated that the colt must be one that had never been ridden. The instruction is in accordance with the ancient provision that an animal devoted to sacred purpose must be one that had not been put to ordinary use (cf. Num 19:2; Deut 21:3; 1Sam 6:7) (Lane). Matthew says both the colt and his mother were brought (21:7). untie: Grk. luō, aor. act. imp., to loose or release. The donkey is not in a pen or stall. This may seem an unnecessary detail, because how else would the donkey be brought. The point seems to be that the disciples are to take action without asking permission. it and bring it here: Grk. pherō, pres. imp., to move an entity from one position to another. The practical meaning is "to lead" since the disciples are not going to carry the animal. The assumption is that there will be no physical difficulty in bringing the colt to Yeshua.
3 "If anyone says to you, 'Why are you doing this?' you say, 'The Lord has need of it'; and immediately he will send it back here."
If anyone says to you: Even though Yeshua directed the use of the colt the disciples could anticipate that someone would question their actions. In normal circumstances anyone else wanting to borrow the animal would explain the request in terms of a personal need, not someone else's benefit. The fact that the owner is not specifically mentioned may mean that the owner was in fact with Yeshua (Lane). The Lord has need: Grk. kurios may mean owner, master or lord. Yeshua was addressed as kurios, probably translating Heb. adon (owner, master), by disciples and members of the public over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher, Master). Sometimes it is simply a title of respect, but other times the usage indicates submission to authority. However, the use of kurios may reflect a double entendre if the owner of the donkey was with Yeshua. Thus, the instruction could be translated as "the owner has need of it."
The use of the donkey was not just a simple convenience, but fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew quotes the relevant passage:
"Say to the daughter of Zion, 'See, your King is coming to you, humble and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.'" (Matt 21:5 TLV, which conflates Isa 62:11 and Zech 9:9)
Rabbis often discussed the manner in which Messiah would come, because Scripture presented seemingly opposite views. One viewpoint was that if the Jewish people are unworthy Messiah will come "humble … riding on a donkey" [Zech 9:9], but if worthy the Messiah would come with the clouds of heaven [Dan 7:13] (Sanh. 98a). Another viewpoint was that two separate Messiahs would be needed to fulfill the different prophecies: Mashiach ben David the King Messiah and Mashiach ben Yosef, the Suffering Messiah (Sukk. 52a). Yeshua, of course, fulfilled all of these paradoxical figures of Messiah.
he will send: The predicted conversation will facilitate the borrowing of the animal without fail. Yeshua's instructions imply the disciples would not need to negotiate because the questioner is expecting someone to come for the donkey. Kasdan suggests there was no prior arrangement and Yeshua simply had omniscient knowledge of the donkey's details and the response of the owner (231). Advance coordination sounds to some like manipulation to make it appear he was the long-awaited Messiah. However, Yeshua was in fact the Messiah and engaged in spiritual warfare. Successful warfare sometimes requires deception. Considerable planning, including deception, brought about Yeshua's entrance into the world to fulfill prophecy. How would he fulfill this aspect of Messianic prophecy without arranging it? Why not just send an angel to tell the owner to bring the animal to Yeshua?
Divine omniscience seems too convenient, both in this instance and later when disciples are asked to prepare for the Passover meal (cf. 14:12-16). Yeshua employed secrecy on occasion to carry out his plans because he did not entrust himself to anyone, including those who believed in him, "for he himself knew what was in man" (John 2:25). In fact, on one occasion Yeshua told his family an apparent falsehood in order to protect the secrecy of a trip to Jerusalem (John 7:8-10). In the case of Lazarus Yeshua deliberately declined to go heal his friend when called and waited two days for him to die. Yeshua told no one that his plan was for Lazarus to die in order to be resurrected after being entombed (John 11:3, 11, 17, 43).
4 They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it.
They went away: The execution of the command is recorded in terms identical with Yeshua's instruction (Lane). and found a colt tied: The colt was outside the house in the street, but fastened to the door. The better houses were built about an open court, from which a passage way under the house led to the street outside. It was at this outside opening to the street that the colt was tied (Robertson). The disciples proceeded to carry out Yeshua's instructions.
5 Some of the bystanders were saying to them, "What are you doing, untying the colt?"
Some of the bystanders: Grk. histēmi, perf. part., cause to be in a place or position or be in an upright position, to stand. The NASB translates the verb as if it were a noun. ESV is more literal with "some of those standing there." True to Yeshua's prediction there are people nearby who ask the expected question and the disciples gave the directed reply. Whether the ones questioning the removal of the animals were neighbors is not clear, but the people knew the disciples didn't own the colt. In any event, the transaction was accomplished quickly and without fuss.
6 They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission.
Jesus: The English transliteration of the Greek Iēsous, which itself is a transliteration of Yeshua, our Lord's Hebrew name given to him by his parents in accordance with angelic direction. Yeshua is the only name by which he was known to his contemporaries. See the note on 1:1 for the background of this precious name. they gave them permission: Grk. aphiēmi, aor., to release from one's presence; lit. "they let them go" (ESV). The narrative engages in a kind of play on words, because in verse 5 the disciples untied or released the animal and in this verse the bystanders release the disciples to take the animal with them.
7 They brought the colt to Jesus and put their coats on it; and He sat on it.
The two disciples completed their mission and presented the colt to Yeshua. and put their coats: Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, but in this context it means an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). See the note on 2:21. The disciples inexplicably donate their outer garments to cover the animal for Yeshua's convenience. The implication may be that the animal was dirty, but more likely they were giving Yeshua royal treatment so that nothing common would touch the king.
and He sat on it: Yeshua did not reject the offering and mounted the animal. Not addressed by the narrative is how Yeshua was able to sit on an unridden colt without being bucked off. Either Yeshua had an affinity for animals or supernatural power was at work to make the animal amenable to its sacred use.
8 And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.
And many spread: Grk. strōnnumi, aor., to spread out. their coats: Grk. himation. See the previous verse. Some in the crowd in a sense followed the example of the apostles by donating their outer garments for the Messiah's use. in the road: Grk. odos, way, road or highway. The spreading of the garment on the road is similar to the courtesy given to King Jehu (2Kgs 9:12-13). leafy branches: Grk. stibas, a kind of bed or mattress made of straw, rushes, reeds, leaves, etc. Here leaves or leafy branches are intended (BAG). John 12:13 identifies the foliage as branches of palm trees. which they had cut: Grk. koptō, aor. act. part., to cut off. The English "had cut" reflects perfect tense and makes the cutting more distant to the use. The aorist tense reflects action in past time and the participle emphasizes the immediacy of the action. The HNV captures the literal sense with "were cutting down." The TLV translates simply with "others spread branches cut from the fields."
from the fields: Grk. agros normally refers to a plot of ground used mainly for agriculture (Matt 13:24), i.e., a field, and occasionally as the countryside outside a city or village (Mark 15:21; 16:15; Luke 23:26). Some people decided to use foliage rather than getting their garments dirty. The cutting and the usage of the foliage obviously took place after departing Bethphage and before arriving at the entrance to Jerusalem. Lane suggests the references to the green branches and antiphonal singing imitates the reaction of people to the entry into Jerusalem in 140 B.C. of Simon Maccabee, the last of the five Hasmonean brothers, on a triumphal occasion when he was recognized by an assembly of the priests, leaders and elders as high priest, military commander and ruler of Israel (1Macc 13:51).
