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.

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Read more at Temple Mount Sifting Project

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

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy