Bethany: A village on the ESE slope of the Mount of Olives at a distance of about 3 km (2 mi) from Jerusalem. (Joh 11:18) The home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, located in this village, appears to have been Jesus’ base in Judea. (Joh 11:1) Today the site is marked by a small village with an Arabic name meaning “The Place of Lazarus.”
Bethphage: The name of this village on the Mount of Olives comes from Hebrew, probably meaning “House of the Early Figs.” Tradition locates Bethphage between Jerusalem and Bethany on the SE slope of the Mount of Olives, near the peak, about 1 km (less than 1 mi) from Jerusalem.—Mt 21:1; Lu 19:29; see App. A7, Map 6.
Bethany: See study note on Mt 21:17.
a donkey tied and a colt with her: Only Matthew’s account mentions both the donkey and its colt. (Mr 11:2-7; Lu 19:30-35; Joh 12:14, 15) Evidently, since Jesus rode only on the colt, Mark, Luke, and John mention only one animal.—See study note on Mt 21:5.
a colt: That is, a young donkey. The accounts of Mark, Luke (19:35), and John (12:14, 15) mention only one animal, the colt, when describing this event. Matthew’s account (21:2-7) adds the detail that the parent donkey was also present.—See study notes on Mt 21:2, 5.
Save, we pray: Lit., “Hosanna.” That Greek term comes from a Hebrew expression that means “save, we pray” or “save, please.” Here the term is used as a plea to God for salvation or victory; it could be rendered “please, grant salvation to.” In time, it became an expression of both prayer and praise. The Hebrew expression is found at Ps 118:25, which was part of the Hallel Psalms sung regularly during Passover season. Therefore, these words readily came to mind on this occasion. One way God answered this prayer to save the Son of David was by resurrecting him from the dead. At Mr 12:10, 11, Jesus himself quotes Ps 118:22, 23 and applies it to the Messiah.
the coming Kingdom of our father David: The earliest and most reliable manuscripts support the main text reading but there are a few ancient manuscripts that read: “The kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord.” This reading is reflected in some English Bible translations. A number of translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J7, 8, 10-12, 14, 16, 17 in App. C) here use the Tetragrammaton or an abbreviation of it and read: “The kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of Jehovah.”
he found nothing but leaves: Although it was unusual for a fig tree to bear fruit at that time of year, the tree had leaves—normally a sign that it had produced an early crop of figs. Because the tree had borne only leaves, Jesus knew that it was not going to produce any crop and was therefore deceptive in its appearance. So he cursed it as unproductive, causing it to wither.—Mr 11:19-21.
temple: Probably referring to the part of the temple area known as the Court of the Gentiles.—See App. B11.
throw out those who were selling: On Nisan 10, 33 C.E., Jesus cleanses the temple a second time. This occasion is described in the Gospels of Matthew (21:12-17), Mark (11:15-18), and Luke. The first cleansing took place in connection with the Passover of 30 C.E. and is described at Joh 2:13-17.
money changers: Many different types of coins were in use, but apparently only a certain type of coin could be used to pay the annual temple tax or to buy sacrificial animals. Therefore, Jews traveling to Jerusalem would have to exchange their currency for money that would be accepted at the temple. Jesus evidently felt that the fees charged by the money changers were exorbitant and that their actions amounted to extortion.
temple: See study note on Mt 21:12.
throw out those selling and buying: See study note on Lu 19:45.
money changers: See study note on Mt 21:12.
carry a utensil through the temple: Evidently, some used the temple courtyard as a shortcut to transport items for personal or commercial use. Jesus did not allow this, since it detracted from the sanctity of God’s house. Only Mark’s account mentions this comment by Jesus.
cave of robbers: Or “den of thieves.” Jesus here alludes to Jer 7:11. He likely called the merchants and money changers “robbers” because they made unjust profit from selling animals for sacrifice and charged exorbitant fees for exchanging currencies. Jesus was also indignant that Jehovah’s house of prayer, or place of worship, had been wrongly turned into a center for commercial activity.