9 Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: "Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD;
Those who went in front: Some of Yeshua's supporters acted as a vanguard. Matthew's version indicates that these people were of the crowd (Matt 21:9), but Luke's version clarifies that the crowds acclaiming Yeshua largely consisted of disciples (Luke 19:37). This detail is confirmed by some Pharisees who called on Yeshua to rebuke his disciples. and those who followed: Others served as a rear guard. Thus Yeshua was surrounded by those sympathetic to his mission and likely included people who had benefited from his ministry.
were shouting: Grk. krazō, to cry out, to scream. Hosanna: Grk. hōsanna transliterates Heb. hoshia'na ("save, please!"). The word, (and sometimes the whole phrase "Hosanna to the Son of David," Matt 21:9), is usually rendered as if it were only an acclamation of praise, when it is really a prayer addressed to the Messiah for deliverance from Roman oppression (Stern 63). The declaration of the crowd alludes to the Great Hallel:
"Please, Adonai, Save us! Please, Adonai, Rescue us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai! We bless you from the house of Adonai." (Ps 118:25-26 CJB)
The implication is that the crowds recognized and honored Yeshua as the Messiah by their loud appeal. However, Psalm 118 was also appropriate for the occasion because it tracks the progress of pilgrims as they journey to the Temple and sung at the Passover Seder as the final psalm in the closing Hallel. BLESSED: Grk. eulogeō, perf. pass. part., to invoke divine favor or to express high praise, to bless, to offer a blessing; in this case the latter meaning. The corresponding Heb. verb is barakh, which lit. means to kneel or to bless (BDB 138). In the Tanakh barakh is an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, either from God to man, from man to man or parent to child. However, the verb often occurs in the context of a man blessing God (e.g., Ps 103:1).
IS HE WHO COMES: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part., to "come" or "arrive," with implication of a position from which action or movement takes place, lit. "the one coming." IN THE NAME: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone, but here especially of the authority for carrying out the action. OF THE LORD: Grk. kurios, owner, master or lord. The definite article is missing from the LXX quote, which is appropriate since the Hebrew text has the sacred name YHVH with no definite article, and in the LXX kurios primarily translates YHVH.
10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!"
Blessed is the coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. part. The present tense emphasizes the present reality, as represented by the physical movement of Yeshua. kingdom: Grk. basileia means kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. The doctrine of the kingdom in the teaching of Yeshua and the apostles relates to the expectation and fulfillment of promises made to Israel. It's noteworthy that the crowd expresses their certainty that the kingdom was not something that awaited the far-off future.
our father David: Calling David "father" could mean the people were native Judeans and they were asserting their biological lineage as the expression typically means in the Tanakh. All Israelites could claim Abraham as father (Luke 1:73; John 8:39), but not all could claim a blood relationship with David. However, the expression likely means that since the Messiah is the son of King David, so those who welcome the Messiah can call David "father" out of respect, as Peter, obviously not from the tribe of Judah, did (Acts 4:25).
Hosanna in the highest: pl. of Grk. hupsistos, the highest, meaning the highest of the heavens where God dwells.
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
Jesus entered Jerusalem: lit. "And he entered Jerusalem." There were several gates into the city, but the Mark does not inform the reader the one Yeshua used. When Nehemiah rebuilt the city walls in c. 444 BC twelve gates were identified by name (Neh 3:1-31; 12:31-39). By A.D. 30 the number of gates into the city had been reduced and some renamed. Only the Sheep Gate, on the northeast side close to the pool of Bethesda, is identified in the apostolic narratives (John 5:2). Lane suggests that Yeshua entered the city through the North Gate, normally used by caravans and pedestrian traffic (394). Once within the city the crowd apparently dispersed, but perhaps only when Yeshua took a different direction than expected.
Kasdan, accepting A.D. 30 as "about" the year of these events (21, 377f), argues that Yeshua entered Jerusalem on Nisan 10, the day that lambs would be selected for Passover (234). The Besorah of John records Yeshua arriving in Bethany six days before Passover (Friday, Nisan 8), there was anointed for his burial (John 12:1-7) and dealt with a large crowd of people, probably on the Sabbath (John 12:9). Yeshua then departed Bethany "on the morrow" (Nisan 10) for Jerusalem. Yeshua would not have made this trip on the Sabbath because Bethany was beyond the distance that Jews were allowed to travel on the Sabbath.
and came into the temple: Grk. hieron, sanctuary, temple (subst. neut. of the adj. hieros, 'sacred, holy'). When used of the temple in Jerusalem hieron applies to the entire temple complex with all its courts in contrast to naos, which refers to the sanctuary proper where priests offered sacrifices. See an illustration here. After entering the city Yeshua headed for the temple, instead of going to the Royal Palace as the crowds probably expected. Yeshua's activities at the temple serve as an acted out parable of how he viewed his mission.
This is the first mention of the temple in Mark's narrative. Herod's temple was one of the larger construction projects he undertook. Herod was interested in perpetuating his name for all eternity through building projects, and his construction program was extensive. He had magnificent palaces in Masada, Caesarea and Tiberias. Herod built temples for various pagan gods to serve the Gentile populations, which were paid for by heavy taxes on the local Jewish population, but his masterpiece was to be the temple of Israel’s God. The temple built by Zerubbabel nearly half a millennium before, despite frequent renovation, was still run down and relatively small.
According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, Herod commenced in the eighteenth year of his reign (c. 20 BC) the project to tear down the old temple and replace it with something truly magnificent (Ant. XV, 11:1). The chief priests, as well as the rest of the population, were skeptical, requiring Herod to quarry all the stones required for the project before the destruction of the Post-Exile structure could begin. An agreement was made between Herod and the Jewish religious authorities to continue the sacrificial rituals for the entire time of construction, and the temple itself would be constructed by the priests. However, King Herod had architects from Greece, Rome and Egypt plan the construction. The "cloisters and enclosures" took eight years to build (Ant. XV, 11:5), but the temple proper, the sanctuary, was completed in 18 months (Ant. XV, 11:6).
The temple area was enlarged to a size of about thirty-five acres. Around the temple area were double colonnades. Josephus describes the colonnades:
"All the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported -the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of the joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver. The cloisters -(of the outmost court) were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts" (Wars V, 5:2).
There were eight gates leading into the Temple area. Anyone was allowed to enter the outer area, which was therefore called the Court of the Gentiles. The actual Temple grounds were enclosed by a barrier, and at the entrances to it were warning notices forbidding entry by any uncircumcised person on pain of death. Inside the barrier courts were identified by those permitted to enter with increasing restricted access. The first courtyard was the Court of the Women, then the Court of the Israelites (men only) and next the Court of the Priests. In its center the altar for the burnt offerings and to the left of it a large basin called the Brazen Sea resting upon twelve bulls cast in bronze.
Further steps led up to the sanctuary (Grk. naos), a comparatively small building. A priceless curtain, embroidered with a map of the known world, concealed from view what lay beyond, and none except the priest on duty was allowed to go farther. It contained the golden altar at which incense was offered and next to it the seven-branched menorah and the table with the twelve loaves of shewbread, which were replaced by fresh ones every Sabbath. Beyond it, behind another large curtain, lay the Holy of Holies, which none except the high priest was allowed to enter, and he only on the Day of Atonement. A stone designated the place where once the Ark of the Covenant had stood.
after looking around at everything: All the characteristics of Herod's temple Yeshua took note of. The temple was a place busy with many activities, but besides the standard rituals Yeshua also noticed the commerce and resolved to do something about it. He knew the temple was in the hands of a corrupt priesthood and as such it was devoid of God's glory. The fact that God continued to accept sin offerings is evidence of His longsuffering grace (cf. Acts 17:30; Rom 9:22), not the righteousness of the priesthood. Kasdan assumes that on this day Yeshua watched lambs being selected for Passover, which would be kept for four days to confirm they were suitable for the festival in accordance with the instructions in Exodus 12:3. However, Kasdan's assumption is not likely for these reasons:
· Edersheim points out that there is no evidence of such a practice in the time of Yeshua (Edersheim-Temple 170).
· No instruction was provided at either Mt. Sinai or in Moab at the covenant renewal to reaffirm the rule for the first Passover in Egypt, and there is no further mention in Scripture of the selection of lambs on Nisan 10. The only consistent instruction and practice was the observance of Passover after sunset of Nisan 14 (erev Nisan 15, e.g., Lev 23:5; Num 9:1-5; 28:16; Josh 5:10; 2Chr 8:13; 30:15; 2Kgs 23:21; Ezra 6:19).
· The Mishnah Tractate Pesachim, which sets forth the regulations for the observance of Passover, contains no instructions about the selection of lambs on any date.
· Pilgrims picking up and maintaining active lambs for four days would have been highly impractical. According to Josephus "not fewer than three millions" gathered for the festival (Wars II, 14:2) and some 256,500 lambs were slaughtered for Passover (Wars VI, 9:3). People would be tripping over sheep at every turn.
