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Tax, Hebrew

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(some form of עָרִךְ, to arrange). Taxes of some kind must have been coeval with the origin of civilized society. The idea of the one is involved in that of the other, since society, as every organization, implies expense, which must be raised by the abstraction of property from the individuals of which it consists, either by occasional or periodical, by self-imposed or compulsory, exactions. In the history of Israel, as of other nations, the student who desires to form a just estimate of the social condition of the people must take into account the taxes which they had to pay. According as these are light or heavy may vary the happiness and prosperity of a nation. To them, though lying in the background of history, may often be traced, as to the true motive power, many political revolutions. We find a provision of income made at the very commencement of the Mosaic polity. Taxes, like all other things in that polity, had a religious origin and import. While the people were in the migratory stage during their marches through the desert, only such incidental taxes were levied, or rather such voluntary contributions were received, as the exigencies of the time demanded. It was not till their establishment in Canaan that taxation assumed a regular and organized form. We propose, therefore, in the following article (which treats only of public and stated imposts) to consider the subject chronologically from that point. (See ASSESSMENT).

I. Under the judges, according to the theocratic government contemplated by the law, the only payments obligatory upon the people as of permanent obligation were the tithes (q.v.) the first-fruits (q.v.), the redemption- money of the first-born (q.v.), and other offerings as belonging to special occasions. (See PRIEST).

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 (Exodus 30:13), does not appear to have had the character of a recurring tax, but to have been supplementary to the free- will offerings of Exodus 25:1-7, 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 the voluntary compact to pay one third of a shekel (Nehemiah 10:32) shows that till then there was no such payment recognized as necessary. A little later the third became a half, and finder the name of the didrachma (Matthew 17:24) was paid by every Jew, in whatever part of the world he might be living (Josephus, Ant. 18:9,1). From the Talmudical tract Shekalim (Mishna, 2, 4), the time of payment appears to have been between the 15th and the 25th of the month Adar, that is, in March. After the destruction of the Temple, this didrachm was ordered by Vespasian to be paid into the Capitol, "as," says Josephus, "they used to pay the same to the Temple at Jerusalem", (War, 7:6, 6). During the prosperity of Palestine, large sums were thus collected in Babylon and other Eastern cities, and were sent to Jerusalem under a special escort (Josephus, Ant. loc. cit.; Cicero. Pro Flacc. c. 28). We have no trace of any further taxation than this during the period of the judges. It was not in itself heavy it was lightened by the feeling that it was paid as a religious act. In return for it the people secured the celebration of their worship, and the presence among them of a body of men acting more or loss efficiently as priests judges, teachers, perhaps also as physicians. We cannot wonder that the people should afterwards look back to the good old days when, they had been so lightly burdened.

II. Under the monarchy, its centralized government and greater magnificence involved, of course, a larger expenditure, and therefore a heavier taxation. This may have come, during the long history of the kingdom, in many different forms, according to the financial necessities of the times. The chief burdens appear to have been

(1) a tithe of the produce both of the soil and of live-stock, making together with the ecclesiastical tithe, twenty percent on incomes of this nature (1 Samuel 8:15; 1 Samuel 8:17);

(2) forced military service for a month every year (1 Samuel 8:12; 1 Kings 9:22; 1 Chronicles 27:1);

(3) gifts to the king, theoretically free, like the old benevolences of English taxation, but expected as a thing of course at the commencement of a reign (1 Samuel 10:27) or in time of war (comp. the gifts of Jesse, 1 Samuel 16:20; 1 Samuel 17:18). In the case of subject princes the gifts, still made in kind-armor, horses, gold, silver, etc. appear to have been regularly assessed (1 Kings 10:25; 2 Chronicles 9:24). Whether this was ever the case with the presents from Israelite subjects must remain uncertain. Besides the foregoing, there were

(4) import duties, chiefly on the produce of the spice districts of Arabia (1 Kings 10:15);

(5) the monopoly of certain branches of commerce, as, for example, that of gold (1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 22:48), fine linen or byssus from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28), and horses (1 Kings 10:29);

(6) the appropriation to the king's use of the early crop of hay (Amos 7:1). This may, however, have been peculiar to the northern kingdom or occasioned by a special emergency (Ewald, Proph. ad loc.).

