“When they reached
Of the temple tax
Came to Peter.
‘Does your teacher
Not pay the tax?’
Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα;
This section about the temple tax is unique to Matthew. Jesus and his disciples had come back to Capernaum (Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ). The collectors of the temple tax came to Peter (προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ). Once again, this is an indication of Peter’s leadership. They asked him if his teacher had paid the temple tax (καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα). Peter responded that Jesus did pay the tax with a simple yes answer (λέγει Ναί). What is this temple tax? It actually was a half-shekel or “δίδραχμα – didrachma.” All the Israelite males over the age of 20 had to pay this half-shekel tax to the Jerusalem temple, once a year, sometime in March around Passover time. In Capernaum, there was no temple, just a synagogue. However, this might have been a group that was collecting for the temple tax in Jerusalem for those who were not going to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. The value of a shekel would have been around $5.00 USA, so that each male had to pay about $2.50, not a big deal for a once a year tax. This incident probably made more sense in Jerusalem itself.
“Four things on earth are small.
Yet they are exceedingly wise.
The ants are a people without strength.
Yet they provide their food in the summer.
The badgers are a people without power.
Yet they make their homes in the rocks.
The locusts have no king.
Yet all of them march in rank.
The lizard can be grasped in the hand.
Yet it is found in kings’ palaces.”
The next mention is about 4 wise small animals: 1) ants, 2) badgers, 3) locusts, and 4) lizards. There are 2 that are actually insects, ants and locusts. The ants and the badgers are called people. There seems to have been a preoccupation with ants since they were able to get their food in the summer. The badgers make their homes in rocks even though they are not powerful. The locusts obviously do not have a king, but they march like in army ranks. In fact, the ants are also organized. Finally, the small lizards can be found in the palaces of kings. All of these small animals and insects can teach us humans a lesson about working together without much individual strength.
“When they had gone more than a mile from there, on their march against Timothy, at least five thousand Arabs with five hundred cavalry attacked them. After a hard fight Judas Maccabeus and his companions, with God’s help, were victorious. The defeated nomads begged Judas Maccabeus to grant them pledges of friendship, promising to give livestock. They promised to help his people in all other ways. Judas Maccabeus, realizing that they might indeed be useful in many ways, agreed to make peace with them. After receiving his pledges, they went back to their tents.”
This episode is not linked with the preceding episodes on the coast because this takes place on the east side of the Jordan River. This is more about the battles with Timothy, even though it says that they were only a mile away. In fact, it is fairly similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 5. 5,000 Arabs and 500 cavalry attacked Judas Maccabeus and his troops. With God’s help he was victorious. However, the defeated nomads wanted to make friends with Judas Maccabeus. They promised to give him livestock and be helpful in other ways. Judas Maccabeus realized that they might be useful. Thus he made peace with them. This is one of the few stories where the defeated people begged for peace and Judas Maccabeus agreed to it. Otherwise, he normally just wiped them out.