· Watching the lambs for four days was unnecessary, since pilgrims were able to purchase priestly-approved lambs at markets authorized by the Sanhedrin.
already late: Grk. opsia, a variant form of opsios, the period between daylight and darkness, lit. "evening." See the note on 1:32. By itself "late" is not a definite clock time, since the term generally referred to any time after the noon hour. More exact determination must be made from the context. The evening sacrifice, as well as the time of prayer, took place about 3 P.M. (Edersheim-Temple 108; Josephus, Ant. XIV, 4:3). The point here is that Yeshua wanted to arrive back in Bethany before nightfall and they probably left after attending the afternoon prayer session.
Date: Nisan 11, A.D. 30 (Monday)
Parallel Passage: Matthew 21:18-22
12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry.
On the next day: Grk. epaurion, "and on the morrow." Matthew 21:18 has "early" (Grk. prōi), often used of the fourth watch before six am (Robertson). they had left Bethany: After a short night of rest Yeshua was now returning to Jerusalem. He became hungry: Grk. peinaō, to hunger in a physical sense, lit. "he hungered" (Marshall). One might have thought his host would provide food, but Yeshua may have been fasting or simply did not wish to linger in Bethany.
13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
Seeing … a fig tree: Grk. sukē (for Heb. teenah, which also refers to the fruit of the tree). A fruit-producing plant which could be either a tall tree or a low-spreading shrub. The size of the tree depended on its location and soil. The blooms of the fig tree always appear before the leaves in Spring. When Yeshua saw leaves from the distance he wondered if there would be fruit. There were usually two crops of figs a year. Figs were eaten fresh (2Kgs 18:31), pressed into cakes (1Sam 25:18), and used as a poultice (Isa 38:21). He found nothing but leaves: Stern comments that even out of season a fig tree is in leaf — it must have been in leaf to be seen in the distance — holds forth the promise of fruit. The normal early season for figs in Israel is June, but the early unripe fruit (Song of Songs 2:13) begins to show itself even before the spring leaves appear on the branches, often before Passover.
14 He said to it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!" And His disciples were listening.
To the Western mind Yeshua’s cursing and drying up the fig tree may seem like a petulant reaction to disappointment because he couldn’t satisfy his hunger, but such an action would be totally out of character for him. Yeshua is making a point by means of prophetic drama or acted-out parable (Stern). The Tanakh contains examples of such divine directed activity. Isaiah went naked for three years as a sign of Assyria's conquering Egypt and Cush (Isa 20:2). Jeremiah bought and then broke a clay bottle as a sign of the coming judgment on Judah (Jer 19). Ezekiel made and then burned up a model of Jerusalem as a sign of judgment (Ezek 4–5). In the Besekh, Agabus, the prophet, bound himself to imitate Paul's future arrest (Acts 21:10–11).
In Micah 7:1 the fig tree is a symbol of the righteous character God expects in his people. However, in prophecies of judgment on Israel the loss of the fig crop is included in the list of devastations that would come on the land (Jer 8:13; 29:17; Hos 2:12; 9:16; Joel 1:7). Based on usage in the Tanakh and the fact that this account alternates with the story of Yeshua's two visits to the temple, Lane suggests that the cursing of the fig tree probably symbolizes the coming destruction of Jerusalem. However, considering the prophecy of Micah 7:3 which depicts the corruption of princes and judges, the barren fig tree would more likely represent the Jewish leaders, not the city. In the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard (Luke 13:6-9) the fig tree and the vineyard would not be both symbolic of Israel. Rather the fig tree represents the corrupt chief priests and elders who failed to produce the fruit of righteousness.
Parallel Passages: Matthew 21:12-16; Luke 19:45-47
Bible versions typically title the following section as "Cleansing the temple," although this is not an adequate term, given the meaning of the Hebrew word and the word "cleansing" does not occur in the narrative at all. The different apostolic accounts of Yeshua's actions in the Court of the Gentiles present a few differences in the details and some readers may be confused that John's account occurs at the beginning of Yeshua's ministry whereas the Synoptic report occurs at the end. There is no reason not to accept these reports as authentic, and that the abuses Yeshua initially addressed had crept back in. Mark describes three types of commercial activities, none of which apparently existed in the temple prior to the appointment of Caiaphas as High Priest about A.D. 18.
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves;
Then they came: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., lit. "they are coming." And He entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., to enter into an area, most frequently a geographical location. the temple: Grk. hieron. See the note on verse 11 above. Here hieron refers to the outermost area of the temple precincts, the Court of the Gentiles. In one respect Yeshua's action alludes to the promise in Malachi and in so doing serves as a portent of the Day of the Lord:
"Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts." (Mal 3:1 ESV)
and began to drive out: Grk. ekballō, pres. inf., to cause to move out from a position, state or condition. Yeshua was somehow able to intimidate those engaged in enterprise to leave the Court. those who were buying: Grk. agorazō, to buy or purchase in reference to a commercial transaction, lit. "the ones buying." The verb refers to customers. and selling: Grk. pōleō, pres. part., to sell for money, lit. "the ones selling." In the Greek text the verb "selling" precedes the verb "buying," which is appropriate since something can only be bought if it is for sale.
In the incident recorded by John, Yeshua found the selling of oxen and sheep in addition to doves (John 2:14). In contrast John does not mention "buying," but on this occasion both Mark and Matthew note that buying was part of the commerce (cf. Matt 21:12). The combination of the verbs indicates that the temple authorities had allowed the Court of the Gentiles to be turned into a shopping bazaar. Indeed the merchant stalls became known in rabbinical writings as the "Bazaars of the Sons of Annas" (Edersheim 257). Also in John's narrative Yeshua drove out the offenders with whips (John 2:15), but in the Synoptic narrative Yeshua did not take such aggressive action.
and overturned: Grk. katastrephō, aor., to overturn, from kata ("down") and strephō (to redirect a position, "turn"). the tables: pl. of Grk. trapeza, a surface on which something may be placed, a table. Yeshua tipped the tables over. The narrative does not indicate the degree of force, but little would be required. In John's narrative Yeshua "poured out" the coins as well as turning over the tables (John 2:15). of the money changers: pl. of Grk. kollubistēs, from kollubos, 'small coin,' also 'profit on money exchange,' thus, 'moneychanger.'
The function of the money-changers (Heb. Shulchanim) was to facilitate the payment of the annual half-shekel temple tax, which was applied to the upkeep of the priestly service in Jerusalem and various temple projects. This tax was so important that an entire Mishnah tractate is devoted to it (Shekalim). On the first of Adar (Feb-Mar), the month before Passover, a public announcement was made to alert all Jews of the necessity of paying the tax. On the 15th of Adar the Shulchanim set up stalls in towns and villages outside Jerusalem to convert foreign currency into the Hebrew shekel and record payment of the tax. The Shulchanim then set up their tables in the temple precincts on the 25th of Adar to collect from the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem who had not paid the tax.
All Jews and proselytes, 20 years of age and older (except priests, women, and slaves), had to pay the tax. The requirement was based on a Torah commandment (Ex 30:12-16). After a certain date it could be paid only in the temple itself; and it would be there that the vast majority of pilgrim Jews from other lands paid it (Edersheim 254). Typical of banking services a fee was charged for the service, but the moneychangers charged two separate fees, one for the half-shekel tribute and one for the change.
The previous fall the tax collectors had asked Peter whether Yeshua paid the required two drachmas for the tax (Matt 17:24). The question implies that records were kept of temple tax payments. Apparently the tax had not been paid by virtue of Yeshua being out of the district during the time when the tax was normally collected. Yeshua directed Peter to go fishing and a shekel would be miraculously provided. The incident underscores Yeshua's support for Torah observance, even when the practice exceeded the original intent of the Torah commandment.
