The dialogue about the Roman coin (Mt 22:19-22:21)

“Jesus said.

‘Show me the coin

Used for the tax.’

They brought him

A denarius.

He said to them.

‘Whose image is this?

Whose inscription title is this?’

They answered.

‘Caesar’s.’

Then he said to them.

‘Give therefore

To emperor Caesar

The things that are

The emperor’s.

Give to God

The things that

Are God’s.’”

 

ἐπιδείξατέ μοι τὸ νόμισμα τοῦ κήνσου. οἱ δὲ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δηνάριον.

καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς Τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή;

λέγουσιν· Καίσαρος. τότε λέγει αὐτοῖς Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ.

 

There is something similar in Mark, chapter 12:15-17, and in Luke, chapter 20:24-25.  Jesus wanted to see the coin that was used for paying the poll tax (ἐπιδείξατέ μοι τὸ νόμισμα τοῦ κήνσου).  They brought or presented him with a small silver Roman coin, a denarius (οἱ δὲ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δηνάριον).  He then asked them (καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς) whose image and whose inscription title (Τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή) were on this coin?  They answered (λέγουσιν) that the image and inscription belonged to Caesar (Καίσαρος).  Then Jesus responded to them (τότε λέγει αὐτοῖς) by telling them to give to the Roman emperor Caesar the things that belonged to the emperor (Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι).  At the same time, they should give to God the things that belong to God (καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ).  With this ambiguous answer, Jesus avoided offending Jewish nationalists and the Roman Empire party and its officials.  Thus, the Roman and Jewish parties were both satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time.  If everything belonged to God, do not pay this tax.  If everything belonged to the Roman empire, pay the tax.  The choice was theirs.  He was not going to tell them what to do.  This statement of Jesus has become the basic Christian understanding of the relationships of church and state.

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The bad leaders (Zeph 3:3-3:4)

“The officials within her

Are roaring lions.

Her judges

Are evening wolves.

They leave nothing

Until the morning.

Her prophets

Are reckless persons.

They are faithless persons.

Her priests

Have profaned

What is sacred.

They have done violence

To the law.”

Zephaniah rebuked not only the city, but the leaders in the city of Jerusalem.  Their officials were like roaring lions.  Their judges were like evening wolves preying on people at night.  Their prophets were reckless faithless people.  Their priests profaned the sacred things, by doing violence to the law of Yahweh.

Everyone is evil (Mic 7:3-7:4)

“Their hands are skilled

To do evil.

The official

Asks for a bribe.

The judge

Asks for a bribe.

The powerful

Dictate

What they desire.

Thus,

They pervert justice.

The best of them is

Like a brier.

The most upright

Of them is

Like a thorn hedge.

The day of their sentinels,

Of their punishment,

Has come.

Now their confusion

Is at hand.”

Micah thought that everyone was evil.  The officialsand judges did things only if they got bribes.  The powerful people did whatever they wanted to do, since they all perverted justice.  The best and most upright of them were like a briar patch or a thorn hedge.  The day of punishment was announced.  Thus, they were in a state of confusion.

The future destruction of Israel (Am 3:13-3:15)

“‘Hear!

Testify

Against the house of Jacob!’

Says Yahweh God!

The God of hosts!

‘On the day

That I punish Israel

For its transgressions,

I will punish

The altars of Bethel.

The horns of the altar

Shall be cut off.

They shall fall

To the ground.

I will tear down

The winter house,

As well as the summer house.

The houses of ivory

Shall perish.

The great houses

Shall come to an end.’

Says Yahweh.”

Amos has this oracle of Yahweh, the God of many hosts or heavenly armies, about the future destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. Yahweh wanted them to hear and testify against the house of Jacob. On the day that he was going to punish them, he was going to destroy the altars at Bethel, the holy shrine, with its altar horns. He also was going to tear down the many great houses in Israel, including the winter and summer homes of the officials of the northern kingdom, even the ivory houses.

They have turned against God (Hos 7:14-7:16)

“They do not cry to me

From the heart.

But they wail

Upon their beds.

They gash themselves

For grain,

For wine.

They rebel against me.

I trained them.

I strengthened

Their arms.

Yet they devise evil

Against me.

They turn to Baal,

A useless unprofitable god.

They have become

Like a defective bow.

Their officials

Shall fall

By the sword,

Because of the rage

Of their tongues.

So much for babbling

In the land of Egypt.”

The Israelites were not crying out to Yahweh from their hearts. Instead they were weeping and wailing in their own beds. They gashed themselves that had been forbidden by the law of Moses, hoping for grain and wine. They had rebelled against Yahweh. Yet it was Yahweh who had trained them and strengthened their arms. However, they continually devised evil against Yahweh, turning to the useless Baal gods. They had become defective bows that could not shoot arrows. Thus, their officials would fall by the sword. Their raging tongues sent them babbling to the Egyptians.

The adulterous conspirators (Hos 7:3-7:4)

“By their wickedness,

They make the king glad.

They make the officials glad

By their treachery.

They are all adulterers.

They are like a heated oven,

Whose baker does not need

To stir the fire,

From the kneading

Of the dough

Until it is leavened.”

There was a conspiracy of silence. The wicked actions of many made the king happy. The officials gladly accepted treacherous talk. They were all adulterers. There was a time between the kneading or the forming of the dough until the fermentation or leavening of the bread, when the oven was at its hottest point. Thus, the baker would not have to stir the fire, because it was so hot. So too, their wicked ways made them hot.

The assembly at the statue dedication (Dan 3:3-3:3)

“Then the satraps,

The prefects,

The governors,

The counselors,

The treasurers,

The justices,

The magistrates,

All the officials

Of the provinces,

Assembled

For the dedication

Of the statue

That King Nebuchadnezzar

Had set up.

They stood before

The statue

That King Nebuchadnezzar

Had set up.”

Guess what! All these officials showed up for the dedication of this statue. The satraps, the prefects, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered around the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They all understood that the request was really an order to show up.