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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 17

 

 

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Verses 1-13

Matthew 17:1-13. The Transfiguration, and the Coming of Elijah (Mark 9:2-13*, Luke 9:28-36).—The narrative agrees closely with Mk., the chief difference being the appropriate addition of Matthew 17:7. The fear of the disciples occurs earlier in Mk., and is made the occasion of Peter's intrusion; in Lk. it is omitted.

Matthew 17:10-13. The disciples are puzzled because Elijah has only just appeared—after the coming of the Messiah, whereas the scribes said he was to come first. The answer of Jesus is not very clear. We may take it thus:" (The scribes are right in saying that) Elijah comes and rectifies everything (Matthew 17:11), and yet I tell you that he has already come, but so far from setting things right, he has not been recognised, and they have done to him what they pleased" (Matthew 17:12). The scribes are thus confirmed and then corrected, as in the latter part of ch. 5. The Messiah Himself is similarly to suffer. The disciples prove more intelligent than usual (cf. Matthew 16:12).


Verses 14-21

Matthew 17:14-21. Healing of the Demoniac Boy (Mark 9:14-29*, Luke 9:37-43).—The story is much shorter than in Mk. The reference to possession does not come till the end; in Matthew 17:15 the child is described as epileptic. Perhaps the story was told in Q. The father's appeal, "Lord, have mercy" (Matthew 17:15), gives us the well-known "Kyrie eleison." Instead of prayer (the verse (Matthew 17:21) in Mt. is spurious) and fasting (Mark 9:29), Jesus here puts the emphasis on faith (cf. Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:22 f.). The Sinaitic Syriac has "your unfaith"; perhaps "little faith" is a softening of this.


Verse 22

Matthew 17:22 f. Further Prediction of the Passion (Mark 9:30-32*, Luke 9:43-45)—Again the disciples understand; they are not so utterly obtuse as in Mk. and Lk.


Verses 24-27

Matthew 17:24-27. Temple Tribute.—Mt. only. The collectors of the half-shekel, expected from every Jew towards the maintenance of the Temple, and usually paid just before the Passover, ask Peter if his master fulfilled the obligation, and are told that He did. In conversation with Peter, Jesus apparently asserts that the Temple should be maintained by taxes on Gentiles, while Jews go free. But a better interpretation is that, as sons of the Messianic Kingdom, He and His followers are exempt from taxes. Yet, perhaps remembering the injunction in Exodus 30:11-16, He bids Peter satisfy the demand. After the destruction of the Temple the half-shekel was added to the taxes imposed by Rome, and under Domitian (when Mt. was probably written) these taxes were strictly collected. J. Weiss therefore suggests that payment to the Romans is the real point of the incident. Christians were in natural doubt about paying God's half-shekel to the Emperor, but they are shown here that as Jesus, though free, conceded the matter to the Law, they might, to avoid offence, concede it to the heathen. "The principle of not giving needless offence is used with great power and insight by Paul" (Montefiore, p. 674).

Peter is told that by a little familiar work he can soon pay the tax. He has only to catch a fish; in (the sale of) it he will find enough for himself and Jesus. We are not told that Peter found a coin in the fish's mouth, and we have here the only half-made story of a miracle. It is not a question of whether Jesus could have brought about such a wonder so much as would He, a test which we may apply to other marvels. There would be no difficulty in finding the necessary half-crown; but, apart from that, He who settled the question in the Temptation could not have gone back on that decision in a paltry case like this.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Matthew 17:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/matthew-17.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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