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Census,


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a term that does not occur in the A. V. (although it is found in the original text of the N.T. in the Greek form κῆνσος, "tribute," Matthew 17:25, etc.), while the act denoted by it is several times referred to both in the Hebrews and Gr. Scriptures (מַפְקָד, or פְּקֻדִּה, "numbering" combined with lustration, from פָּקִד, to survey in order to purge, Gesenius, Thes. p. 1120; Sept. ἀριθμός ; N.T. ἀπογραφή ); Vulg. dinumeratio, descriptio). (See POPULATION).

I. Jewish. Moses laid down the law (Exodus 30:12-13) that whenever the people were numbered an offering of half a shekel should be made by every man above twenty years of age, by way of atonement or propitiation. A previous law had also ordered that the first-born of man and of beast should be set apart, as well as the first-fruits of agricultural produce; the first to be redeemed, and the rest, with one exception, offered to God (Exodus 13:12-13; Exodus 22:29). The idea of lustration in connection with numbering predominated also in the Roman census (Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Lustrum), and among Mohammedan nations at the present day a prejudice exists against numbering their possessions, especially the fruits of the field (Hay, Western Barbary, p. 15; Crichton, Arabia, 2:180; see also Lane, Mod. Egypt. 2:72, 73). The instances of numbering recorded in the O.T. are as follows:

1. Under the express direction of God (Exodus 38:26), in the third or fourth month after the Exodus, during the encampment at Sinai, chiefly for the purpose of raising money for the Tabernacle. The numbers then taken amounted to 603,550 men, which may be presumed to express with greater precision the round numbers of 600,000 who are said to have left Egypt at first (Exodus 12:37).

2. Again, in the second month of the second year after the Exodus (Numbers 1:2-3). This census was taken for a double purpose:

(a.) To ascertain the number of fighting men from the age of 20 to 50 (Joseph. Ant. 3:12, 4). The total number on this occasion, exclusive of the Levites, amounted at this time also to 603,550 (Numbers 2:32); Josephus says 603,650: each tribe was numbered, and placed under a special leader, the head of the tribe.

(b.) To ascertain the amount of the redemption-offering due on account of all the first-born, both of persons and cattle. Accordingly, the numbers were taken of all the first-born male persons of the whole nation above one month old, including all of the tribe of Levi of the same age. The Levites, whose numbers amounted to 22,000, were taken in lieu of the first-born males of the rest of Israel, whose numbers were 22,273, and for the surplus of 273 a money payment of 1365 shekels, or 5 shekels each, was made to Aaron and his sons (Numbers 3:39; Numbers 3:51).

If the numbers in our present copies, from which those given by Josephus do not materially differ, be correct, it seems likely that these two numberings were in fact one, but applied to different purposes. We can hardly otherwise account for the identity of numbers even within the few months of interval (Calmet on Numbers 1; Kitto, Pictorial Bible, ib.). It may be remarked that the system of appointing head men in each tribe as leaders, as well as the care taken in preserving the pedigrees of the families, corresponds with the practice of the Arab tribes at the present day (Crichton, Arabia, 2:185,186; Niebuhr, Descr. de l'Arabie, p. 14; Buckingham, Arab Tribes, p. 88; Jahn, Hist. bk. 2:8, 11; Malcolm, Sketches of Persia, 14:157, 159).

3. Another numbering took place 38 years afterwards, previous to the entrance into Canaan, when the total number, excepting the Levites, amounted to 601,730 males, showing a decrease of 1870. All the tribes presented an increase, except Reuben, which had decreased 2770; Simeon, 37,100; Gad, 5150; Ephraim and Naphtali. 8000 each. The tribe of Levi had increased 727 ( Numbers 26). The great diminution which took place in the tribe of Simeon may probably be assigned to the plague consequent on the misconduct of Zimri (Calmet on Numbers 25:9). On the other hand, the chief instances of increase are found in Manasseh of 20,500; Benjamin, 10,200; Asher, 11,900; and Issachar, 9900. None were numbered at this census who had been above 20 years of age at the previous one in the second year, excepting Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 26:63-65).