Ironically, after A.D. 70 the Roman government mandated the continuing payment of the tax. The temple tax was still collected from all Jews throughout the empire into the Roman treasury even though the temple had been destroyed. In the time of Domitian when John wrote Revelation the Roman historian Seutonius noted,
"Domitian’s agents collected the tax on Jews with a peculiar lack of mercy; and took proceedings not only against those who kept their Jewish origins a secret, but against those who lived as Jews without professing Judaism." (The Twelve Caesars, XII, 12)
and the seats: pl. of Grk. kathedra, a place for sitting, a chair or seat. of those who were selling doves: pl. of Grk. peristera, a pigeon or dove without distinguishing the particular species. Doves were necessary when a woman came for purification after childbirth (Lev 12:6-8), or when a leper came to have his cure attested and certified (Lev 14:21-22). Doves could also be substituted for a guilt offering or a sin offering when the person was poor (Lev 5:7). Pertinent to this situation is that the Sanhedrin operated four markets on the Mount of Olives at which pilgrims could purchase doves and other ritually important items, such as , such as wine, oil and salt (TJ Ta'anith 4:8; cited by Lane 403).
16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.
and He would not permit: Grk. aphiemi, impf. act. ind., the root meaning of which is 'release, let go.' In the permissive sense it may mean to allow or tolerate. Yeshua must have made an imposing presence to actually succeed in this effort. anyone to carry: Grk. diapherō, to transport from one point in space to another, to carry or to carry through. merchandise: Grk. skeuos, something that is serviceable in carrying out a function, a vessel or container. The HCSB, NIV, NKJV and NLT agree with the NASB that Yeshua prevented the transport of goods for sale. Some versions have "anything" (ESV, NRSV, RSV). The ASV, ERV and KJV has "vessel" (KJV, ERV) and the HNV has "container." In conjunction with the expulsions of the merchants the restricted traffic indicates that Yeshua was acting in fulfillment of the obligation laid upon him by a prophecy in Zechariah (Lane):
"And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day." (Zech 14:21 ESV)
through the temple: The intention appears to be a prohibition from carrying through the Court of the Gentiles past the barrier into the Court of the Women. The description may mean that Yeshua not only prevented reintroduction of wares into the area, but also put a stop to its casual use by those who used it as a shortcut between the city and the Mount of Olives (Wessel). The Mishnah prohibited entering the temple Mount with a staff, sandals or a wallet or making it a short-cut (Ber. 9:1). Yeshua simply enforced rabbinic regulations.
Even though Yeshua exhibited considerable zeal to remove offensive enterprise from the temple area, he took nothing from the businessmen and conducted no organized operation to take control of the temple. The absence of any reaction by temple authorities is surprising, but understandable. Yeshua confined his restoration activity to the Court of the Gentiles and did not interfere with anyone engaged in religious rituals. The chief priests knew the commerce was contrary to Torah and any offensive action against Yeshua would likely have resulted in a riot.
17 And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS'? But you have made it a ROBBERS' DEN."
And He began to teach: Grk. didaskō, impf., to teach or instruct, lit. "And he was teaching." The imperfect tense emphasizes the fact that during Yeshua's last week he taught daily in the temple (Luke 19:47; 22:53). In this instance Yeshua felt the necessity of expounding on his rationale for his actions. Is it not written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass., to write or inscribe. This is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the LXX translation of the Tanakh. See the note on 1:2. Yeshua then quotes from Isaiah 56:7 to express God's larger purpose for the temple.
MY HOUSE: Grk. oikos is a structure for habitation. From the construction of the original tabernacle, God dwelled with his people within the Holy of Holies. Thus, it is appropriate that the tabernacle and then the temple should be called "My oikos." The word oikos is also used figuratively of Israel (Isa 2:6; Jer 31:31; Heb 3:5) and the congregation of Yeshua's disciples (1Tim 3:15; Heb 3:6; 1Pet 2:5). Since "house" in this passage refers to the Jerusalem temple, we are not surprised that the same people of God are also referred to figuratively as a "temple" of God (1Cor 3:6; 2Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21).
SHALL BE CALLED: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass., to express something aloud or to solicit participation. Both aspects of the verb apply in this case. A HOUSE OF PRAYER: Grk. proseuchē, a general word for prayer in the apostolic writings. In the LXX proseuchē renders Heb. tephillah (occurring numerous times in the Psalms) a derivative of the verb palal (DNTT 2:863). Palal lit. means "to intervene or to interpose" and has a wide range of usage in the Tanakh, including to arbitrate, to judge, to intercede or to pray. See the note on 9:29.
This simple statement means what it says. God wanted His temple to be a place where all people could pray. By definition the Hebrew and Greek words for prayer do not encompass blessing or praising God, although such expressions are important. God is worthy to be praised and He seeks worshippers (John 4:23-24). Likewise, "thanksgiving" is not strictly prayer, even though thanksgiving is to accompany prayer (Col 4:2). In simple terms prayer is making requests known to God (Rom 1:10; Phil 4:6). Even more important, God expects that prayer be intercession for the salvation and needs of others (Eph 6:18; 1Tim 2:1-2). Instead Yeshua found his house defiled by commercial activity and prayer little heard in its precincts.
FOR ALL THE NATIONS: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group. Ethnos in the singular may refer to a specific ethnic or cultural people, such as the Samaritans (Acts 8:9) or Israel (Matt 21:43; Acts 24:17). In the Besekh the plural form ethnos normally corresponds to the Heb. goyim, which in the Tanakh referred to all nations, including Israel (cf. Gen 10:5; Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). The Hebrew text of the quoted verse has HaAmim ("peoples"), instead of goyim, indicating that the "nations" included both Israelites and non-Israelite people groups.
Yeshua's quotation takes on greater significance when the larger context is considered:
"Let not the foreigner [Heb. nekar, stranger, alien, foreigner] who has joined himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely separate me from His people." Nor let the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree." 4 For thus says the LORD, "To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, 5 To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off. 6 "Also the foreigners [Heb. ger, sojourner] who join themselves to the LORD, To minister to Him, and to love the name of the LORD, To be His servants, every one who keeps from profaning the sabbath And holds fast My covenant; 7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples [Heb. am, people]." (Isa 56:3-7)
The word "foreigner" (whether nekar or ger) referred to someone not descended from Jacob and comes from a land outside Israel (Deut 29:22). As can be seen from the full Isaiah quotation the nations for whom the temple was designated were not just any foreigners, but foreigners who had joined themselves to Israel, like Rahab and Ruth. Only those foreigners who could say, "Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God" (Ruth 1:16) and fulfilled the expectations of Isaiah 56:6 had the right of access to God's temple.
Non-Jews attached themselves to the nation of Israel from the time of the Exodus. When God gave His Torah to Israel, He made it clear that any foreigner who joined Israel or later lived as a resident in the land of Israel was subject to the same laws as the Israelites (Ex 12:48; Lev 24:22; Num 15:16, 29), but significantly there are over 10 specific rights granted to resident aliens in the Torah to assure them of equal justice. One of those rights was access to the temple and the right to offer sacrifices and prayers there. Commerce in the Court of Gentiles effectively prevented uncircumcised Gentiles from using the only place available to them for prayer.
The declaration of Isaiah 56 not only has a literal application but a spiritual one as well. References to "house of Israel" in the Tanakh also included the non-Israelites sojourning with them (Lev 17:8, 10; 22:18). God's intention from the beginning was to bless the nations of the world through Abraham (Gen 22:18) and to make Israel (née Jacob) a "company of nations" (Gen 35:11). The plan of inclusion was first demonstrated in the story of Jonah who prophesied in the first half of the 8th cent. B.C. and was sent to the Assyrians to secure their repentance. Some 50 years later Isaiah prophesied God's plan to make Israel a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:3).
In the Besekh we find the same intention of God. Yeshua expressed the plan with the metaphor of sheep and house. He told the Syrophoenician woman who requested healing for her daughter, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 15:24). The woman did not try to convince Yeshua to start a new flock, but described herself as joined to Israel and in that admission Yeshua healed her daughter. Now, Yeshua did speak of "other sheep."
"I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." (John 10:16)
However, Yeshua was not going to take the "other sheep" and form a new flock, but join the "other sheep" to the existing flock of Israel. Similarly, Paul used two figurative terms to describe this truth:
"But if some of the branches were broken off, and you -being a wild olive - were grafted in among them and became a partaker of the root of the olive tree with its richness, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you." (Rom 11:17-18 TLV)
"Therefore, keep in mind that once you - Gentiles in the flesh - were called "uncircumcision" by those called "circumcision" (which is performed on flesh by hand). 12 At that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah." (Eph 2:11-13 TLV)
Unfortunately Christianity from the time of the church fathers adopted the unbiblical doctrine of replacement theology, which asserts that God rejected Israel and created a New Israel out of the Christians that accepted Yeshua. This alien doctrine not only cut off Christianity from its Jewish roots, but caused Church leaders to deny the authority of Torah, to persecute the blood kin of the Messiah and to oppose the biblical right of Jews to their Land. That kind of Israel is totally foreign to the teaching of the apostles.
