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Assessment

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(מִשָּׂא or מִשְּׂאֵת; also מֶכֶס and מִסִּים ) among the Israelites was of two kinds:

(a) ECCLESIASTICAL.-According to Exodus 30:13, each Israelite (over twenty years old) was obliged to contribute yearly a silver half-shekel (a didrachm, about 35 cents) to the Temple (2 Chronicles 24:6). This tax existed still in full force after the Babylonian exile (Matthew 17:24; comp. Philo, Opp. iii, 224; Josephus, War, 7:6, 6), and all Jews residing in Palestine were under the obligation of paying it (Josephus, Ant. xviii. 9, 1). See generally the Mishna (Shekalim, ii, 4), according to which this payment became due between the 15th and 25th of Adar (in March or April). (See TEMPLE).

After the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem, the Jews were obliged by a decree of the Emperor Vespasiap to pay this sum yearly for the maintenance of the Capitoline at Rome (Joseph. War, 7:6, 6; Dio Cass. lxvi, 7, p. 1082). An increase of the temple-tax, which the pressure of circumstances appears to have compelled, is mentioned in Nehemiah 10:32 (see Rambach, in loc.). Besides this, there were for the support of the Temple certain definite assessments (2 Kings 12:4), such as the tithes, first-fruits, and first-born offerings (see each of these in alphabetical order). Yet, on account of the great fertility of the soil and the original proprietorship of each Israelite over it, these sacred laws were certainly not onerous, however much they may resemble direct imposts upon the citizens of modern states.

