The Half Shekel In The New Testament

(Matt. 17:24-27).

That the half shekel is in the New Testament is new to many of the Lord’s people. Those who use the Revised Version will most likely have seen it. In this passage, those who gathered the half shekel, came to Peter and asked him, “Doth not your Master pay the half shekel? Peter replied “Yes.” So poor Peter has made another blunder, but it is a very sad one, for by it he has lowered his Master to the level of a sinner, who needed redemption. Well we know that Peter would have revolted at such a thought, but nevertheless that was what he had done. When he came into the house full of this thing and ready to tell the Lord what had just transpired, the Lord just let a beam of His Deity flash upon Peter, by anticipating him. Just as much as if He said, “I know all about it Peter.” He put a question to Peter, “What thinkest thou Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children or of strangers? Peter replied, “Of strangers.” Then the Lord said, “Then are the children free.” (The point here is that evidently the half shekel is continued down this time for the upkeep of the temple. See 2 Kings 12:4). Our Lord uses the illustration of kings taxing their subjects to keep up their palaces, but the children were exempt. So the temple was His Father’s house and He was free. This was His unique glory.

Having thus asserted His dignity, He says, “Notithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shall find a shekel; that take and give unto them for Me and thee.” What grace and glory shines out here. Creation’s Lord, to whom the fish yields obedience, stoops to pay the half shekel linking Peter with Himself. Thus Peter’s mistake is used to bring out one of the most beautiful pictures in all the Word of God. Peter one with His Lord by redemption. “That give for Me and thee.”

When the Israelite passed the place where the atonement money was received, and paid his half shekel, he could say, “I have been redeemed, the ransom has been paid.” So the very moment the sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ he can take up the words of the well known hymn:—

I’m redeemed, I’m redeemed, I’m redeemed,
By the blood of the Lamb that was slain.

The silver gotten from the men of Israel as atonement money was used in making the sockets, 96 for the boards and 4 for the pillars of the vail. Each board sat on two sockets, which weighed 114 lbs. each, a solid foundation surely, and a precious one as well, making a good picture of what we read in Isa. 28:16 of our Lord Jesus. “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”