Luke 20:20
And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
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(20-26) And they watched him.—See Notes on Matthew 22:15-22 and Mark 12:13-17.

And sent forth spies.—The noun is, again, one of St. Luke’s characteristic words not used by any other New Testament writer. It expresses rather the act of those who lie in ambush, than that of “spies” in the strict sense of the words. St. Luke is, on the one hand, less definite as to the parties to the conspiracy than the other Gospels, and on the other hand more explicit as to its aim. They wanted materials for an accusation before Pilate, as well as for one before the Sanhedrin. On the omission of the name of the Herodians, see Note on Luke 6:11.

Power and authority.—We have again the characteristic combination of the two substantives. (See Note on Luke 12:11.)

Luke 20:20-26. And they watched him — For an elucidation of this paragraph, see on Matthew 22:16-22, and Mark 12:13-17; and sent spies, which should feign themselves just men — Men scrupulously conscientious in every point: that they might take hold of his words — If he answered as they hoped he would. Master, we know then sayest, &c. — Speakest in private, and teachest in public; the way of God truly — The true path of duty. They could not take hold of his words before the people — As they did afterward before the sanhedrim, in the absence of the people, chap. Luke 22:67, &c.

20:20-26 Those who are most crafty in their designs against Christ and his gospel, cannot hide them. He did not give a direct answer, but reproved them for offering to impose upon him; and they could not fasten upon any thing wherewith to stir up either the governor or the people against him. The wisdom which is from above, will direct all who teach the way of God truly, to avoid the snares laid for them by wicked men; and will teach our duty to God, to our rulers, and to all men, so clearly, that opposers will have no evil to say of us.See this explained in the Matthew 22:15-33 notes, and Mark 12:13-27 notes. Lu 20:20-40. Entangling Questions about Tribute and the Resurrection—The Replies.

20-26. sent forth—after consulting (Mt 22:15) on the best plan.

spies—"of the Pharisees and Herodians" (Mr 12:13). See Mr 3:6.

See Poole on "Luke 20:19"

And they watched him,.... What he said, and what he did, and where he went, that they might take an advantage against him, or know where he was, to send to him, as they should think fit, and take the best opportunity of so doing. The Syriac and Persic versions leave out this clause:

and sent forth spies which should feign themselves just men: of virtue and religion, conscientious men, that would do nothing but what was just and right, and were desirous of being exactly informed of the truth of things, that they might act right in every punctilio:

that might take hold of his words; improve them, and form a charge upon them, of sedition and treason:

that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor; the Roman governor, and by him be put to death. These men were some of them the disciples of the Pharisees, and others were Herodians; see Matthew 22:16.

{3} And they {a} watched him, and sent forth {b} spies, which should feign themselves just men, {c} that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and {d} authority of the governor.

(3) The last refuge the false prophets have to destroy the true prophets is to charge them with rebellion and treason against the state.

(a) An appropriate time to take him in.

(b) Whom they had hired deceitfully.

(c) That they might latch on to something he said, and by this forge some false accusation against him.

(d) Put him to death.

Luke 20:20-26. See on Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17.

παρατηρήσ.] having watched, so that they had thus further lain in wait for Him after that hour, Luke 20:19, in order to be able to entrap Him.

ἐγκαθέτους] people instigated, secretly commissioned, Plat. Axioch. p. 368 E; Dem. 1483. 1; Polyb. xiii. 5. 1; Joseph. Antt. vi. 5. 2.

ἑαυτοὺς δικαίους εἶναι] who feigned that they themselves were strict observers of the law, who, therefore, by the pressure of their own consciences (not instigated by other people), came with the following question. These therefore are such “qui tum, quum maxime fallunt, id agunt, ut viri boni videantur,” Cicero, Off. i. 13.

ἐπιλάβ.] The subject is the members of the Sanhedrim.

αὐτοῦ λόγου] in order to take hold of Him on a word. αὐτοῦ does not depend on λόγου (Kypke, Kuinoel, Bleek), but on ἐπιλάβ., and λόγου is the secondary object. See Job 30:18. Xen. Anab. iv. 7. 12 : ἐπιλαμβάνεται αὐτοῦ τῆς ἴτυος. The Vulgate rightly has: “eum in sermone.”

ὥστε (see the critical remarks), as Luke 4:29; Matthew 24:24.

