Matthew 17:25
He said, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What think you, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) He saith, Yes.—Peter’s answer was ready enough. There was no need for him to inquire further. His Master would pay it now as He had paid it before (this is clearly implied), as every devout Israelite would pay. Both the application and the answer suggest the thought that our Lord was looked upon as domiciled in the house of Peter. The answer, however, was given without thought of the altered conditions of the case. He had not yet learnt to grasp the full meaning of the truth which he had himself so recently confessed.

Jesus prevented him.—Literally, anticipated, The word is nowhere else used of our Lord’s teaching. Its significance is explained by what follows. Peter and the other disciples were about to come to Him with a question of a very different kind (Matthew 18:1), rising out of their mutual rivalries, and therefore, before that question could be asked, He anticipated the eager disciple that He might lead him on one step further into the mysteries of the kingdom.

Take custom or tribute.—The first word points to the duties on the export or import of goods, the octroi, in modern language, levied on provisions as they were brought in or out of towns; the second, as stated above, to the poll-tax paid into the Roman treasury, which followed on the taxing or registration of Luke 2:2; Acts 5:37. Both were probably farmed by the capitalist publicani, and collected by the “publicans” of the Gospels, or other inferior officers.

Of their own children, or of strangers?—The first word can hardly be taken of merely natural relationship. The “children of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:38) are not the king’s sons, but his home-born, free subjects. The “strangers” were the aliens, the men of another race, who owned his sovereignty.

17:24-27 Peter felt sure that his Master was ready to do what was right. Christ spoke first to give him proof that no thought can be withholden from him. We must never decline our duty for fear of giving offence; but we must sometimes deny ourselves in our worldly interests, rather than give offence. However the money was lodged in the fish, He who knows all things alone could know it, and only almighty power could bring it to Peter's hook. The power and the poverty of Christ should be mentioned together. If called by providence to be poor, like our Lord, let us trust in his power, and our God shall supply all our need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. In the way of obedience, in the course, perhaps, of our usual calling, as he helped Peter, so he will help us. And if any sudden call should occur, which we are not prepared to meet, let us not apply to others, till we first seek Christ.Jesus prevented him - That is, Jesus commenced speaking before Peter, or spoke before Peter had told him what he had said. This implies that, though not present with Peter when he gave the answer, yet Jesus was acquainted with what he had said.

Prevent - To go before, or precede. It did not mean, as it now does with us, to hinder or obstruct. See the same use of the word in Psalm 59:10; Psalm 79:8; Psalm 88:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; Psalm 119:148.

Of whom do the kings of the earth ... - That is, earthly kings.

Their own children - Their sons; the members of their own family.

Or of strangers? - The word "strangers" does not mean foreigners, but those that were not their own sons or members of their family. Peter replied that tribute was collected of those out of their own family. Jesus answered, Then are the children, or sons of the kings, free; that is, taxes are not required of them. The meaning of this may be thus expressed: "Kings do not tax their own sons. This tribute-money is taken up for the temple service; that is, the service of my Father. I, therefore, being the Son of God, for whom this is taken up, cannot be lawfully required to pay this tribute." This argument is based on the supposition that this was a religious, and not a civil tax. If it had been the latter, the illustration would not have been pertinent.

25. He saith, yes—that is, "To be sure He does"; as if eager to remove even the suspicion of the contrary. If Peter knew—as surely he did—that there was at this time no money in the bag, this reply must be regarded as a great act of faith in his Master.

And when he was come into the house—Peter's.

Jesus prevented him—anticipated him; according to the old sense of the word "prevent."

saying, What thinkest thou, Simon?—using his family name for familiarity.

of whom do the kings of the earth take custom—meaning custom on goods exported or imported.

or tribute—meaning the poll-tax, payable to the Romans by everyone whose name was in the census. This, therefore, it will be observed, was strictly a civil tax.

of their own children, or of strangers—This cannot mean "foreigners," from whom sovereigns certainly do not raise taxes, but those who are not of their own family, that is, their subjects.

