Part 6 The Royal Treasury
These taxes and tax collectors did not exist in Moses’ Israel, yet that nation had thrived. That kingdom’s godly government, with no king, operated in a much different fashion and the people were allowed to live by the perfect law of liberty. The people could not force their neighbor to pay for the assumed needs of the community or nation, nor could they elect men to extract such blood and sweat from the people. Needs were often true enough and needed attention in some manner. One could have and exercise all their God-given rights, but they also needed to fulfill the responsibility of that righteousness in faith, hope, and charity.
“The real destroyers of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.” 1
The Singers had gone from being the messengers of the people to being the Heralds of the ruling elite. They were able to do this because the people became slothful and, as a result, centralized the right hand of government. That strong right arm of an aberrant kingdom became the enforcing arm of the uncharitable left, to the oppression and corruption of all.
John 2:16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
The reference to “sold doves” gives an impression that these were just merchandisers of small offerings. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The word “dove” is peristera and some have suggested that it was to read “ep aristera”, which would mean “on the left hand side”. Was Jesus talking about selling doves or selling the lucrative seats on the left side? Those who sat in those seats made a considerable amount in commissions upon receiving the compelled offering of the people.
The moneychangers were not involved in nickel and dime purchases where you could tip over a table and send change rolling on the floor. The Greek word for “moneychangers” was kollubistes2 ,which was a word for a small coin or “clipped amount”. Kollubistes had to do with the commission charged by the holders of these lucrative offices on the left hand side of the Judean government.
These commissioned moneychangers took a portion of the collected contributions of the people in the form of a commission. This commission had grown to become what we would call a large share or porterhouse cut.
The tribute could exceed 7,600,000 denarii in that one month. The money-changers were allowed to charge a silver meah, or about one-fourth of a denar. Their cut on this one event could be 950,000 denarii, worth more than $9,000,000 today. “Thus the immense offerings … to the Temple passed through the hands of the moneychangers.”3
Understanding who the money-changers were as government officials and what it meant to be fired from their lucrative commissioned position in the national treasury brings the motivation of crucifying Jesus into a new and revealing light.
All these [which were] chosen to be porters in the gates [were] two hundred and twelve. These were reckoned by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office. 1 Chronicles 9:22
The king had appointed these offices from the elected choices of the people. They were not elected as we often think of it today, but were reckoned by their genealogy, which dealt with their family units, or “generations”, not their lineage. The word “villages” is normally translated “court” and is based on their positions as servants of the tens and hundreds. Even though David and Samuel ordained them to their set offices, they had no authority to elect them. The king and high priest, as overseers, could reject those holding their specific positions, but they could not appoint their own cohorts, crowd, and cronies.
Without perfect people, it could not be a perfect system; but it was a godly balance. There was separation of Church and State, meaning that the giving of charity and the enforcement of law did not mix. There was a balance of power in the hands of the people.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. Mark 12:41
Jesus was the king and had been observing the practices in the public treasury4 for some time. The words ”over against” were from katenanti, which was a metaphor meaning “before one, i.e. he being judge”. He had already begun to instruct men within the royal treasury in John 8. There are a number of misconceptions concerning what is taking place and where it all took place within that text.
Jesus … came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. John 8:2
There are numerous words translated into “set” in the New Testament including kathemai, epitithemi, paratithemi, histemi, duno, anakeimai, anapipto among others, but the words “sat down” in John 8:2 is kathizo, which is defined, “to set, appoint, to confer a kingdom on one.”5
Jesus was already on the throne and King of His Kingdom. Thousands of people had already called him “King”. He was the most popular king in centuries. During the time when he was sitting at the public Treasury and instructing men, some of the Pharisees brought a woman to be judged. Jesus did not judge her but released her. Jesus then speaks to the gathering of Pharisees, telling them that they judge after the flesh because they do not know the Father.
These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come. John 8:20
The first impression from films and storytellers is that Jesus was seated somewhere in the commons, teaching the people when He spoke to the Pharisees. This all took place in the gazophulakion. The word “treasury” is from two words meaning “the royal treasury” and “guarded vault or chamber”.