4. The next formal numbering of the whole people was in the reign of David, who in a moment of presumption, contrary to the advice of Joab, gave orders to number the people without requiring the statutable offering of a half-shekel. The men of Israel above 20 years of age were 800,000, and of Judah 500,000; total, 1,300,000. The book of Chronicles gives the numbers of Israel 1,100,000, and of Judah 470,000; total, 1,570,000; but informs us that Levi and Benjamin were not numbered (1 Chronicles 21:6; 1 Chronicles 27:24). Josephus gives the numbers of Israel and Judah respectively 900,000 and 400,000 (2 Samuel 24:1; 2 Samuel 24:9; and Calmet, in loc.; 1 Chronicles 21:1; 1 Chronicles 21:5; 1 Chronicles 27:24; Joseph. Ant. 7:13, 1).

5. The census of David was completed by Solomon, by causing the foreigners and remnants of the conquered nations resident within Palestine to be numbered. Their number amounted to 153,600, and they were employed in forced labor on his great architectural works (Joshua 9:27; 1 Kings 5:15; 1 Kings 9:20-21; 1 Chronicles 22:2; 2 Chronicles 2:17-18).

Between this time and the Captivity, mention is made of the numbers of armies under successive kings of Israel and Judah, from which may be gathered with more or less probability, and with due consideration of the circumstances of the times as influencing the numbers of the levies, estimates of the population at the various times mentioned.

6. Rehoboam collected from Judah and Benjamin 180,000 men to fight against Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:21).

7. Abijah, with 400,000 men, made war on Jeroboam with 800,000, of whom 500,000 were slain (2 Chronicles 13:3; 2 Chronicles 13:17).

8. Asa had an army of 300,000 men from Judah, and 280,000 (Josephus says 250,000) from Benjamin, with which he defeated Zerah the Ethiopian, with an army of 1,000,000 (2 Chronicles 14:8-9; Josephus, Ant. 8:12, 1).

9. Jehoshaphat, besides men in garrisons, had under arms 1,160,000 men, including perhaps subject foreigners (2 Chronicles 17:14-19; Jahn, Hist. 5:37).

10. Amaziah had from Judah and Benjamin 300,000, besides 100,000 mercenaries from Israel (2 Chronicles 25:5-6).

11. Uzziah could bring into the field 307,500 men (307,000, Josephus), well armed, under 2600 officers (2 Chronicles 26:11-15; Joseph. Ant. 9:10, 3).

Besides these more general statements, we have other and partial notices of numbers indicating population. Thus, a. Gideon from 4 tribes collected 32,000 men (Judges 6:35; Judges 7:3). b. Jephthah put to death 42,000 Ephraimites (Judges 12:6). The numbers of Ephraim 300 years before were 32,500 (Numbers 26:37). c. Of Benjamin 25,000 were slain at the battle of Gibeah, by which slaughter, and that of the inhabitants of its cities, the tribe was reduced to 600 men. Its numbers in the wilderness were 45,600 (Numbers 26:41; Judges 20:35; Judges 20:46). d. The number of those who joined David after Saul's death, besides the tribe of Issachar, was 340,922 (1 Chronicles 12:23-38). e. At the time when Jehoshaphat could muster 1,160,000 men, Ahab in Israel could only bring 7000 against the Syrians (1 Kings 20:15). f. The numbers carried captive to Babylon, B.C. 598-82, from Judah are said (2 Kings 24:14; 2 Kings 24:16) to have been from 8000 to 10,000, by Jeremiah 4600 (Jeremiah 52:30).

12. The number of those who returned with Zerubbabel in the first caravan is reckoned at 42,360 (Ezra 2:64), but of these perhaps 12,542 belonged to other tribes than Judah and Benjamin. It is thus that the difference between the total (Ezra 5:64) and the several details is to be accounted for. The purpose of this census, which does not materially differ from the statement in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 7), was to settle with reference to the year of Jubilee the inheritances in the Holy Land, which had been disturbed by the Captivity, and also to ascertain the family genealogies, and ensure, as far as possible, the purity of the Jewish race (Ezra 2:59; Ezra 10:2; Ezra 10:8; Ezra 10:18; Ezra 10:44; Leviticus 25:10).

In the second caravan the number was 1496. Women and children are in neither case included (Ezra 8:1-14).

It was probably for kindred objects that the pedigrees and enumerations which occupy the first 9 chapters of the 1st book of Chronicles were either composed before the Captivity, or compiled afterwards from existing records by Ezra and others (1 Chronicles 4:28; 1 Chronicles 4:32; 1 Chronicles 4:39; 1 Chronicles 5:9; 1 Chronicles 6:57; 1 Chronicles 6:81; 1 Chronicles 7:28; 1 Chronicles 9:2). In the course of these we meet with notices of the numbers of the tribes, but at what periods is uncertain. Thus Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh are set down at 44,760 (1 Chronicles 5:18), Issachar at 87,000 (1 Chronicles 7:5), Benjamin 59,434 (1 Chronicles 7:7; 1 Chronicles 7:9; 1 Chronicles 7:11), Asher 26,000 (1 Chronicles 7:40). Besides, there are to be reckoned priests, Levites, and residents at Jerusalem from the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh (1 Chronicles 9:3).