But you: Yeshua directs his ire against the chief priests who controlled the temple. have made it a ROBBERS': pl. of Grk. lēstēs, from a verb meaning 'plunder,' has two meanings: (1) one who engages in forceful and illicit seizure of property, robber or bandit; (2) one who engages in violent activity against established social order, revolutionary, insurrectionist. There are shades of both meanings in Yeshua's accusation. DEN: Grk. spēlaion, lit. "cave" as a criminal's hideout. Yeshua accuses the priests of being no better than criminals who have rebelled against God's expressed will. Yeshua apparently alludes to a condemnation of Jeremiah 7:11. In that context the label of robbers' den is applied after a catalog of sins:
"Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.' For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--that you may do all these abominations?" (Jer 7:6-10)
The charge of being a robbers' den no doubt alludes to the exorbitant profits the family of Annas, the emeritus High Priest, gained from collecting the temple tax, changing currency, and selling merchandise and sacrificial animals. It's important to evaluate the temple commerce against a background where a working man's wage was a denarius per day (Matt 20:9-10). The half-shekel was equivalent to two denarii (Matt 17:24). The requirement for the temple tribute actually violated the Torah. According to the instructions at Mt. Sinai the half-shekel was only collected when there was a census, and only three are mentioned in the Tanakh (Ex 30:13-16; Num 1:1; 2Sam 24:1). The annual tax during the first century far exceeded the Torah rule. Given Jewish population estimates for the first century there were likely well over 1 million Jewish males who owed the tax. Yet, money-changing fees were only the beginning of the legalized extortion.
The selling of doves was an even more offensive racket. (See the description in verse 15 above.) Animals could be purchased outside the temple; but any animal offered in sacrifice must be without blemish. The Sadducean inspectors could easily find reasons to reject these animals and then would direct the worshipper to the temple stalls and booths. No great harm would have been done if the prices had been the same inside and outside the temple, but a pair of doves could cost as much as 18 times more inside the temple than outside the temple (Barclay 2:245).
Josephus describes the high priest Ananias as a great hoarder of money "and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them. So the other high priests acted in the like manner, as did those his servants, without any one being able to prohibit them; so that [some of the] priests, that of old were wont to be supported with those tithes, died for want of food" (Ant. XX, 9:2-4). This report is echoed in Pesachim 57a.
The family of Annas was essentially a crime family and all the commercial activity in the temple made them the equivalent of millionaires in modern money. It was only God's grace that kept the ground from opening up under them as it did for Korah.
18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
The chief priests: pl. of Grk. archiereus, a high or chief priest. The "chief priests" would be Caiaphas, the high priest, and retired high priests, such as Annas, as well as high officials who supervised daily temple functions. and the scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus (Heb. sofer), and refers to a specialist in Mosaic legal matters. A scribe was a legal scholar and a teacher of the Torah. See the note on 8:31. The mention of chief priests and scribes together implies membership in the Sanhedrin. heard: Grk. akouō, aor., has a range of meaning, including to hear (as a sense perception), to learn, to listen, to follow, or to understand. Following Hebraic grammatical form the verb actually begins the verse in the Greek text. The opening clause is lit. "And heard the chief priests and the scribes."
and began seeking: Grk. zēteō, impf., has four definitions: (1) to be on the search for, in the sense of looking for someone or something difficult to locate, thus "to seek" or "to look for;" (2) to search for ways to satisfy an interest or look for a solution, thus, "to deliberate" or "to discuss;" (3) to have an interest in, to desire or seek; and (4) to press for something, to expect or demand. The verb implies discussion among the chief priests and scribes, which establishes the basis for a charge of conspiracy. how to destroy Him: Grk. apollumi, aor. subj., to cause severe damage by making ineffective or by eliminating, to kill or destroy. The discussion likely considered both options. How can we ruin his credibility and failing that, how can we kill him? Yeshua's interference in the temple commerce fueled the hatred of the chief priests, and just as he prophesied they began laying plans for his death.
for they were afraid of Him: Grk. phobeō, impf. mid. The verb covers a range of negative emotions from apprehension to abject terror, as well as the positive emotions of awe and respect. In this context Yeshua's adversaries had good reason to fear him. If he became king, they would likely be replaced. The clause is lit. "for they feared him." for the whole crowd: Grk. ochlos refers to an assembled company of people. In many passages the people are contrasted with the ruling classes (Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees) who despised the ochlos as ignorant masses accursed for not keeping Torah (DNTT 2:800f). In this case "crowd" is not so much defining the number of spectators as simply identifying the people present to witness these events.
was astonished: Grk. ekplēssō, impf. pass., to be amazed or astounded. The crowd was in shock. at His teaching: Grk. didachē means the act of teaching or instruction or the content of teaching, in this case the content of verse 17. The average Jew of the time gave little thought to the foreigners. The goyim were to be avoided. Yet, here was this rabbi from Nazareth actually taking the chief priests of the nation of Israel to task over the use of temple grounds. The people probably admired Yeshua's chutzpah, but they were nonetheless stunned that someone said out loud what they probably thought.
Luke says at this point in the parallel narrative, "And He was teaching daily in the temple" (Luke 19:47) and that "all the people hung on his words." Solomon's Colonnade in particular became a beloved meeting place for the early disciples (Acts 3:11; 5:12). Santala points out that the rabbinic Sage Yochanan Ben Zakkai (20 B.C. - A.D. 80) was also in the habit, at the time of Yeshua, of "sitting in the shade of the temple and teaching" from morning till evening (200). The Talmud explains that he "had no choice, as there was no other place available which could have accommodated so many people, and of course for the further reason that there he could enjoy the shade of the temple" (Pes. 26a).
Given the purpose of the Court of the Gentiles there were likely Gentiles in the audience. In so doing Yeshua fulfilled the words of Isaiah:
"Now it will come about that In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." (Isa 2:2-3)
19 When evening came, they would go out of the city.
When evening: Grk. opse, adv., can mean late in the sense of a late hour or late in the day, i.e., evening (BAG). By Jewish reckoning "evening" applies to the hours after the noon hour. See the note on verse 11 for opsia. they would go out: Grk. ekporeuomai, impf. mid., to move from one place to another, to go out or come out. The NASB translation gives the impression of a regular activity. The ESV gives the literal sense, "they went out," which is the point of the verse. In other words, Yeshua and his disciples returned to Bethany for the evening.
Date: Nisan 12, A.D. 30 (Tuesday)
20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up.
As they were passing: What seems like a minor detail of chronology brings a startling discovery. fig tree withered: Grk. xērainō, perf. pass. part., to cause a dry non-functioning condition. from the roots: pl. of Grk. riza, a plant root. The narrative offers a scientific observation. Yeshua's curse (verse 14) took immediate action. The tree had totally dried up, so that it would never produce fruit again. In human conversation we might say the tree "died," but Scripture never uses the terminology of "life" and "death" to refer to the state of any vegetation. A plant may grow, produce fruit or dry up, but plants are not alive. Only "souls" have life and only animals and humans can be said to live or die.
21 Being reminded, Peter said to Him, "Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered."
Being reminded: Grk. anamimnēskō, aor. pass. part., to remember or recall, lit. "And remembering." Peter: Grk. Petros, a rock, which translates the Aramaic name Kefa given to Simon Bar Jona by Yeshua (John 1:42). said to Him, Rabbi: Grk. rhabbi ("rah-bee"), which transliterates Heb. rabbi (cf. John 20:16). A derivative of rab, ("great one"), rabbi means literally, "my great one," and, less literally, "my master," "my teacher." An ordained rabbi was granted the right to judge and to decide points of halakhah or application of Torah. A rabbi had pupils who studied his expositions and were duty bound to obey his instructions. See the explanatory note on Mark 9:5.
look: Grk. ide, aor. mid. imp. of eidon, the inflected aorist form of oraō ("to see") and functions as an attention-getter without regard to the number of persons addressed. the fig tree: Of course, everyone had seen the withered tree, and realized that Yeshua's pronouncement had come to pass, even more quickly than they might have expected. Peter apparently felt he had to state the obvious, perhaps asserting his sense of self-importance. It is almost comical. (Perhaps the other disciples responded with some eye-rolling and furtive looks at one another.)