τῇ ἀρχῇ κ. τῇ ἐξουσ. τ. ἡγ.] to the supremacy and (and especially) the power of the procurator. To combine the two (“the supremacy and power of the magistrate,” Beza, de Wette, Bleek) is not indeed forbidden by the repetition of the article, but it is opposed by it, because this repetition would have no motive.

Luke 20:21. λαμβάν. πρόσωπ.] art not a partisan. See on Galatians 2:6.

Luke 20:22. φόρον] capitation and land-tribute, to be distinguished from τέλος, the indirect tribute (the tax on merchandise), see Kypke, II. p. 183 f., and already Thomas Magister, p. 900, ed. Bern. Comp. Romans 13:7. Luke uses the Greek instead of the Roman word κῆνσον, found in Matthew and Mark.

Luke 20:26. Observe the careful depicting of the triumph of Jesus. Comp. Luke 20:39 f.

Luke 20:20-26. The tribute question (Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17).

20-26. Question about the Tribute Money.

. And they watched him.] For the word used see Luke 6:7; Luke 14:1, Luke 17:20. The incident now related took place on the Tuesday in Passion-week—the Day of Temptations, or insidious questions—the last and greatest day of the public ministry of Jesus. On the previous evening He had again retired to the Mount of Olives, and in the morning the disciples remarked that the Fig-tree had withered. He had scarcely arrived in the Temple when the plot of the Jewish rulers on the previous evening began to be carried out.

spies] Literally, “tiers in wait” (enkathetous, Joshua 8:14; Job 31:9). just men] Rather, righteous; ingenuous and scrupulous ‘disciples of the wise,’ honestly seeking for instruction. They pretend to be strict legalists who revive the scruples of Judas the Gaulonite.

they] i.e. the priests.

take hold of his words] Comp. Sir 8:11, “Rise not up in anger at the presence of an injurious person, lest he lie in wait to entrap thee in thy words.” The words might be rendered ‘take hold of Him by His speech.

unto the power and authority of the governor] Rather, to the (Roman) magistracy and to the jurisdiction of the procurator. Comp. Luke 12:11. They had not the power or the courage to put Christ to death themselves. We see from Matthew 22:15; Mark 12:16 that this plot sprang from an unholy alliance of Pharisees with Herodians— i.e. of scrupulosity with indifferentism—of devotees with sycophants;— not the first or last instance of the ill-omened conjunction of Priests and Statesmen—

“Statesmen bloodstained and Priests idolatrous

With dark lies maddening the blind multitude—”

who mutually hate each other, but unite in common hatred “to crush a reformer whose zeal might be inimical to both.” (Neander.)

Luke 20:20. [Δικαίους εἶναι, to be just men) As if they were asking the question under distress of mind on a point of conscience. He who has a concern for conscience on the point, in actual fact carries away with him a clear reply.—V. g.]—λόγου) The same case follows the verb in Luke 20:26, ῥήματος.[215]—τῇ ἀρχῇ) to the power of the Jewish rulers, and afterwards to Pilate.

[215] Ἐπιλαμβάνομαι governs the Genit. always, expressing the part of the thing laid hold of. So ἄπτομαι, and other such verbs expressing touch or hold.—E. and T.

Verses 20-26 - The question of the tribute money. Verse 20. - And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take held of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. In their intense hatred, conscious that the populace were on the whole in sympathy with Jesus, the Sanhedrim, to carry out their design on his life, determined to avail themselves of the hated Roman military police. Their hope henceforward is to substantiate a charge of treason against him. This was, in those troublous times, when insurrection against the detested Gentile rule was ever being plotted, a comparatively easy matter. The incident of the tribute money, which immediately follows, was part of this new departure in the Sanhedrin policy respecting the murder they so longed to see carried out. Luke 20:20Watched

See on Mark 3:2.

Spies (ἐγκαθέτους)

Only here in New Testament. From ἐγκαθίμηι, to send in, as a garrison into a city. Hence of persons sent in for the purpose of espionage.

Which should feign (ὑποκρινομένους)

Lit., feigning. Rev., which feigned. Only here in New Testament. See on hypocrites, Matthew 23:13.

The power and authority (τῇ ἀρχῇ καὶ τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ)

The former, the Roman power in general; the latter, the specific authority of the official.

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