See Poole on "Matthew 17:27". He saith, yes,.... Without any hesitation, knowing it had been his master's practice; and therefore as he had done it, did not doubt but he would again:

and when he was come into the house; that is, Peter, as both the Syriac and Persic versions express; when he was come into his own house, or at least into that where Christ was, in order to talk with him about this affair, the collectors had been speaking of to him, who seems to have been alone when they met with him; however, Christ was not with him:

Jesus prevented him; saying what he intended to say, on that head; for he being the omniscient God, though not present, knew what question had been put to Peter, and what answer he had returned; and therefore, before Peter could lay the case before him, he puts this question to him;

saying, what thinkest thou, Simon? How does it appear to thee, to thy reason and understanding? in what light dost thou consider this matter? what is thy judgment of it?

of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers, or others? What is the usual practice of earthly kings, whether of Judea, or of other countries? do their own children, sons, and heirs, such as are of their own family, pay? or is it only their subjects that are not of their family?

He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own {m} children, or of strangers?

(m) By children we must not understand subjects who pay tribute, but natural children.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 17:25. From the ναί of Peter it is clear that Jesus had hitherto been in the habit of paying the tax.

προέφθασεν] Since it is stated in Matthew 17:24 that the collectors came to Peter, and as one is at a loss to see why, if Jesus had been present at the same time, they should not have asked Himself, it follows that the evangelist must have ascribed what Jesus says to Peter to His immediate knowledge of the thoughts of others. Comp. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Steinmeyer, Ewald, Keim. Instead of προέφθασεν λέγων (Arist. Eccl. 884; Thuc. vii. 73. 3) we might also have had προφθάσας ἔλεγε (Plat. Rep. vi. p. 500 A; Thuc. viii. 51. 1). See Kühner, II. 1, p. 626 f.

Σίμων] “appellatio quasi domestica et familiaris,” Bengel. Comp. Mark 14:37.

τέλη] duty upon goods.

κῆνσος] Tax upon individuals and landed property, Matthew 22:17; Matthew 22:19, the Greek φόρος in contradistinction to τέλος (indirect tax). Comp. note on Luke 20:22; Romans 13:7.

ἀπὸ τῶν ἀλλοτρ.] from those who are not members of their family, i.e. from their subjects.Matthew 17:25. ναί: this prompt, confident answer may be either an inference from Christ’s general bearing, as Peter understood it, or a statement of fact implying past payment.—ἐλθόντα ἐ. τ. . The meeting of the tax collectors with Peter had taken place outside; it had been noticed by Jesus, and the drift of the interview instinctively understood by Him.—προέφθασεν, anticipated him, here only in N. T. Peter meant to report, but Jesus spoke first, having something special to say, and a good reason for saying it. In other circumstances He would probably have taken no notice, but left Peter to manage the matter as he pleased. But the Master is aware of something that took place among His disciples on the way home, not yet mentioned by the evangelist but about to be (Matthew 18:1), and to be regarded as the key to the meaning of this incident. The story of what Jesus said to Peter about the temple dues is really the prelude to the discourse following on humility, and that discourse in turn reflects light on the prelude.—τί σοι δοκεῖ; phrase often found in Mt. (Matthew 18:12, Matthew 21:28, etc.) with lively colloquial effect: what think you?—τέλη ἢ κῆνσον, customs or tribute; the former taxes on wares, the latter a tax on persons = indirect and direct taxation. The question refers specially to the latter.—ἀλλοτρίων, foreigners, in reference not to the nation, but to the royal family, who have the privilege of exemption.25. prevented] anticipated him by answering his thoughts. To prevent is (1) to “go before,” “to anticipate” then, “to precede” either (2) to aid, or (3) to hinder.

custom or tribute] taxes (1) indirect and (2) direct; on (1) things and on (2) persons.