Throughout all these accounts two points are clear.

1. That great pains were taken to ascertain and register the numbers of the Jewish people at various times for the reasons mentioned above.

2. That the numbers given in some cases can with difficulty be reconciled with other numbers of no very distant date, as well as with the presumed capacity of the country for supporting population.

Thus the entire male population above 20 years of age, excepting Levi and Benjamin, at David's census, is given as 1,300,000, or 1,570,000 (2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21), strangers 153,600; total, 1.453,600, or 1,723,000. These numbers (the excepted tribes being borne in mind) represent a population of not less than 4 times this amount, or at least 5,814,000, of whom not less than 2,000,000 belonged to Judah alone (2 Samuel 24:9). About 100 years after, Jehoshaphat was able to gather from Judah and Benjamin (including subject foreigners) an army of 1,160,000, besides garrisons, representing a population of 4,640,000. Fifty years later, Amaziah could only raise 300,000 from the same 2 tribes, and 27 years after this, Uzziah had 307,500 men and 2600 officers. Whether the number of the foreigners subject to Jehoshaphat constitutes the difference at these periods must remain uncertain.

To compare these estimates with the probable capacity of the country, the whole area of Palestine, including the trans-Jordanic tribes, so far as it is possible to ascertain their limits, may be set down as not exceeding 11000 square miles; Judah and Benjamin at 3135, and Galilee at 930 square miles. The population, making allowance for the excepted tribes, would thus be not less than 530 to the square mile. This considerably exceeds the ratio in most European countries, and even of many of the counties of England. But while, on the one hand, great doubt rests on the genuineness of numerical expressions in O.T., it must be considered, on the other, that the readings on which our version is founded give, with trifling variations, the same results as those presented by the Sept. and by Josephus (Jahn, 5:36; Glasse, Philippians Sacr. de caussis corruptionis, 1, § 23; vol. 2, p. 189). (See NUMBER).

In the list of cities occupied by the tribe of Judah, including Simeon, are found 123 "with their villages," and by Benjamin 26. Of one city, Ai, situate in Benjamin, which like many, if not all the others, was walled, we know that the population, probably exclusive of children, was 12,000, while of Gibeon it is said that it was larger than Ai (Joshua 8:25; Joshua 8:29; Joshua 10:2; Joshua 15:21-62; Joshua 18:21; Joshua 18:28; Joshua 19:1-9). If these "cities" may be taken as samples of the rest, it is clear that Southern Palestine, at least, was very populous before the entrance of the people of Israel.

But Josephus, in his accounts (1.) of the population of Galilee in his own time, and (2.) of the numbers congregated at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, shows a large population inhabiting Palestine. He says there were many cities in Galilee; besides villages, of which the least, whether cities or villages is not quite certain, had not less than 15,000 inhabitants (War, 3:3, 2 and 4; comp. Tacit. Hist. 5:8). After the defeat of Cestius, A.D. 66, before the formal outbreak of the war, a census taken at Jerusalem by the priests, of the numbers assembled there for the Passover, founded on the number of lambs sacrificed, compared with the probable number of persons partaking, gave 2,700,000 persons, besides foreigners and those who were excluded by ceremonial defilement (see Tacit. Hist. 5:12). In the siege itself 1,100,000 perished, and during the war 97,000 were made captives. Besides these many deserted to the Romans, and were dismissed by them (War, 6:8, 9, 3). These numbers, on any supposition of foreign influx (ὁμόφυλον ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἐπιχώριον ) imply a large native population; and 63 years later, in the insurrection of Barchochebas, Dion Cassius says that 50 fortified towns and 980 villages were destroyed, and 580,000 persons were slain in war, besides a countless multitude who perished by famine, fire, and disease, so that Palestine became almost depopulated (Dion Cass. 69:14).