a house of prayer for all the nations: Of the three Gospel writers who quote Isa 56:7, only Mark includes the phrase “for all the nations [peoples].” (Mt 21:13; Lu 19:46) The temple in Jerusalem was meant to be a place where both Israelites and God-fearing foreigners could worship and pray to Jehovah. (1Ki 8:41-43) Jesus rightly condemned the Jews who used the temple for commerce, making it a cave of robbers. Their actions discouraged people of all nations from approaching Jehovah in his house of prayer, depriving them of the opportunity to come to know him.
cave of robbers: See study note on Mt 21:13.
late in the day: That is, late on Nisan 10. Jesus and his disciples went out of Jerusalem, returning to Bethany on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. Jesus likely spent the night at the home of his friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.—See App. A7 and B12.
early in the morning: That is, on Nisan 11. Jesus and his disciples are heading back to Jerusalem for the final day of Jesus’ public ministry before he celebrates the Passover, institutes the Memorial of his death, and faces trial and execution.—See App. A7 and B12.
Truly: Greek, a·menʹ, a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” Jesus frequently uses this expression to preface a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, thereby emphasizing its absolute truthfulness and reliability. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or amen, in this way is said to be unique in sacred literature. When repeated in succession (a·menʹ a·menʹ), as is the case throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus’ expression is translated “most truly.”—See study note on Joh 1:51.
Truly: See study note on Mt 5:18.
stand praying: Among the Hebrews and many of the other nations mentioned in the Bible, there was no set form of posture for prayer. All the attitudes that they assumed were highly respectful. Standing to pray was common.
Some ancient manuscripts here read: “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in the heavens forgive your trespasses.” These words do not appear in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts and are evidently not part of the original text of Mark. Similar words, though, can be found at Mt 6:15 as part of the inspired Scriptures.—See App. A3.
chief priests: The Greek term is rendered “high priest” when it is singular and refers to the chief representative of the people before God. Here the plural refers to principal men of the priesthood, including former high priests and, possibly, the heads of the 24 priestly divisions.
scribes: This term originally referred to copyists of the Scriptures, but during Jesus’ time, it referred to those who were experts in the Law and teachers of it.
elders: Lit., “older men.” In the Bible, the Greek term pre·sbyʹte·ros refers primarily to those who hold a position of authority and responsibility in a community or a nation. Although the term sometimes refers to physical age (as at Lu 15:25; Ac 2:17), it is not limited to those who are elderly. Here it refers to the leaders of the Jewish nation, who are often mentioned together with chief priests and scribes. The Sanhedrin was made up of men from these three groups.—Mr 11:27; 14:43, 53; 15:1; see study note on Mt 16:21 and Glossary, “Elder; Older man.”
This short video follows a path approaching Jerusalem from the east, from the village of modern-day et-Tur—thought to correspond to the Biblical Bethphage—to one of the higher points on the Mount of Olives. Bethany lies east of Bethphage on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. When in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples customarily spent the night at Bethany, today marked by the town of el-ʽAzariyeh (El ʽEizariya), an Arabic name meaning “The Place of Lazarus.” Jesus undoubtedly stayed at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. (Mt 21:17; Mr 11:11; Lu 21:37; Joh 11:1) When traveling from their home to Jerusalem, Jesus may have followed a route similar to the one shown in the video. On Nisan 9, 33 C.E., when Jesus rode the colt of a donkey over the Mount of Olives to Jerusalem, he may well have done so from Bethphage, following the road to Jerusalem.
1. Road from Bethany to Bethphage
3. Mount of Olives
4. Kidron Valley
5. Temple Mount
The donkey is a hard-hoofed animal of the horse family, distinguished from the horse by its smaller size, shorter mane, longer ears, and shorter tail-hair, with only the end half of the tail having a brush. Although the donkey’s stupidity and stubbornness are proverbial, its intelligence is actually considered to be superior to that of the horse, and it is usually a patient creature. Both men and women, even prominent Israelites, rode donkeys. (Jos 15:18; Jg 5:10; 10:3, 4; 12:14; 1Sa 25:42) Solomon, the son of David, rode to his anointing on his father’s she-mule, a hybrid offspring of a male donkey. (1Ki 1:33-40) It was therefore most appropriate that Jesus, the one greater than Solomon, fulfill the prophecy of Zec 9:9 by riding, not on a horse, but on a young donkey.