Tribute (prop. מִס, φόρος), an impost which one prince or state agrees, or is compelled, to pay to another, as the purchase of peace or in token of dependence.. In the Scriptures we find three forms of this requirement. SEE TAX.
I. Native. — The Hebrews acknowledged no other sovereign than-God; and in Ex 30:12,15, we find they' were required to pay tribute unto the Lord, to give an offering of half a shekel to "make an atonement for their souls." The native kings and judges of the Hebrews did not exact tribute. Solomon, indeed, at the beginning of his reign, levied tribute from the Canaanites and others who remained in the land and were not of Israel, and compelled them to hard servitude (1Ki 9:21-23; 2Ch 8:9); but the children of Israel were exempted from that impost, and employed in the more honorable departments and offices of his kingdom. Towards the end of his reign, however, he appears to have imposed tribute upon the Jews also, and to have compelled them to work upon the public buildings (1Ki 5:13-14; 1Ki 9:15; 1Ki 11:27). This had the effect of gradually alienating their minds, and of producing that discontent which afterwards resulted in open revolt under Jeroboam, son of Nebat. "Thy father made our yoke grievous," said the Israelites to Rehoboam; "now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father and his heavy yoke which he put upon us lighter, and we will serve thee" (1Ki 12:4). SEE ASSESSMENT.
II. Foreign. — The Israelites were at various times subjected to heavy taxes and tributes by their conquerors. After Judaea was reduced to a, Roman province, a new poll of the people and an estimate of their substance were taken, by command of Augustus, in order that he might more correctly regulate the tribute to be exacted (Joseph us, Anq. 17:15). This was a capitation-tax levied at so much a head, and imposed upon all males from fourteen, and all females from twelve, up to sixty-five years of age (Ulpian, Digest. de Censib. lib. 3; Fischer, De Numism. Census). SEE TAXING.
To oppose the levying of this tribute, Judas the Gaulonite raised an insurrection of the Jews, asserting that it was not lawful to pay tribute to a foreigner, that it was a token of servitude, and that the Jews were not allowed to acknowledge any for their master who did not worship the Lord. They boasted of being a free nation, and of never having been in bondage to any man (Joh 8:33). These sentiments were extensively promulgated, but all their efforts were of no avail in restraining or mitigating the exactions of their conquerors. SEE JUDAS.
The Pharisees, who sought to entangle Jesus in his talk, sent unto him demanding whether it was lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not; but, knowing their wicked designs, he replied, "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." SEE PENNY.
The apostles Peter and Paul severally recommended submission to the ruling powers, and inculcated the duty of paying tribute, "tribute to whom tribute is due" (Ro 13:1-8; 1Pe 2:13).
III. The Temple Tax. — The payment of the half shekel (half statre =two drachmae) was (as has been said above), though resting on an ancient precedent (Ex 30:13), yet, in its character as a fixed annual rate, of late origin. It was proclaimed, according to Rabbinie rules, on the 1st of Adar, began to be collected on the 15th, and was due, at latest, on the 1st of Nisan (Mishna, Shekalim, 1, 7; Surenhusins, p. 260, 261). It was applied to defray the general expenses of the Temple, the morning and evening sacrifice, the incense, wood, showbread the red heifers, the scape-goat, etc. (Mishna, Shekal. loc. cit.; in Lightfoot, Hor. Heb. on Matthew 17:24). After the destruction of the Temple it was sequestrated by Vespasian and his successors, and transferred to the Temple of the Capitoline Jupiter (Josephus, War, 7,6, 6). SEE TEMPLE.
The explanation thus given of the "tribute" of Mt 17:24 is, beyond all doubt, the true one. To suppose, with Chrysostom, Augustine, Maldonatus, and others, that it was the same as the tribute (κῆνσος) paid to the Roman emperor (Mt 22:17) is at variance with the distinct statements of Josephus and the Mishna, and takes away the whole significance of our Lord's words. It may be questioned, however, whether the full significance of those words is adequately brought out in the popular interpretation of them. As explained by most commentators, they are simply an assertion by our Lord of his divine Sonship, an implied rebuke of Peter for forgetting the truth which he had so recently confessed (comp. Wordsworth, Alford, and others): "Then are the children (υἱοί) free;" Thou hast owned me as the Son of the Living God, the Son of the Great King, of the Lord of the Temple, in whose honor men pay the Temple- tribute; why, forgetting this dost thou so hastily make answer as if I were an alien and a stranger? This explanation, however, hardly does justice to the tenor of the language. Our Lord had not been present at the preceding Passover, and had therefore failed to pay the tax at the regular time and place. Hence he was waited upon in Galilee for that purpose, with-some apprehension, perhaps, on the part of the collectors, that he might excuse himself for some reason, or at least neglect to pay. In his reply he asserts his just claim to exemption, not as an alien, but precisely because he was a member of the theocratic family in the highest sense. He was exempt on the broad constitutional ground that a king's son belongs to the royal household for whom tribute is collected, and not by whom it is rendered. Inasmuch as the tax was for the Temple service, Jesus, who was the son of the Lord of the Temple, could not be required to contribute to that expense. Peter is coupled in the payment, but not in the exemption; at least, not on the same ground precisely, but, if at all, on the general principle of association with the royal family. SEE TRIBUTE-MONEY.