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Sermons & Study Guides

National Church Establishments Pt. 17 - (The Magistrate’s Power and Taxation)

James Dodson

National Church Establishments

(The Magistrate’s Power and Taxation)

For for this cause pay ye tribute (φόρους) also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. (Rom. 13:6)

Question.—What were the taxes in Israel and how were they distributed? Answer.—When  we  consider  the  national  establishment  in  Israel,  we  must  bear  in mind that the Temple, though under the spiritual jurisdiction of the priests, Joel 1:9; 2:17; yet, it was a state sanctuary which was built and maintained by the king, Ezek. 45:13-17:  Indeed,  the  king  felt  free  to  withdraw  monies  from  the  treasuries  of  both  the palace  and  the  temple,  1  Kings  15:18;  and  authorized  the  priests  to  make collection  of  temple  offerings,  2  Kings  12:4-16;  22:3-7.   These  taxes  took  several forms: First,  There  was  the  utilization  of  forced  labor,  which  appears  first  under Joshua, Jos. 17:13; was probably institutionalized under the reign of David, as we find amongst his officials one named Adoram who was set “over the tribute,”  or “over  the  forced  labor”  (&'(')*+',-.; LXX, φόρου),  2  Sam.  20:24.   .'(  is  the  word used in modern Hebrew for “tax.” This form of taxation was used under Solomon, 1 Kings 4:6.  Under Solomon, these men (i.e., forced labor) were sent monthly to Lebanon, 1 Kings 5:13, 14 (MT. vv. 27, 28); however, it appears that this “levy” was not made upon Israelites but only  upon  strangers  dwelling  in  the  land,  1  Kings  9:20-22.    The  “tax  revolt” against  Rehoboam  was  occasioned  by  his  decision  to  continue  and  increase  this use of forced labor, 1 Kings 12:4-19. Second,  It  is  clear  that  Israel’s  kings  were  large  land-holders  who  increased their personal fortunes during their reigns, such as David’s taking spoils of war, 1 Sam. 30:20. Yet, there existed a royal taxation system which was presided over by twelve officers, governors or “prefects” (/012&3415); each of whom was to provide supplies for the king and his house one month of the year, 1 Kings 4:7-19. Third, There were several accounts of taxes raised for the payment of tribute when exacted by an enemy, such as that upon the wealthy, 2 Kings 15:19, 20; as well as that which was to paid in proportion to wealth or valuation of property, 2 Kings 23:33-35. Fourth, There was a head, or poll, tax exacted according to census and to be used  for  the  temple  service,  Ex.  30:11-16.    This  tax  appears  to  be  an  annual assessment which continued with the rebuilding of the temple, Neh. 10:32-39.  It was still being collected in Jesus’ day, Matt. 17:24-27. Fifth, There was a Sabbatical year, which resulted in the loss of the revenues of the land every seventh year, Lev. 25:2-7.  Which was augmented every fiftieth year by a Jubilee which resulted in greater loss of revenue, Lev. 25:8-17, 23-25. 
Sixth, There were gleaning rights reserved for the provision of the poor, and resident  foreigner, Lev.  19:9,  10;  23:22.   To  which  are  added,  gleaning  rights  for the orphan and the widow, Deut. 24:19-22. Seventh,  There  were  the  first  fruits  and  offerings,  an  imposed  duty  to contribute, whereby the priests found support, Deut. 18:1-8.  The first fruits were due  the  sanctuary,  Ex.  23:19.    There  is  a  portion  which  is  perpetually  due  unto Aaron  and  his  descendants  described  in  a  comprehensive list,  Num.  18:8-32.  Indeed, the command is that none appear empty handed in the sanctuary, Deut. 16:16, 17. Eighth, There were the various tithes, taxes which represented ten percent, of the total produce and cattle, Deut. 14:22-29.  These tithes made provision for the redemption  of  some  parts  but  not  all,  Lev.  27:30-33;  Num. 18:21-32.    While  the tithes,  which  belonged  to  the  Levites,  were  entrusted  to  their  collection,  Neh. 10:33-39; yet, its enforcement to see that it was collected and proper distribution made was in tandem with appointed officers, Neh. 13:4-14. Ninth,  Samuel  forewarned  the  people  of  the  excesses  of  kings  that  are granted  to  a  rebellious  people,  1  Sam.  8:11-19.    Ungodly  kings  do  not  have respect  to  the  poor,  Amos  5:11;  nor  do  they  take  care  to  see  that  the  legitimate tithes collected are secured for the purposes of true religion, Mal. 3:6-12. Tenth,  Those  who  were  not  engaged  in  certain  kinds  of  activities  (e.g., agriculture)  were  exempted  from  certain  taxes  (e.g.,  tithes).    Additionally,  the king had the power to grant tax exemptions to those performing some great task for the benefit of the society, 1 Sam. 17:25.  And, it is likely that it was a common practice among kings to grant general tax exemptions for occasions of state, Est. 2:18. Eleventh,  It  may  well  be  that  the  king’s  treasuries  were  also  filled  with  the goods  of  those  who,  through  the  commission  of  capital  crimes,  forfeited  their property in consequence, 1 Kings 21:1-16.