What does Matthew 17:4 mean?
ESV: And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
NIV: Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'
NASB: Peter responded and said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good that we are here. If You want, I will make three tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'
CSB: Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it's good for us to be here. If you want, I will set up three shelters here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
NLT: Peter exclaimed, 'Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.'
KJV: Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Verse Commentary:
Peter, James, and John are witnessing something that is beyond words: Jesus has been "transfigured" before their eyes into a radiant appearance as the Son of God in heaven. He stands talking to two of the greatest heroes of Israel: Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1–3).

In this holiest of moments, Peter's choice to speak is awkward and inappropriate. In fact, he will be literally interrupted by a voice from heaven (Matthew 17:5). It also reveals he only shallowly understands that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16, 21–23). Mark's account puts Peter's gawky response in relatable terms: he did not know what to say (Mark 9:6). Luke is somewhat less kind, pointing out that Peter did not know what he was saying (Luke 9:33). Peter recognizes the astounding nature of what is happening. Though he is terrified, he feels he must respond with some act of worship. That impulse was not wrong, but the specific action Peter suggests misses the point.

The Gospels portray Peter as a man of extremes: at times the best, other times the worst of the Twelve. He has the faith and boldness to walk on the water as Jesus does, and the weakness to see the waves and sink (Matthew 14:28–31). He accurately declares Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, only to be harshly scolded for trying to rebuke Jesus' teaching (Matthew 16:13–19, 21–23). Peter's boldness and enthusiasm repeatedly reveal both a good heart and a level of recklessness. Many readers are drawn to Peter, because so many of us are very much like him.

Peter tells Jesus that it is good he and James and John are present. He offers to make three tents, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Why tents? Peter possibly sees a fulfillment of Israel's Feast of Tabernacles, where Jewish people would make tents to remember God's provision and to look forward to the coming of the kingdom. It makes some sense as a worshipful response, but Peter made the mistake of making Jesus equal to Moses and Elijah. The voice of God the Father from heaven will rebuke Peter and correct his error.
Verse Context:
Matthew 17:1–13 follows Jesus' prediction that some of the disciples won't die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28). Peter, James, and John see Jesus transfigured—radiating the glory of God––while talking with Moses and Elijah. Peter blunders in his attempt to contribute to the moment. The voice of God the Father identifies Jesus as His Son and commands the disciples to listen to Him. Jesus tells the three not to tell anyone else what they've seen until after He is raised from the dead. He answers their question about a prophecy involving Elijah.
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.
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