Lexham Discourse Greek N.T. Matt. 21:12-17 w/translation & Commentary


Matthew 21:12–17 (LDGNT)
12Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν καὶ ἐξέβαλεν πάντας τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ ἀγοράζοντας ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καὶ τὰς τραπέζας τῶν κολλυβιστῶν κατέστρεψεν καὶ τὰς καθέδρας τῶν πωλούντων τὰς περιστεράς
13καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς Γέγραπται Ὁ οἶκός μου οἶκος προσευχῆς κληθήσεται ὑμεῖς δὲ αὐτὸν ποιεῖτε σπήλαιον λῃστῶν
14Καὶ προσῆλθον αὐτῷ τυφλοὶ καὶ χωλοὶ ἐν τῷ ἱερῷκαὶ ἐθεράπευσεν αὐτούς
15ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς τὰ θαυμάσια ἃ ἐποίησεν καὶ τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς κράζοντας ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καὶ λέγοντας Ὡσαννὰ τῷ υἱῷ Δαυίδ ἠγανάκτησαν
16καὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ Ἀκούεις τί οὗτοι λέγουσιν ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς Ναί οὐδέποτε ἀνέγνωτε ὅτι Ἐκ στόματος νηπίων καὶ θηλαζόντων κατηρτίσω αἶνον
17Καὶ καταλιπὼν αὐτοὺς ἐξῆλθεν ἔξω τῆς πόλεως εἰς Βηθανίαν καὶ ηὐλίσθη ἐκεῖ

Translation

Matthew 21:12–17 (LEB)
12And Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all those who were selling and buying in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling doves.
13And he said to them, “It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a cave of robbers!”
14And the blind and the lame came up to him in the temple courts and he healed them.
15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children shouting in the temple courts and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant.
16And they said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” So Jesus said to them, “Yes, have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of children and nursing babies you have prepared for yourself praise’?”
17And leaving them, he went outside of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

Commentary

Lexham Context Commentary

Cleansing the Temple Courts (21:12–17)

Immediately after entering Jerusalem, Jesus enters the temple and drives out those who are selling things in the temple, flipping tables and chairs. He shouts with words from Scripture that the temple should be a house of prayer, but they are treating it like a den of robbers. In the temple the blind and lame come to Jesus and he heals them. The children also continue to shout “Hosanna!” as they had done at his entry, and the religious leaders are indignant. Jesus approves of their praise and then leaves Jerusalem to spend the night in Bethany.

The Cleansing of the Temple (21:12–13)

Jesus enters the temple courts and drives out those buying and selling, overturning their tables and chairs. Jesus then provides scriptural rationale for his actions, quoting Isaiah and alluding to Jeremiah.

21:12 Jesus, just recognized as a prophet by the crowd, performs a symbolic act against the temple. In overturning the tables and chairs of the money changers and sellers of doves, he pronounces judgment on what they are doing within the temple.

21:13 Jesus now quotes Scripture to those who are selling in the temple, offering interpretation to his prophetic action. The first quotation is a portion of Isa 56:7, which speaks about the temple as a place of universal worship. This stands in contrast to the commerce happening, likely within the court of the gentiles. The second scripture alluded to is Jer 7:11, possibly used to indicate that unjust practices that are being followed.

Ministry and Praise in the Temple (21:14–17)

Jesus is still in the temple courts after the act of cleansing. Those desiring healing come to him, and he heals them, his last act of healing. The religious leaders are unhappy with his work of healing and with the children in the court, who continue to shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (21:9). Jesus approves of this praise from the children and then withdraws to Bethany.

21:14 This is the final mention of Jesus’ healing ministry and his only act of healing in Jerusalem. Healing within the temple is significant, as healing would often be sought out from the priests. The evangelist also mentions specifically the blind and the lame, which is likely an allusion to 2 Sam 5:6–8. Finally, the act of restoring those with low status within the community is a further fulfillment of the temple’s function, as outlined in Isa 56:7.

21:15 The children in the temple continue to sing and shout the words that were used during Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (21:9). The words of the children combined with the works of healing make the religious leaders indignant. The religious leaders already had animosity toward Jesus while he was still in Galilee (12:14), and Jesus indicated in his first and third passion prediction that he will suffer by the “elders, chief priests, and experts in the law” (16:21; 20:18). Two of those groups are indicated here.

