Fish With Money In Its Mouth

[The Bible is an “Eastern” book.  It was written many years ago in the “East” which today we refer to as “The Middle East.”  As such, there are many customs and idioms that are not familiar to the “Western” mind.]

There is an interesting story in the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus sends Peter to catch a fish.  Jesus told Peter that there would be money in the fish’s mouth and that they would then use that money to pay the tribute tax.

Now some may wonder, especially if you like to go fishing, how could there be money in a fish’s mouth?  Many answer that question by saying that God, by way of a miracle, just put some money in that fish’s mouth.

Once again, understanding the eastern culture in which the Bible was written helps us to understand the story.

Musht Fish

musht_fishThere is a fish in the east called the Musht.  It is a small fish about six inches long with a large head.  It also has what you would call a bag, or a pouch under its mouth.

I have read that after new Musht hatch, the parents keep the new fish in the pouch for a short while to protect them.  Then when it is time, the parent fish will begin to pick up pebbles from the bottom of the sea and put them into the pouch.  This is done so the new fish will not be so comfortable – it’s time for them to leave home!

These Musht fish basically eat plankton, so at certain times of the year you can find them in very shallow water.  At times they do pick up shiny items.  Coins, gold or diamonds are shiny items.

How Do Coins Get In The Water?

In Bible times offerings to God were taken very seriously.  There were those who wanted to give an offering but did not want to receive any recognition for it.  Many believed that if you received praise from men then you had already received your reward now in this world.  They wanted to receive their reward in the next world.

So, in order to keep it private, many would throw their offerings into the waters.  Throwing their offerings into what were considered “holy waters” would be best.  But, depending on where one would be, any water would do.

3 Coins In A Fountaintrevifountain-2

Today there is a tradition of throwing coins into a fountain for “good luck.”  Perhaps the most famous is the Trevi Fountain in Rome.  When I saw it last year there were a lot of coins in there.  In fact, they say that approximately 3,000 Euros are thrown into that fountain each day.

Many believe this tradition of throwing coins into fountains goes way back to Biblical times when offerings were thrown into “holy waters.”  The Ganges River is considered a holy river.  Many years ago someone estimated there was more wealth, from years and years of offerings, in that river than in all India.

Peter Sent To Catch A Fish

In the Bible account that we are considering, Jesus told Peter to go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the first fish that came up.  He went on to tell him that when he opened the fish’s mouth he would find a piece of money.

This must have been exciting for Peter.  He was a fisherman.  He knew it was possible for this type of fish to have a coin.  He also knew it was pretty rare to catch one that had a coin.  The Bible doesn’t say if he had ever caught one of these and found a coin before.

The Miracle

It was not a miracle that the fish had a coin.  The miracle was that it was the first fish that Peter caught.  Can you imagine him there all afternoon on the shore; casting in his hook, catching a fish, checking for a coin, and finding nothing?

But Peter didn’t argue. He didn’t doubt.  He believed what Jesus told him.

We too can have confidence in God’s promises.  We can accept that what God has promised us is true.  We don’t need to doubt, we just need to believe that He can and will supply all our needs.

Matthew 17:24-27
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

Notwithstanding, 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 shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

Feel free to leave a comment, even if it’s a fishing story of your own. I have a few of those and maybe you do too.  We’d love to hear what you have to say.

For more “Eastern Eye” articles, Click Here, or click The Eastern Eye tab above.

Mike Verdicchio

There are a number of books that you can read to get insight on customs, manners, idioms and meanings from the eastern culture in which the Bible was written.  The best I know of were written by by Bishop K. C. Pillai.  I have had the pleasure of listening to recorded teaching by him.

