Free Online Bible Library | Taxes

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TAXES. Charges imposed by governments, either political or ecclesiastical, on the persons or the properties of their members or subjects. In the nomadic period taxes were unknown to the Hebrews. Voluntary presents were given to chieftains in return for protection. The conquered Canaanites were forced to render labor (Josh.16.10; Josh.17.13; Judg.1.28-Judg.1.35). Under the theocracy of Israel every man paid a poll tax of a half-shekel for the support of the tabernacle worship (Exod.30.13; Exod.38.25-Exod.38.26), and this was the only fixed tax. It was equal for rich and poor (Exod.30.15). Under the kings, as Samuel had warned the people (1Sam.8.11-1Sam.8.18), heavy taxes were imposed. They amounted to a tithe of the crops and of the flocks besides the forced military service and other services that were imposed. In the days of Solomon, because of his great building program (the magnificent temple, the king’s palaces, thousands of stables for chariot horses, the navy, etc.), the burden of taxes was made so oppressive that the northern tribes rebelled against his successor, who had threatened even heavier taxation and oppression (1Kgs.12.1-1Kgs.12.33).

During the days of the divided kingdom Menahem (2Kgs.15.19-2Kgs.15.20) bribed the Assyrian king with a thousand talents of silver to support him, raising the amount from the rich men of his kingdom. Similarly Hoshea (2Kgs.17.3) paid heavy tribute to Assyria, and when he refused to pay further, he lost his kingdom. Later, Pharaoh Neco of Egypt put Judah under heavy tribute, and Jehoiakim oppressively taxed Judah (2Kgs.23.33, 2Kgs.23.35). Under the Persian domination, “taxes, tribute or duty” (Ezra.4.13) were forms of taxation, though Artaxerxes exempted “priests, Levites,” etc. (Ezra.7.23-Ezra.7.24). The Ptolemies, the Seleucids, and later the Romans, all adopted the very cruel but efficient method of “farming out the taxes,” each officer extorting more than his share from those under him, and thus adding to the Jewish hatred of the tax collectors, among whom were at one time Matthew and Zaccaeus, both converts later.——ABF

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