21:16 The religious leaders are angry about the words of the children and ask whether Jesus hears what they say, hoping that he will agree that their words are inappropriate. Rather than sharing their view, Jesus quotes Ps 8:2 to signal that the praise of the children is right and good. The Scripture, like other passages (e.g., 3:3), uses Scripture referring to God and makes use of it in reference to Jesus. In lauding the praise of the children, Jesus also extols their recognition of him as the Son of David.

21:17 Jesus exits the temple and city and stays in Bethany for the night. The owner of the house is not mentioned here, but in 26:6 Jesus is again in Bethany staying in Simon the leper’s house (26:6).

Mangum, D., ed. (2020). Lexham Context Commentary: New Testament (Mt 21:12–17). Lexham Press.

UBS Handbook Matthew

Matthew 21:12–17

SECTION HEADING: some translators have found that the TEV section heading, “Jesus Goes to the Temple,” does not reflect what the passage is really about, that is, the expulsion of the merchants and moneychangers. Consequently they have preferred something like “Jesus drives (or chases) the merchants from the Temple.”

The cleansing of the Temple is recorded in all four Gospels (Mark 11:15–19; Luke 19:45–48; John 2:13–22), but with significant differences. John places it in the early days of Jesus’ ministry, in sharp contrast to the Synoptic Gospels, which record it as an event of the last week. According to Mark, it happened on the second day of this final week; on the first day Jesus merely went into the Temple and looked around before returning to Bethany to spend the night (11:11). Matthew and (Luke 19:45) date it on the first day of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, immediately following the triumphant entry. Within Matthew’s account there are several unique emphases which will be noted in the comments.

Matthew 21:12

In Greek this verse and the next consist of a series of clauses connected by the conjunction And (see RSV), reflecting the form of Semitic Greek. Translators should use whatever devices are natural in their language to show the progression of the text. For example, most drop the And at the beginning of the verse or say something like “Later.” Or the And can be rendered more naturally as “Then” or “When Jesus entered the city.”

Temple translates a Greek word which refers to the entire complex, rather than specifically to the Temple building itself. The events described probably took place in the Court of the Gentiles, where moneychangers were allowed to set up their tables prior to the Festival of Passover. To distinguish between this word and the word which refers to the Temple proper, several translations have “Temple precincts” (Brc, Phps, NAB), while NIV has “temple area.” In some areas, for example in West Africa, “Temple compound” will capture the idea exactly.

Temple of God (so also Mft) is “Temple” in most translations. The phrase of God is believed by TC-GNT to be “a natural expression, made in order to emphasize the profanation of the holy place.” Although it is not found in the parallel passages (Mark 11:15; Luke 19:45; see John 2:14), it is not something that a scribe would have deleted in order to make Matthew agree with the other Gospels, since it would not really have been objectionable to anyone. Moreover, the manuscript evidence in favor of “Temple” as opposed to temple of God is very strong.

Temple was discussed at 4:5. If translators have regularly been using an expression that uses “God”—for example, “House of God”—then it may be difficult to render Temple of God any differently. Translators would not, of course, retain a repetition of of God.

Drove out (so most translations) translates a verb which suggests the exercise of force (literally “threw out”). It is in fact the same verb which Matthew uses of the exorcism of demons (9:34; 10:1, 8; 12:26; 17:19). The text does not say whether Jesus used force or simply commanded the people to leave (much as he drove out demons!). “Made them leave,” “forced them out,” “told them to get out,” or “told them ‘Get out’ ” will all be acceptable renderings.

In the Greek text of Matthew, all who sold and bought (literally “all those selling and buying”) are placed together as a single group, assuming they are all merchants, whereas (Mark 11:15) specifically speaks of two groups as “those selling and those buying,” assuming that the merchants are selling and the pilgrims are buying; (Luke 19:45), on the other hand, is concerned to mention only “those who were selling” (merchants). The phrase is referring to the sale and purchase of animals, wine, oil, and other commodities necessary for sacrifice.

Sold and bought may require direct objects, as in “selling and buying what they needed for sacrifice.” Notice that “were selling and buying” in English reflects the fact that this was something in process. Sold and bought translated literally could mean it had happened once only.

