by email

in reader




Head tax of Ex. 30:11-16 not a civil tax:
A. Head tax not civil tax, but atonement for sin:
The head tax in Exo. 30:11-16 is sometimes thought to have been a civil tax. However, the Mosaic head tax cannot be said to have had any civil function in the Old Covenant. Its purpose was atonement for the soldiers, to cover men from the wrath of God when they drew especially close to Him in His Temple/War Camp (Josh. 5:13 - 6:5; Deut. 23:14; 2 Sam. 5:22-24). The word used for "number," paqad, in Exodus 30 does not mean a mere counting census, but a visitation or judgment designed to see who is on the LORD'S side. Other Hebrew words are available to mean merely adding up (cf. Exo. 30:20). The tax is used to prevent a plague, which cannot be viewed as a “political plague” of civil disorder, because God sent a literal plague when David wrongly numbered Israel (2 Sam. 24). Also, 1 Peter 1:18 teaches that the Old Testament payment of ransom silver has been superseded by Christ. The ransom and atonement of Exo. 30, then, is not simply a political covering, but a type of our redemption in Jesus Christ.
B. The tax used for the temple, not holy war:
The fact that the money is used for the upkeep of the Tabernacle/Temple indicates a connection between the environment of the Temple (God's House) and that of the army camp (God's War Camp). It had no other purpose than to pay for the building and maintenance of the house of God. It was collected by the Levites and administered by the priests (2 Ki. 12; 2 Ch. 24). Even though it was collected just before battle, it was not used to finance holy war:
1. The initial collection of the tax, which definitely is connected to the military function in Num. 1, was used to build the Tabernacle (Exo. 38:25ff.)
2. The census under Joash went to the repair of the Temple; Joash was not going to war (2 Ki. 12:4ff.). The Temple was founded on land purchased by silver shekels given by David after cessation of the plague brought on by his evil census (2 Sam. 24).
3. Even though we are not told what was done with the money from battle-muster, we do see a great deal of war booty going to the building and provisioning of the Temple. The wealth of the ungodly, acquired through holy war, goes to build the Kingdom of God. Money connected with war goes to build the house of prayer (Isa. 56:7).
4. When men were summoned for war, they brought along their weapons. Provisions for the army were raised from the people themselves (Judg. 20:10). The tax was not needed for the prosecution of war.
5. Even if that the tax went to help defray expenses connected with holy war, that would still not make it a civil tax. The military was not necessarily a state function over against a Church function in the Old Covenant. Holy war was a specifically priestly function. The torching of cities is to be understood as taking God's fire off from His altar and applying His holy fiery wrath to his enemies. Thus, the torched cities were called "whole burnt sacrifices" in the Hebrew Old Testament (Deut. 13:16; Judg. 1:17; 20:40, in Hebrew). During the holy war, the men became temporary priests by taking the Nazirite vow (Num. 6; 2 Sam. 11:11 + Exo. 19:15; Deut. 23:9-14; Judg. 5:2). In short, the rendering of specific judgments is a sabbatical and priestly function, not a kingly one. The sword of the state executes according to the judgments rendered by the priests.
C. The tax is not part of an annual census as it would if it were a civil tax:
No passage in Scripture calls for an annual census. In every case the mustering was occasional for the purpose of battle (Judg. 20:15, 17; 21:9; 1 Sam. 11:8; 13:15; 15:4; 2 Sam. 18:1; 1 Ki. 20:15, 27; 2 Ki. 3:6). In Num. 1, the men were mustered to conquer Canaan. The only annual (actually, three times a year) gatherings of the host of the LORD (Exo. 23:17, Exo. 34:23, Deut. 16:16,) are not seen as censuses, and no head tax is taken; for 1) the members of the host are to give gifts, not heave offerings as in Exo. 30; 2) it is not a "mustering" but an "appearance;" and 3) the gift was in proportion to God's blessing, not a fixed amount (cf. Deut. 16:10). Jesus indicates that the annual Temple Tax of his day, based on head tax of Exo. 30 and the levy of Neh. 10:32-33, was not an obligatory tax (Matt. 17:24-27); and since Jesus always obeyed the Mosaic law, this annual tax was not required by the Mosaic law.
D. The temple is not a microcosm inclusive of civil sphere:
Of course, one might argue that the house of God (Tabernacle, Temple) is a microcosmic representation and concentration point for the whole kingdom of God, inclusive of the civil function as well as the ecclesiastical. In Christianity, however, the focal point of civilization is not the state, as it is in paganism, but worship in the presence of God, organized by the Church. Thus, the house of God is preeminently a house of prayer, not a political center (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11; Matt. 21:13).
- James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 225-34, at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/docs/20fe_47e.htm.