Matthew 17:27
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(27) Lest we should offend them.—Those who note the finer shades of language, can scarcely fail to trace in these words the tone of what we should describe in a human teacher as a half-playful, half-serious irony. When they were last at Capernaum, the disciples, Peter probably their spokesman (Matthew 15:12; Matthew 15:15), had remonstrated with their Master for proclaiming a bold, broad principle of spiritual morality against the traditions of the Schools: “Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended when they heard that saying?” Now He proclaims another principle, equally bold and far-reaching, and as certain to offend. He reminds the disciple of his former fear, sees that some such feeling is already rising up in his mind, and recognises that within certain limits it is legitimate. To have refused to pay the didrachma on purely personal grounds would have been to claim prematurely that title of the Christ, the “Son of God,” which He had told His disciples at this crisis not to claim for Him (Matthew 16:20). To have done so on general grounds, common to Himself and others, would have been to utter a truth for which men were not prepared, and which they were certain to pervert. Those who had not learnt the higher law of the free gift of love would be tempted to make their freedom an excuse for giving nothing. Devout and generous minds would be shocked at what would seem to them to cut off the chief support of the outward glory of the House of God. The spirit in which our Lord spoke and acted was one with that which was the guide of St. Paul’s life: “It is good” to surrender even the freedom which we might well claim, if by it “thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Romans 14:21).

A piece of money.—The Greek gives the name of the coin, the stater. It was reckoned as equal to four drachmæ, and would therefore pay the didrachma both for Peter and his Master. Incidentally, we may note the light which this throws on the poverty of our Lord and His disciples. They had returned from their wanderings in the north of Palestine, occupying some three or four weeks, and they were now absolutely penniless, not so much as a stater between them. The money was to be given for both, and so far, as has been said, our Lord includes Peter in the list of those who, as “children of the kingdom,” might have claimed exemption. No payment is made for the other disciples: most probably they had homes of their own, where the didrachma would be applied for, and were not living with Peter.

We cannot ignore the many points of contrast which difference this narrative from that of our Lord’s miracles in general. (1.) There is no actual record that a miracle was wrought at all. We expect the narrative to end with the words, “and he went and found as it had been said unto him,” but we do not find them. The story is told for the sake of the teaching, not of the wonder. Men have inferred that a miracle must have been wrought from a literal interpretation of the promise. (2.) On this assumption the wonder stands alone by itself in its nature and surroundings. It does not originate in our Lord’s compassion, nor depend upon faith in the receiver, as in the miracles of healing, nor set forth a spiritual truth, like that of the withered fig-tree. It is so far distinct and peculiar. This would not in itself, perhaps, be of much, if any, weight against a direct statement of a fact, but it may be allowed to be of some significance in the exceptional and therefore conspicuous absence of such a statement. On these grounds some have been led to explain our Lord’s words as meaning, in figurative language which the disciple would understand, that Peter was to catch the fish, and sell it for a stater. Most interpreters, however, have been content to take our Lord’s words in their literal sense, and to believe that they were literally fulfilled. If we accept this view the narrative has its parallel in the well-known story of the ring of Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos (Herod. iii. 39-41).

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.Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them - That is, lest they should think that we despise the temple and its service, and thus provoke needless opposition; though we are not under obligation to pay it, yet it is best to pay it to them.

Go to the sea - This was at Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias.

Thou shalt find a piece of money - In the original, thou shalt find a stater, a Roman silver coin of the value of four drachmas, or one shekel, and of course sufficient to pay the tribute for two - himself and Peter.

In whatever way this is regarded, it is proof that Jesus was possessed of divine attributes. If he knew that the first fish that came up would have such a coin in his mouth, it was proof of omniscience. If he created the coin for the occasion and placed it there, then it was proof of divine power. The former is the most probable supposition. It is by no means absurd that a fish should have swallowed a silver coin. Many of them bite eagerly at anything bright, and would not hesitate, therefore, at swallowing a piece of money.

Remarks On Matthew 17

1. It is proper to withdraw from those around us that we may engage in secret prayer; and it is desirable for every one to have a place where he may be alone with God, Matthew 17:1. Christ often went into deserts and on mountains that he might be by himself. This should be done:

(1) to avoid the appearance of ostentation.

(2) pride is easily excited when we know that others hear us pray.

Everyone should have some place - some closet - to which he may retire at any time, with the assurance that none sees him but God. See the notes at Matthew 6:6.

2. In such seasons we shall meet God, Matthew 17:2. It was in such a season that the divine favor was uniquely shown to Christ. Then the transfiguration took place - the brightest manifestation of his glory that ever occurred on earth. So the clearest and most precious manifestations of the love and glory of God will be made to us in prayer.

3. We see the great glory of Christ, Matthew 17:2. No such favor had been granted to any prophet before him. We see the regard in which he was held by Moses and Elias among the greatest of the prophets. We see the honor which God put on him, exalting him far above them both, Matthew 17:5. The glory of heaven encompasses the Lord Jesus, and all its redeemed pay him reverence. In him the divine nature shines illustriously; and of him and to him the divinity speaks in glory as the only begotten Son of God.

4. It is right to have particular affection for some Christians more than others, at the same time that we should love them all. Christ loved all his disciples, but he admitted some to special friendship and favors, Matthew 17:1. Some Christians may be more congenial to us in feeling, age, and education than others; and it is proper, and may be greatly to our advantage, to admit them among our special friends.

5. The death of Jesus is an object of great interest to the redeemed. Moses and Elias talked of it, Luke 9:31. Angels also desire to look into this great subject, 1 Peter 1:12. By that death all the redeemed are saved, and in that death the angels see the most signal display of the justice and love of God.

6. Christians should delight to be where God has manifested his glory. The feeling of Peter was natural, Matthew 17:4. His love of the glorious presence of Christ and the redeemed was right. He erred only in the manner of manifesting that love. We should always love the house of prayer - the sanctuary the place where Christ has manifested himself as especially glorious and precious to our souls, or unique as our Friend and Deliverer.

continued...

27. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend—stumble.

them—all ignorant as they are of My relation to the Lord of the Temple, and should misconstrue a claim to exemption into indifference to His honor who dwells in it.

go thou to the sea—Capernaum, it will be remembered, lay on the Sea of Galilee.

and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shall find a piece of money—a stater. So it should have been rendered, and not indefinitely, as in our version, for the coin was an Attic silver coin equal to two of the afore-mentioned "didrachms" of half a shekel's value, and so, was the exact sum required for both. Accordingly, the Lord adds,

that take, and give unto them for me and thee—literally, "instead of Me and thee"; perhaps because the payment was a redemption of the person paid for (Ex 30:12)—in which view Jesus certainly was "free." If the house was Peter's, this will account for payment being provided on this occasion, not for all the Twelve, but only for him and His Lord. Observe, our Lord does not say "for us," but "for Me and thee"; thus distinguishing the Exempted One and His non-exempted disciple.

Ver. 24-27. The Jews were by God’s law, Exodus 30:13, obliged to pay a half shekel, which was for the service of the sanctuary, Exodus 30:16: this was paid every year. The half shekel amounted in our money to fifteen pence, or thereabouts. Whether this were the tribute money here demanded and paid, some doubt, and say that the Romans having the Jews now under their power, imposed this payment upon every head, as a tribute to the emperor; which being a customary payment, they thought the Jews would less stumble at, though it was changed from a sacred to a civil use, from a homage penny to God, to be a homage penny to the conquerors. The agreement of this sum with what was required by the law, together with what our Saviour saith afterward, will incline us to think that this tax was that religious tax mentioned in Exodus 30:13-16, and that the collectors were some officers deputed for that service by the priests. When Peter came into the house, our Saviour prevents his propounding the question to him, (for Peter had before told them, Yes he did), by asking him of whom the kings of the earth use to receive tribute, of their own children, or of strangers? Where by children we must not understand their political children, that is, their subjects, but their natural children, for otherwise Peter would not have said, Of strangers, nor would our Saviour have answered, Then are the children free; for there is nothing more ordinary than for princes to receive tribute of their subjects. That which our Saviour seemeth to mean is this: This tribute is gathered for my heavenly Father. I am his Son, I am not bound to pay it.

Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, lest we give them occasion to say we break the law of God,

go thou to the sea, ( the sea of Galilee, which was near),

and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find stathra, a piece of money, to the value of about a half crown in English. How this money came in the mouth of the fish is a very idle dispute, considering that he that speaks was the Creator of all things.

That take, and give unto them for me and thee. The papists, who think they have found here an argument for the primacy of Peter, because Christ paid this tribute for him, and not for the other disciples, do not only affirm what they do not know, but forget that Capernaum was the city in which Peter lived, (we heard before of Christ’s curing his wife’s mother there of a fever), and that Peter was the only man of whom this tribute was demanded. This portion of Scripture affords us this instruction: That it is the duty of Christians to yield something of their own right, when they cannot insist upon and obtain it without a scandal and prejudice to the gospel, and the concern of religion. If this were required in pursuance of the law, Exodus 30:12,13, and our Saviour had refused to pay it, the scribes and Pharisees would have clamoured against him as violating the law of God. If it were required as a civil tax, they would have clamoured against him as a man that went about to stir up sedition or rebellion. Having therefore first asserted his right and immunity, he departeth from it to prevent a scandal. We must never part with God’s right; but to depart from our own is not only lawful, but oftentimes very advisable and expedient. Our Saviour chooseth rather to work a miracle than to give a scandal, and by this miracle he also confirmed his immunity, that he was the Son of him who is the King of kings, and so not in strictness obliged to pay it.

Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them,.... Though Christ could have maintained his right of exemption from payment, by such strong and clear reasons and arguments; yet he chose to forego it, lest any should be offended with him, and look upon him as a transgressor of the law; one that had no regard to the temple, and slighted the worship and service of it, and so be prejudiced against him, and his doctrines: which, by the way, may teach us to be careful to give no offence, to Jew or Gentile, or the church of God; though it may be to our own disadvantage, when the honour and interest of religion lie at stake. This is following the example of Christ, who therefore said to Peter,

go thou to the sea; of Tiberias, which was near this city,

and cast an hook; a fisher's hook into it:

and take up the fish that first cometh up, and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: a "stater", as in the original text, the same with the of the Talmudists; and which word the Syriac version here retains, and was, they (w) tell us, of the same value with a "sela", or "shekel" of the province. The Arabic and Persic versions render it, by "four drachms", which also were the same with a "shekel": and so was just enough to pay the two half shekels, for Christ and Peter, and was worth, of our money, near "half a crown"; and not "nearly a crown", as in a late paraphrase is said, through mistake. This was a wonderful instance of the omniscience of Christ, who knew there was in such a fish, such a piece of money, as exactly answered the present exigence, and that that would come first to Peter's hook; and of his omnipotence, if not in forming this piece of money immediately in the fish's mouth, as is thought by some, yet in causing this fish to come to Peter's hook first, and as soon as cast in; and of his power and dominion over all creatures, even over the fishes of the sea; and so proved himself to be what he suggested, the Son of the King of kings; and to be a greater person than the kings of the earth, to whom tribute was paid: and yet, at the same time, it declares his great poverty as man, that he had not a shekel to pay on such an occasion, without working a miracle; and his great condescension to do it, rather than give offence by non-payment:

and take, and give unto them for me and thee; for the half shekel was expected of Peter, as well as of Christ, and he had not wherewith to pay it; and this Christ knew, and therefore provides for both. But why did not Christ pay for the other disciples, as well as for himself and Peter? It may be replied, that this money would pay for no more than two: but this is not a full answer; Christ could have ordered more money in the same way he did this: it may then be further said, that only he and Peter were looked upon as inhabitants of this place; and so the rest were not called upon here, but in their respective cities, where they might pay also, and, besides, were not now present.

(w) Gloss. in T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 64. 1. & 105. 1. & Bava Metzia, fol. 102. 2.

Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a {n} piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

(n) The word used here is stater, which is in value four didrachmas; every drachma is about five pence.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 17:27. But in order that we may not scandalize them (the collectors), that we may not give them occasion to misjudge us, as though we despised the temple. Bengel: “illos, qui non noverant jus Jesu.” Jesus thus includes others along with Himself, not because He regarded Peter as strictly entitled to claim exemption, nor because He was anticipating the time when His followers generally would cease to have such obligations in regard to the temple (Dorner, Jesu sündlose Volk. p. 37), but because Peter, who, in like manner, had his residence in Capernaum (Matthew 8:14), had not paid, as yet, any more than Himself.

πορευθείς] belongs to εἰς τὴν θάλασς. (to the sea), which latter Fritzsche connects with βάλε, which, however, would have the effect of rendering it unduly emphatic.

ἄγκιστρον] It is a fish-hook (Hom. Od. iv. 369; Herod, ii. 70, al.), and not a net, which Jesus asks him to throw in, because in this instance it was a question of one particular fish. Consequently this is the only occasion in the Gospels in which mention is made of a fishing with a hook.

τὸν ἀναβάντα] out of the depths.

πρῶτον] the adjective: the first fish that has come up.

ἆρον] lift it with the hook out on the land. Jesus is therefore aware that this one will be the first to snap at the hook.

εὑρήσεις στατῆρα] that is, in the mouth of the fish. The stater was a coin equivalent to four drachmae, for which reason it is likewise called a τετράδραχμος, and must not be confounded with the gold stater (20 drachmae).

ἀντὶ ἐμοῦ κ. σοῦ] not an incorrect expression for καὶ ἀντὶ ἐμοῦ (Fritzsche), but ἀντί is used with reference to the original enactment, Exodus 30:12 ff., where the half-shekel is represented as a ransom for the soul. Comp. Matthew 20:28. With condescending accommodation, Jesus includes Himself in this view.

REMARK.

The naturalistic interpretation of this incident, so far as its miraculous features are concerned,—which, in a teleological respect, and on account of the magical character of the occurrence, Schleiermacher, L. J. p. 228, also regarded with suspicion,—has, in conformity with earlier attempts of the kind, been advocated above all by Paulus and Ammon, and consists substantially in supposing that εὑρήσεις στατ. was accomplished by the selling of the fish. But whether ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῡ͂ be referred to the act of taking the fish from the hook (Paulus, Komment.), or even to Peter as offering it for sale, in which case αὐτοῦ is said to signify on the spot, we always have, as the result, an incongruous representation and unwarrantable perversion of what, for the narrative of a miracle, is extremely simple and appropriate, to say nothing of so enormous a price for a single fish, and that especially in Capernaum, though Paulus, in spite of the πρῶτον, understands the ἰχθύν in a collective sense. The mythical mode of explaining away this incident (Strauss, II. p. 184, according to whom it is “a legendary offshoot of tales of the sea”)—the occasion of which is to be found partly in a take of fish by Peter, partly in the[462] the stories current about jewels (for example, the ring of Polycrates, Herod, iii. 42) having been found in the inside of fish—breaks down in consequence of its own arbitrariness, and the absence of any thought or Old Testament event in which the myth might be supposed to originate. Again, it would be to make it simply a curiosity (in answer to Strauss in Hilgenfeld'sZeilschr. 18G3, p. 293 ff.) to treat it as an invention for the purpose of exhibiting the superiority of Jesus over the circumstances to which He was accommodating Himself. But Hase's hypothesis, that what was a figurative way of expressing the blessing that attended the labor by means of which the little sum was handily raised, has been transformed, in the popular legend, into an apocryphal miracle, is inconsistent with the fact that the actual miraculous capture of the fish is not once mentioned, an omission which is scarcely in keeping with the usual character of apocryphal narratives. Lastly, the view is no less unfounded which derives the narrative from a parable, in which our Lord is supposed to be representing the contrast between the righteousness of faith that distinguishes the children of God, and the legal righteousness of those who are only slaves (Weisse,Evangelienfr. p. 263 ff.).

[462] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, ed. Frederick Crombie, trans. Peter Christie, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1880), 449-50.