of their own children, or of strangers?] i. e. of their own sons, or of those who do not belong to the family, namely, subjects and tributaries.Matthew 17:25. Ναὶ, yes) It is clear therefore that our Lord had paid it the previous year.[800]—ὅτε εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὴν οἰκιαν, when he was come into the house) for that very purpose.—προέφθασεν, prevented, anticipated) Peter was wishing to ask [when Jesus anticipated him]. The whole of this circumstance wonderfully confirmed the faith of Peter. Our Lord’s majesty shines forth in the very act of submission.—Σίμων, Simon) An address as it were domestic and familiar.[801]—τέλη ἢ κῆνσον, custom or tribute, lat. vectigadia aut censum) i.e. land-tax and poll-tax.—ἀλλοτρίων, strangers) subjects who are not sons.

[800] But, meanwhile, having been solemnly recognised as the Song of Solomon of GOD, He most becomingly, at this time, enters this protest in presence of Peter in vindication of His own dignity.—Harm., p. 380.

[801] Οἱ βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς, the kings of the earth) With these is compared the Lord Jehovah, for whose worship the tribute was paid.—V. g.Verse 25. - He saith, Yes. Without consulting his Master, or even letting him know of the demand, Peter answered affirmatively, he knew that Christ never withdrew from conscientious obligations; Jesus may have paid the rate in former years, and might be confidently supposed to be ready to do so again. But was there not another feeling that dictated the quick reply, and made him pledge Jesus to the payment? He had a fear at his heart, caused by Christ's late warning and prophecy, that made him morbidly anxious to live at peace with all men at this conjuncture. As far as in him lay he would shield his beloved Master from the dread result which he anticipated; at any rate, he would endeavour to postpone the fatal day; no offence that he could obviate should be given. So, thinking only of present safety, forgetting or wilfully ignoring Christ's true position, he answered hastily, "Yes." When he (Peter) was come into the house. The collectors had addressed Peter in the street or at the door, and the apostle, having given his reply, hastened into the house where Jesus was, either to obtain the necessary coins or to make the demand known. Prevented him. The Revised Version paraphrases, spake first to him, which gives the meaning (though the Greek does not warrant such translation) - Jesus anticipated what Peter was going to say by showing that he knew the apostle's thoughts and all that had passed outside the house, he takes the opportunity of enforcing a needful lesson, making the listener, in the Socratic method, teach himself. What thinkest thou, Simon? By such familiar address he claims his attention. The kings of the earth. He contrasts these with the King of heaven, to whom a reference is implied in the Lord's subsequent words. Custom (τέλη) or tribute (κῆνσον). The former of these words (which would be better rendered tolls) signifies the customs laid on goods and merchandise and other such payments - vectigalia, as the Romans called them; the tribute (not the same word as that so translated in ver. 24) is the census, the capitation tax (ἐπικεφάλαιον) imposed upon every citizen of the empire. Strangers (ἀλλοτρίων). The contrast is between the family of the monarch and those who are not connected with him by any relationship. Yes (ναί)

Indicating that Jesus had paid the tax on former occasions.

Prevented (προέφθασεν)

Rev., rather awkwardly, but following Tynd., Spake first to him. Prevent, in its older sense, to anticipate, get before, was a correct translation. Compare Shakspeare:

"So shall my anticipation prevent your discovery."

Hamlet, ii., 1.

Out of this grew the secondary meaning, to hinder. By getting before another, one hinders him from accomplishing his purpose. This meaning has supplanted the other. Wyc. renders came before him. The meaning is that Jesus did not wait for Peter to tell him of the demand of the collectors. He anticipated him in speaking about it.

Custom or tribute (τέλη ἢ κῆνσον)

Rev. gives toll for custom. Toll is duty upon goods; tribute, tax upon individuals. Κῆνσος tribute, is merely a transcription of the Latin census, which means, first, a registration with a view to taxation, and then the tax itself.

Strangers (ἀλλοτρίων)

Not foreigners, but others than those of their own families; their subjects. In other words, Does a king tax his own children or his subjects?

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