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A Critique of Jordan's & North's View of the Head Tax, Part 2 of 3

James Jordan and Christian Reconstructionist leader Gary North disagree with R. J. Rushdoony's understanding of the head tax as a civil tax. In the following critique of their position I will focus on Jordan's essay, since North adheres to all the key points of Jordan's arguments and cites them as proof.

  • Robert Fugate,
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[Editor's note: The only way a nation can have big government is through big taxation. But the only kind of taxation authorized by God, in the Bible, is small taxation: the head tax. In the second and third parts of this series, Dr. Fugate defends

R. J. Rushdoony's position on the head tax and answers the arguments of two of its prominent critics. By turning away from the only model of taxation laid down for us in God's Word, we have made big, intrusive, imperious government both possible and prevalent.]

In the previous issue we learned that God has given us an infallible revelation of His will regarding civil taxation. That revelation is found only in God's written Word, the Bible, which is sufficient to instruct us how to please God in all areas of life ("thoroughly equipped for every good work," 2 Tim. 3:17).1

The only God-instituted and God-endorsed form of civil tax in Scripture is the head tax (also known as a poll tax or census tax) (Ex. 30:11-16; 38:25f.; 2 Kings 12:4-16 // 2 Chr. 24:4-14; Neh. 10:32f.; Matt. 17:24-27). The Biblical head tax is: (a) a mandatory civil tax; (b) levied upon every male (age twenty and older); (c) paid annually; (d) a fixed, flat fee (not a percentage) that is a low enough amount that every man can afford to pay it. Such limited tax revenue restricts the state to its God-ordained functions. This view of the head tax is based upon R. J. Rushdoony's teaching.2

However, James Jordan3 and Christian Reconstructionist leader Gary North4 disagree with R. J. Rushdoony's understanding of the head tax as a civil tax. In the following critique of their position I will focus on Jordan's essay, since North adheres to all the key points of Jordan's arguments and cites them as proof.

Objections made by Jordan and North

James Jordan objected to R. J. Rushdoony's understanding of the head tax on four main grounds. Gary North concurs with Jordan and then adds a fifth argument. Before considering their specific objections, I would like to begin with an excerpt from Jordan's summary:

One might argue that the house of God (Tabernacle, Temple) is a microcosmic representation and concentration point for the whole kingdom of God, inclusive of the civil function as well as the ecclesiastical.5
I have so argued in the previous article. Jordan then attempts to dismiss this possibility:
In Christianity, however, the focal point of civilization is not the state, as it is in paganism, but worship in the presence of God, organized by the Church. Thus, the house of God is preeminently a house of prayer, not a political center (Is 56:7; Jer 7:11; Mt 21:13).6

I do not find this argumentation cogent or convincing.

First, on the previous page Jordan himself asserted, "The Tabernacle was the ultimate political as well as ecclesiastical center of Israel."7 How does this admission not refute the above quotation?

Second, note that Jordan is assuming discontinuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament ("In Christianity, however ..."). He neither tells us the nature of this unstated discontinuity, nor does he support it Biblically. Furthermore, the very verses he cites (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11; Matt. 21:1) demonstrate the unity and continuity of both Testaments, not discontinuity.

Third, these two sentences are a complete non-sequitur with the preceding. Jordan is supposed to be refuting the view that the tabernacle/temple represents the Kingdom of God (including both civil and ecclesiastical spheres). Instead, he switches to contrasting Christianity with paganism, which does not relate to the argument at all.

Fourth, notice that Jordan is laying the groundwork for an unbiblical, new covenant age ecclesiocracy (i.e., rule by the church):

The focal point of civilization is not the state, as it is in paganism, but worship of God, organized by the Church ... The sword of the state executes according to the judgments rendered by the priests ... The Church must say whether the war is just and holy.8

However, the church is not the focal point of the Kingdom of God, the organizer of worship in all spheres of life, and the infallible interpreter of the Scriptures (contra Roman Catholic theology). The God-ordained institutions, i.e., the family, the church, and the state, are all distinct jurisdictional spheres in the Kingdom of God. All are directly ruled by God's written law-word. The family and the state are not to be ruled by the church. (Of course, the church does have a responsibility to teach God's Word, applying it to all areas of life-including church and state.)