22 And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God.
Jesus answered: Yeshua may have thought, "No kidding, Sherlock," but he said something more profound. Have: Grk. echō, pres. imp., to possess with the implication of the object being under one's control or at one's disposal. Yeshua does not simply encourages the behavior that follows, but commands it. faith: Grk. pistis means (1)constancy in awareness of obligation to others, thus faithfulness or fidelity; and (2) belief or confidence evoked by another's reputation for trustworthiness, thus faith, trust or confidence. Stern notes that the Grk. pistis corresponds to Heb. emunah (229). Therefore, biblical faith is composed of two elements.
The first element of faith is confidence or trust: "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6; cf. Heb 4:2). True faith leads one to seek God and then trust Him to respond with His good gifts. The second element of true faith involves commitment, constancy or faithfulness, which includes following God’s direction for life and producing works of righteousness (cf. Eph 2:8-10; James 2:17-18). There is no essential difference between the faith of the Hebrew patriarchs and the faith spoken of by Yeshua and the apostles.
in God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. The Greek text contains no preposition for "in," so the intention is deduced from the genitive case of theou. The genitive qualifies the meaning of a preceding noun and is typically translated with "of." Rendered as a subjective genitive, it would mean that Theou performs the action. Rendered as an objective genitive, Theou receives the action; thus "in God" is reflected in all Bible versions, except the CJB, which translates the phrase as "have the kind of trust that comes from God." Stern's translation does attempt to treat the noun as a subjective genitive, but Yeshua may not be speaking of the origin of the disciple's faith. Rather Yeshua commands the disciples to possess the faithfulness of God. In other words, just as God is faithful toward His people, do disciples should exhibit faithfulness and loyalty toward God.
As Stern notes in his commentary, Yeshua expects God’s people to put forth the fruit of righteousness, and that unproductive branches are thrown in the fire (Matt 7:16–20; 12:33; 13:4–9, 18–23; John 15:1–8). Thus the drying-up of the fig tree is an acted-out warning. In keeping with Proverbs 27:18 (“He who tends a fig tree will eat his fruit, and he who serves his master will be honored"), Yeshua here is teaching his followers what it means to serve the faithful God.
23 "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.
Truly: Grk. amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen, an adverb meaning "verily" or "truly" (BDB 53), which Stern clarifies as "it is true, so be it, or may it become true" (26). The Heb. root verb aman means to confirm or support. The normal use in Scripture for amēn is as a response to a statement a speaker has just made. However, Yeshua often used amēn to introduce a principle of thought or admonition and in so doing emphasize both the veracity and the importance of the teaching. I say to you: The plural possessive pronoun "you" informs the reader to whom Yeshua directs his teaching, in this case his disciples. The complete construction "truly I say to you" occurs over 50 times in the Synoptic Narratives. In the book of John amēn is doubled and the expression "truly, truly, I say to you" occurs 25 times.
whoever says to this mountain: Grk. oros. See the note on verse 1. Yeshua speaks rhetorically with a hypothetical situation. The mountain in view could be the Mount of Olives, but there is likely a better candidate. Be taken up: The rooting up of a mountain is a phrase used in rabbinic literature of doing something impossible (Sanh. 24a), similar to the saying about inserting a camel through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25) does not doubt: Grk. diakrinō, intellectual weighing of matters that leads to hesitation or doubt, even to the point of disputing or contending with. Yeshua is not talking about having honest questions about the workings of God, but challenging God's faithfulness. in his heart: Grk. kardia, used as a metaphor for cognitive, emotional and volitional activity. The focus is on the desire of the one wanting the mountain to be removed, not what someone else might think about it.
but believes: Grk. pisteuō, pres. subj., in general Greek usage, means to have confidence or faith in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman, which essentially means to confirm or support (BDB 52). In the Niphal (passive form) 'aman means to be true, reliable or faithful and can be applied to men (e.g., Moses, Num 12:7), but especially to God who keeps his covenant and gives grace to those who love him (Deut 7:9). In the Hiphil (causative form) 'aman means to stand firm or trust as Abraham trusted in God's promise (Gen 15:6).
In the Hebrew concept trust and faithfulness are inseparable. If one trusts, then one is faithful. The axiomatic statement does not pertain to acceptance of a creedal doctrine, but trust in the sovereign God who works all things together for good (Rom 8:28) and being faithful to God while he does the working. The verb "believes" is a present tense, so the most effective faith is one that is persistent in trusting (cf. Luke 18:1). By the same token this is not an axiom to be taken literalistically. That is, no matter how much one might believe he can fly, jumping off a cliff is inadvisable. Gravity will still determine the outcome.
that what he says is going to happen: Grk. ginomai, pres. mid., to become or come into being. The middle voice emphasizes the fact that an agent is required to bring about actions and events. Things do not just happen, as the evolutionists claim for the origin of the universe and the species. The hypothetical scenario is clearly in the realm of the impossible and would require a creation miracle to bring about. Only God can accomplish the impossible and He has done so on numerous occasions in history. it will be granted him: lit. "it will be to him." Confidence in the outcome is inseparable to any successful endeavor. In reality the entire scenario is absurd, because this "act of faith" does not accomplish any personal need. Why would anyone want to throw a mountain into the sea? Ironically, Revelation depicts God doing this very thing (Rev 8:8).
This parabolic saying, coupled with the next verse, has often been used to support a "name it and claim it" theology; that is, you can have whatever you want if you just have enough faith. "If you aren't healed it's because you don't have enough faith." Yeshua's scenario makes the common interpretation absurd. Even if faith could be quantified no human being could muster the faith to actually perform a geological upheaval. Only the Creator can perform such a miracle and He is not going to cause untold damage and loss of life on the whim of a human being. (He gets blamed for enough catastrophes as it is.) God only answers prayers that are according to His will (Matt 6:10; 7:21; 26:39; Rom 1:10; 8:27; 15:32; Jas 4:13-15; 1Jn 5:14-15). However, there is another way to take Yeshua's words.
In Mark's narrative of this chapter the mountain is parallel to the fig tree is parallel to the temple. In Scripture "mountain" is used in a figurative sense to refer to a king, royal power or a kingdom (Ps 2:6; 30:7; Jer 51:25; Dan 2:35; Rev 17:9-10). "Mountain" also occurs as a euphemism for the temple, since it sat on a mountain (Ps 3:4; 15:1; 24:3; 99:9; Isa 56:7; Micah 3:2). Instead of the Mount of Olives Yeshua could have been pointing to Mount Moriah where the temple stood when he said "this mountain." In addition, being thrown into the sea is symbolic of God's judgment (Jon 1:12; 2:3; Luke 17:2; Rev 8:8), just as Egypt's horses and riders were hurled into the sea (Ex 15:1, 21; Neh 9:11). Therefore, Yeshua could have meant "whoever says to this temple with its corrupt leadership, 'Be cast into the sea of God's judgment, it will be granted.'" And, that very thing happened in A.D. 70.
24 "Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.
Therefore I say to you: This seemingly unnecessary statement underscores Yeshua's authority. all things: pl. of Grk. pas, all or every. The adjective is neuter, thus the translation of "things." The word should not be taken literalistically, because there are limits defined in Scripture. for which you pray: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid., to petition deity for some personal desire. See the note on prayer in verse 17 above. The present tense represents an assumption that the disciples did engage in regular prayer. In the LXX proseuchomai renders Heb. palal, to intervene or interpose, i.e., judge. The verb has a variety of meanings, including arbitrate, judge, intercede and pray. The context of prayer in the Tanakh is addressing the Sovereign Judge of all people and thus prayer by its nature requires self-examination.
