When Jesus cleared the money changers from the Temple, he drove them out by overturning their tables and (in John) even using a whip. Why did he not try to remove them with persuasion, by making a reasoned argument? He was certainly capable of winning arguments (eg story culminating in Luke 13:17).

Bible references for the story:

  • Reason would have helped if the money changers did not fully realize the harm they were doing. However, they probably did know that what they do is evil, so they would not leave just because someone pointed it out to them.
    – vsz
    Commented Feb 16, 2014 at 21:15

6 Answers 6


It seems that there is an assumption in this question that suggests reason is preferable to judgment. Reason is appropriate when the problem is merely a misunderstanding, but judgment is appropriate when the problem is willful disobedience.

It is likely that the place in the temple where the market had been set up was in the Court of the Gentiles. Thus, occupying that particular place was in essence excluding the nations from the worship of the one true God. As Rick noted, the Temple was intended to be a place of prayer for all nations--not just the Jews.

These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7

It seems unlikely that the people would not have known this, as it was called the Court of the Gentiles. So, occupying that place was in direct violation to a command of God--not a misunderstanding. Thus, it was wholly appropriate for Jesus to bring judgment rather than reason.

  • 1
    Don Richardson’s book “Eternity in their hearts” quoted by you here stresses that Jesus took it so seriously because that place was meant to be a place of worship for Gentiles(people of all nations) side by side Jewish people, meaning the universality of God's salvation through Jesus for all mankind and not only for Jewish people. I would also suggest reading Don’s other book “Secrets of Koran”:A relevant read in current situation in the west. Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 4:20
  • I would not call this event a judgment in any capacity. It is a rebuke rather than judgment. Judgments are much more severe like the flood, the overthrow of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, destruction of tower of Babel, the destruction of Jerusalem etc... Judgment results in destruction in every case. Throwing the money changers out is not judgment.
    – One Face
    Commented Feb 26, 2015 at 7:34

For one, there's the obvious reference/fulfillment (quoted in John 2:17):

Psalm 69:9 (NASB)
For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.

My first thought is that Jesus, knowing their hearts (Mt 9:4, Mt 12:25/Lk 11:17), might have known that reasoning with them wouldn't have worked. (e.g. Lk 16:30-31 or perhaps even Pr 26:4)

Defending His Reputation is Helpful for God's People

There's a way in which God will defend his reputation, particularly among people who claim some knowledge or understanding of him, for the sake of those people, so that they realize that God does not approve of these actions. Numbers 25 has a good example of this. Phineas is praised, not because he killed a flagrant offender, but because he understood God on the matter. Brazen immorality among God's people isn't to be tolerated. God's chosen people are supposed to be a "light to the nations" (Is 42:6, Is 49:6, Is 60:3), and when they do things that openly damage those people's understanding of God, he doesn't always tolerate it for long.

With my own children, there are offenses for which punishment is swift and no warnings (need to be) given. They already understand how wrong it is, and even a moment of high emotions and weak spirit is no excuse for what they've done. Reasoning with them doesn't always do much good, since reasoning will only reveal to them why what they are doing is wrong. If they already know it's wrong, reasoning won't necessarily produce a change of heart necessary to repent.

These money changers in the temple were cheating the people. They were oppressing these people who had come to pay homage to the living God. It seems justifiable (to me) that Jesus would get angry enough to drive them out (shamefully, for them) because of what they had been doing. It seems likely (to me) that they had been doing this long enough to have had the opportunity to realize the enormity of their endeavor but didn't care because they wanted the money. Can you reason with greed?

  • I believe that this plus @Narnian's response give a clear answer thank you. I particularly like your example with your children. Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 11:46
  • What do you think are some of the differences between anger and zeal. Was Jesus angry (last paragraph) or was He zealous, or perhaps a bit of both. I don't usually think of an angry Jesus, but to say he was angry, on occasion, isn't necessarily to imply there was something untoward about its expression. Paul says, "Be angry, but sin not. Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (Eph 4:26). Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 14:10
  • @rhetorician I would say that zeal can lead to anger. If a person were zealous, that would be a reason to get angry when something happens against the thing for which he is zealous.
    – mojo
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 14:13
  • @rhetorician A relevant quote from Chesterton's Orthodoxy: "As if there were any inconsistency between having a love for humanity and having a hatred for inhumanity! Altruists, with thin, weak voices, denounce Christ as an egoist. Egoists (with even thinner and weaker voices) denounce Him as an altruist. In our present atmosphere such cavils are comprehensible enough. The love of a hero is more terrible than the hatred of a tyrant. The hatred of a hero is more generous than the love of a philanthropist."
    – user3331
    Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 16:06

We often bring our own compromised perspectives to Bible texts and as a result struggle to understand the simplistic significance of a moment.

