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THE LAST EVENTS IN GALILEE—THE TRIBUTE-MONEY, THE DISPUTE BY THE
WAY, THE FORBIDDING OF HIM WHO COULD NOT FOLLOW WITH THE
(St. Matt. xvii. 22--xviii. 22 ; St. Mark ix. 30–50; St. Luke ix. 43–50.)
Now that the Lord's retreat in the utmost borders of the land, at Cæsarea Philippi, was known to the Scribes, and that He was again surrounded and followed by the multitude, there could be no further object in His retirement. Indeed, the time was coming that He should meet that for which He had been, and was still, preparing the minds of His disciples-- His Decease at Jerusalem. Accordingly, we find Him once more with His disciples in Galilee—not to abide there,' nor to traverse it as formerly for Missionary purposes, but preparatory to His journey to the Feast of Tabernacles. The few events of this brief stay, and the teaching connected with it, may be summed up as follows.
1. Prominently, perhaps, as the summary of all, we have now the clear and emphatic repetition of the prediction of His Death and Resurrection. While He would keep His present stay in Galilee as private as possible, He would fain so emphasize this teaching to His disciples, that it should sink down into their ears and memories. For it was, indeed, the most needful for them in view of the immediate future. Yet the announcement only filled their loving hearts with exceeding sorrow; they comprehended it not; nay, they were-perhaps not unnaturally-afraid to ask Him about it. We remember, that even the three who had been with Jesus on the Mount, understood not what the rising from the dead should mean, and that, by direction of the Master, they kept the whole Vision from their fellow-disciples; and, thinking of it all, we scarcely wonder that, from their standpoint, it was hid from them, so that they might not perceive it.
a St. Mark
I The expression in St. Matthew (xvii. 22) does not imply permanent
abode, but a temporary stay-a going to and fro.
2. It is to the depression caused by His insistence on this terrible future, to the constant apprehension of near danger, and the consequent desire not to offend,' and so provoke those at whose hands, Christ had told them, He was to suffer, that we trace the incident about the tribute-money. We can scarcely believe, that Peter would have answered as he did, without previous permission of his Master, had it not been for such thoughts and fears. It was another mode of saying, 'That be far from Thee—or, rather, trying to keep it as far as he could from Christ. Indeed, we can scarcely repress the feeling, that there was a certain amount of secretiveness on the part of Peter, as if he had apprehended that Jesus would not have wished him to act as he did, and would fain have kept the whole transaction from the knowledge of his Master.
It is well known that, on the ground of the injunction in Exod. XXX. 13 &c., every male in Israel, from twenty years upwards, was expected annually to contribute to the Temple-Treasury the sum of one half-shekel1 of the Sanctuary, that is, one common shekel, or two Attic drachms, equivalent to about 18. 2d. or 18. 3d. of our money. Whether or not the original Biblical ordinance was intended to in-vch. x. 32 stitute a regular annual contribution, the Jews of the Dispersion would probably regard it in the light of a patriotic as well as religious act.
2 Kings xii. 4; 2 Chron. xxiv. 6;
To the particulars previously given on this subject a few others may be added. The family of the Chief of the Sanhedrin (Gamaliel) seems to have enjoyed the curious distinction of bringing their contributions to the Temple-Treasury, not like others, but to have thrown them down before him who opened the Temple-Chest,3 when they were immediately placed in the box from which, without delay, sacrifices were provided. Again, the commentators explain a certain passage in the Mishnah and the Talmud as implying that, Shek. iii. 4 although the Jews in Palestine had to pay the tribute-money before the Passover, those from neighbouring lands might bring it before the Feast of Weeks, and those from such remote countries as Babylonia and Media as late as the Feast of Tabernacles. Lastly, although
b Shek. iii. 3
1 According to Neh. x. 32, immediately after the return from Babylon the contribution was a third of a shekelprobably on account of the poverty of the people.
But only one Alexandrian (comp. LXX. Gen. xxiii. 15; Josh. vii. 21).
3 Could there have been an intended, or-what would be still more striking-an unintended, but very real irony in this, when Judas afterwards cast down the
d Yoma 64 a
pieces of silver in the Temple (St. Matt.
Dean Plumptre is mistaken in com-
c Ps. ii. 4
d Jos. War vii. 6.6
BOOK the Mishnah lays it down, that the goods of those might be distrained, IV who had not paid the Temple-tribute by the 25th Adar, it is scarcely
credible that this obtained at the time of Christ, at any rate in * Shekal. vi. Galilee. Indeed, this seems implied in the statement of the Mishnah a
and the Talmud," that one of the “ thirteen trumpets ’in the Temple, into which contributions were cast, was destined for the shekels of the current, and another for those of the preceding, year. Finally, these Temple-contributions were in the first place devoted to the purchase of all public sacrifices, that is, those which were offered in the name of the whole congregation of Israel, such as the morning and evening sacrifices. It will be remembered, that this was one of the points in fierce dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and that the former perpetuated their triumph by marking its anniversary as a festive day in their calendar. It seems a terrible irony of judgment when Vespasian ordered, after the destruction of the Temple, that this tribute should henceforth be paid for the rebuilding of the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.