Fifth, Jordan's argument, "the house of God is preeminently a house of prayer, not a political center," is fallacious, being a false dilemma. Both choices are true. The house of God is to be a house of prayer (the same was true for the Old Testament house of God), and the Kingdom of God has a political dimension (in both Testaments). With regard to political aspects of the Kingdom of God after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, permit me to quote from my book, Key Principles of Biblical Civil Government:

God the Father gave "all authority ...  in heaven and in earth" to the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 28:18). "He is Lord of all" (Ac 10:36). As absolute monarch, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ has commissioned his church to disciple all nations9 (Mt 28:18-20). Furthermore, God the Father is commanding all kings, rulers, and judges to bow in submissive obedience to his Son (Ps 2:10-12; Ph 2:9-11).10 The nations are the Son's inheritance from his Father (Ps 2:8; cf. Rv 11:15). Jesus Christ is "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rv 19:16; cf. 17:14; Ac 17:6f; Ps 89:27), "the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Rv 1:5), and the "head over all things for the church" (Eph 1:20-23). During Christ's reign at the Father's right hand, all enemies and all things will be put under His feet-in history (Ps 110:1-3 note "until"; 1 Cor 15:23-28; Ac 2:33-36; Eph 1:20-23; Heb 10:12f; Dn 7:13f). Jesus Christ is to have the preeminence in all things (Col 1:18). Every thought is to be made prisoner of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). To restrict "all authority" or "all things" or "every thought" to religious matters (in contrast to secular matters) is a total perversion of the message of Scripture and a repudiation of the comprehensive Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Lord over all; God's Word is authoritative in all areas; every person and every thing is to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31). In sum, God the Father has instituted a Christocracy with Christ ruling the created order from his heavenly, Davidic throne at the Father's right hand (Ac 2:30-36).11

To deny the political aspects of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (which began with His resurrection and enthronement) is to truncate the absolute lordship of Christ-the heart of the New Testament message. It severs one aspect of Christ's Kingdom from the realm of history. This error is often introduced by accepting some form of pietism (which is rooted in pagan Greek dualism).12

We might also note that in the Old Testament princes (as well as priests) had chambers in the temple (Ezk. 44:3; Jer. 35:4 NKJV "the chamber of the princes").13 And as we noted in the previous article, "The side chambers of the Temple ... held at least some of the revenues of the state."14

Having seen the unbiblical conclusion to which Jordan has arrived, let us now examine the arguments that led him into this dead end.

Jordan-North Argumentation

1. Jordan begins his deconstruction of Rushdoony's view of the head tax by arguing that the ransom (Ex. 30:12) and atonement (Ex. 30:15f.) of the Exodus 30 head tax passage were not a political covering, but a type of our redemption in Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19).15

Rebuttal #1

Typology. One of the principles of historical-grammatical hermeneutics is that for something in the Old Testament clearly to be a type, the New Testament must affirm the type and its New Testament antitype. The New Testament never teaches that a man ransoming his own life with a payment of silver in Exodus 30 is a type of redemption in Christ. Is Jordan's interpretation of the word "ransom" in Exodus 30:12 in terms of 1 Peter 1:18 an application of his (in)famous hermeneutic of interpretive maximalism (i.e., allegoricalism), rather than sound historical-grammatical exegesis?