He wrote three books, and they are hard to find, and are usually over priced.  But, if you want to you can check this link to see what Amazon has to offer.  Light Through an Eastern Window

Another great resource that I have used for years is a book called, “Manners and Customs of the Bible,” by James Freeman. Mine was printed in 1972 and I know they have newer additions. For the newest edition, just click the link and it will take you to Amazon. The New Manners and Customs of the Bible (Pure Gold Classics)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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28 thoughts on “Fish With Money In Its Mouth

  1. Hi Jungle Bug!
    Thanks for the comment; I am so glad the info was helpful for your class presentation.
    Browse the blog any time you like, and be sure to subscribe so you can get a free lifetime membership to “Enriching Your Life Now.”
    God bless you,

  2. So why didn’t Jesus just tell Peter to go look under a rock behind the building? I wonder what went through Peter’s mind as he left to find the tackle, walk the distance to the sea, catch the fish, and walk back to the temple. After all Peter had seen Jesus pull of some miracles already and do provide the money in this way, as cool as it may seem, does sound time comsuming to Peter. Just a thought. Be blessed.Mark

  3. Hi Mark!
    Thanks for leaving your comment.
    I really don’t know how time consuming it was; perhaps there wasn’t any money under any rocks nearby. The real miracle was that it was the first fish that came up that would have a coin.
    God bless you,

  4. I was looking this up as a reference to the story to see where in the Bible the story is. I was blessed by what I read it brought more depth to the scripture for me. So I thank you for that. My neice and I had a situation of not being paid for some work we had started on but not yet completed. The contractor we had started the job for never brought us in to finish the job and did not answer my calls. The Lord told me after sveral attempts to get in touch with the man, to go out to the jobsite. So we did. On the way there I started talking negatively about the situation and about having to pawn some of my stuff just to pay my bills. God pulled me up on it with the story of Peter and the fish! I told my neice that story and how we needed to stretch our faith like that, and we spoke that Faith into the situation. When we got there the man was onsite. He apologized , and we learned that because of his own personal situation the job had stopped. It gave us the opportunity to resolve everything. He went to his truck, got out his check book and asked how much he owed us for the entire job.Praise God ! He paid us right there on the spot at a higher rate, and we have not yet completed the job! God is so Amazing…He is.

  5. You are so right, Sam. God is just amazing and so awesome!
    Glad this was helpful, and glad you found this blog.

  6. I am so exiced about the fish with the money tn his mouth and what jesus said the first fish praise god: what evevr he said DO IT AND I BELIEVE THAT, im a sundayschool teacher and i love the LORD. BECOUTH HE FIRST LOVE ME.

  7. I was just reading this scripture and it puzzled me as to why Jesus decided to obtain money this way. I guess he could have asked Judas to provide it from the money bag he was in charge of but that was perhaps too easy. The challenge was personal to Jesus about Him paying tribute; so the idea of Jesus using one of the coins offered to God might be a possible explanation. Someone had offered it to God and Jesus was simply using this as his personal tribute! A thought.

  8. Philip,
    Thanks for your thought. It is really miraculous that the first fish Peter caught did indeed have money. Very cool.

  9. This morning I opened my bible as I always do. I’ve been under financial troubles now for two years. I’ve never encounter this passage before and this morning I needed to go to my daughter’s school to sign her lease. I needed a miracle when I got there. To my surprise the Lease Agents were so nice to us and we were able to get an apartment for September 9, 2011. We did not need to leave a deposit. We will be contacted for the amount on September the 9th. I’m looking for God to pay the deposit and the first month rent for us and that will truly be our miracle. Thank you so much for this site and may God continue to blessed you. I will be working on my FAITH because as a Seventh Day Adventist I hate to admit it but my FAITH is weak. I always think I can do things on my own and make a mess each and every time. Please send me so material on Faith so I can build it for my everyday use.

  10. Hi Josephine, thanks for the kind words. There is a lot of information on this site about “faith,” or, confidence in God. On the home page on the right column, check out the posts regarding “Confidence.”
    Don’t be so hard on yourself – none of us are perfect – just remember that because of what Christ accomplished for us, nothing can separate you from God’s love!

  11. Jews were free, so they had to pay tribute (taxes), Romans were citizens and did not pay tribute.

    The fish was free and got caught on the hook (The faith caught a new believer) so the fish (underwater, subconscious) had to pay tribute with silver out of her mouth to become a citizen of the next world.

