Matthew 22:17

17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay 1taxes to 2Caesar, or not?"

Matthew 22:17 Meaning and Commentary

Ver. 17 Tell us therefore what thinkest thou,
&c:] Since, as they suggested he was a person of great understanding and sincerity, they earnestly desire that he would be pleased, according to his usual frankness and openness, to give them his opinion; in which they intimate, they should sit down satisfied and contented:

whether is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
Meaning, according to the law of God: this was a question among the Jews: the Herodians were for it, the Pharisees were against it, at least secretly; and, indeed, this latter was the general sense of the nation, who looked upon themselves to be, or however ought to be, a free people, being the children of God, and the seed of Abraham; and who urged, that according to their law, none but one of their own brethren, who was of their own nation and religion, was to be set as king over them; whereas Caesar, the Roman emperor, was a stranger, one of another nation, and an idolater; and some openly refused it, and made mutinies and insurrections on account of it, as Theudas, and Judas of Galilee: now by putting this question to Christ, in the presence of different parties, they hoped to get an advantage of him either way; for had he been silent, they would have reproached him, as not being the honest, faithful, frank, and open man, they pretended to take him to be; and if he had answered either in the affirmative or negative, they were prepared to make use of it to his injury; had he said that it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, this being contrary to the general notions of the people, they would have improved it to draw them from him, and to set them against him; and had he affirmed it was not lawful to do it, they would then have accused him to the Roman governor, and delivered him up into his hands, to judge and condemn him, according to the Roman laws; which latter was what they were wishing for.

Matthew 22:17 In-Context

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.
16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.
17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"
18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?
19 Show me the coin for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.

Cross References 2

  • 1. Matthew 17:25
  • 2. Luke 2:1; Luke 3:1
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.