(b) CIVIL.-Of these no trace appears prior to the introduction of royalty. But the kings not only required liege duties (1 Samuel 8:12; 1 Samuel 8:16), but also tribute in kind (1 Samuel 8:15), from which exemption was allowed only in certain cases (1 Samuel 17:25), and likewise personal service (Amos 7:1), as well as a capitation-tax in extraordinary emergencies (2 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 23:35). They also received voluntary presents from their subjects and chief vassals (1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Samuel 16:20; 1 Kings 10:25; 2 Chronicles 9:24; 2 Chronicles 17:5), as is still customary in the East. (See KING); (See GIFT). Crown-lands (or royal private property?) seem also to be alluded to (1 Kings 4:27 sq.; 1 Chronicles 27:26 sq.; 1 Chronicles 26:10 sq.), as well as tolls on goods in transit (1 Kings 10:15), and even regal privileges and monopolies of a commercial character (1 Kings 10:28; comp. 1 Kings 9:26 sq.; 1 Kings 22:49). During the exile and later, the Jews of Palestine paid taxes of various kinds to their foreign masters, and so the remnant of the Jews under the Chaldaean regents (see Josephus, Ant. 10:9, 1 and 3). As Persian taxes levied upon the new Jewish colonies are mentioned (Ezra 4:13; Ezra 4:20; Ezra 7:24), מִדָּה, tribute, בְּלוֹ, excise, and הֲלָךְ , toll (Sept. and Joseph. Ant. 11:2, 1, in general φόροι, duties; as the Auth. Vers. "tribute" for the first two, "custom" for the last). The distinction between these terms, it is true, is not at all clear; the foregoing renderings follow the etymology; the last term (הֲלָךְ, halak') signifying way-money (from הָלִךְ, to go), the second (בְּלוֹ, belo'), consumption-tax (from בָּלָה, to consume); the first (מִדָּה, middah'), the direct (ground or income) tax (apportionment, from מָדָה, to measure out), which individuals had to pay (comp. Lat. demensum), as Grotius and Cocceius have supposed (see Gesenius, Heb. Lex. s. vv. severally). Aben-Ezra's interpretation of this last by cattle-tax has no good foundation. The governors increased the severe taxation of the people (Nehemiah 9:37) by many additional assumptions of extortion (Nehemiah 5:15). We find mention (Ezra 6:8; Ezra 7:20 sq.) of royal exchequers., The priests and Levites were (under Artaxerxes ?) exempt from taxes (Ezra 7:24). In the Ptolemaic period of the Egyptian rule over Palestine instances occur of the farming or leasing out of the collection of the public revenues (tolls ?) to the highest bidder (Joseph. Ant. 12:4, 1, 4 and 5). The yearly rent of all such dues in Syria, Phoenicia, and Palestine amounted under/ Ptolemy Evergetes to 16 talents of silver; and we may easily imagine what vexation it occasioned when the taxes reached so enormous a sum (Joseph. Ant. 12:4, 5). Imp osts by the Syrian rulers of Palestine are also named (1 Maccabees 10:29; 1 Maccabees 11:35; 1 Maccabees 13:39). They consisted in the levy of duties (φόροι ) upon salt (τιμὴ ἁλός ); the royal tribute,(στέφανοι, crown dues, comp. the Lat. "aurum coronarium," see Adams's Rom. Ant. i, 295; in a rescript of Antiochus the Great [Joseph. Ant. 12:3, 3] this assessment is called technically στεφανίτης φόρος. At first the Jews were obliged to bring a gold "crown-piece" as the [expected] "gift," but afterward it might be rendered in any coin; such a regal due is indicated in 2 Maccabees 4:9); the third of the seed (τρίτον τῆς σπορᾶς ), and the half of the produce of the trees (ἣμισυ τοῦ καρποῦ τοῦ ξυλίνου ), these latter being payments in kind common to most nations of antiquity (comp. Pausan. 4:14,3; see the Hall. Encyclop. 21:90). There existed also tolls and polltaxes (Joseph. Ant. 12:3, 3; 13:8, 3), as these are not classed under the usual name (φόροι ) of imposts (on 1 Maccabees 10:33, see Michaelis in loc.). The priests and Levites mostly enjoyed an exemption from these assessments (Joseph. Ant. 12:3, 3). Letting out of the (royal) ground-rents (of single districts) was also, at this time, not uncommon (1 Maccabees 11:28; 1 Maccabees 13:15). A species of forced contribution also appears to be referred to (1 Maccabees 15:31). Judaea was first brought under tribute (ὑποτελὴς φόρου, Joseph. Ant. 14:4, 4; perhaps, however, this refers to Jerusalem only) to the Romans by Pompey, although the country as yet does not seem to have been subject to a yearly payment, but rather to occasional exactions at the caprice of the governor in power at the time. The regular taxes were raised by the native princes (whether yearly is uncertain, comp. Appian, Civ. v, 75; but the Romans were accustomed to impose tribute upon their dependencies, 1 Maccabees 8:7; 2 Maccabees 8:10), and Julius Caesar ordained this by a special decree (Joseph. Ant. 14:10, 5 sq.; comp. 22). These revenues were not inconsiderable (Joseph. Ant. 19:8, 2), and were derived partly from royal lands (Joseph. Ant. 14:10, 6), partly from the ground and income taxes (Joseph. Ant. 15:9, 1; 10, 4; 17:2, 1; 8, 4. Josephus, Ant. 19:6, 3, likewise mentions a house-tax, either a duty upon the simple dwelling, or the premises in general), and partly from tolls (Joseph. Ant. 14:10, 6, 22); and under the Herods were also added very oppressive city taxes (Joseph. Ant. 17:8, 4; comp. 18:4, 3). In addition to all these, the Jews, in consequence of their partisan' warfare against the Romans, were compelled to .pay many special war taxes (Joseph. Ant. 14:11, 2). As at first single parts of Judaea, and finally the whole country, came under the immediate Roman government, the Jews were obliged (Plin. Hist. Nat. 12:54), like other Roman provinces (see Savigny, in the Abhandl. der Berl. Akademie, 1822 and 1823, Histor. philol. Class. p. 27 sq.), to pay the ground and head tax (Matthew 22:17), with a view to which a census and assessment had already been made out by Augustus (Luke ii, 1, 2; comp. Acts v, 37; see Joseph. Ant. 18:1, 1); moreover, the city consumption excise (in Jerusalem) continued still for a long time (Joseph. Ant. 18:4, 3), and the tolls (on φόρος and τέλος, the Lat., tributum and vectigal, Romans 13:7, see Kype, Observ. ii, 183 sq.), which were considerable along the commercial routes (especially between Damascus and Ptolemais) and at the sea-ports, and also from the export of balsam and cotton, were exacted as elsewhere. (See CUSTOM). These united imposts, but especially the capitation-tax (Appian, Syr. 50), severely oppressed the people (Tacit. Annals, ii, 42), particularly, no doubt, because they were not apportioned according to an exact ratio of taxation; and, in addition, the procurators, who superintended the collection, and were responsible for the return of the duties into the imperial treasury, as well as the principal collectors themselves (one such, φόρων ἐκλογεύς, under the Emperor Caius, by the name of Capito, is depicted in Philo, ii, 575, comp. 325 sq.), in various ways made use of extortion. (See PUBLICAN). The power of remitting taxes, where circumstances rendered it reasonable, belonged, under the direct Roman rule, only to the President of Syria (Joseph. Ant. 18:4, 3). See, generally, P. Zorn, Historiafisci Jud. sub imperio vet. Roman. (Alton. 1734; also in Ugolini Thesaur. xxvi); Jost. Gesch. d. Isruelit. 1. Anhang, p. 49 sq. (See CENSUS); (See TAX).

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

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