first mentioned in the command (Ex 30:11-16) that every Jew from twenty years and upward should pay an annual tax of "half a shekel for an offering to the Lord." This enactment was faithfully observed for many generations (2Ch 24:6; Mt 17:24).
Afterwards, when the people had kings to reign over them, they began, as Samuel had warned them (1Sa 8:10-18), to pay taxes for civil purposes (1Ki 4:7; 9:15; 12:4). Such taxes, in increased amount, were afterwards paid to the foreign princes that ruled over them.
In the New Testament the payment of taxes, imposed by lawful rulers, is enjoined as a duty (Ro 13:1-7; 1Pe 2:13-14). Mention is made of the tax (telos) on merchandise and travellers (Mt 17:25); the annual tax (phoros) on property (Lu 20:22; 23:2); the poll-tax (kensos, "tribute," Mt 17:25; 22:17; Mr 12:14); and the temple-tax ("tribute money" = two drachmas = half shekel, Mt 17:24-27; comp. Ex 30:13). (See Tribute.)
(See PUBLICAN.) Each Israelite paid a half shekel as "atonement money" for the service of the tabernacle, the morning and evening sacrifice, the incense, wood, shewbread, red heifers, scape-goat, etc. (Ex 30:13). This became an annual payment on the return from Babylon; at first only a third of a shekel (Ne 10:32); afterward a half, the didrachma (Mt 17:24); paid by every Jew wherever in the world he might be (Josephus Ant. 18:9, section 1). Under kings the taxes were much increased: a tithe of the soil's produce and of cattle (1Sa 8:15,17); forced military service, a month every year (verse 12; 1Ki 9:22; 1Ch 27:1); gifts, nominally voluntary but really imperative (like the Old English "benevolences"), and expected, as at the beginning of a reign or in war (1Sa 10:27; 16:20; 17:18). Import duties on foreign articles (1Ki 10:15); monopolies of commerce; gold, linen from Egypt (1Ki 9:28; 10:28); the first cuttings of hay, "the king's mowings" (Am 7:1).
Exemption from taxes was deemed an ample reward for military service (1Sa 17:25). The taxes, not the idolatry, of Solomon caused the revolt under his son; and Adoram, as over the tribute, was the chief object, of hatred (1Ki 12:4,18). The Assyrian and Egyptian conquerors imposed heavy taxes on the Israelite and Jewish kings, Mendhem, Hoshea, Hezekiah, Josiah (2Ki 15:20; 17:4; 18:14; 23:35). Under the Persian Darius Hystaspes each satrap had to pay a fixed sum which he levied from the people with extortion. Judaea had to provide for the governor's household daily maintenance, besides 40 shekels a day (Ne 5:14-15). The three sources of revenue were:
(1) the mindah or "measured payment" or "toll," i.e. direct taxes;
(2) the excise on articles of consumption, "tribute," belo;
(3) "custom" (halak), payable at bridges, fords, and stations on the road (Ezr 4:13,20). The priests, Levites, singers, porters, and Nethinim were exempted by Artaxerxes (Ezr 7:24). The distress of the people by taxes and forced service is pathetically described (Ne 9:37). They mortgaged their lands to buy grain, and borrowed money at one per cent per month, i.e. 12 percent per year, to pay the king's tribute; failing payment they became slaves to their creditors. When Judaea fell under Rome, the taxes were farmed, namely, the "dues" (telos) at harbours and city gates, and the poll tax (census or epikephalaion); the lawfulness of the latter alone the rabbis questioned (Mt 22:17). Judas of Galilee raised a revolt against it (Josephus Ant. 18:1, section 6; B.J. 2:8, sec. 1). Besides there was a property tax, the registry and valuation for which took place at Christ's birth and was completed by Quirinus Cyrenius after Archelaus' deposition (Lu 2:1-2). (See CYRENIUS.) The Christian's rule is Mt 22:21; Ro 13:7.
I. Under the judges, according to the theocratic government contemplated by the law, the only payments incumbent upon the people as of permanent obligation were the Tithes, the Firstfruits, the Redemption-money of the first-born, and other offerings as belonging to special occasions. The payment by each Israelite of the half-shekel as "atonement-money," for the service of the tabernacle, on taking the census of the people,
does not appear to have had the character of a recurring tax, but to have been supplementary to the freewill offerings of
levied for the one purpose of the construction of the sacred tent. In later times, indeed, after the return from Babylon, there was an annual payment for maintaining the fabric and services of the temple; but the fact that this begins by of a shekel,
shows that till then there was no such payment recognized as necessary. A little later the third became a half, and under the name of the didrachma,
was paid by every Jew, in whatever part of the world he might be living. II. The kingdom, with centralized government and greater magnificence, involved of course, a larger expenditure, and therefore a heavier taxation, The chief burdens appear to have been-- (1) A tithe of the produce both of the soil and of live stock.
(2) Forced military service for a month every year.
(3) Gifts to the king.
(4) Import duties.
(5) The monopoly of certain-branches of commerce.
(6) The appropriation to the king's use of the early crop of hay.
At times, too, in the history of both the kingdoms there were special burdens. A tribute of fifty shekels a head had to be paid by Menahem to the Assyrian king,
and under his successor Hoshea this assumed the form of an annual tribute.
III. Under the Persian empire the taxes paid by the Jews were, in their broad outlines, the same in kind as those of other subject races. The financial system which gained for Darius Hystaspes the name of the "shopkeeper king" involved the payment by each satrap of a fixed sum as the tribute due from his province. In Judea, as in other provinces, the inhabitants had to provide in kind for the maintenance of the governor's household, besides a money payment of forty shekels a day.
In Ezra 4:13,20; 7:24 we get a formal enumeration of the three great branches of the revenue. The influence of Ezra secured for the whole ecclesiastical order, from the priests down to the Nethinim, an immunity from all three
but the burden pressed heavily on the great body of the people. IV. Under the Egyptian and Syrian kings the taxes paid by the Jews became yet heavier. The "farming" system of finance was adopted in its worst form. The taxes were put up to auction. The contract sum for those of Phoenicia, Judea and Samaria had been estimated at about 8000 talents. An unscrupulous adventurer would bid double that sum, and would then go down to the province, and by violence and cruelty, like that of Turkish or Hindoo collectors, squeeze out a large margin of profit for himself. V. The pressure of Roman taxation, if not absolutely heavier, was probably more galling, as being more thorough and systematic, more distinctively a mark of bondage. The capture of Jerusalem by Pompey was followed immediately by the imposition of a tribute, and within a short time the sum thus taken from the resources of the country amounted to 10,000 talents. When Judea became formally a Roman province, the whole financial system of the empire came as a natural consequence. The taxes were systematically farmed, and the publicans appeared as a new curse to the country. The portoria were levied at harbors, piers and the gates of cities.
In addition to this there was the poll-tax paid by every Jew, and looked upon, for that reason, as the special badge of servitude. United with this, as part of the same system, there was also, in all probability, a property tax of some kind. In addition to these general taxes, the inhabitants of Jerusalem were subject to a special house duty about this period.