Lastly, there are abundant traces throughout the whole of Palestine of a much higher rate of fertility in former as compared with present times a fertility remarked by profane writers, and of which the present neglected state of cultivation affords no test. This, combined with the positive divine promises of populousness, increases the probability of at least approximate correctness in the foregoing estimates of population (Tacit. Hist. 5:6; Amm. Marc. 14:8; Josephus, War. 3:3; Jerome on Ezekiel 20, and Rabbinical authorities in Reland, 100. 26; Shaw, Travels, 2, pt. 2, 100. 1, p. 336, 340, and 275; Hasselquist, Travels, p. 120, 127, 130; Stanley, Palest. p. 120, 374; Kitto, Phys. Geogr. p. 33; Raumer, Palä stina, p. 8, 80, 83, App. 9. Comp. Genesis 13:16; Genesis 22:17; Numbers 23:10; 1 Kings 4:20; Acts 12:20). See Meiner, De Hebraeorum censibus (Langens. 1764-66); Zeibich, De censibus Hebraeorum (Gera, 1764-6). (See PALESTINE).

II. Roman. This, under the Republic, consisted, so far as the present purpose is concerned, of an enrolment of persons and property by tribes and households. Every paterfamilias was required to appear before the censors, and give his own name and his father's; if married, that of his wife, and the number and ages of his children; after this, an account and valuation of his property, on which a tax was then imposed. By the lists thus obtained every man's position in the state was regulated. After these duties had been performed, a lustrum, or solemn purification of the people, followed, but not always immediately (Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Census. See Dionys. 4:15, 22; Cicero, de Legg. 3:3; Clinton, Fast. Hell. 3, p. 457, 100:10). The census was taken, more or less regularly, in the provinces, under the republic, by provincial censors, and the tribute regulated at their discretion (Cicero, Verr. 2, lib. 2:53, 56), but no complete census was made before the time of Augustus, who carried out three general inspections of this kind, viz. (1.) B.C. 28; (2.) B.C. 8; (3.) A.D. 14; and a partial one, A.D. 4. The reason of the partial extent of this last was that he feared disturbances out of Italy, and also that he might not appear as an exactor. Of the returns made, Augustus himself kept an accurate account (breviarium), like a private man of his property (Dion Cass. 54:35; 55:13; Suetonius, Aug. 27, 101; Tacitus, Ann. 1:11; Tab. Ancyr. ap. Ernesti, Tacit. 2:188). A special assessment of Gaul, under commissioners sent for the purpose, is mentioned in the time of Tiberius (Tacit. Ann. 1:31; 2:6; Livy, Ep. 134, 136). In the New Test, two enrolments of this kind, executed under the Roman government, are mentioned by Luke (άπογραφή, "taxing"). (See TAX).

1. In Acts 5:37, a census is referred to as at the time a well-known event, during which a certain Judas of Galilee raised an insurrection. This import of the term there employed is sustained by Josephus (Ant. 18:1, 1; 2,1), who says that it was an assessment of property (ἀποτίμησις τῶν οὐσιῶν or χρημάτων ), which the proconsul Quirinus (Κυρήνιος, Cyrenius) carried out on behalf of the emperor Augustus after the banishment of king Archelaus (A.D. 6), in which Samaria, Judaea, and Idumaea were joined with the province of Syria under direct Roman rule. The Latin name for such a valuation, which was occasionally instituted in all the provinces of the Roman empire, is the well-known one census; by it new lists (ἀπογραφαί, tabulae censoriae, Polyb. 2:23, 9) were made out, of persons, property, and business, and upon this basis the tax was imposed. (See ASSESSMENT). The matter was naturally odious generally to the subjects, especially to the Jews, (See PUBLICAN), not only on account of their religious prejudices, (See ZELOTES), but also the violent and extortionate manner in which Oriental taxation is always enforced. (See TRIBUTE). The word ἀπογραφή, is used almost invariably by Greek writers of the Roman period for census, although an enrolment for taxation is more properly called ἀποτίμησις, a sense, however, not inapplicable (even in the Attic dialect) to ἀπογραφή and ἀπογράφεσθαι (see Wachsmuth, liellen. Alterth. 2:71, 238, 280). (See JUDAS (THE GALILAEAN).)