Isaiah 56:7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

When Jesus was missing and His family returned and found Him in the Temple preaching:

Luke 2:48,49 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus discovers an invasion of God the Father's house:

Luke19:45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be a house of prayer”; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.

How would you react if you found robbers had taken control of your father’s house, would you try to reason with them? Here the Son discovers that thieves have taken control of His Father’s house. Jesus’ reaction is exactly what one should expect.


Jesus was a human and humans are capable of anger and actions commensurate with that anger. The reason for that being that man was made in the image of God and God also gets angry and acts in accordance;

1 The Flood.

2 In chapter 7 of Joshua we have the story of Achan, and his entire family was stoned to death.

3 The destruction of Jericho.

4 The defeat of the Canaanites and confiscation of their land, as a result of the curse of God on Ham's son Canaan for Hams' sin.

and there is this incident where God killed Uzza for just touching the Ark of the covenant.

1st Chronicles 13:9 and 10 KJV

And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.

Jesus and the father are one.

John 10:30 KJV I and my Father are one.

So to me the ejection of the money changers wasn't even a fit of anger only a mild demonstration of the wrath of God, and this appears to be born out by the fact that Jesus took the time to stop and plat a whip.


There are a couple of cultural issues in this Scripture that need to be remembered.

Firstly, the money changers used Roman coins which had the image of Caesar on them. Caesar was promoted as 'god' throughout the countries they controlled. For Jews to barter with Roman coins with which to purchase goods to be sacrificed in the Temple was a huge issue. There is one God for Jews, yet the tension was that the goods for temple sacrifice were being bought by coins with a 'god' figure on it. The money lenders were doing their job and more interested in the financial implications of doing business near the Temple, irrespective of what coins were being used. This was a very sensitive issue. It would be like distributing coins with Hitler's image on it to survivors of the Holocaust.

Secondly, there was a fair bit of greed going on with the money changers. They could charge what they liked to their captive audience without having anyone regulate the prices. People who had travelled far and needed to purchase an animal for sacrifice were being charged ridiculous prices. The Jews who were in the city were manipulated by the greed of the money changers. Those Jews were in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice as it was written in the law of Moses, yet they were being taken advantage of by the money lenders.

Also, the animals in the waiting bays to be bought were soiling the holy ground with their droppings. Imagine how soiled the Temple was getting with droppings under people's sandals and walking into the Temple. It would be the equivalent of walking into a special and revered place with animal droppings on the soles of your shoes. The smell would have been overwhelming!

The last point is that as it was a 'market' atmosphere just outside the Temple, it would have been noisy with people yelling and shouting. Not conducive for prayer at all! Jesus was all about stillness and quiet when praying. He may have asked people to be quiet and was probably laughed at, ignored or jeered at by the money lenders. Then he lost it!

So, the disrespect, the noise, the unscrupulous dealings of high prices, the use of roman 'god' images to purchase items of sacrifice to be offered to God frustrated Jesus to the point where he 'defended' God with his actions of anger.


Jesus must have witnessed or been the victim of theft. He said to the merchants: "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."

The existence of a market in the Court of Gentiles did not prevent anyone from worshipping and would not have made Jesus angry. The Court of the Gentiles was open to all: non-Jews, Jews, men, and women. However, non-Jews were excluded from the Court of Women, which was inside the Court of Gentiles; jewish women were excluded from the court of Israel, which was inside the Court of Women. (reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_of_the_women.) If Jesus was angry because people were being excluded from worship he would have expressed that anger towards temple authorities in the Court of Israel - not merchants in the Court of Gentiles.


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