Bethphage: The name of this village on the Mount of Olives comes from Hebrew, probably meaning “House of the Early Figs.” Tradition locates it 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.—Mr 11:1; Lu 19:29; see App. A7, Map 6.
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.
the daughter of Zion: Or “daughter Zion,” as some Bible translations say. In the Bible, cities are often personified as women or figuratively referred to using feminine terms. In this expression, “daughter” may refer to the city itself or to the people of the city. The name Zion was closely connected with the city of Jerusalem.
mild-tempered: Or “humble.”—See study note on Mt 5:5.
sat on them: That is, on the outer garments.
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 Mt 21:42, Jesus himself quotes Ps 118:22, 23 and applies it to the Messiah.
was in an uproar: Or “was shaken (stirred up).” The agitation felt by the residents of the city is indicated by a Greek verb that in its literal sense is used to describe the effects of an earthquake or a storm. (Mt 27:51; Re 6:13) The related Greek noun sei·smosʹ is translated “storm” or “earthquake.”—Mt 8:24; 24:7; 27:54; 28:2.
temple: Probably referring to the part of the temple area known as the Court of the Gentiles.—See App. B11.
threw out all those selling: See study note on Lu 19:45.
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.
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.
temple: Probably referring to the Court of the Gentiles. (Compare study note on Mt 21:12.) Only Matthew’s account mentions that blind and lame people came to him in the temple and that he cured them, just as he had done on an earlier occasion. (Mt 15:30) Some claim that according to Jewish tradition, the blind and the lame were barred from access to certain parts of the temple, although the Hebrew Scriptures do not specifically mention such a prohibition. Either way, Matthew’s account may indicate that Jesus’ zeal during the last days of his earthly ministry was not limited to cleansing the temple but also involved curing the blind and the lame who approached him there.—See App. A7.
Save, we pray, the Son of David: See study note on Mt 21:9.
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.”
he found nothing on it except 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.
Truly: See study note on Mt 5:18.
chief priests: See study note on Mt 2:4.
elders: See study note on Mt 16:21.
this one said, ‘I will not’: In this parable (Mt 21:28-31), some Greek manuscripts present the two sons and their answers and actions in a different order. (See the rendering in previous editions of the New World Translation.) The overall idea is the same, but the manuscript support for the current reading is stronger.
tax collectors: See study note on Mt 5:46.
illustration: Or “parable.”—See study note on Mt 13:3.
tower: Used as a vantage point to guard vineyards against thieves and animals.—Isa 5:2.
leased: A common practice in first-century Israel. In this case, the owner did much preliminary work, making his expectation of a return all the more reasonable.
a terrible destruction: Or “an evil destruction.” Using a play on words, the Greek text repeats different forms of the same root word to intensify the judgment message: “Because they are evil, he will bring an evil destruction on them.”
in the Scriptures: Often used to refer to the inspired Hebrew writings as a whole.
the chief cornerstone: Or “the most important stone.” The Hebrew expression at Ps 118:22 and the Greek expression used here literally mean “the head of the corner.” Although it has been understood in different ways, it apparently refers to the stone that was installed atop the junction of two walls to hold them firmly together. Jesus quoted and applied this prophecy to himself as “the chief cornerstone.” Just as the topmost stone of a building is conspicuous, so Jesus Christ is the crowning stone of the Christian congregation of anointed ones, which is likened to a spiritual temple.