2. In Luke 2:1, there is mentioned an enrolment or ἀπογραφή as having taken place in the year of Christ's birth, by order of Augustus, and, as the words seem to express, under the superintendence of Quirinus or Cyrenius, president of Syria, extending over the entire land (πᾶσα οἰκουμένη ). This seems, according to the date indicated, to have been different from the census above mentioned, as is indeed implied in the language "this the first tax-list was made while Quirinus was governor" (αὕτη ἀπογραφή π ρ τ η ἐγένετο ἡγεμονεύουτος Κυρηνίον ). But this passage contains great historical difficulty as well as importance (see Huschke, Ueber den zur Zeit der Geburt Christi gehaltenen Census, Breslau, 1840; Wieseler, Synopse, p. 82 sq.; Kirmss, in the Jenaer Lit.- Zeitung, 1842, No. 100 sq.). 'The principal discrepancies alleged with regard to the tax itself have been adduced by Strauss (Leben Jesu, 1, § 28) and De Wette .(Comment. zu Luc. in loc.): 1. Palestine was not yet directly Roman, or immediately liable to such a census (comp. Joseph. Ant. 17:13, 5; 18:1, 1; Appian, Civ. 5:75); an ἀπογραφή at this time, therefore, as being neither available for the purposes of the emperor, nor adapted to the relations of the Jewish vassal-kings towards him, would have been the more likely to have created a popular or governmental disturbance than the later one above referred to. 2. At all events, no historical mention of so unusual a proceeding occurs either in Josephus or the Roman writers of the period.

3. Yet some notice of this event is the more to be expected, inasmuch as the ἀπογραφή in question covered the whole empire; the restriction of its terms ("the whole earth" or land) to Palestine being altogether arbitrary.

4. In a Roman "'census" the subjects were assessed at their actual residences; a journey to the family seat could only be requisite on the supposition of a Jewish genealogical registry. 5. As wives were in no case required to repair to the assessors, Mary must have undertaken unnecessarily a journey to Bethlehem, and a stay there was harassing in her condition. Some of these objections were canvassed by Paulus (in his Comment. in loc.); Tholuck (Glaubwü rdigk. d. evang. Gesch. p. 188 sq.), Huschke (ut sup.), and others have pretty effectually answered them all. They may mostly be obviated by simply and naturally assuming that this was a registration instituted indeed by the Roman emperor, but executed in accordance with the local usages (see Strong's Harmony of the Gospels, notes to § 8). (See CYRENIUS).

In the first place, an ἀπογραφή was properly only an enrolment of the inhabitants, which may have been set on foot for statistical purposes, in order to obtain a complete account of the population, perhaps as a basis for a levy of troops from this as a subject territory. The emperor Augustus caused such a roll or abstract to be made out ("breviarium totius imperil," Suetonius, Octav. 101), which included an account of the provincial allies ("quantum sociorum in armis," Tacitus, Annal. 1:11), and from this Palestine could not well have been excepted. The ordering of such a register was not inconsistent with the political relations of Herod (as thought by Hoven, Otia liter. 2:27 sq.), since he was himself but a dependent monarch; and as the word in question has usually the sense of a list with a view to assessment, the probability of such a taxation in this instance can certainly not be denied. Similar examples are by no means wanting in modern times among dependent countries. Moreover, Herod was so subject to the rule of Augustus that he did not even assume to judge two of his own sons, but referred the trial to the emperor (Josephus, Ant. 16:4, 1; con p. 17:5, 8); and he, in fact, submitted to an oath of allegiance to the emperor, which the Jews were required to take (Ant. 17:2, 4). The latter circumstance may indeed be naturally attributed to the vassalage of a nation, but the former was a voluntary act on the part of Herod, who nevertheless, without such ceremony, executed other members of his family (comp. however, Josephus, Ant. 16:11, 1). At all events, it abundantly appears from Josephus that Augustus, in moments of passion, was capable of resolving to proceed to extremities with Herod (Ant. 16:9, 3); and that, after Herod's death, he hesitated about transferring the land to the sons of the latter (Ant. 16:11).

There are monographs in Latin on the census of Quirinus by Ammon (Erlang. 1810), Birch (Hafn. 1790), Bornitius (Vitel. 1650), Breithaupt (Helmst. 1737), Deyling (Observv. 2:326 sq.), Hasse (Regiom. 1706), Heumann (Gotting. 1732), Janus (Viteb. 1715; also in Ikenii Thes. 2:424 Eq.), Obrecht (Argentor. 1675), Perizonius (Diss. de Praetorio, s. f.), Pihlmann (Aboe, 1735), Richard (Viteb. 1704; also in Ikenii Thes. 2:434 Eq.), Volborth (Gotting. 175), Wedel (Jen. 1703), Wernsdorf (Viteb. 1693, 1720); in Greek, by Friberg (Abone, 1730); in German, by Kist (Utr. 1791), Pitschmann (Dub. vex. Hist. 1:1-25), Stockmann (Gron. 1756). (See NATIVITY).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Census,'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/census.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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