Matthew 17 Bible Commentary

McGarvey and Pendleton

(Read all of Matthew 17)
17:1  And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John1 his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: THIRD WITHDRAWAL FROM HEROD'S TERRITORY. D. THE TRANSFIGURATION. CONCERNING ELIJAH. (A Spur of Hermon, near Caesarea Philippi.) Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36
After six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, etc. See Mark 9:2.

17:2  and he was transfigured before them1; and his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light2.
He was transfigured before them. See Mark 9:2.
His garments became white as the light. See Mark 9:3.

17:3  And behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah1 talking with him.
There appeared unto them Moses and Elijah. See Mark 9:4.

17:4  And Peter answered, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, I will make here three tabernacles1; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
I will make here three tabernacles, etc. See Mark 9:5.

17:5  While he was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them1: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
A bright cloud overshadowed them, etc. See Mark 9:7.

17:6  And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid1.
They fell on their face, and were sore afraid. As every man is who hears the voice of God.

17:7  And Jesus came and touched them and said, Arise, and be not afraid1.
Arise, and be not afraid. As mediator between man and God, Jesus removes fear. Also see Luke 1:30.

17:8  And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, save Jesus only1.
They saw no one, save Jesus only. See Mark 9:8.

17:9  And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them1, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen from the dead.
Jesus commanded them, etc. See Mark 9:9.

17:10  And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come1?
Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? See Mark 9:11.

17:11  And he answered and said, Elijah indeed cometh, and shall restore all things1:
Elijah indeed cometh, and shall restore all things, etc. See Mark 9:12.

17:12  but I say into you, that Elijah is come already1, and they knew him not, but did unto him whatsoever they would. Even so shall the Son of man also suffer of them.
That Elijah is come already, etc. See Mark 9:13.

17:14  And when they were come to the multitude1, there came to him a man, kneeling to him, saying, THIRD WITHDRAWAL FROM HEROD'S TERRITORY. E. HEALING THE DEMONIAC BOY. (Region of Caesarea Philippi.) Matthew 17:14-20; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-43
When they were come to the multitude. That is, when Jesus and the multitude met. See Mark 9:14.

17:20  And he saith unto them, Because of your little faith1: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed2, ye shall say unto this mountain3, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Because of your little faith. The failure of the disciples was not because of any insufficiency of power in Jesus, but was due to their own failure to appropriate that power by faith. The relation of belief and unbelief to miraculous power is fully illustrated in Peter's attempt to walk upon the waters (see Matthew 14:30). For comparison, see Mark 9:29.
If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed. The mustard seed was the proverbial type for the infinitely little. See Mark 4:32. Faith has such power with God that even little faith becomes well-nigh omnipotent in an age of miracles.
This mountain. Mount Hermon.

17:22  And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men1; RETURN TO GALILEE. THE PASSION FORETOLD. Matthew 17:22,23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:43-45
The Son of man shall be delivered up into the hands of men. See Mark 9:31. We have here two notes of time during which Jesus spoke of his passion. It was all the while he was in Galilee, between his return from Caesarea and his departure into Judea, for which see repeated, but was at a time when the marvels of his works strengthened the faith of the disciples so as to enable them to bear the instruction.

17:23  and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised up1. And they were exceeding sorry2.
The third day he shall be raised up. See Matthew 12:40.
And they were exceeding sorry. Peter's experience taught them not to attempt to correct Jesus while thus speaking, so there was nothing left for them but to grieve at his words.

17:24  And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the half-shekel came to Peter, and said, Doth not your teacher pay the half-shekel1? JESUS PAYS THE TRIBUTE MONEY. (Capernaum, Autumn, A.D. 29) Matthew 17:24-27
Doth not your teacher pay the half-shekel? The law of Moses required from every male of twenty years and upward the payment of a tax of half a shekel for the support of the temple (Exodus 30:12-16; 2 Chronicles 24:5,6). This tax was collected annually. We are told that a dispute existed between the Pharisees and Sadducees as to whether the payment of this tribute was voluntary or compulsory. The collectors of it may have thought that Jesus regarded its payment as voluntary, or they may have thought that Jesus considered himself exempt from it because he was so great a rabbi. Though this temple tax was usually collected in March, Lightfoot informs us that the payment of it was so irregular that its receivers kept two chests; in one of which was placed the tax for the current year, and in the other that for the year past. The demand was made upon Jesus at Capernaum because that was his residence, and it was not made sooner because of the wandering life which he led. It appears that since the first of April he had been in Capernaum only once for a brief period, probably no longer than a Sabbath day (John 6:22-24). The Jewish shekel answered to the Greek stater, which had been variously estimated as worth from 50 to 75 cents. The stater contained four drachmae, and a drachma was about equivalent to a Roman denarius, or 17 cents.

17:25  He saith, Yea1. And when he came into the house, Jesus spake first to him2, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute? from their sons, or from strangers?
He saith, Yea. Peter answered with his usual impulsive presumption. Probably he had known the tribute to be paid before out of the general fund held by Judas; or he may have assumed that Jesus would fulfill this as one of God's requirements.
Jesus spake first to him. Without waiting for him to tell what he had said.

17:26  And when he said, From strangers, Jesus said unto him, Therefore the sons are free1.
Therefore the sons are free. The argument is this: If the sons of kings are free from the payment of tribute, I, the Son of God, am free from God's tribute. The half-shekel was regarded as given to God (Josephus, Ant. 18:9.1)

17:27  But, lest we cause them to stumble1, go thou to the sea2, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up3; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Lest we cause them to stumble. Lest we be totally misunderstood, and be thought to teach that men should not pay this tribute to God.
Go thou to the sea. The Sea of Galilee.
And cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up, etc. Jesus paid the tribute in such a manner as to show that the whole realm of nature was tributary to him, and that he was indeed the Son of the great King. Some have thought that our Lord's beneficence, in paying Peter's tax also, was an evidence that Peter, too, was exempt from tribute. But the conclusion is not well drawn. Had this been intended, Jesus would have said "for us", and would not have used the words "for me and thee", which distinguished between the exempted Son and the unexempted subject. Though afterward Peter might possibly have claimed exemption as a child of God by adoption (John 1:12), he was not yet free from this duty to pay this tax.