Furthermore, the terms "ransom" and "atonement" occur in Scripture in various contexts with various shades of meaning. The cardinal rule in lexicography is context determines definition. The scholarly Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament understands the Hebrew word translated "atonement" in Exodus 30:15f. (kaphar) to denote a "registration fee"16-not priestly atonement. Neither Jordan nor North even considers such a definition. The Hebrew term translated "ransom" in Exodus 30:12 (kōpher) is a legal term; it has nothing to do with ecclesiastical worship or religious rituals.17 Yet, Dr. North has built almost all his argumentation against Rushdoony's view of the head tax18 on the assumption that the terms "ransom" and "atonement" can only have ecclesiastical (not civil) definitions.

Dr. North also assumes that, if the head tax was associated with a military census taken immediately prior to war in Exodus 30, then it must always be associated with that and with nothing else. But, in subsequent Scriptural references to the head tax (i.e., Ex. 38:25f.; 2 Kings 12:4-16 // 2 Chr. 24:4-14; Matt. 17:24-27; Neh. 10:32f.), the head tax was not to muster an army, and there is no mention of it being a "ransom" that makes "atonement" in Exodus 38:25f., 2 Kings 12:4-16 // 2 Chronicles 24:4-14, or Matthew 17:24-27.19 However, the head tax did always support the tabernacle/temple. Since the terms "ransom" and "atonement" are never used with regard to the head tax-except when mustering an army for war (Ex. 30)-atonement for bloodshed in war is clearly not central to the primary meaning and purpose of the head tax. Thus Jordan's redemptive-historical typology fails.

Neither does Jordan's typology of redemption in Christ comport with the fact that the atonement in Exodus 30 was not made for women, children, or Levites20-none of whom went to war. Yet, many of them were undoubtedly included in Christ's redemption (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Thus Jordan's first argument against the head tax being a civil tax is neither cogent nor persuasive.

2. Jordan's second argument concerns the circumstances of the collection of the head tax. He argues that the numbering in Exodus 30 (vv. 12-14) was for an occasional mustering of Israel's army for battle, not an annual head tax:

The mustering was not an annual census ... There is no evidence that this mustering with taxation was annually repeated. Exodus 30 does not say that there is to be an annual census, nor does any other passage of Scripture ... There simply is no evidence of an annual head tax.21

Rebuttal #2

Jordan's claim that the head tax was not annual may apply to Exodus 30.22 However, it is clearly contradicted by other passages asserting that the head tax or census tax was paid annually. When King Joash restored the practice of collecting the head tax of Exodus 30, it was explicitly denoted as "the levy [tax] fixed by Moses the servant of the LORD on the congregation of Israel for the tent of the testimony ... the levy fixed by Moses the servant of God" (2 Chr. 24:6, 9 NASB) and "census tax"/"census money" (2 Kings 12:4 NET, NKJV, NIV, NAB, etc.23). The text specifically states that this head tax was to be collected "annually" (2 Chr. 24:5 NASB, NIV; NJB, NET, JPS TANAKH) (cf. "yearly" in Neh. 10:32). Thus there clearly is Biblical evidence of an annual head tax. Jordan recognizes that 2 Kings 12:4 // 2 Chronicles 24:6, 9 refers to the head tax,24 but he ignores the fact that this head tax/"levy fixed by Moses" was annual. Thus Jordan's assertion that "there simply is no evidence of an annual head tax" is untrue. This annual collection also answers North's question as to how the ongoing day-to-day expenses of the state could be financed by a tax that could only be levied prior to an occasional war.25

3. Use of the tax

Rebuttal #3

Most of Jordan's arguments in this section attempt to prove that the head tax in Exodus 30 was not used to fund the army, but helped furnish the tabernacle (Ex. 38:25-28)-a point with which I agree.26 However, Jordan's notions that the military was not a state function and that Israel's wars were holy wars and therefore a "priestly function" are unconvincing.