It is obvious that burdens such as these, coming upon a people previously unaccustomed to them, must have been almost intolerable. Even under Saul exemption from taxes is looked on as a sufficient reward for great military services (1 Samuel 17:25). Under the outward splendor and prosperity of the reign of Solomon there lay the deep discontent of an overtaxed people, and it contributed largely to the revolution that followed. The people complain, not of Solomon's idolatry, but of their taxes (1 Kings 12:4). Of all the king's officers lie whom they hate most is Adoram, or Adoniram (q.v.), who was "over the tribute" (1 Kings 12:18). 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 (2 Kings 15:20), and under his successor, Hoshea, this assumed the form of an annual tribute (2 Kings 17:4; amount not stated). After the defeat of Josiah by Pharaoh-Necho, in like manner, a heavy income-tax had to be imposed on the kingdom of Judah to pay the tribute demanded by Egypt (2 Kings 23:35), and the change of masters consequent on the battle of Carchemish brought in this respect no improvement (Josephus, Ant. 10:9, 1-3).

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 Hystaspis the name of the "shopkeeper king" (κάπηλος, Herod. 3, 89) involved the payment by each satrap of a fixed sum as the tribute due from his province (ibid.), and placed him accordingly in the position of a publicanus, or farmer of the revenue, exposed to all the temptation to extortion and tyranny inseparable from such a system. Here, accordingly, we get glimpses of taxes of many kinds, In Judaea, as in other provinces, the inhabitants had to' provide in kind for the maintenance of the governor's household (comp. the case of Themistocles, Thucyd. 1, 138, and Herod. 1, 192; 2, 98), besides a money- payment of forty shekels a day (Nehemiah 5:14-15). In Ezra 4:13; Ezra 4:20; Ezra 7:24, we get a formal enumeration of the three great branches of the revenue.

1. The מַדָּה, fixed, measured payment, probably direct taxation (Grotü ls).

2. בְּלוֹ, the excise, or octroi, on articles of consumption (Gesenius, s.v.).

3. הֲלךְָ, probably the toll payable at bridges, fords, or certain stations on the high-road.

The influence of Ezra secured for the whole ecclesiastical order, from the priests down to the Nethinuim, an immunity from all three (Ezra 7:24); but the burden pressed heavily on the great body of the people, and they complained bitterly both of this and of the ἀγγαρήϊον, or forced service, to which they and their cattle were liable (Nehemiah 9:37). They were compelled to mortgage their vineyards and fields, borrowing money at twelve per cent the interest being payable apparently either in money or in kind (Nehemiah 5:1-11). Failing payment, the creditors exercised the power (with or without the mitigation of the year of jubilee) of seizing the persons of the debtors and treating them as slaves (Nehemiah 5:5; comp. 2 Kings 4:1). Taxation was leading at Jerusalem to precisely the same evils as those which appeared from like causes in the early history of Rome. To this cause may probably be ascribed the incomplete payment of tithes or offerings at this period (Nehemiah 13:10; Nehemiah 13:12; Malachi 3:8), and the consequent necessity of a special poll-tax of the third part of a shekel for the services of the Temple (Nehemiah 10:32). What could be done to mitigate the evil was done by Nehemiah, but the taxes continued, and oppression and injustice no doubt marked the government of the province in a large degree. The miseries of an Oriental system of taxation have in modern times received their most revolting illustration in the history of Turkey over these same regions, the settled policy of whose government has ever been to grind the people by the utmost extent of extortion, peculation, and espionage, in all the grades of official administration.

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 Persian governors had been obliged to pay a fixed sum into the treasury. Now the taxes were put up to auction. The contract sum for those of Phoenicia, Judaea, and Samaria had been estimated at about 8000 talents. An unscrupulous adventurer (e.g. Joseph, under Ptolemy Euergetes) would bid double that sum, and would then go down to the province, and by violence and cruelty, like that of Turkish or Hindi collectors, squeeze out a large margin of profit for himself (Josephus, Ant. 12. 4, 1-5).