It will be remembered that, shortly before the previous Passover, Jesus with His disciples had left Capernaum, that they returned to the latter city only for the Sabbath, and that, as we have suggested, they passed the first Paschal days on the borders of Tyre. We have, indeed, no means of knowing where the Master had tarried during the ten days between the 15th and the 25th Adar, supposing the Mishnic arrangements to have been in force in Capernaum. He was certainly not at Capernaum, and it must also have been known, that He had not gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover. Accordingly, when it was told in Capernaum, that the Rabbi of Nazareth had once more come to what seems to have been His Galilean home, it was only natural, that they who collected the Temple-tribute 3 should have applied for its payment. It is quite possible, that their application may have been, if not prompted, yet quickened, by the wish to involve Him in the breach of so well-known an obligation, or else by a hostile curiosity. Would He, Who took so strangely different views of Jewish observances, and who made such extraordinary claims, own the duty of paying the Temple-tribute ? Had it been
1 The penalty of distraint had only that the reference here is not to the been enacted less than a century before Temple-tribute, but to the Roman poll(about 78), during the reign of Queen tax or census. Irrespective of the quesSalome-Alexandra, who was entirely in tion whether a census was then levied in the hands of the Pharisees.
Galilee, the latter is designated bo h in ? See Book III. ch. xxxi.
St. Matt. xvii. 25, and in xxii. 17, as well * If it were not for the authority of as in St. Mark xii. 14, as kavoos, while here Wiescler, who supports it, the suggestion the well-known expression didrachma is would scarcely deserve serious notice, used.
" THEN ARE THE CHILDREN FREE.'
owing to His absence, or from principle, that He had not paid it last Passover-season? The question which they put to Peter implies, at least, their doubt.
We have already seen what motives prompted the hasty reply of Peter. He might, indeed, also otherwise, in his rashness, have given an affirmative answer to the inquiry, without first consulting the Master. For there seems little doubt, that Jesus had on former occasions complied with the Jewish custom. But matters were now wholly changed. Since the first Passover, which had marked His first public appearance in the Temple at Jerusalem, He had statedand quite lately in most explicit terms-that He was the Christ, the Son of God. To have now paid the Temple-tribute, without explanation, might have involved a very serious misapprehension. In view of all this, the history before us seems alike simple and natural. There is no pretext for the artificial construction put upon it by commentators, any more than for the suggestion, that such was the poverty of the Master and His disciples, that the small sum requisite for the Temple-tribute had to be miraculously supplied.
We picture it to ourselves on this wise. Those who received the Tribute-money had come to Peter, and perhaps met him in the court or corridor, and asked him: Your Teacher (Rabbi), does He not pay the didrachma?' While Peter hastily responded in the affirmative, and then entered into the house to procure the coin, or else to report what had passed, Jesus, Who had been in another part of the house, but was cognisant of all, 'anticipated him.'1 Addressing him in kindly language as 'Simon,' He pointed out the real state of matters by an illustration which must, of course, not be too literally pressed, and of which the meaning was: Whom does a King intend to tax for the maintenance of his palace and officers? Surely not his own family, but others. The inference from this, as regarded the Temple-tribute, was obvious. As in all similar Jewish parabolic teaching, it was only indicated in general principle: Then are the children free.' But even so, be it as Peter had wished, although not from the same motive. Let no needless offence be given; for, assuredly, they would not have understood the principle on which Christ would have refused the Tribute-money,' and all misunder
The Revised Version, as it seems to me, rashly renders 'spake first.' But the word (poptávw) does not bear that meaning in any of the fifteen passages in the LXX, where it corresponds to the Hebrew Kiddem, and means to anticipate' or 'to prevent' in the archaic sense VOL. II.
of that word.
2 In Succ. 30 a, we read a parable of a king who paid toll, and being asked the reason, replied that travellers were to learn by his example not to seek to withdraw themselves from paying the dues.
standing on the part of Peter was now impossible. Yet Christ would still further vindicate His royal title. He will pay for Peter, also, and pay as heaven's King with a Stater, or four-drachm piece, miraculously provided.
Thus viewed, there is, we submit, a moral purpose and spiritual instruction in the provision of the Stater out of the fish's mouth. The rationalistic explanation of it need not be seriously considered ; for any mythical interpretation there is not the shadow of support in Biblical precedent or Jewish expectancy. But the narrative in its literality has a true and high meaning. And if we wished to mark the difference between its sober simplicity and the extravagances of legend, we would remind ourselves, not only of the well-known story of the Ring of Polycrates, but of two somewhat kindred Jewish Haggadahs. They are both intended to glorify the Jewish mode of Sabbath observance. One of them bears that one Joseph, known as “the honourer' of the Sabbath, had a wealthy heathen neighbour, to whom the Chaldæans had prophesied that all his riches would come to Joseph. To render this impossible, the wealthy man converted all his property into one magnificent gem, which he carefully concealed within his head-gear. Then he took ship, so as for ever to avoid the dangerous vicinity of the Jew. But the wind blew his head-gear into the sea, and the gem was swallowed by a fish. And, lo! it was the holy season, and they brought to the market a splendid fish. Who would purchase it but Joseph, for none as he would prepare to honour the day by the best which he could provide. But when they opened the fish, the gem was found in it—the moral being : ‘He that borroweth for the Sabbath, the Sabbath will repay him.':
The other legend is similar. It was in Rome (in the Christian world) that a poor tailor went to market to buy a fish for a festive meal. Only one was on sale, and for it there was keen competition between the servant of the Prince and the Jew, the latter at last buying it for not less than twelve dinars. At the banquet, the Prince inquired of his servants why no fish had been provided. When he ascertained the cause, he sent for the Jew with the threatening inquiry, how a poor tailor could afford to pay twelve dinars for
My Lord, replied the Jew, there is a day on which all our sins are remitted
and should we not honour it?' The answer satisfied the Prince. But God rewarded the Jew, for, when the fish
* Shabb. 119 a, lines 20 &c. from top
a fish ?
1 In the Midrash : On the eve of the great fast' (the Day of Atonement). But from the connection it is evidently in.
tended to apply to the distinction to be put on the Sabbath-meal.