Paying Taxes in Biblical Israel

April 2 2019

Even in the ancient kingdom of Judah, during the First Temple period (approximately 900 to 586 BCE), taxes had to be collected. Daniel Shani explains an artifact that is one of the main sources of archaeological information about these taxes:

This item, approximately seven-by-seven millimeters in size, is a bulla—a piece of clay, which, while still wet and soft, was affixed to a string used to tie up a rolled papyrus document. . . . [A]ncient Hebrew letters stamped into the sealing, which, despite two broken letters, can be read as saying “Gibeon [belonging to the] king.” The shape of the letters and comparison to similar artifacts date it to the 7th century BCE.

This [artifact] belongs to a rare group known as “fiscal bullae.” Less than 60 of them were ever published, and until recently all were unprovenanced artifacts from the antiquities market. This changed in the past few years with the discovery of this bulla, which was also the first to mention the Canaanite town of Gibeon [that figures prominently in the book of Joshua]. Since then, excavations at the City of David in Jerusalem have yielded two more bullae (bearing the names of Bethlehem and Eltekon, a city in the hills of Hebron). Another bulla, unearthed southeast of the Temple Mount, has yet to be published. . . .

Most taxes mentioned in the Bible were the kind paid by the sweat of your brow—a period of forced labor [on] governmental infrastructure projects. But it also fell upon the residents of the kingdom to provide for the monarch. This was likely done via . . . local administrators, whose names appear on some of the fiscal bullae and on [specially designated] jars for collecting agricultural produce. . . . Some of the so-called fiscal bullae, such as ours, were attached to documents such as receipts or bills of lading and still retain the impression of papyrus fibers, while others were attached to nothing at all and served as a token of debts paid.

Read more at Temple Mount Sifting Project

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, First Temple, History & Ideas

Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy