Moneychangers in the Temple

By Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D. (c) 1999 PLIM REPORT, Vol. 8 #3

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The only mention of moneychangers in the Bible is when the Yahshua the Messiah entered the temple with cords and drove them out. He said to them: "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves (Mt. 21:13)." This was the only violent act that the Messiah performed in His ministry.

Few students of the Bible or teachers have a full understanding of what took place in this instance. The unclearness of this situation is due to the fact that the writers, Matthew, Luke, and John, did not give many details. They assumed that the readers were familiar with the operations of the moneychangers in the Temple.

It must be remembered that most of the writings of the New Testament were initially circulated to Jews who knew this information. Now 2,000 years and a different culture later, the meaning of why the moneychangers in the temple angered the Messiah is lost to all, but the rabbi and scholars of the scriptures.

Now the moneychangers had total control of the money and finances in the Temple. Today in America, the Federal Reserve Bank has the same role as the moneychangers in the temple. (see "What Does the Phrase ‘Redeemable in Lawful Money’ Mean? Part 2") They have a total monopoly on the creation of credit and money. The Federal Reserve Bank also has enormous political clout. At some point these rascals will be challenged and driven out of the financial arena as Yahshua chased the moneychangers out of the temple.

What is the intent of this article?

This article will examine the role and function of the moneychangers or money brokers in the temple. To accomplish this requires knowledge of the Law of Moses concerning the half-shekel of gold, which was atonement money for Israel (Ex. 30:12-16), and the priests collection of it at the time of the Messiah. Unless this knowledge is obtained, the spiritual significance will not be gleaned from the situation between the moneychangers and Yahshua the Messiah. [Note: NIV means New International Version]

What tribute redeemed the soul?

Under the Law of Moses every male of Israel twenty years old and upward was required to redeem his soul by giving a half-shekel of gold, when a census was taken of Israel. No man was exempt, even the poor had to pay it. "This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) a half shekel shall be the offering of Yahweh (the LORD). Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto Yahweh (the LORD, Ex. 31:12-14)."

What was the purpose for atonement money?

The purpose of this money was for the maintenance of the tabernacle and later the Temple. Moses wrote: "Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the Tent of Meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before Yahweh (the LORD), making atonement for your lives (Ex 30:16 NIV)." According to the book The Temple by Alfred Edersheim (Eerdmans Pub. Co. reprinted 1979, p.73), many Biblical scholars are not certain whether the atonement money was an annual tribute that was connected with a census that Yahweh gave Israel.

By tradition the half-shekel became known as the Temple tax that was collected annually. According to the book The Temple, the Pharisee sect made this tax mandatory and could seize property to pay it.

How was the temple tax collected?

Alfred Edersheim's book The Temple explains how this tribute was collected. He states: "For annually, on the 1st of Adar while (the month before the Passover), proclamation was made throughout the country by messengers sent from Jerusalem of the approaching Temple tribute. On the 15th of Adar the money-changers opened stalls throughout the country to change the various coins, which Jewish residents at home or settlers abroad might bring, into the ancient money of Israel. For custom had it that nothing but the regular half-shekel of the sanctuary could be received at the treasury. On the 25th of Adar business was only transacted within the precincts of Jerusalem and of the Temple, and after that date those who had refused to pay the impost could be proceeded against at law, and their goods distrained, 2 the only exception being in favour of priests, and that 'for the sake of peace …(p. 71),"

Did the Messiah pay the tribute?

Even the Messiah, being a Jew, had to pay temple tax. Soon after the Messiah and His disciples arrived in Capernaum, the temple tax collectors approached Peter for the two-drachma tax. They asked: "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax (Mt. 17:24 NIV)?" Peter replied, yes, for this was the tradition.

Now the Messiah later asked Peter "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes-from their own sons or from others (Mt. 17:25-26)?" Peter answered that the taxes were collected from others. The Messiah said the sons were exempt (Mt. 17:26). The point Yahshua was making here was that the taxes were not collected by the tax collectors from the sons (i.e. of spiritual Israel) but for "others."

The Messiah told Peter to go to the lake and the first fish he caught would have a four-drachma coin. With this coin, Peter was to pay his and the Messiah's tax (Mt. 17:27).

What did the moneychangers do?

The moneychangers served an important function within the temple. They exchanged a person's foreign coins for a fee into coins that were acceptable within the temple. In many ways they were similar to a currency translation in foreign countries where foreigners have to translate their currency for a fee into the currency of the country they are visiting.

Only the half-shekel coin of the temple was allowed as atonement money, which the priests in the temple used. Those Jews coming from foreign lands with foreign currency or those that had Roman coins had to have these coins changed by the moneychangers. This was one of the largest revenues for the temple.

New Unger's Bible Dictionary stated the following about the moneychangers. "Bankers who sat in the Court of the Gentiles (or in its porch) and for a fixed discount changed all foreign coins into those of the sanctuary. … This tribute was in every case to be paid in the exact Hebrew half shekel. The money changers assessed a fixed charge for their services. This charge must have brought in a large revenue, since not only many native Palestinians might come without the statutory coin, but a vast number of foreign Jews presented themselves on such occasions in the Temple. In addition to the tribute, those who came to worship at the Temple needed money for other purposes. Most sacrifices for the feasts were bought within the Temple area. It was easier to get the right money from the authorized changers than to have disputes with the dealers. Thus the immense offerings of foreign Jews and proselytes to the Temple passed through the hands of the moneychangers. Indeed, they probably transacted all business matters connected with the sanctuary."

Why did Yahshua confront the moneychangers?

The moneychangers were one the most powerful sects in Israel, for they raised a great deal of money for the Temple. The Pharisees sect was a lover money (Lk. 16:13) The moneychangers had a monopoly on the half shekel and buying and selling in the sanctuary. Thus, they could charge what they wanted for those coins.

The moneychangers were much like the modern day bankers, especially the Federal Reserve Bank, today, who has a monopoly on creating money out of nothing and charging interest on it.

When Yahshua the Messiah entered the Courts of the Gentiles in the Temple, He saw that the moneychangers had setup a commercial operation of buying and selling within the temple. This contradicts the purpose of the temple as a house of worship, prayer and praise to Elohim (Mt. 21:13).

This buying and selling in the temple typifies Lucifer's buying and selling of souls. Eve bought (accepted) Lucifer's lie in her temple and sold (gave-up) the truth from her temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). King Solomon wrote the following about buying and selling which Eve did in reverse. "Buy the truth and do not sell it; … (Pro. 23:23 NIV)." Eve's actions resulted in her and Adam dying in their consciousness and being expelled from the Garden of Eden (Gn. 3rd chp.).

The confrontation between the Messiah and the moneychangers is a replay in symbolism of these same principles. The people in the temple represent Eve-the woman and the Temple typifies the garden. In this scenario, however, the Messiah, who is the Way, the Truth, and Light (Jn. 14:5-6), in the Temple, being a type of Adam, cast out the moneychangers.

The confrontation between moneychangers and Yahshua also typifies the casting down of erroneous ideas in the temple of man's hearts and minds. Paul the Apostle wrote the following concerning this matter. "(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through Elohim (God) to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of Elohim (God), and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;2 Cor 10:4-5 King James Version)." The Apostle John called this system of buying and selling Mystery Babylon the Great Mother of Harlots in the 18th chapter of Revelation.

What is the spiritual significance of the treasures of the Temple?

The temple was not only the center of worship, but it also served as the treasury for Israel. Most Christians may think it strange for the temple to have a treasury within it. However, from a spiritual standpoint, the temple symbolically represents the spiritual body of Elohim.

Yahshua the Messiah told Israel that this temple was symbolic of His body (Jn. 2:18-19). As the spiritual body of Elohim has many treasures within it, then likewise the physical temple would have to reflect this. The treasure of the clay house is the soul and the treasure of the human soul is the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

The Apostle Paul said: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of Elohim (God) and not of us (2 Cor. 4:7)." Paul also referred to the heart and mind that store up treasures of eternal life in the next age. He said: "In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (1 Tim. 6:19 NKJV)."


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