There is no command to pray in the Torah. Prayer was generally accomplished by proxy, that is, the high priest did the interceding. Individuals did pray, of course, and most of the time God granted the person’s desire, although He did say "no" to David on at least two occasions (2Sam 7:1-5; 12:16-18). In the apostolic writings prayer is treated as a divine expectation, if not an obligation of every disciple (Luke 18:1; Eph 6:18; Php 4:6; Col 4:2; 1Th 5:17; 1Tim 2:1; Jas 5:13-16; Jude 1:20).
Devout Jews, living at Jerusalem, went to the temple to pray every day (Luke 18:10; Acts 3:1). The reason was simple. God's presence was in the Holy of Holies in the temple (Ex 25:8). Jews who lived at a distance too far for a daily journey or in the Diaspora went to a synagogue and faced Jerusalem. However, the daily prayers could be offered at home and in that case people opened their windows "toward Jerusalem" and prayed "toward" the place of God's presence (cf. 1Kgs 8:29-30, 38, 42, 44, 48; Ps 5:7; Dan 6:10). Nevertheless, Yeshua repeatedly emphasized that the Father resides in heaven (Matt 5:16, 45; 6:1; 12:50; 16:17; 23:9) and taught his disciples by instruction and modeling to direct their prayers to the Father in heaven (Matt 6:6, 9; 26:39, 42). Yeshua anticipated the day when the temple would no longer exist (John 4:21).
and ask: Grk. aiteō, pres. mid., to ask for something in expectation of a response. This may seem like a redundancy, but it is possible to pray without expectation. Yeshua assures his disciples that God will respond. (Experience has taught me that God has three basic answers: "yes," "no" and "wait.") believe: Grk. pisteuō, pres. imp. See the previous verse. Yeshua instructs that prayer must be done with trusting faithfulness. In other words the disciple trusts in the goodness of God to work things together for the disciple's benefit and God's glory (Matt 7:11; Rom 8:28) and commits to remain faithful while God acts according to His sovereign will.
that you have received them: Grk. lambanō, aor., refers to the transfer of a person or thing from one position or entity to another who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor. The plural verb points back to the plural "all things" for which one had asked God. and they will be granted you: Grk. eimi, fut. mid., to be. The phrase is lit. "and it will be to you." The promise of an answer is parallel to the expression of "according to your faith" (Matt 9:29; cf. Rom 12:6; Heb 11:7). Note that Yeshua placed no time limit on the receipt of an answer, because the believing (present tense) consists of both trust and faithfulness. Yeshua gives a powerful assurance with respect to prayer and other passages echo this reality. As Jacob says, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (Jas 5:16). God can and will do more than you ask, more than you can even imagine and certainly more than you’re able to do (cf. Eph 3:20).
Conversely, Yeshua's statement must be placed within the context of all Scriptural instruction on prayer. God serves the needs of mankind without prayer (Matt 5:45), but He does answer specific prayer in accordance with certain principles, consisting of collaboration, character and content. First, the greatest power in prayer comes from the collaboration of the saints praying with unity of purpose (Acts 12:5; 16:25; Rom 15:20; Col 4:2-3). The principal verbs in this verse (pray, ask, believe, and received) are all second person plural. Yeshua taught his disciples to pray "our Father" (Matt 6:9). Yeshua also gave the principal of "two or three" being in agreement (Matt 18:19-20).
Submitting desires for prayer to fellow disciples also serves as accountability for the next two conditions of character and content. God answers prayer of people who keep his commandments (1Jn 3:22), believe in His goodness (Heb 11:6), trust in His sovereign care (Rom 8:28) and live in submission to His sovereign will (Rom 1:10; Jas 4:15). Lastly, God answers prayer that is specific (Matt 7:7-8; John 14:13), persistent (Luke 11:9; 18:1) and in accordance with His moral will (1Jn 5:14). Applying all these principles will give greater confidence in prayer.
25 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
Whenever: Grk. otan, a conjunction that alludes to a time at which an event is anticipated, lit. "and when." The premise assumes a regular scheduled time of prayer. In Jerusalem people gathered at the temple for corporate prayer three times a day - the first called Shacharit ("morning"), the second Minchah ("afternoon") and the third Ma'ariv ("evening") (Stern 228). According to one Talmudic source (B'rakhot 26b) the three prayer services were instituted after the fall of the First temple to replace the sacrifices (cf. Dan 6:11). The morning and evening times of prayer coincided with the daily sacrificial offering and the afternoon service was held around 3:00 pm (Acts 3:1). you stand: Grk. stēkō, a position that is up or erect. The verb is second person plural indicating the corporate nature of the activity.
praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part. See the note on the previous verse and verse 17. Jews normally stand to pray (cf. Gen 19:27), especially the Shemoneh Esrei (Eighteen Benedictions, Ber. 4:3), a daily prayer also called Amidah ("standing"). The Amidah used in Jewish synagogues today contains an additional prayer known as Birkat HaMinim ("the sectarians, heretics"), which asks God to destroy those in heretical sects, especially the Essenes and Messianic Jews. This prayer was inserted as the 12th benediction in the late first century or early second century and thus voided the original name. See my version based on the original 18 benedictions, Disciple's Shemoneh Esrei.
The verb may be a redundancy for the sake of Gentiles, since in the Jewish vernacular "standing before the Lord" implied prayer (cf. Gen 19:27; Ber. 6b). In passages that depict someone praying the posture is seldom given, but people in Scripture did pray in other positions besides standing, such as kneeling (1Kgs 8:54; Dan 6:10; Luke 22:41; Acts 9:40; 21:5; 20:36), bowing (Matt 2:11; 8:2), prostrating on one's face (Ezra 10:1; Matt 26:39), or lying down (2Kgs 20:1-2). forgive: Grk. aphiēmi, pres. imp., to let go, send away (referring to divorce); (2) cancel, remit, pardon; (3) leave, abandon, give up; (4) let, let go, tolerate. The verb is in the imperative mood, therefore not an option. A disciple does not get to choose whether to forgive.
if you have anything against anyone: Yeshua may be alluding to the sixth benediction of the Amidah called Selichah ("forgiveness"), in which one asks for forgiveness for all sins, and praises God as being a God of forgiveness. Praying this portion of the Amidah cannot be a formality. The disciple must actually forgive any grievance. In other words, the disciple cannot forgive people from whom no harm was received. In terms of the offender, the requirement to forgiveness is not dependent on the character of the offender or the nature of the offense or even whether the offender is living or dead. The commandment to forgive echoes the teaching on forgiveness in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 6:12, 14-15).
Forgiveness by God requires penitence on the part of the seeker and one of the chief evidences of true repentance is a forgiving spirit. When we view the enormity of our transgressions from God’s point of view, then the offenses of others are put in the right perspective. Resentment tends to exaggerate the offenses of others while minimizing one’s own. Forgiveness necessitates going to the offender as directed in Matthew 18:15. God could not have forgiven us in Yeshua without the Son coming to earth. The purpose of biblical confronting is to enable forgiveness, and hopefully reconciliation.
There are two types of forgiveness: First, Yeshua commanded that disciples grant verbal forgiveness: "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him" (Luke 17:3). This is actual forgiveness granted verbally upon the repentance of the offender. Verbal forgiveness should never be spoken without confession and admission of wrong-doing. This is God's way of dealing with us (1Jn 1:9). Forgiveness must be granted upon a mere statement of repentance. The wrongdoer's performance after repentance cannot be a condition to granting forgiveness when it is requested. After all, God forgives us when we confess even though He has foreknowledge of our future sins.
Second, Yeshua commanded in this passage that disciples forgive in their hearts. This is a readiness or attitude of willingness to verbally forgive when asked. Readiness to forgive is essential to the success of the "going" mandate in Matthew 18:15. This principle presumes that one should not go to confront the offender without being ready to forgive. What would you do if the offender gives you a hearing, is actually convicted by your words, admits his wrong and asks your pardon?
Contrary to popular myth, forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. Forgiving does not lead to amnesia. Instead forgiveness is choosing not to remember the hurt. In other words, forgiveness is relating to the offender as though the wrong had never occurred and refraining from reminding the offender of the wrong that was forgiven. You may be tempted with the memory, but remind the tempter of the completed forgiveness and pray for God's blessing on the offender.