Under the Syrian kings we meet with an ingenious variety of taxation. Direct tribute (φόροι ), an excise duty on salt, crown-taxes (στέφανοι, golden crowns, or their value, sent yearly to the king), one half the produce of fruit-trees, one third that of corn land, a tax of some kind on cattle: these, as the heaviest burdens, are ostentatiously enumerated in the decrees of the two Demetriuses remitting them (1 Maccabees 10:29-30; 1 Maccabees 11:35). Even after this, however, the golden crown and scarlet robe continue to be sent (13, 39). The proposal of the apostate Jason to farm the revenues at a rate above the average (460 talents, while Jonathan [11, 28] pays 300: only), and to pay 150 talents more for a license to open a circus (2 Maccabees 4:9), gives us a glimpse of another source of revenue. The exemption given by Antiochus to the priests and other ministers, with the deduction of one third for all the residents in Jerusalem, was apparently only temporary (Josephus, Ant. 12:3, 3).

V. Roman taxation, in its pressure, 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 (Josephus, Ant. 14:4, 4, 5). The decrees of Julius Caesar showed a characteristic desire to lighten the burdens that pressed upon the subjects of the republic. The tribute was not to be farmed. It was not to be levied at all in the sabbatic year. One fourth only was demanded in the year that followed (ibid. 14:10, 5, 6). The people, still under the government of Hyrcanus, were thus protected against their own rulers. The struggle of the republican party after the death of the dictator brought fresh burdens upon the whole of Syria, and Cassius levied not less than 700 talents from Judaea alone. Under Herod, as might be expected from his lavish expenditure in public buildings, the taxation became heavier. Even in years of famine a portion of the produce of the soil was seized for the royal revenue (ibid. 15:9, 1), and it was not till the discontent of the people became formidable that he ostentatiously diminished this by one third (ibid. 15:10, 4). It was no wonder that when Herod wished to found a new city in Trachonitis, and to attract a population of residents, he found that the most effective bait was to promise immunity from taxes (ibid. 17:2, 1), or that on his death the people should be loud in-their demands that Archelaus should release them from their burdens, complaining specially of the duty levied on all sales (ibid. 17:8, 4).

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. (See PUBLICAN). The portoria were levied at harbors, piers, and the gates of cities. These were the τέλη of Matthew 17:24; Romans 13:7. In- addition to this, there was the κῆνσος, or poll-tax (Cod. D gives ἐπικεφάλαιον in Mark 12:15), paid by every Jew, and looked upon, for that reason, as the special badge of servitude. It was about the lawfulness of this payment; that the rabbins disputed, while they were content to acquiesce in the payment of the customs (Matthew 22:17; Mark 12:13; Luke 20:20). It was against this apparently that the struggles of Judas of Galilee and his followers were chiefly directed (Josephus, Ant. 18:1, 6; War, 2, 8, 1). United with this, as part of the same system, there was also, in all probability, a property-tax of some kind. Quirinus, after the deposition of Archelalus, was sent to Syria to complete the work begun, probably, at the time of our Lord's birth-of valuing and registering property, and this would hardly have been necessary for a mere poll-tax. (See CYRENIUS). The influence of Joazar, the high-priest, led the people generally (the followers of Judas and the Pharisee Sadduc were the only marked exceptions) to acquiesce in this measure and to make the required returns (Ant. 18:1, 1); but their discontent still continued, and, under Tiberius, they applied for some alleviation (Tacitus, Ann. 2, 42). In addition to these general taxes, the inhabitants of Jerusalem were subject to a special house-duty about this period; Agrippa, in. his desire to reward the good-will of the people, remitted it (Josephus, Ant. 19:6,3). It can hardly be doubted that in this, as' in most other cases, an oppressive taxation tended greatly to demoralize the people. Many of the most glaring faults of the Jewish character are distinctly traceable to it. The fierce, vindictive cruelty of the Galileans, the Zealots, the Sicarii was its natural fruit. It was not the least striking proof that the teaching of our Lord and his disciples was more than the natural outrush of popular feeling-that it sought to raise men to the higher region in which all such matters were regarded as things indifferent-and, instead of expressing the popular impatience of taxation, gave, as the true counsel, the precept "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's," "Tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom." (See TRIBUTE).

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Tax, Hebrew'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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