    “To speak is silver, to be quiet is gold” When you have let out all your sins and spoken the truth, you can become a citizen of the next world.

  12. Mrs X, the world that is to come is one I anticipate greatly – it shall begin when we meet the returning Son of God, Jesus Christ in the air, and so shall we ever be with him!

  13. Taxes are paid today as were paid by Our Lord and Peter during their time- Matt. 17. The mistry is why by a coin from the fish’s mouth? Woudn’t Jesus not have known who threw the coin in the water and returned it to him instead of asking Peter to use the coin for paying their Taxes? I come from around a Lake in Africa, I have observed fishermen closely, they normally sell their catch just at the lake shore and the kind of fish like tilapia(which I suppose Peter caught) normally they hook the index finger on one side of the operculum thus opening the mouth upwards while pricing the fish to the buyer.Immediately they get the money. This, I think what Peter did.Jesus told a professional fisherman,catch the fish,sell it,get the money and pay our taxes.Amen.

  14. Paul, thanks for your comment, although what you said is a bit of a stretch from what the scriptures themselves say. Jesus instructed Peter that the first fish that would come up on his hook, he would find a piece of money. There is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that Peter was to sell any fish.

  15. Mike,thanks for your very well taken guide and I don’t want to stretch too much.However, what I wanted to say is that,Jesus (talked alot in parables)He talked to Peter, a professional fisherman turned disciple. Peter, had earned his living by fishing and to a fisherman any fish hooked from the water is to them money. Our Lord knew this too well! could I asked,if Peter had to get only the coin from the first fish’s mouth,what did he do with the fish itself?

  16. Well, Paul, the Bible doesn’t say what he did with the fish. We know what he did with the money. And, as a wise man once told me, “If the Bible doesn’t tell us, then we just don’t know.”

  17. Also, was it possible pagans were throwing coins in the waters just as they do today? This is what was explained by a former satanist recently (but it was not to explain this bible verse). He said in some villages people worship “water gods” and even drop their newborns in the water and if they live they know the water spirit accepts them. People should not be throwing coins in the water today for “good luck”. This is only serving water “spirits”
    The bible said bring the tithe, coins, money to the storehouse to have food in his house Malachi 3:10. Not toss it in the water, where it’s useless.

    • Thanks for your comment, Casey.
      Obviously, money in the water is indeed useless; the purpose of money is so that it can be used as a means of exchange. It is my understanding of the culture that those who did not want anyone to know what they were giving would throw it in the water, knowing that someone from the Temple would collect it so that it could be used for God’s purposes.

  18. Hi Mike, In my dream last night there were two beautiful fish and coins were in their mouths…Also, my male friend was crying…It has left me pondering what does it mean?

  19. I really love the miracle of the coin in d fish. It shows that nothing is impossible for God to do. It means our faith shld be strong. Peter’s obedience is also a lesson for us all. The amazing thing is that d money shld be used to pay for His tribute and Peter’s also. It is a miracle that should be remembered always that God is able to cater for His own. We shouldn’t belittle this miracle cos it is so powerful. I really like the testimonies given by Josephine and Sam, they strengthened my faith. God bless you all

    • Busayo, you are so right – nothing is impossible for our God; He can make a way when there is no way. God bless you.

  20. I must say we need to recommend Peter’s faith because he never doubted and he received the coin. This was not only proving Jesus who is but for us to have faith. Jesus had nothing to prove himself to us that he is son of God as he has said that he is, but he proved to us that faith conquers. He asked his followers to believe that he is son of God and have faith to what he tell them. We are challenged by Peters action and the word that is before us.

    • Patrick, you are right, it is really inspiring to see Peter just believe Jesus, period – what an example!
      God bless you.

  21. Thank you! Very insightful! I appreciate the background, customs, and additional understanding. And I like that even after learning how the coin may have been in the fish already that it doesn’t lessen God’s miracle. Thank you for sharing!