Besides, this would be to import into the passage the Pauline contrast of a similar kind. In short, the incident must continue to be regarded as in every way as historical as the evangelist meant it to be. As for the difficulties involved in so doing, such as that of the fish snatching the hook with the stater in its mouth (not in the stomach), or that implied in the circumstance that, of all places, Capernaum was tho one where Jesus had no need whatever to have recourse to miraculous means for raising the little sum required, they must likewise continue unsolved, belonging as they do to those mysteries that are connected with miracles generally ; and while not justifying us in discarding the narrative without other reasons for so doing, they will at least warrant us in letting it stand as it is (de Wette), no matter whether the miraculous character of the affair, so fur as Jesus is concerned, is supposed to lie in what He there and then performed ("piscis eo ipso momento staterem ex fundo maris afferre jussus est," "tho fish was ordered to bring a stater at that very moment from the bottom of the sea," Bengel), or in what he knew, which latter is all that the terms of tho passage permit us to suppose (Grotius). Finally, the fact that the execution of the order given by Jesus, Matthew 17:27, is nol expressly recorded, is no reason why the reality of the thing itself should be questioned ; for, considering the character of tho Gospel, as well as the attraction which the thing must have had for Peter, the execution in question is to be assumed as a matter of course. But even apart from this, the result promised by Jesus would he sure to follow in the event of His order being complied with. For this reason Ewald's view also is unsatisfactory, which is to the effect that Jesus merely wanted to indicate with what readiness the money for the tax could be procured, the phraseology which He employed being supposed to proceed upon well-known, although extremely rare, instances of such things being found in fish.

NOTE BY AMERICAN EDITOR

The distinction which Dr. Meyer draws between tho objective reality of the Transfiguration of Jesus and the purely visionary manifestation of Moses and Elias is hardly sustained by the text. For as to the words ucjQijaav avroic, the same form is used by Paul in speaking of the appearances of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:5-7), after His resurrection, which were certainly as objectively real as tho Transfiguration itself. Nor is the possibility of any bodily manifestation of Moses an insuperable difficulty. Olshausen solves this by assuming the bodily glorification of Moses as well as Elias. "In support of this idea," he writes, "Scripture itself gives sufficient intimations (Dent, 34:6 compared with Judges 1:9 ; 2 Kings 2:11 compared with Sirach xlviii. 9, 13), which men have accustomed themselves to set down as biblical mythology ; but whatright they had to do so is another question."1 Lange makes the better point, that "spirits of the blessed are not necessarily destitute of all corporeity."

Dr. Meyer disposes of the very serious objection to the assumed visionary character of the appearance of Moses and Elias—to wit, "that three persons must be supposed to have witnessed the same phenomena, and to have heard the same voice"—by saying that this is deprived of its force if " it is conceded that a supernatural agency was here at work with a view to enable the three leading disciples to have a glimpse beforehand of the glory" of their Master. But if a supernatural agency is here found, may we not suppose that it was equal to the task of bringing Moses and Elias before the eyes of the disciples in visible form? Where is the occasion for departing from the obvious meaning of the text, if the supernatural is fully admitted? In disposing of the natural and mythical interpretations of this event, however, Dr. Meyer is exceedingly clear.

For a full exposition of the history of the Transfiguration, from the supernatural point of view, the reader is referred to Trench, " Studies in the Gospels," pp. 184-214.

