What does Matthew 17:26 mean?
ESV: And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
NIV: From others,' Peter answered. 'Then the children are exempt,' Jesus said to him.
NASB: When Peter said, 'From strangers,' Jesus said to him, 'Then the sons are exempt.
CSB: "From strangers," he said."Then the sons are free," Jesus told him.
NLT: They tax the people they have conquered,' Peter replied. 'Well, then,' Jesus said, 'the citizens are free!
KJV: Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
NKJV: Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
Verse Commentary:
Every Jewish man, 20 years and older, is required by the law of Moses to contribute two drachmas, or half a shekel, to the temple every year (Exodus 30:13–16). Collectors have come to ask if Jesus will pay this temple tax. Peter has told them yes, but now Jesus has asked Peter a question about it: Does the king collect tax from His sons or from others (Matthew 17:24–25)?

Peter gives the obvious answer in this verse. The king does not collect tax from his sons; he collects it from others, from the people. Now Jesus says that the sons are free. Jesus' point should be obvious. The two-drachma temple tax is meant to be given to God, who is the king over all. Jesus is God's Son. The temple tax is not required of the Son of God any more than a regular tax is intended for the son of the king. Jesus should not be required to pay this tax.

Jesus will not demand this right, however. He seems more interested in using the opportunity to help Peter to see, once again, exactly what it means that Jesus is the Son of the living God. It's not just a title. It is the reality with serious implications for Him and for those who follow Him. However, to avoid giving offense or giving the religious leaders anything to hold against Him, Jesus will pay the tax. He will do so in a surprising way.

Scholars and commentators over the years have attempted to use this passage to make points about whether Christians should or should not pay taxes demanded by their own governments. This tax, though, is a religious tax instituted by God for the people of Israel and doesn't seem to speak to the issue of believers paying government taxes, one way or the other. A better passage for that issue is found in Matthew 22:15–22.
Verse Context:
Matthew 17:22–27 begins with Jesus once again predicting His death at the hands of religious enemies in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21). Collectors of the annual two-drachma temple tax approach Peter and ask if Jesus will pay. Jesus explains to Peter why He is exempt from the tax, but He says that He will pay it to avoid giving offense over the issue. He commands Peter to pay the tax for them both: by catching a fish in which he will find a coin sufficient for the task.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. There, they see Him "transfigured" into a shining, divine form. They also see Christ speaking with Moses and Elijah but are commanded not to speak of this event until later. Jesus heals a demon-afflicted boy after the disciples cannot cast the demon out. Jesus very clearly tells the disciples He will be delivered into the hands of men, killed, and raised on the third day. After explaining why He is exempt from a temple tax, Jesus agrees to pay it and tells Peter to find the money in the mouth of a fish.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 17 begins with the fulfillment of Jesus' prediction at the end of the previous chapter: that some of those present would not die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom. Jesus casts out a demon, predicts His death, and commands Peter to pay a temple tax with a coin from the mouth of a fish. This leads Matthew back to extensive records of Jesus' teachings, continuing through chapter 20.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 5/26/2024 7:07:18 AM
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