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There Shall Be Seven Weeks: The Temple Tax

Posted in #PaulthePoke, Angels, Prophecy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2021 by paulthepoke

Daniel 9:25b …there shall be seven weeks…

The context of this series of posts is the course of the Jewish people for the initial 49 years of the 483 year period communicated from the angel Gabriel to the prophet Daniel. The city of Jerusalem has been rebuilt post exile. These events are covered in Nehemiah 8-13. Israel is returning to God’s Law. The Shemitah has been revived. Up next is the reinstatement of the Temple Tax.

Nehemiah 10:32 We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God:

Under the leadership of Nehemiah, the Temple Tax was reinstated. Let’s look at what Nehemiah is proposing compared to what Moses states in the law.

Exodus 30:13-16 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves. You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.”

Here are the specifics of the Temple Tax for service.

  1. Tax of 1/2 Shekel is cost.
  2. Men 20 years of age and older shall pay.
  3. No sliding scale of taxation. Rich and poor pay the same.
  4. Yearly contribution required.
  5. Purpose is for atonement of personal life.

Everything appears to be in alignment with one exception. Moses said 1/2 shekel and Nehemiah says 1/3 shekel. Why the difference? Is Nehemiah being disobedient or cheap?

There are many theories and conjectures as to why the difference. The most reasonable explanation may come from Ridgeway’s Origin of Currency and Weight Measures.

In Moses’ day, Jews contributed a beka or a half shekel.

Exodus 38:26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary)…

One beka or a half shekel equals 5.67 grams or about 65 grains.

Roughly one thousand years had passed from the Exodus and Moses (1440 BC) to Nehemiah’s return to the Promised Land (440 BC).

In Nehemiah’s day, the Babylonian Empire standard was the stater or shekel. This would have been the relevant currency for the Israelis of the time. The stater weighed about 173 grains. One third of a stater or shekel would be 58 grains.

One beka or a half shekel equals 65 grains verses one third stater or shekel equals 58 grains. These two measurements relative to their time and cultural influence are essentially equal.

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Fast forward about another 470 years to the time of Jesus. The Roman Empire is in control over the region of Israel and the city of Capernaum. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus made the following observation.

‘The emperor commanded every Jew to pay the two drachma annually to the Capitol which they had before been accustomed to pay to the Temple at Jerusalem.’

Matthew 17:24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”

This had to really irritate the Jews, specifically Peter and the apostles. The trap had been set. The Roman tax collectors knew who Jesus claimed to be. Jesus was the Jewish King and Messiah. Would Jesus bow to the Romans and pay the tax?

The two-drachma tax is known as the δίδραχμον/didrachma in the original Greek text. The didrachma was a silver coin during the life and times of Jesus that was equal to one half shekel.

We know how the rest of the story goes. Jesus had Peter go fishing. No problem, Jesus and Peter’s tax was paid.

Historical research provided by Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges via Bible Hub.

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So here we are roughly 2,000 years later from the time of Christ. Israel is back in the land. Jerusalem is their capital. The modern day Sanhedrin has reconvened. The Temple Tax and the beka are back in the news.

The modern day Sanhedrin issued a Temple Tax back in February 2017. They even minted 1,000 coins with the images of Cyrus the Great and President Donald Trump. They are raising money for the promised third Temple.

So a tax written by Moses as told to him by God over 3,400 years ago, still relevant…

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