Matthew 17:27. ἵνα μὴ σκανδαλ., that we may not create misunderstanding as to our attitude by asking exemption or refusing to pay. Nösgen, with a singular lack of exegetical insight, thinks the scandal dreaded is an appearance of disagreement between Master and disciple! It is rather creating the impression that Jesus and His followers despise the temple, and disallow its claims. And the aim of Jesus was to fix Peter’s attention on the fact that He was anxious to avoid giving offence thereby, and in that view abstained from insisting on personal claims. Over against the spirit of ambition, which has begun to show itself among His disciples, He sets His own spirit of self-effacement and desire as far as possible to live peaceably with all men, even with those with whom He has no religious affinity.—πορευθεὶς ε. θ. Generally the instruction given is: go and fish for the money needful to pay the tax.—ἄγκιστρον, a hook, not a net, because very little would suffice; one or two fish at most.—πρῶτον ἰχθὺν: the very first fish that comes up will be enough, for a reason given in the following clause.—ἀνοίξαςστατῆρα: the words point to something marvellous, a fish with a stater, the sum wanted, in its mouth. Paulus sought to eliminate the marvellous by rendering εὑρήσεις not “find” but “obtain,” i.e., by sale. Beyschlag (Das Leben Jesu, p. 304) suggests that the use of an ambiguous word created the impression that Jesus directed Peter to catch a fish with a coin in its mouth. Ewald (Geschichte Christus, p. 467) thinks Jesus spoke very much as reported, but from the fact that it is not stated that a fish with a coin in its mouth was actually found, he infers that the words were not meant seriously as a practical direction, but were a spirited proverbial utterance, based on rare examples of money found in fishes. Weiss is of opinion that a simple direction to go and fish for the means of payment was in the course of oral tradition changed into a form of language implying a miraculous element. This view assumes that the report in Mt. was derived from oral tradition (vide Weiss, Das Leben Jesu, ii. 47, and my Miraculous Element in the Gospels, pp. 231–5). In any case the miracle, not being reported as having happened, cannot have been the important point for the evangelist. What he is chiefly concerned about is to report the behaviour of Jesus on the occasion, and the words He spoke revealing its motive.—ἀντὶ ἐμοῦ καὶ σοῦ: various questions occur to one here. Did the collectors expect Jesus only to pay (for Himself and His whole company), or did their question mean, does He also, even He, pay? And why pay only for Peter along with Himself? Were all the disciples not liable: Andrew, James and John there, in Capernaum, not less than Peter? Was the tax strictly collected, or for lack of power to enforce it had it become practically a voluntary contribution, paid by many, neglected by not a few? In that case it would be a surprise to many that Jesus, while so uncompromising on other matters, was so accommodating in regard to money questions. He would not conform to custom in fasting, Sabbath keeping, washing, etc., but He would pay the temple tax, though refusal would have had no more serious result than slightly to increase already existing ill-will. This view sets the generosity and nobility of Christ’s spirit in a clearer light.

27. a piece of money] Literally, a stater; a Greek silver coin equivalent to the Hebrew shekel, or to four drachmæ in Greek money.

Matthew 17:27. Ἵνα δὲ μὴ σκανδαλίσωμεν αὐτοὺς, But lest we should offend them) Our Lord even performed a miracle to avoid giving offence; cf. ch. Matthew 18:6-7.—αὐτοὺς, them) who were ignorant of our Lord’s claims. Men who are occupied in worldly affairs, most easily take offence at the saints when money is in question.—τὸν ἀναβάντα πρῶτον, that first cometh up) A manifold miracle of omniscience and omnipotence: 1. That something should be caught; 2, and that quickly; 3, that there should be money in a fish; 4, and that in the first fish; 5, that the sum should be just so much as was needed; 6, that it should be in the fish’s mouth. Therefore the fish was commanded to bring a stater, or four-drachm coin, that very moment from the bottom of the sea.—ἀντὶ Ἐμοῦ καὶ σοῦ, for Me and thee) A pair of great disparity; for what was Peter compared to the greatness of Jesus? Peter had a family of his own; the other disciples[802] were the family of Jesus (cf. Gnomon on Matthew 8:14); therefore they said your, not thy Master, Matthew 17:24.

[802] The other disciples, as we may reasonably suppose, had not yet passed their twentieth year; and therefore were not yet bound to pay the sacred tribute.—V. g.

