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bow they might entangle him in his tallfe A nd they sent out unto him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth; neither carest thou for any man, for thou regardesl not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, ami said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute-money; and they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. When they heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way." In order to understand the insidious nature of the question here proposed to Jesus, it must be observed, that the Jews were at this time, as they had been for many years, under the dominion of the Romans; and as an acknowledgment of their subjection, paid them an annual tribute in money. The Pharisees however were adverse to the payment of this
tribute; and contended, that being the peculiar people of God, and he their only rightful sovereign, they ought not to pay tribute to any foreign prince whatever; they considered themselves as subjects of the Almighty, and released from all obedience to any foreign power. There were many others who maintained a contrary opinion, and it was a question much agitated among different parties. Who the Herodians were that accompanied the Pharisees, and what their sentiments were on this subject, is very doubtful: nor is it a matter of any moment. It is plain from their name that they were in some M ay or other attached to Ilerod: and as he was a friend to the Roman government, they probably maintained the propriety of paying the tribute-f-.
In this state of things both the Pharisees and Herodians came to Jesus, and after some flattering and hypocritical compliments to lm love of truth, his intrepidity, impartiality, and disregard to power and greatness (calculated evidently to spirit him up to some bold and
* Those whom St. Mark calls the Ltaxm of Herod, c. viii. 15, St. Matthew, in the parallel passage, xvi. 5. calk Sadducees. Hence, perhaps, we may infer, that the Herodians and the Sadducees were the same persons.
offensive offensive declaration of his opinion) they pitt this question to him: "Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, of not ?-" They were pel* * suaded, that in answering this question, he must' either render himself odious to the Jewish people, by opposing their popular notions of liberty, and appearing to pay court to the emperor; or, on the other hand, give offence to that prince, and expose himself to the charge of sedition and disaffection to the Roman government, by denying their right to the tribute they had imposed. They conceived it impossible for him to extricate himself from this dilemma, or to escape danger on one side or the other ; and perhaps no other person but himself eould have eluded the snare that was laid for him. But he did it completely; and showed on this occasion, as he had done on many others, that presence of mind and readiness of reply to difficult and unexpected questions, which is one of the strongest proofs of superior wisdom, of a quick discern* ment, and a prompt, decision. He pursued, in short, the method which he had adopted in similar instances; he compelled the Jews in effect to answer the question themselves, and to take from him all the odium attending the
determination of it. He perceived their wickedness/and said, "Why tempt ye me? Why do you try to ensnare me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute-money. And they brought unto him a penny (a small silver coin of the Romans, called a denarius). And he said unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they say unto him, Caesar's." By admitting that this was Cjesar's coin, and by consenting to receive it as the current coin of their' country, they in fact acknowledged their subjection to his government. For the right of coinage, and of issuing the coin, and giving value and currency to it, is one of the highest prerogatives and most decisive marks of sovereignty: and it was a tradition of their own rabbins, that to admit the impression and the inscription of any prince on their current coin, was an acknowledgment of their subjection to him. And it was more particularly so in the present instance, because we are told that the denarius paid by the Jews as tribute-money had an inscription round the head of Caesar, to this effect; Ccesar Augustus* Judaea being subdued*'. To pay this coin with this inscription, was the completest acknowledgment of subjection,
* See Hammond, in Ioc.
and and of course of their obligation to pay the tribute demanded of them, that could be imagined. Our Lord's decision therefore was a necessary Consequence of their own conees-* sion. "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's (which you yourselves acknowledge to be Caesar's) and unto God the things that are God's." And when they heard these words, they marvelled; they were astonished at his prudence and address; and left him, and went their way.
But in this answer of our Saviour is contained a much stronger proof of his consummate wisdom and discretion than has yet been mentioned. He not only disengaged himself from the difficulties in which the question was meant to involve him, but, without entering into any political discussions, he laid down two doctrines of the very last importance to the peace and happiness of mankind, and the stability of civil government. He made a clear distinction between the duties we owe to God, and the duties we owe to our earthly rulers. He showed that they did not, in the smallest degree, interfere or clash with each other; and that we ought never to refuse what is justly due to Caesar, under pretence of its