Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Corruption of Herod's Temple

"By Jesus’ day, Herod had greatly enlarged the temple at Jerusalem. To give you some idea of the size Herod’s temple mount (the temple platform with the colonnades) is 35 acres while David’s City is 13 acres in size. The simplicity of the temple was already beginning to be lost in Solomon’s temple. The tabernacle altar was 3 x 5 cubits. The altar in Solomon’s temple was 32 feet wide and 16 feet tall while Herod the Great’s altar was 45 feet tall!

...Let me summarize a few issues related to the temple. In Jesus’ day the office of the high priest went to the highest bidder. Whichever priestly family could pay Pontius Pilate the most money became the high priest. Most of the priestly families that controlled the temple in Jesus’ day were Sadducees rather than Pharisees. They owned all the shops on the south side of the temple where the buying and selling occurred. Everything was over priced and the priests got kickback commissions on all the buying and selling.

In the temple, people were making a racket out of the worship of God; just as late night TV Christian programs do in this country. Priests during the time of Jesus dedicated the morning offering to the emperor. This was not remembering your rulers in your prayer bur rather dedicating the morning offering to the emperor. There was supposed to be a morning and an evening offering to the Lord. In Herod’s temple, the morning offering was dedicated to the emperor. Religious Jews plugged their ears when the priests said that phrase.

In 66 A.D. when the Zealots drove the Romans from Jerusalem, the first thing they did was to stop the morning offering. As Richard Nixon would say, "To make one thing perfectly clear, this is revolt. There ain’t any prayer dedicating the offering to the emperor." The Bible says, "Thou shalt have a morning and an evening offering." They could have just stopped the prayer dedicating the morning to the emperor and kept the offering, but they wanted to make sure Rome knew this was a rebellion and so they stopped the morning offering completely.

The second thing they did was to kill most of the priests. The Zealots killed most of the priests, which lets you know that the wealthy, priestly aristocracy was completely alienated from the population. It was a very popular thing Jesus did when he turned the moneychangers’ tables over on Palm Sunday. It was not something that only Jesus was thinking about. This would have been greatly acclaimed by most of the people because of the corruption that came to the temple."

Fleming, James W. 2002. Desert Spirituality. Biblical Resources Conference Lecture Series, June., pgs 64-65


  1. I read a fascinating article in the Deseret News about you and your book,Beloved Bridegroom, last December. I would be delighted if you could speak to our ward Relief Society sisters at a Christmas gathering on December 3rd. Please let me know if you are available and would be willing to share your knowledge of the Nativity.

    Thankyou for your consideration,
    Heather Wilson

  2. Doesn't it just break your heart to see how polluted the Temple had become? This information is crucial to understand the times of Jesus and what He had to deal with. Thank you for this insight Donna.

    I've heard of people who question His anger at the buying and selling. I also read about how he carefully made the whip he used. No, this was indeed controlled, righteous anger. This anger will be doubled or more when He comes to judge our money-grubbing world. Maranatha!

  3. This reminded me of an excerpt from the amazing book I just finished that sheds additional light on Christ's authority (and responsibility) to act as He did in the temple.

    "You read that He was in the court of the temple, and there were the money changers, and He came in and saw them. So many people criticized Christ at this period of His life. They say Christ got angry, and what business had He to drive them out of the temple? It is still customary today, if a man's ancestor has dedicated a portion of land for a religious purpose, and then, as time passes on, they take this land and turn it into a buying and selling place, or anything but what it was originally intended for, this man has the right to come and throw them out and assert his authority. You must know that Jesus was the lineal descendant of David and Solomon, and that property of the temple belonged to Him, every inch of that property was His by the law of land tenure, never to be changed. Why? Because David had bought it with his own money—not with the money of the people, but with his own money; he paid silver for that place, and built there an altar to God forever."
    - Mdm. Lydia Mountford, Jesus Christ in His Homeland, p120