Jerusalem During the Feasts

During these times the enormous crowd of pilgrims into the Holy City inflated its population of 25,000 to at least four or five times that number. This brought an important stimulus to the city's economy. Besides creating a huge demand for food, lodging and sacrificial animals, the incoming Jews were required to spend a tenth of their annual income (after taxes) within Jerusalem. This "second tithe" was in addition to the tithe they had to pay directly to the temple. Many pilgrims found lodging in one of Jerusalem's inns or in private homes. Some of the foreign Jewish communities had built shelters for their citizens to use when they visited the Holy City. The Essenes and Pharisees also provided lodging for fellow members. But the vast majority stayed in tents outside the city or in private homes in the villages of Bethphage or Bethany, where Jesus and his disciples stayed during his last months of ministry. The overcrowding and the excitement of the festivals frequently led to outbreaks of violence and anti-Roman rebellion. On more than one occasion the huge mass of pilgrims had been stirred up by zealous nationalists or would-be Messiahs. For this reason, the Roman governor made a point of being present during these occasions, and extra soldiers were stationed at strategic locations throughout the city. Besides attracting large crowds of pilgrims three times a year, the temple provided a constant demand for supplies from local merchants. Its requirements provided the backbone of the city's economy, and some had become extremely rich by monopolizing the supplying of certain items. The wealthy family of Garmo, for example, had the exclusive right to bake the offertory loaves of bread for the temple. Other merchants wove the priestly vestments, supplied incense, carried wood for the altar fires and fashioned the sacred ornaments and golden vessels.

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