Yeshua intends that forgiveness be a lifestyle (Luke 17:3-4). If the offending person repeats the offense you must continue to forgive again and again, as many times as the offender repents and asks forgiveness. Disciples should always be initiators of reconciliation. Your witness could lead the non-believer to Yeshua and His salvation. When a disciple has a dispute with a non-believer, he must follow the example of Yeshua. In His suffering Yeshua did not resort to deceit, insults, threats or retaliation (1Pet 2:21-23).
Being ready to forgive is no guarantee that others will repent. These steps should be followed not because they might work, but because Yeshua has commanded us to follow His example. You are not responsible for someone else's unwillingness to respond. Your only responsibility is to remove barriers to reconciliation that you have control over, such as your attitudes and actions. In the end a disciple of Yeshua must trust His Heavenly Father to work justice for him, just as Yeshua "kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1Pet 2:23).
so that your Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male parent, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes both His activity as creator and sustainer. See the note on 8:38. who is in heaven: This is not an idle statement. The Father sits on a throne in heaven surrounded by angels. Yeshua instructed that his disciples direct their prayers to the Father in heaven. He is not on the earth and Yeshua implies that the glory of the Father no longer dwelled in the Holy of Holies. Given the location of the Father the prayers of the disciple are communicated miraculously in an instant over the many light years of expanse between earth and heaven. God hears in heaven and answers from heaven. will also forgive you: When God forgives, he cancels the debt of sin, lifts the guilt burden and restores the relationship. Thus, forgiveness is an act, not a feeling. God's forgiveness shows the way we are to forgive others.
your transgressions: pl. of Grk. paraptōma, "a false step," usually used of offenses committed against others, although it may include specific offenses against God. The fact that Yeshua mentions transgressions that need the forgiveness of God implies the continuing authority of the commandments God gave to Israel. After all, the Torah defines the offenses against God and man, and one can't transgress or disobey a commandment that doesn't exist.
26 [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."]
This verse is not found in the earliest MSS, but replicates the instruction of Matthew 6:14-15. Most modern versions (CEV, CJB, ESV, GNB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV and TLV), do not include the verse, but the HCSB and NASB include it in brackets, perhaps due to its presence in the KJV.
Without confronting and being ready to forgive the injustice of the wrong remains and there will be the temptation for continual mental reenactment of the hurt. Reminding oneself of the wrong can create a bitter spirit, which, in turn, can produce barriers in other relationships. Prolonged bitterness and resentment can also adversely affect one's health. Most important of all one's spiritual health can be damaged. The Lord is clear that forgiveness is a duty, the avoidance of which brings spiritual consequences (Matthew 6:12; 18:32-35).
This is one of several inhibitors to answered prayer.
27 They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him,
They came: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid., to come or arrive. The present tense, lit. "they are coming" gives dramatic emphasis to the event. again to Jerusalem: See the note on verse 1 above. And as He was walking: Grk. peripateō, pres. act. part., to engage in pedestrian activity. in the temple: Grk. hieron. See the note on verse 11 above. Yeshua was then confronted by a delegation consisting of members from three important groups of officials. the chief priests: pl. of Grk. archiereus. See the note on verse 18 above. and the scribes: pl. of Grk. grammateus, See the note on verse 18 above. and the elders: pl. of Grk. presbuteros primarily carries the idea of ruling authority, leadership or acting in an official capacity. See the note on 7:3 and 8:31. Taken together these three groups indicate the membership of the Sanhedrin.
28 and began saying to Him, "By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?"
By what authority: Grk. exousia has four basic meanings: (1) freedom of choice, the right (often in a legal sense) to act, decide or dispose of one’s property as one wishes; (2) the ability to do something, capability, might, power; (3) authority, absolute power, warrant; and (4) ruling or official power as exercised by kings and officials (BAG). In this context exousia stands for the Heb. s’mikhah (“leaning" or "laying"), a technical term for the ordination ceremony for a judge, elder or rabbi by a ceremony of laying on of hands (Stern 64). Ordination was conducted by a board of three elders, at least one of whom had also received s'mikah. An ordained rabbi was granted authority to determine points of halakhah or application of Torah. So the chief priests essentially ask, "What kind of ordination did you receive that entitles you to teach as you do?" who gave You this authority: The follow-on question means "And who dared give you such an ordination so that we can interrogate him too?" (Stern 64)
29 And Jesus said to them, "I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
And Jesus said: Yeshua does not answer their question but instead puts them on the defensive. He proposes a condition that if met, he will answer their question. Yeshua doesn't wait for their agreement to the proposition. Since the critics failed to reject the proposal he proceeds with his question.
30 "Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me."
Was the baptism: Grk. baptisma, from the verb baptizō, referred to any ceremonial washing and means plunging, dipping or immersing. See the note on 1:4. of John: Grk. Iōannēs attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yochanan and means "the Lord is gracious." See the note on 1:4 for the background of the name and the man. Ordinary ritual immersion (Heb. tevilah) among Jews occurred on a variety of occasions, but immersion as symbolic of repentance was the central focus of Yochanan's ministry.
from heaven: Yochanan did not negate the need of a blood sacrifice to atone for sin, although some scholars believe his immersion ministry reflected the Essene disdain for the corrupt sacrificial system superintended by the Sadducees. However, Yochanan asserted his divine call as the forerunner of the Messiah based on the prophecy of Isaiah (40:3-5). Washing with water as symbolic of both repentance and God cleansing a person of sin is well established in the Tanakh (Ps 51:2, 7; Isa 1:16; Jer 4:14; Ezek 36:25) and it is upon divinely inspired Scripture that Yochanan's immersion of repentance was grounded.
or from men: On the other hand, much of the ritual washing conducted in Israel then was in accordance with man-made rules. The traditions of the Sages required washing in situations never envisioned by the Torah. The Sages liked to claim their traditions came from Moses, but they couldn't explain why if the rules were so important to God they were never written down as Scripture. Unfortunately, man-made traditions were sometimes given greater authority than Scripture (cf. Matt 15:2-6; 19:7-8; 23:2, 23; Luke 6:2-9; 13:10; John 5:10; Acts 15:1).
Answer Me: Grk. apokrinō, aor. pass. imp., make a response to a specific query, in this instance expecting the respondent to choose between the two options. The imperative mood indicates that Yeshua is not just posing an academic question as might occur in the rabbinic schools. He speaks with the voice of God demanding an answer. The wrong answer could result in a pronouncement of divine judgment.
31 They began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say, 'Then why did you not believe him?'
They began reasoning: Grk. dialogizomai, impf. mid., to engage in a mental process involving back and forth movement of ideas, or as Danker puts it, a kind of mental 'ping-pong.' Marshall translates the verb as "debated." among themselves: The preposition (Grk. pros, "near" or "facing") indicates that the reasoning was not just a mental conundrum, but an actual discussion among the critics. They immediately recognized the "horns of dilemma." From heaven: This is a Jewish euphemism for God, to avoid saying the tetragrammaton. He will say: They could easily anticipate Yeshua's rejoinder if they admitted to the divine authority behind Yochanan's immersion ministry. Then why: In spite of their opposition they actually admit their unbelief of Yochanan's message and unbelief prevented repentance. The unwillingness to believe and repent fueled their continuing rebellion against God.
32 "But shall we say, 'From men'?"--they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet.
From men: The idiomatic expression refers to choosing for one's self without reliance on divine direction (cf. Josh 9:14). Human decision-making is acceptable to God in matters that are morally neutral. However, to say that Yochanan was "from men" would imply that he was a false prophet and his message merely a personal opinion. they were afraid: Wessel comments that the adversaries feared Yochanan though dead as much as Herod Antipas did. Yochanan's martyrdom had deepened the people's esteem for him and any disrespect towards his memory would have caused a furor.
a real: Grk. ontōs, adv., 'in every sense of the word,' unquestionably, really. prophet: Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet. In ancient Greek culture the word-group always had a religious meaning and referred to one who predicts or tells beforehand (DNTT 3:76). However, in Scripture the word-group also refers simply to speaking on God's behalf, often described as "forth-telling." There was no doubt among members of the public that Yochanan was a God-called and God-inspired prophet.
33 Answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." And Jesus said to them, "Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things."
We do not know: They lied, because they did know the answer to Yeshua's question. Nor will I tell you: With great chutzpah Yeshua puts the chief priests in their place and lets them know that he will not bow to their intimidation tactics.
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