{Jewish Sects and Orders}

Roman capitalists (Lat. publicani) farmed the revenues of a province or district at a specified sum, collecting what they could from the taxpayers. These Publicani usually sublet the taxes to contractors of lower grade (probably Zaccaeus, Luke 19:2); and the actual collectors (N.T. "publicans") were driven to severest exactions. The taxes being levied on produce and merchandise, over-assessment was easy and most oppressive. The Jewish tax-collectors were universally despised - (1) as unpatriotic and degraded by serving Romans; (2) for their extortion and "false accusations"; and were classed accordingly with "sinners."

The below notes are included to better expand on the role of the Publicans, taxes and tribute, as seen in the Bible.

Under the judges, the Hebrews were taxed for the support of the worship of the LORD, but with the coming of the kings the royal court had to be sustained by additional taxes. This burden increased, especially under the rule of Solomon, until it became almost unbearable and there came the revolt from Rehoboam by the ten tribes (1 Kings 12:1-18). When foreign nations conquered Israel, they laid heavy taxes upon them (2 Kings 15:19,20; Nehemiah 5; 9:37). The Roman taxgatherers were hated by the Jews (Matthew 11:19). During the Roman period, Judea was required to pay a regular tribute, which the native rulers collected. Later, after the death of Herod, the Roman system of collection of taxes was introduced. This included the census or poll tax, tolls, and duties, which were farmed out to the highest bidder (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).

A word used in the Bible of several kinds of taxes. The Hebrew word generally translated "tribute" is used of forced labor (1 Kings 9:21). Solomon used a system of levying provisions needed to maintain the royal household (1 Kings 4:7-19) and labor for constructing his buildings (1 Kings 5:13ff; 9:15). When foreign powers ruled the Jews, these levied a tribute on the people (2 Kings 23:33; Ezra 4:13). In the New Testament "tribute" represents the taxes paid to the Roman government (Luke 20:22), and the half-shekel paid annually by every Jewish male to support the daily service in the temple (Matthew 17:24ff).

Pub"li*can (?), n. [L. publicanus: cf. F. publicain. See Public.]

1. Rom. Antiq.

A farmer of the taxes and public revenues; hence, a collector of toll or tribute. The inferior officers of this class were often oppressive in their exactions, and were regarded with great detestation.

As Jesus at meat . . . many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. Matt. 1x. 10.

How like a fawning publican he looks! Shak.


The keeper of an inn or public house; one licensed to retail beer, spirits, or wine.


© Webster 1913.

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