First, it is not accurate to classify all Israel's wars as holy wars.27 Holy wars were primarily fought against those nations that God had devoted to utter destruction (herem), i.e., the seven Canaanite nations (Dt. 7:1-2; 20:17)28 and the nomadic Amalekites (Ex. 17:14, 16; Dt. 25:17-19; 1 Sam. 15:2-3). Under the monarchy, Israel fought many wars against non-Canaanite nations that God had not devoted to utter destruction (herem), e.g., Moab, Ammon, Syria, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, etc.29 Not even all the Canaanite cities (which God had devoted to utter destruction) were to be burned (Dt. 6:10-11; Josh. 11:13, 24:13). Thus Jordan's depiction of the cities of Israel's defeated enemies as "torched," "whole burnt sacrifices"30 is painted with too broad a brush.

Second, if "atonement" and "ransom" were required prior to shedding man's blood in war, why was this payment not required before every war, instead of at a rare census? Or, if taking a census itself was the danger (cp. 2 Sam. 24), then surely God would have said, "Do not take a census, for it is wrong to do so."31

Third, Jordan omits the job description of military commander from the role of the king. This is historical revisionism. King Saul was little more than a military commander (and that is why Israel chose him to be her king in the first place, 1 Sam. 8:19f.). Also, the Bible goes to great lengths to describe King David's military exploits. In addition, the Bible frequently describes God and Christ's kingly rule in military terms.32 Clearly, military leadership is central to the role of the king (2 Sam. 11:1).

Fourth, priests and Levites (who were the leaders of the Old Testament church) were exempt from fighting in holy wars (Num. 1:47-49; cf. Ezra 7:23f.).33 If mustering the army to battle was not a civil function but an ecclesiastical function (as Jordan asserts), and if Israel's wars were holy wars fought by temporary Nazirite priests (as Jordan also asserts), why are the ecclesiastical leaders exempt from fighting in such holy wars? If Israel's wars actually were ecclesiastical wars rather than civil wars, then the church leaders should have been leading the troops (especially a Nazirite like Samuel). Thus Jordan's statement that "holy war was a specifically priestly function"34 is highly questionable at best. The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible states, "Priests have no sacral or oracular duties in warfare, but merely deliver a reassuring oration before battle" (Dt. 20:2-4).35

Fifth, Jordan's statement that the head tax of 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24 "was collected by the Levites and administered by the priests"36 was not always the case (if it ever was). Instead, King Jehoash reasserted royal Davidic control over the sanctuary, taking the funds out of the hands of the priests.37 Furthermore, the text sharply distinguishes between the census tax (i.e., the head/poll tax), which was deposited into the temple treasury, and the money that was to be given ("belonged") to the priests, which was not brought into the temple (2 Kings 12:16). (See "Additional issues with the Jordan-North view" below for further discussion.)

Sixth, since the tabernacle/temple had a civil dimension (see above; see especially "The relationship between temples and taxes in the ancient Near East" in my previous article), and since the head tax was used to fund the tabernacle/temple (Ex. 38:25-28; 2 Kings 12:4-16 // 2 Chr. 24:4-14), the head tax must have supported the civil order.38

Therefore, we conclude that the mustering of the army for a census in Exodus 30 was not an ecclesiastical function, in contrast to a civil function. Jordan's third argument does not stand.


1. For an explanation and a Biblical defense of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture see Robert E. Fugate, The Bible: God's Words to You (Omaha, NE: Lord of the Nations, LLC, 2012), 341-352.

2. Rousas J. Rushdoony, Exodus (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 2004), 443-446. Idem., The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1. (n.p.: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1973), 50, 277, 281-283, 492, 510, 719. Idem., The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 3 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House, 1999), 23f. Idem., Law and Society (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1982), 696f.

Rushdoony summarized his understanding of the head/poll tax as follows: "The basic tax was the poll or head tax (Ex 30:11-16), which had to be the same for all men. It was paid by men only, all men of age twenty and over. This tax was collected by the civil authority for the maintenance of the civil order, to provide all men with a covering or atonement of civil justice" (The Institutes of Biblical Law, 1:492).

3. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), 225-239. When Jordan wrote this book he held to theonomy, a school of thought he has since rejected. The questions Jordan raises are legitimate and deserve an answer. (My rebuttal of Jordan's view of the head tax in no way demeans the many insights contained in The Law of the Covenant.)

4. Gary North, Tools of Dominion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), 903-912. (My disagreement with Dr. North's view of the head tax in no way detracts from my appreciation for his voluminous writings or for his funding the publication of many important books.)

5. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 232.

6. Ibid.    

7. Ibid., 231.

8. Ibid., 232. It should be noted that in the Old Testament even the high priest had no authority to call for holy war; only God had such authority and His direction only came through His prophets, not through either church priests or heads of state (Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, NAC [Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2006], 396). (Of course, after the death of Christ's Apostles, we have no more sources of extra-Biblical, infallible, normative revelations.)

9. Every nation is comprised of various domains or spheres: religion; civil governments and law; family and social welfare; education; economics and business (including science and technology); media; the arts and sports. Cf. Douglas Layton, Our Father's Kingdom (Nashville, TN: World Impact, 2000), 42.

10. This command came into force as of "today" (Psa. 2:7); "today" refers to the day Jesus Christ was raised from the dead (Acts 13:33; cf. vv. 30-37). Note that the earlier portion of this Psalm also prophesied first century events, i.e., civil magistrates' violent and irrational opposition to Yahweh and to his Messiah, culminating in their murdering Christ (Psa. 2:1f.; Acts 4:25-28).

11. Robert E. Fugate, Key Principles of Biblical Civil Government (Omaha, NE: Thy Word Is Truth Publishers, 2007), 34-36; available at

12. Robert E. Fugate, "A Summary of Crucial Errors of Pietism." The article can be downloaded free at

13. In times of apostasy, civil government officials having chambers in the temple were ungodly men (2 Kings 23:11; Neh. 13:4-9).

14. "Temple, Jerusalem," Anchor Bible Dictionary (ABD), ed. D.N. Freedman, 6 Vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:361.

15. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 226. North entitles his discussion of Exodus 30 "Blood Money, Not Head Tax," and adds, "It is not a tax at all" (Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 906). Contrast North's statement with that of Old Testament scholar Baruch A. Levine, who describes the census of Exodus 30 as a "poll taken for purposes of taxation" (Numbers 1-20, AB [New York, NY: Doubleday, 1993], 133). Jewish exegete Nahum M. Sarna entitles this section of Exodus "The Census and the Poll Tax" (The JPS Commentary: Exodus [Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1991], 195).

16. Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (TLOT), eds. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, 3 Vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997), 2:634. The Hebrew term translated "atonement" in Ex. 30:15b, 16b (kaphar) often occurs in ecclesiastical contexts. However, in Deuteronomy 21:8 the usage clearly applies to the civil sphere, since it involves the procedure municipal civil magistrates are to follow in cases of unsolved homicides (vv. 1-9). Thus the term kaphar is used in both ecclesiastical and civil contexts.

17. Besides Exodus 30:12, the only other occurrence of kōpher in Exodus is 21:30, regarding monetary compensation for one's life in a civil court case (in which the accuser agreed to accept a legal payment of money in lieu of the death penalty for one guilty of accidental homicide [but not murder]). Kōpher occurs only two other times in the Pentateuch (Num. 35:31f.), having the same basic meaning. "The noun kōper is a legal term. It denotes the material gift that establishes an amicable settlement between an injured party and the offending party ... For the recipient, it represents compensation, reparation, indemnification; from the perspective of the offender, it represents a ransom" (Ex. 21:30) (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, eds., G. J. Botterweck, H. Ringgren, et al., Vol. 7 [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995], 301). "Kōper has nothing to do with the cultic [i.e., religious worship or ritual] realm ... It is at home in civil law and signifies ‘reparation, ransom' (Ex 21:30; 30:12; Nu 35:31f; Is 43:3; Ps 49:8; Job 33:24; 36:18; Pr 6:35; 13:8; 21:18) or ‘bribe' (1 Sm 12:3; Am 5:12)" (TLOT, 2:625f). "A ransom avails only when God initiates it ... Certain court cases allowed the payment of money in place of the death penalty (Ex 21:28-32)" (NIDOTTE 2:712).

18. Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 906f. North is so preoccupied with the notion of priestly atonement that he uses the word "atonement" twenty-eight times and "atoning" once in his ten-page article.

19. Neh. 10:33 does state that sin offerings make atonement for Israel. However, Jordan does not believe that Nehemiah's tax is the Mosaic head tax (James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 237f.). I will discuss Nehemiah's tax and the unusual circumstances surrounding it below.

20. William H.C. Propp, Exodus 19-40, 536f. At a later date certain Levites did go to war (1 Chr. 12:26-28; 27:17, 5f.).

21. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 227, 229f. Jordan probably reads too much into Exodus 30 when he describes the head tax as "a visitation or judgment designed to see who is on the Lord's side" (227). Were the women, children, Levites, and various other men (Dt. 20:5-8) who did not go to war thereby in "the army of Satan" (to use Jordan's term)? (If it be objected that Dt. 20 was written after the Exodus 30 mustering for battle/census and therefore is not applicable, I would respond that Jordan states that "the mustering was ... an occasional mustering for battle whenever needed" [227].)

22. However, "Exodus 30:13f. was understood by the Pharisees as instituting an annual due (Mishna Shekalim 1:1 [in Herbert Danby, The Mishnah, p. 152])" (William Horbury, "The Temple Tax," Jesus and the Politics of His Day, eds. Ernst Bammel and C.F.D. Moule, 277).

23. Numerous commentators connect this census tax with that instituted by Moses in Exodus 30; for example: T.R. Hobbs, 2 Kings, WBC [Waco, TX: Word, 1985], 152; Marvin A. Sweeney, 1 & 2 Kings, 352; Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, 2 Kings, AB (New York: Doubleday, 1988),137; August H. Konkel, 1 & 2 Kings (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 512; Iain W. Provan, 1 And 2 Kings, NIBC (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 225; Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings, TOTC (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 236; Robert L. Hubbard, First & Second Kings, EBC (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1991), 184; John Gray, 1 & 2 Kings, OTL, 2nd rev. ed. (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1970), 585; Carl F. Keil, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, 3 Vol. (repr.: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975), 1:366.

24. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 230.

25. Gary North, Tools of Dominion, 907 (despite his statement that this difficulty "obviously cannot be explained-not without concluding that Israel was a permanent warfare State").

26. Israel had no standing army. Her citizens' army or militia was generally funded by booty. A plethora of Biblical examples of soldiers collecting booty are cited by Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Social Institutions (NY: McGraw-Hill, 1965), 255f.

In one place Rushdoony did write, "The head tax supports the state and its military power plus its courts" (Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, 1:283). In Rushdoony's view this was the case after the construction and furnishing of the tabernacle was completed (1:50).

27. A definite distinction is made in the Old Testament between Israel's so-called "holy wars" or "Yahweh wars" (Num. 21:14; 1 Sam. 18:17; 25:28; cf. Ex. 17:16) and Israel's normal wars (Gerhard von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy, Studies in Biblical Theology #9 [Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery Co., 1953], 46f.). For a description of Israel's holy wars or Yahweh wars see Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Social Institutions, 258-260ff.

28. The seven Canaanite nations were the: Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Dt. 7:1).

29. The rules of warfare were different in Yahweh's wars that demanded herem (i.e., the utter destruction of His enemies) from normal warfare. In Yahweh's war against the Canaanite nations He gave specific revelatory direction that devoted these specific nations to utter destruction (herem), meaning that God ordered the complete annihilation of this enemy, his army, his women, children and livestock, and the destruction of his cities and towns (Dt. 20:16-18; Josh. 8:24-29; 1 Sam. 15:3). Thus herem involved genocide and the complete destruction of the enemies' culture ("Herem," Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch, eds. T. D. Alexander and D. W. Baker [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003], 385f.). By contrast, standing law or normal rules for warfare against enemies living outside Canaan involved the killing of all adult males only, while sparing the women, children, and livestock and taking spoils (Dt. 20:10-15; 21:10-13). "When a foreign town was captured, only the male population was put to death (Dt. 20:14, but here the word herem is not found and the text does not refer to a holy war, in contrast with the reference to towns in the Holy Land,  Dt. 20:16f)" (Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Social Institutions, 260).

"This strictly sacred character of war disappeared with the advent of the monarchy and the establishment of a professional army. It is no longer Yahweh who marches ahead of his people to fight the Wars of Yahweh, but the king who leads his people out and fights its wars (1 Sm 8:20). The combatants are no longer warriors who volunteer to fight, but professionals in the pay of the king, or conscripts recruited by his officials" (Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Social Institutions, 263).

30. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 231. "One cannot prove that the herem was a permanent element of the holy war" (TLOT, 2:476). Furthermore, of the three examples Jordan cites, two refer to apostate Jewish cities (Dt. 13:16; Judges 20:40), not Canaanite cities. His third example (Judges 1:17) uses the normal Hebrew term for utter destruction (herem), but does not specify whether the city was actually burned.

31. Peter Enns, Exodus, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 538. For a discussion of David's sin in taking the census (2 Sam. 24) see Robert E. Fugate, Toward a Theology of Taxation (Omaha, NE: Lord of the Nations, LLC, 2009), 23-25.

32. Tremper Longman III and Daniel G. Reid, God Is a Warrior (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995). James E. Adams, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1991). See especially Psalms 2:6-12; 110:1-3, 5-7; Rev. 19:11-21.

33. "Exodus 30:14 [with its specification of age twenty] supports the argument that this [military] census excludes the Levites, who will be counted from the age of twenty-five (Nu 8:4) or thirty (Nu 4:3), when they begin their service" (William H.C. Propp, Exodus 19-40, AB, 479).

34. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 231.

35. Richard D. Nelson, "Holy War," The New Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, 5 Vols. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2007), 2:880. Nelson makes this statement with particular reference to Deuteronomy. On one occasion the prophet-priest-judge Samuel offered sacrifices prior to Israel engaging in battle (1 Sam. 7:9). He was planning on doing so again, but King Saul usurped Samuel's role and was judged by God (10:8-10 with 13:9, 12).

36. James B. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, 232. Similarly, North writes that the ransom of Exodus 30 was "paid to God through the priesthood" (Tools of Dominion, 906).

37. "Jehoash takes charge much like Solomon to see that the work of temple repair is properly financed and accomplished ... By taking the funds out of the hands of the priests, Jehoash reasserts royal Davidic control over the sanctuary" (Marvin A. Sweeney, 1 & 2 Kings, 351f.). In Joash's new arrangement the priests "will be absolved of responsibility to repair the temple, but they will no longer be in charge of the offerings brought to the temple" (August H. Konkel, 1 & 2 Kings [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006], 513; cf. T.R. Hobbs, 2 Kings, 153).

38. I have argued my position from Scripture, not history. Nevertheless, at the time of Christ, temple funds were, in fact, used "to pay for the repairs of the city-walls, the roads, and public buildings, etc., about Jerusalem" (as well as for ecclesiastical purposes) (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services as They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ [reprint: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969], 75).

  • Robert Fugate

Dr. Robert Fugate (Ph.D., M.Div.) is the pastor of Word and Spirit Covenant Church in Omaha, Nebraska. In addition to his job as pastor, Dr. Fugate mentors young adults, missionary candidates, and other pastors in Biblical worldview, presuppositional apologetics, and theology.

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