Verse 27. - Lest we should offend them; cause them to stumble. In his large charity he would not take the advantage of his position to avoid the tax. Though above the Law, he would place himself under the Law. Offence would be given by the nonpayment. His motive would be unknown and misunderstood (see on ver. 24). The people would attribute it to caprice, sectarianism, contempt of religion; they would see in it dishonour to the temple. Suspicion and animosity would be aroused; ill feeling, injurious both to themselves who encouraged it and to the cause of Christ, would weaken the effects of his acts and doctrine. Further offence would supervene if he did not confirm Peter's engagement and execute the promise which the foremost disciple had virtually made in his name; since it might thus appear that he and his followers were not of one mind in this important matter. For such considerations he was content to waive his prerogative, and to provide for the payment by a miracle, which should at once vindicate his royal character and demonstrate that, while he was obedient to the Law, he was superior to it, was the Lord of heaven and earth and sea. Go thou to the sea. The Sea of Galilee, on whose shore Capernaum stood, and with which Peter had been all his life familiar. Cast an hook. The fisherman was to ply his trade, yet not to use his customary net; he was to fish with line and hook, that the miracle might be more striking. Take up the fish that first cometh up. From the deep waters to the bait. Thou shalt find a piece of money; a stater. This Greek coin, circulating throughout the East, was about equal in value to the shekel, or two didrachms, and therefore sufficient to pay the half shekel for two persons. That fish should seize a bright object which might drop into the sea is nothing uncommon. A cod has been found with a watch in its stomach, still going. The miracle is shown in the omniscience which knew what the fish carried in its maw, and in the omnipotence which drew it to the hook. As far as we know, and regarding the present age as the sabbath of creation (see John 5:17), Christ in his miracles created nothing absolutely, always using a natural and existing basis as the support of the wonder. So here he does not create the fish or the skater, but by marvellous coincidences makes them subserve his purpose. Tradition has stereotyped the miracle by assigning to a certain tribe of fish a permanent mark of the occurrence. The johndory. whose name is corrupted either from jaune dore, "gold colour," or adore, "worshipped," is called in some countries Peter's fish, and is supposed to retain the impression of the apostle's fingers on its sides. Others assert that it is the haddock which presents this memorial of the miracle. But neither of these fish is found in the Lake of Gennesareth. Give... for me and thee (a)nti\ e)mou = kai\ sou = ). The form of expression recalls the original design of the institution, as a ransom of souls (comp. Matthew 20:28 in the Greek). He does not say, "for us;" for, though he submitted to the tax, it was not on the same ground as his servant. He himself paid, though exempt; Peter paid because he was liable. In the one ease it was from humility, in the other from legal obligation. The account ends somewhat abruptly, nothing being said of the result of the Lord's command, what action Peter took, and what ensued thereon. But we need no assurance that all came to pass as Christ directed. The very silence is significant; it is the sublimest language. Neologian criticism has endeavoured to explain away or to throw discredit on the miraculous nature of this "transaction." We are asked to believe that Christ by his command meant only that Peter was to go and catch a fish and sell it for a skater. If this was the case, why did not the evangelist say so? Why did he introduce a story which he must have known to be untrue? Is there any ground for supposing that St. Matthew was a writer of myths and legends, or one who intentionally falsified the records on which he framed his history? Surely no unprejudiced person could judge thus of the writer of the First Gospel; to those who believe in inspiration the notion is sacrilegious. The incident is no embellishment of a natural fact, no mere sailor's anecdote, but the true account of a real occurrence, which the narrator credited and probably witnessed. Another allegation equally unfounded is that Christ was rebuking Peter for precipitancy in promising payment when they had no funds in their possession, as though Jesus was saying ironically, "You had better go and catch a fish, and look for the money in its mouth!" Such attempted evasions of the miraculous are puerile and saddening. And if it be objected, as indeed it is, that the miracle was unnecessary and unworthy of Jesus, who never exerted his supernatural power for his own benefit, it is easy to show that the wonder was required in order to give and enforce a lesson to Peter and his companions. In what better way could Jesus have conveyed to them the truth that, although for the nonce he consented to the Law, he was superior to it and exempt from the obligation, and that if he paid the tax he did so by an exercise of power which proved him to be the Son of God?



Matthew 17:27Hook (ἄγκιστρον)

The only mention in the New Testament of fishing with a hook. A single fish is wanted.

A piece of money (στατῆρα)

The A. V. is very inadequate, because Christ names a definite sum, the stater, which is a literal transcription of the Greek word, and represents two didrachmas, or a shekel. Hence Rev., a shekel.

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