The text says Jesus overturned the tables of the money-changers, that is, he turned over the tables where the moneychangers were conducting their business.

Money-changers were provided as a convenience to the Jewish pilgrims who exchanged their Roman and Greek coins for the proper coin with which the Temple tax had to be paid (see 17:24–27). With so many currencies in the world, most people are familiar with the process of changing money. However, some translators have had to say “people who exchanged money from one country for the money they used in the Temple.”

Seats can be “chairs” or “stools.”

Pigeons were the poor man’s sacrifice (see Luke 2:24). In many areas translators say “pigeons for sacrifice,” to ensure that their function here is understood. Matthew does not include Mark’s additional comment, “and he would not let anyone carry anything through the Temple courtyards” (11:16), a practice which was looked upon as desecrating the holy place by using it as a short cut.

Matthew 21:13

Them refers to the people who were buying and selling and to the moneychangers, not just these latter. “He said to all those people” will make this clear.

It is written translates the same formula used at 4:4 (see comment there). “That God said” (GeCL “that God explained”) is included by TEV in order to indicate the speaker referred to by the pronoun My of the quotation.

My house refers to the Temple, the place where God was said to dwell and where people worshiped him. Some translators have said “My house of worship” or “The house where people worship me.”

Shall be called a house of prayer is more adequately rendered by GeCL 1st edition as “should be a house for prayer.” One may translate “should be a house where people come to pray to me.” Or, if prayer is understood in the wider sense of worship, “a house where people come to worship me.” Some translators have wanted to retain an element of called by saying “People will call my house a place for prayer” or “Regarding my Temple, people will know (or, say) that it is for worship.” But the passive shall be called does serve to keep my house in focus, and therefore examples like these should only be used if they maintain that focus. The quotation is taken from Isaiah 56:7, but Matthew omits “for the people of all nations,” which is important to (Mark 11:17).

When Jesus says but you, he is addressing the moneychangers and merchants directly. He is no longer quoting from God’s word.

A den of robbers (NAB “a den of thieves”) is a fairly traditional rendering. Den is literally “cave”; it was customary in those days for thieves and robbers to use caves as a place for their hideout and as a place for storing their stolen goods. Some translators have understood den to mean a gathering place for robbers, but in fact it was a place where they could hide (possibly after committing a crime) and be safe, so that “hiding place” is a better translation. Jesus is here alluding to Jeremiah 7:11: “Do you think that my Temple is a hiding place for robbers?” (TEV).

Matthew 21:14

This verse begins with And in Greek, a word that indicates that the narrative is continuing, but it will probably not be right to make it seem that the blind and the lame came to Jesus immediately after he chastised the merchants and moneychangers. Most translations begin a new paragraph here.

The healing of the blind and the lame is mentioned only by Matthew, and it is of significance in his account. This is, in fact, the only mention in the first three Gospels of a healing in Jerusalem, which doubly underlines its significance. Earlier Matthew also linked the healing of the blind and the lame to each other (15:30–31), but here the combination takes on a deeper meaning in light of 2 Samuel 5:8, where it is stated “The blind and the crippled cannot enter the Lord’s house” (TEV). The healing therefore reveals glimmers of the Messianic Age (see Isa 35:5–6) and affirms that the blind and the crippled, together with “the children” (verse 15), are now legitimately in God’s Temple, whereas the chief priests and the teachers of the Law (verse 15) have disqualified themselves by their rejection of Jesus.

The use of “the” in the blind and the lame can make it seem as if all blind people and all crippled people went to Jesus to be healed. Translators may have to say “the blind and crippled people from there” or “many blind or crippled people.”

Came may more naturally be “went” in many languages.

Lame was discussed at 15:30.

The text does not say explicitly the blind and lame came to Jesus to be healed, but that seems to be understood, and some translations have said “came (or, went) to Jesus so he would heal them.” However, in most languages this will not be necessary, since the context makes it so clear.

It may be argued that in the temple is redundant and should be left implicit in translation, since the Temple has already been twice referred to in this account and will be mentioned again in the following verse. However, the real focus of the verse is to indicate that the Temple is the place where the healing occurred, thus qualifying the blind and the crippled to be there. Sometimes it is helpful to say “where he was in the Temple.”