Jesus was in the repository of the public treasury which was the Royal vault. Very few people were allowed in there. It contained millions of dollars in silver, deposited in large chests which held the collected contributions of the citizenry for the running of government and the support of the poor. There were also some luxurious apartments in this high security area, one being used by the priest who held the office of trust, partly as payment in guarding managing and overseeing these great sums of money.
Jesus fired many of these tax collectors of the national bank by laying a string whip across their shoulder, according to tradition of His office. As King, He was able to turn over their lucrative appointments to more worthy officers, who were elected by the people and now supported Him by the thousands. The people had been taught the ancient ways for years and John had been setting them straight on the path of the Lord.
The Hasmonean Kings had gotten to the point where they could arbitrarily put men into these positions. If the people were to function as free souls under God, then they had to choose their own ministers according to God’s leading in their hearts and minds.
Jesus had thousands of followers that understood this system and it would only be a matter of time before the old guard was forgotten and the new was in place to handle the business of the temple. Except people do not always choose God the Father. Some hated this King who was setting the people free. The professional judges, soldiers, tax accountants, and lawyers would soon be out of a job and their profit would dissipate. They wanted their benefits and filthy lucre. They were desperate. Jesus had to go.
When Jesus appointed His disciples to serve the Kingdom, He warned them not to be like this governmental system, typically found in nations opposing the gospel. “And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.”6
Herod’s idea of the kingdom was much different. He entertained and cultivated his relationship to Essene prophets, like Menahem, who had predicted Herod's rise to power when Herod was only a boy. There are reports that Herod had even agreed to divide his dominion with the Messiah, whose arrival was also expected and prophesied. Herod’s popularity, though great, was not universal and, as economies stumbled, the people looked for scapegoats, real or imagined. This magical system of prosperity and social welfare was sweet in the mouth, but sour in the belly. All things that are too good to be true eventually come to an end and Herod’s Great Society and Social Experiment was no exception to the rule or history.
“Herod was forced to tax the Palestinians beyond their abilities to pay, eventually in many cases seizing others’ wealth for himself and reducing many Jewish landlords to tenant farmers (Ant 17.304-9). Property (chrema and ousia are the Greek words employed) was seized; in addition to the taxes. ‘tribute’ was imposed ‘on everyone each year,’ and these entailed ‘lavish extra contributions’ (Ant 16.308).”7
The substance (ousia) of a once free nation became the breath and blood (chrema) of a new civil society, with the ruling elite and rich and powerful skimming the cream.
[It shall be] a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood. Leviticus 3:17
Raising taxes, increasing fines, and forfeiture laws became prominent in the scheme of government, but it would not be enough. Before the end of the century, a series of devastating recessions had spread across the Roman Empire. Popularity diminished as the power of Rome and its subject and client states would relinquish their comforts and privilege, only after the people were expended, exhausted, and oppressed.
Plutarch’s idea of taking all the funds of the nation into a common treasury and issuing iron coins was clearly not Biblical.8 Such schemes have historically been disastrous, besides contributing to the bondage of Egypt. The rule has been the same from ancient time till today. Jesus did not come to let us return to an unjust system of weights and measures.
Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. De 25:13
Anthony and Cleopatra had lowered the purity of their coins. Nero reduced the weight of the denarius from 3.5 grams to 3.36 and reduced the fineness from 98% to 93.5% silver, setting a precedent for future changes. Before the middle of the third century AD, coins had become only 40% silver and by, its end, was just .02% silver.9 The prices of a modius of wheat went from 8 drachmas to 120,000.10
In the first year of the fourth century, Diocletian attempted to enforce price controls, but, even under the threat of capital punishment, they were an utter failure. Inflation continued from 600% to over 40,000%. Society was crushed under a series of economic depressions for centuries. A pound of gold came to cost 2.1 billion denarii.
Central banking, usury, and debasing of coins were evidence of a problem that originated in the people. The governing powers created by the people were simply a manifestation of that same failing. They had strayed from the path that God provided.
