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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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The Hebrews acknowledged none for sovereign over them but God alone: whence Josephus calls their government a theocracy, or divine government. They acknowledged the sovereign dominion of God by a tribute, or capitation tax, of half a shekel a head, which every Israelite paid yearly, Exodus 30:13 . Our Saviour, in the Gospel, thus reasons with St. Peter: "What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?" Matthew 17:25 , meaning, that as he was the Son of God, he ought to be exempt from this capitation tax. We do not find that either the kings or the judges of the Hebrews, when they were themselves Jews, demanded any tribute of them. Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, 1 Kings 11:22 ; 1 Kings 11:33 ; 2 Chronicles 8:9 , compelled the Canaanites, who were left in the country, to pay him tribute, and to perform the drudgery of the public works he had undertaken. As to the children of Israel, he would not suffer one of them to be employed upon them, but made them his soldiers, ministers, and chief officers, to command his armies, his chariots, and his horsemen. Yet, afterward, toward the end of his reign, he imposed a tribute upon them, and made them work at the public buildings, 1 Kings 5:13-14 ; 1 Kings 9:15 ; 1 Kings 11:27 ; which much alienated their minds from him, and sowed the seeds of that discontent which afterward appeared in an open revolt, by the rebellion of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat; who was at first indeed obliged to take shelter in Egypt. But afterward the defection became general, by the total revolt of the ten tribes. Hence it was, that the Israelites said to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, "Thy father made our yoke grievous; now therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and the heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee," 1 Kings 12:4 . It is needless to observe, that the Israelites were frequently subdued by foreign princes, who laid great taxes and tribute upon them, to which fear and necessity compelled them to submit. Yet in the latter times, that is, after Archelaus had been banished to Vienne in France, in the sixth year of the vulgar era, and after Judea was reduced to a province, Augustus sent Quirinius into this country to take a new poll of the people, and to make a new estimate of their substance, that he might thereby regulate the tribute that every one was to pay to the Romans. Then Judas, surnamed the Galilean, formed a sedition, and made an insurrection, to oppose the levying of this tribute. See in St. Matthew 22:16-17 , &c, the answer that Jesus Christ returned to the Pharisee, who came with an insidious design of tempting him, and asked him, whether or not it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar? and in John 8:33 , where the Jews boast of having never been slaves to any body, of being a free nation, that acknowledged God only for master and sovereign.


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Tribute'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/t/tribute.html. 1831-2.

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