Matthew 21:15

Chief priests and scribes were discussed at 2:4.

The wonderful things (so also TEV, NJB, NEB) is the rendering of most English translations; AT and GeCL have “the wonders.” The reference is to the miracles of healing, and the word used to describe these healings focuses upon the aspect of wonder. It is used only here in the New Testament, though it occurs quite frequently in the Old Testament, where it is used of the wonders that God performed in Egypt (Exo 3:20). Brc has “astonishing things,” and some have said “miracles.”

The children crying out in the temple also introduces information not included in the Marcan parallel. Matthew has previously shown Jesus’ concern for children (19:13–15), and he has recorded Jesus’ teaching that a person must become like a child before he can enter the Kingdom (18:1–5; see also 18:25). So it is not surprising that he mentions this event which is not included in any of the other Gospels. It may sound odd to say that the chief priests and teachers of the law saw children crying out or shouting, so some translators have said “and when they heard the children shouting out.”

Hosanna to the Son of David translates the same expression used in verse 9.

Were indignant translates the same verb used in 20:24; it will appear again in 26:8.

In the translation of this verse, it will probably be necessary to reorder some of the events: “The chief priests and the teachers of the Law saw the wonderful miracles that Jesus was doing. They also heard the children shouting in the Temple, ‘Praise to David’s Son!’ So they became angry at Jesus, 16 and said to him …”

Matthew 21:16

Do you hear what these are saying? is not a question asked merely for the sake of information. But since Jesus replies Yes, it may not be possible to transform the question into an exclamation or affirmation. One way to convey the tone of the question is to say “Can’t you hear what they are saying?” or possibly “Are you listening to what they are saying?”

Have you never read points directly to the scripture text which follows. Therefore GeCL has “Have you never read in the Holy Scriptures …?” and NEB, with specific reference to the following quotation, has “have you never read that text …?” In cases where translators feel that the intent of this rhetorical question will be misunderstood, they may use an affirmation such as “Surely you have read in God’s word.”

Before translators can address the problems of this quotation, they have to be sure that the phrase out of the mouth will be understood as speech of some kind. Some make this clear with a rendering like “You have caused infants and children to speak words of perfect praise.” Others even keep the image of the text with a rendering such as “You have made the mouths of infants and children speak words of perfect praise.” Both of these examples begin with the second part of the quotation, because that order is generally easier for readers to comprehend. But there are languages where the order of the text is quite acceptable, as in “With the words of children and infants you have made perfect praise (for yourself).” In quite a few languages translators will have to indicate who is the recipient of the praise, by using phrases such as “praise to you” or “to praise you perfectly.”

The noun translated babes (TEV “children”) is first used in 11:25 (see comment there). It appears here in a parallel structure with sucklings (literally “nursing babies”). NAB has “infants and children,” while NIV has “children and infants.”

The scripture passage referred to is Psalm 8:3 of the Septuagint (8:1–2a in English), where the Greek translators used praise to represent a Hebrew word which meant “strength” or “power.” The modifier perfect (so also TEV, Brc), results from the Greek “perfective” prefix of the verb translated hast brought by RSV (TEV “trained … to offer”). The verb itself means “bring to perfection,” and so Mft translates “brought praise to perfection.” Lu accomplishes the same effect by translating the verb as “prepared,” which is then followed by two synonyms which mean “praise.”

Hast brought is in the middle voice, and when taken with the subject you means “You brought (something) to perfection for yourself.” NEB reflects this middle voice: “Thou hast made … sound aloud thy praise.” By this appeal to scripture Jesus affirms that his actions are approved and authenticated by God himself. Children, together with the blind and the crippled, are now the recipients of God’s grace through Jesus the Messiah.

Matthew 21:17

And leaving them (TEV “Jesus left them”) translates a participial construction in Greek which is dependent upon the main verb went out. TEV’s restructuring is purely stylistic.

If the pronoun them must be translated more explicitly, one can say “the people in the Temple.” At least one commentator notes that the action of Jesus is both solemn and symbolic; when he leaves the Temple, God himself departs from the Jewish system of worship.

Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. (1992). A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew (pp. 643–649). United Bible Societies.

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