The Temple was a national bank for the Kingdom. The coin in Judea was minted in the temple. The temple was the center of the legal, monetary, and welfare system of the government. Coinage should be in the hands of the people, but it is part of the job of the Church to preach a system of honest weights and measure and, through its system of singers or heralds, the Church should notify the people when unlawful money is put into circulation.
The Church is not like the banks of the world or the treasuries of the gentiles. They do not demand deposits, store wealth, nor charge usury. They are to assist in the circulation and distribution of the love and freewill charity of the people. As the ministers of the Kingdom, they provide a system where by the people may aid one another so that they do not have to turn to centralized systems of usury and subjection. They are not a central depository but a network. They must warn the people when dangerous practices creep into society.
The governments of the gentiles continued to oppress the people and the people continued to turn to those benefactors who plunged them into hopeless depressions. But some trusted in the Gospel of Jesus and understood His Kingdom and sought it.
And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth [economic depression] throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Ac 11:28
The Church had been trained and prepared for the inevitable decay and collapse of the Roman world system. The unrighteous mammon would fail.
Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Ac 11:29-30
With millions of dollars in money, land, and benefits at stake and thousands lining up to the fruitful tables of the Christians, is there any wonder that Stephen was the first recorded martyr of the Church? The Church's system was causing a shifting of trust, faith, and wealth.
Those ministers of the Kingdom could not exercise authority over the people. People could choose men from amongst themselves to settle civil matters and disputes. We see examples of this voluntary process in Ruth 4:2 when Boaz called the ‘elders’ of the families to judge his case.11 These men were comparable to a 12-man juries in American jurisprudence who once decided “fact and law”.
Many today, who claim to be the Church established by Jesus, do not attend to the daily ministration that was so much a part of the first-century Church, as well as the Church in the wilderness. When widows and orphans are in need and cry for help, these churches send them to the governments of the world. Those governments collect the tribute from the people, contrary to the ways of the Kingdom, and compel the people, under the force of law, to pay “contributions”. The governments of the world have this power because the people have sought those kingdoms and not sought the Kingdom of God and its righteousness.
The Kingdom of God is a government based on faith, hope, and charity not like the Hellenized, Romanized12 ,and Babylonian governments of the world. In the “world,” the charity system had become entitlement programs, giving the governments an entitlement to the patrimonial right of tribute. These systems had their own lawmakers and appointed gods13 who judged the people and, by force, compelled their compliance to the will of the ruling elite.
Those Churches who fail to preach the Kingdom disregard Christ. Those who take the tithe and send the children of God to the Qurban of Roman systems to be bound under tribute, as they once were in Egypt, betray their holy office. They are bound in these systems because the ministers of, what is often called the Church, have failed to preach the simple Gospel of the Kingdom and serve the people and tend to the daily ministration.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say,
Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Mt 4:17
1Plutarch, 2000 years ago.
2"kollubistes, (i.q. a. a small coin, cf. Clipped; b. rate of exchange, premium), a money-changer, banker: Mt.xxi. 12; Mk. Xi. 15; Jn.ii. 15." Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page 353.
3New Unger’s Bible Dictionary
4Gazophulakion a repository of treasure, especially of public treasure.
52523 kathizo another (active) form for 2516; AV-sit 26, sit down 14, set 2, be set 2, be set down 2, continue 1, tarry 1; 48 1) to make to sit down 1a) to set, appoint, to confer a kingdom on one 2) intransitively
7Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1992), p. 170 James H. Charlesworth
8Leviticus 19:36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I [am] the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. [Deuteronomy 25:13 ]
Proverbs 16:11 A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work.
Pr 20:10 Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.
Pr 20:23 Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.
Micah 6:11 Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?
9In 1965 the silver content of coins was reduced from 90% to 40% and eliminated altogether in 1971.
10“By the reign of Claudius II Gothicus (268-270 A.D.) the silver content of the denarius was down to (Michell 1947: 2). As a consequence, prices skyrocketed. A measure of Egyptian wheat, for example, which sold for seven to eight drachmas in the second century now cost 120,000 drachmas. This suggests an inflation of 15,000 percent during the third century.” Bartlett, citing Rostovtzeff 1957: 471
11Ru 4:2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down..
12See Rome vs US
13See There are gods many, or Appendix 5