They brought unto him a penny - A denarius: probably the ordinary capitation tax, though the poll tax in the law, Exodus 30:13, Exodus 30:14, was half a shekel, about twice as much as the denarius. The Roman denarius had the emperor's image with a proper legend stamped on one side of it. It was not therefore the sacred shekel which was to be paid for the repairs of the temple which was now demanded, but the regular tribute required by the Roman government.
Then went the Pharisees - See the notes at Matthew 3:7.
How they might entangle him - To entangle means to “ensnare,” as birds are taken by a net. This is done secretly, by leading them within the compass of the net and then suddenly springing it over them. So to entangle is artfully to lay a plan for enticing; to beguile by proposing a question, and by leading, if possible, to an incautious answer. This was what the Pharisees and Herodians endeavored to do in regard to Jesus.
In his talk - The word “his” is supplied by the translators, perhaps improperly. It means “in conversations,” or by “talking” with him; not alluding to anything that he had before said.
The Herodians - It is not certainly known who these were.
It is probable that they took their name from Herod the Great. Perhaps they were first a political party, and were then distinguished for holding some of the special opinions of Herod. Dr. Prideaux thinks that those opinions referred to two things. The first respected subjection to a foreign power. The law of Moses was, that a “stranger should not be set over the Jews as a king,” Deuteronomy 17:15. Herod, who had received the kingdom of Judea by appointment of the Romans, maintained that the law of Moses referred only to a voluntary choice of a king, and did not refer to a necessary submission where they had been overpowered by force. His followers supposed, therefore, that it was lawful in such cases to pay tribute to a foreign prince. This opinion was, however, extensively unpopular among the Jews, and particularly the Pharisees, who looked upon it as a violation of their law, and regarded all the acts growing out of it as oppressive. Hence, the difficulty of the question proposed by them. Whatever way he decided, they supposed he would be involved in difficulty. If he should say it was not lawful, the Herodians were ready to accuse him as being an enemy of Caesar; if he said it was lawful, the Pharisees were ready to accuse him to the people of holding an opinion extremely unpopular among them, and as being an enemy of their rights. The other opinion of Herod, which they seem to have followed, was, that when a people were subjugated by a foreign force, it was right to adopt the rites and customs of their religion. This was what was meant by the “leaven of Herod,” Mark 8:15. The Herodians and Sadducees seem on most questions to have been united. Compare Matthew 16:6; Mark 8:15.
We know that thou art true - A hypocritical compliment, not believed by them, but artfully said, as compliments often are, to conceal their true design. “Neither carest thou for any man.” That is, thou art an independent teacher, delivering your sentiments without regard to the fear or favor of man. This was true, and probably they believed this. Whatever else they might believe about him, they had no reason to doubt that he delivered his sentiments openly and freely.
For thou regardest not the person of men - Thou art not partial. Thou wilt decide according to truth, and not from any bias toward either party. To regard the person, or to respect the person, is in the Bible uniformly used to denote partiality, or being influenced in a decision, not by truth, but by previous attachment to a “person,” or to one of the parties by friendship, or bias, or prejudice, Leviticus 19:15; Jude 1:16; Deuteronomy 16:19; 2 Samuel 14:14; Acts 10:34; James 2:1, James 2:3, James 2:9; 1 Peter 1:17.
Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar? - Tribute was the tax paid to the Roman government.
Caesar - The Roman emperor.
The name Caesar, after the time of Julius Caesar, became common to all the emperors, as Pharaoh was the common name of all the kings of Egypt. The “Caesar” who reigned at this time was Tiberius - a man distinguished for the grossest vices and most disgusting and debasing sensuality.
Jesus perceived their wickedness - This must have been done by his power of searching the heart, and proves that he was omniscient.
No more man has the power of discerning the motives of others.
Tempt ye me - Try me, or endeavor to lead me into difficulty by an insidious question.
Hypocrites - Dissemblers. Professing to be candid inquirers, when their only object was to lead into difficulty. See the notes at Matthew 6:2.
The tribute-money - The money in which the tribute was paid.
This was a Roman coin. The tribute for the temple service was paid in the Jewish shekel; that for the Roman government in foreign coin. Their having that coin about them, and using it, was proof that they themselves held it lawful to pay the tribute; and their pretensions, therefore, were mere hypocrisy.
A penny - A Roman denarius, worth about 14 cents =7d (circa 1880‘s).
This image - The likeness of the reigning prance was usually struck on the coins.
Superscription - The name and titles of the emperor.
Render, therefore, to Caesar - Caesar‘s image and name on the coin proved that it was his.
It was proper, therefore, to give it back to him when he called for it. But while this was done, Jesus took occasion to charge them, also, to give to God what he claimed. This may mean either,
1.The annual tribute due to the temple service, implying that paying tribute to Caesar did not free them from the obligation to do that; or,
2.That they should give their hearts, lives, property, and influence all to God, as his due.
They marveled - They had been foiled in their attempt.
Though he had apparently decided in favor of the Herodians, yet his answer confounded both parties, and wholly prevented the use which they intended to make of it. It was so wise; it so clearly detected their wickedness and foiled their aim, that they were confounded, and retired covered with shame.
The priests and rulers had listened in silence to Christ's pointed rebukes. They could not refute His charges. But they were only the more determined to entrap Him, and with this object they sent to Him spies, “which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words, that so they might deliver Him unto the power and authority of the governor.” They did not send the old Pharisees whom Jesus had often met, but young men, who were ardent and zealous, and whom, they thought, Christ did not know. These were accompanied by certain of the Herodians, who were to hear Christ's words, that they might testify against Him at His trial. The Pharisees and Herodians had been bitter enemies, but they were now one in enmity to Christ. DA 601.1Read in context »