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 (arytoa) of the Talmudists; and which word the Syriac version here retains, and was, they F23 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.
F23 Gloss. in T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 64. 1. & 105. 1. & Bava Metzia, fol. 102. 2.