posted on Sep, 23 2016 @ 05:01 PM
This is a story from the time of Jehoash, king of Judah.
The journalists of the time might have called it Templegate. “Follow the money”.
At some point in his long reign, Jehoash made financial arrangements to provide for the running repairs which the Temple would need (2 Kings ch12).
They were based on the money which worshipers would bring to the house of the Lord.
Some of this would come from “assessments”, and some would be voluntary, “the money which a man’s heart prompts him to bring”.
The priests would pick up this money, “each from his acquaintance”. Perhaps the donors were organised by region, or each priest may have had his
own collectors at the door.
The priests would then repair the house “wherever any need of repairs is discovered”.
The scandal is implied by the unsensational comment which follows in v6;
“But by the twenty-third year of King Jehoash the priests had made no repairs on the house”.
Right. We know the money was coming in, and we also now know that it wasn’t being spent on repairs for the building.
So where was it going, if not into improved living standards for the priests who were receiving it?
We can guess what the king thought by the way that he changed the system.
Summoning all the priests to a meeting, he informed them, and they “agreed”, that they should no longer be responsible for repairing the
Therefore they would be receiving no more money from the people for this purpose.
The new arrangements would take them out of the loop, and get the money from donors to workmen by the most direct route.
Jehioada the priest “took a chest, and bored a hole in the lid of it”.
I like to picture the versatile priest doing the job himself, grabbing a brace and bit and leaning over the chest, resting one foot on the lid.
But the sentence may just mean that he gave the necessary instructions.
Then he had the chest placed next to the altar, on the right-hand side.
All the money which was collected at the door was to be dropped straight into the chest.
The takings were controlled on a “dual key” system.
Whenever the chest was getting full, the king’s secretary and the high priest would meet as a committee of two and count the money together, tying
it up in bags.
This money was then given into the hands of the overseers, who would use it to buy the necessary timber and stone, and also to pay the workmen; the
masons and stonecutters, the carpenters and other builders.
The system must have worked well, because the same routine was still in place in the time of Josiah, two centuries later (2 Kings ch22 vv3-7).
Chronicles gives us a revised version of the story, which represents the viewpoint of the later priesthood. (2 Chronicles ch24).
The changes which are made in the account clearly reflect their own interests.
For one thing, they would not have allowed any loose talk about “voluntary contributions”.
Their theory is that the thing should have been securely based on regular taxation.
In their version, then, the king does not wait for money to be brought in to the house of the Lord.
“He gathered the priests and the Levites and said to them ‘Go out to the cities of Judah and gather from all Israel money to repair the house of
your God from year to year’”.
And the Chronicler cannot allow the priesthood to remain under suspicion of misusing the collected funds.
He deals with it by suppressing the damning information that money was being received.
In his version, the only fault is that the Levites who should have been collecting the money were remiss in doing the work. The king had said “See
that you hasten the matter”, but the Levites had not hastened it.
While the priests who should have been receiving the money from the Levites were not guilty even of negligence. Their defence would have been
“Nothing was coming to us from the hands of the Levites. So what could we do?”
Thus everyone involved has clean hands.
It would have been the perfect cover-up, if they had been able to suppress the account in 2 Kings.
As he tells of the distribution of the money to the workmen, the writer of Kings remarks;
“They did not ask an accounting from the men into whose hand they delivered the money to pay out to the workmen, for they dealt honestly”.
This rather pointed observation implies a contrast with a different class of men, men who did not deal honestly and were not trusted in the same
That comment is left out of the account in Chronicles.
Finally, the writer of Kings insists that all the collected money was used in the building work.
None of it was applied to the making of sacred vessels for the house of the Lord, such as “basins of silver, snuffers, bowls, trumpets, or any
vessels of gold or of silver”. The sacred vessels had to be paid for in other ways.
“That won’t do”, thinks the Chronicler, who was probably writing at a time when the Temple would have to be rebuilt, and a completely new set of
sacred vessels would have to be found.
Therefore he specifies that there was money left over when the building work was complete, “and with it were made utensils for the house of the
There was a “treasury” in the Temple in the time of Jesus, where rich men and widows with mites could make their contributions.
Though the original chest, I suppose, would have been confiscated by the Babylonians.
The assessments established by Jehoash had become an obligatory Temple tax.
Obviously the dual key system lapsed with the disappearance of the kingship.
The priesthood had won control.
And what is the moral of all this?
The glib and easy conclusion would be that “religion is corrupt, because it derives from man”.
But I suggest that the real moral is more complex than that.
The story confirms, rather, what we may learn from other parts of the Old Testament, that Biblical religion can be corrupted.
The reason it can be corrupted is that it derives from God and man working together.
This mixed origin means that we are obliged to distinguish between the beneficial effects of God’s influence on events, and the human contribution,
the source of the corruption.
Once we have learned to disentangle these two strands, we are in a better position to understand the Biblical God’s intentions.