During the time of Jesus in first century Israel, there were taxgatherer or tax collectors who could walk up to a man and tax him for what he was carrying.......

During the time of Jesus in first century Israel, there were taxgatherer or tax collectors who could walk up to a man and tax him for what he was carrying, and much more. These tax collectors were hated and despised because they were usually fellow Jews who worked for Rome. There were many taxes needed from the provinces to administrate the Roman Empire. These taxes paid for a good system of roads, law and order, security, religious freedom, a certain amount of self government and other benefits.

The taxgatherer is mentioned quite often throughout the life of Christ. Since Israel was under Roman rule, and part of a province of the Roman Empire, customs duties were farmed out to chief tax collectors. These chief tax collector's what also farm these duties over to the regular tax collectors.

In the eyes of Rome the provinces were to carry the heavy weight of administering the Empire. Judea was in the province of Syria and every man was to pay 1% of his annual income for income tax. But that was not all, there were also import and export taxes, crop taxes (1/10 of grain crop and 1/5 of wine, fruit, and olive oil), sales tax, property tax, emergency tax, and on and on. It was actually a Roman official (censor) who was ultimately responsible to Rome for collecting the revenue of the province, but he sold the rights to extort tax to the highest bidders.

Most of the time when the Bible mentions a taxgatherer, or a tax collector it is referring to a regular tax collector rather than a chief tax collector. The tax collectors were usually Jewish and therefore they were hated by their own people. When they collected their taxes for Rome they would turn over the required amount of money, and whatever they could add on for themselves is what they kept. They were known to be extortioners of large sums of money. Because tax collectors were in relationship with Rome, who were Gentiles in the eyes of the Jews, and hated for their domination, they were treated similar to the worst kinds of sinners and prostitutes.

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.

But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'

Jesus, preferring a chief tax collector's house to that of any of the priests at Jericho, then said to number 12,000, marks the honour He does to Zacchaeus and drew on Him the indignation of Jewish bigots. Even the chief , Zacchaeus implies, often "took from men by false accusation" (esukofanteesa, rather "unfairly exacted," "extorted"); Luke 3:13 also, John the Baptist's charge "exact no more than that which is appointed you." Still more odious to the Jews was the common taxgatherer, with whom most they came in contact. Inquisitorial proceedings and unscrupulous extortion in a conquered country made the office, hateful already as the badge of God's elect nation's subjection to pagan, still more so. Most Jews thought it unlawful to pay tribute to pagan.

Jesus showed much kindness to the taxgatherer, and he was even mentioned as having had dinner with them, which in Israel was a sign of fellowship. (Luke 18 and 19). In fact one of his apostles named Matthew (Levi) was a taxgatherer, and became an author of one of the accounts of the life of Christ known as the book of Matthew.

Jesus calling Zacchaeus the chief Taxgatherer

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