Harvard Theological Review
Volume LVI
July 1963, Number 3
The Half-Shekel Offering
in Biblical and Post-Biblical Literature

by J. Liver
Tel Aviv University


It is still an accepted opinion of biblical scholarship that the regulation governing the offering of half a shekel in Exodus 30:11-16 belongs to one of the late trends of the Priestly Code. This text in Exodus, which enjoins upon the people of Israel the offering of half a shekel for the service of the tent of meeting in the desert, is thought also to reflet the conditions of the early Second Commonwealth, when an annual tax of half a shekel was collected for the maintanence of the sanctuary. It is held that this regulation of the Second Temple period was regarded in the Priestly Code as the dictum of G-d to Moses at the time of the construction of the tabernacle, to the effect that every one who was numbered in the census should give half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. (Cf. J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena, 1919, pp. 77, 153. Also cf. H. Holzinger, Exodus, 1900, pp. 145; Beer-Galling, Exodus, 1939, pp. 147 ff.; M.Noth, Exodus, 1959, pp. 193; and others) This view of the half-shekel offering is completely interwoven in the entire tissue of the documentary hypothesis concerning the time of the emergence and consolidation of the Priestly Code. Modern research, basing itself on the study of biblical institutions against the background of the the ancient Near East and on new methods in the study of the individual traditions and regulations, has shown that many of the laws and regulations commonly assigned to the Priestly Code were formulated in much earlier times and are by no means to be understood against the background of the early Second Commonwealth. (Cf. the recent survey of J. Bright, The Bible and the Ancient Near East, Essays in Honor of W.F. Albright, 1961, pp. 22 ff.; G.E. Mendenhall, ibid., pp. 40 ff. Of special interest is the position of Y. Kaufmann [Religion of Israel, 1960, pp. 153 ff.; and in greater detail, his History of the Religion of Israel, I, 1937, pp.113 ff.{Hebrew}], who adheres in principle to the Documentary Hypothesis but considers the Priestly Document to be of an early date. While I do not agree with the Documentary Hypothesis as regards the literary analysis of Pentateuchal narrative [cf. my treatment of Numbers 16-17 in Scripta Hierosolymitana 8, 1961, pp. 189-217] and the compostion of the Pentateuch as a whole, I agree with Kaufmann in considering the Priestly system of laws and regulations, in toto, as much earlier than the Second Commonwealth.) A revision of accepted views is also needed in regard to the time and background of the half-shekel regulation in Exodus.


According to the text of Exodus 30:11-16, the obligation to give half a shekel as an offering to the Lord is related to the census; and the offering was binding on all those who were numbered, from twenty years old and upward. According to the text, this offering of a fixed sum is a ransom to the Lord for every person numbered, given to prevent a plague from breaking out among them during the census. Even those scholars who view this ordinance of the half-shekel offering as a late regulation agree that the outlook expressed in Exodus, ie., that the census involves grave danger for all those taking part in it, was prevelant in Israel at an early period. This outlook is expressed in the early story about the census taken under David, recorded in II Samuel 24. In the account in Samuel, the very idea of a census is considered a consequence of the Lord's anger against David. According to this account, David conducted the census only because G-d incited him to this act (v.1). The census aroused doubts and fears in the minds of Joab and the commanders of the army (v.3), and David himself was remorseful afterwards (vv.10-11). In the continuation of the account in Samuel, the narrator links the plague that erupted among the people to the census. The very same approach underlies the text of Exodus 30:12: "...then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them." In Samuel, the attitude toward the census is unequivocal: a peacetime census (A wartime census is quite another matter. Cf. Judges 20:15 ff.; I Samuel 11:8; II Samuel 18:1, and elsewhere. A military census following a battle is recorded in the story of the war between the Israelites and the Midianites [Numbers 31:48 ff.], which tells of an offering brought by the warriors from "what each man found" to make atonement for themselves before the Lord. But in this narrative, which is usually assigned to the Priestly Code, it is impossible to determine whether the offering was brought on account of the census or because of a sin that it was presumed they had commmitted during the fighting.) is an act fraught with great danger; it can arouse the ire of G-d and cause a plague upon those numbered. The notion that a census, especially one conducted under royal auspices and involving registration and writing (Cf. E.A. Speiser, BASOR 149 [1958], ppp.23 ff.), is a dangerous affair, is by its very nature characteristic of a society whose material culture is not very highly developed. By contrast, a census is indispensable in the government of a kingdom with its officialdom, taxes, and compulsory royal service. The conflict between the notion that a census is fraught with danger and the practical need for a census is, therefore, characteristic of a coalescent government of a kingdom in a society that still clings to the prejudices of nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes. (In this article I have intentionally refrained from treating the matter of the ransom offering in Exodus in juxtaposition with the census administration of Mari. In the Mari texts there is information concerning censuses for conscription purposes and in conjunction with which there was a redistribution of property; there were even arrangements made in the realm of taxes. These activities, or some of them, are called in these documents "tebibtum," a word which in Accadian has the meaning of cleansing or purifying, including ritual purification: cf. J.R. Kupper, Studia Mariana, 1950, pp. 99-110, and E.A. Speiser, BASOR 149 [1958], pp. 17-25. Those scholars who see in the word "tebibtum" a name for the census [Kupper, Speiser, and others] deduce from this that the very conduct of the census involved an act of purification, and as a result that it was considered an act fraught with danger that had to be fended off by ritual measures. These scholars have also pointed to the parallel in this regard between the conduct of the census in Mari and the half-shekel regulation in Exodus. In contrast to this, the "tebibtum," according to the Mari texts, involves no ritual ceremonies and the priests do not particpate; it is carried out by secular officials. In fact, the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary [Vol.4, pp. 3-4, s.v. "ebebu"] explains the term "tebibtum" in the Mari texts not as an act of religious purification, but as a purge and clearing of men and property from debts and claims.) We may indeed assume that in the ordinance of the half-shekel in Exodus, viz., that ransom be offered to the Lord by those numbered, there is some attempt to harmonize two opposing ideas: on the one hand, the early conception that the execution of a census will probably arouse G-d's ire and cause disaster, and, on the other hand, the practical necessity of the census. The resolution provides for atonement money to be given by those numbered to serve as a kind of life-ransom for whoever would incur the death penalty for this act. (See S. Loewenstamm in Encyclopedia Biblica, Vol. IV, coll. 231 ff. [Hebrew].)

It is doubtful whether we can determine, on the basis of the available data, the temporal and local relationship between the account of David's census in II Samuel 24 and the notion that a ransom offering to the Lord is valid to ward off the danger. It is possible that the custom of making a ransom offering to the Lord during a census was in force already in the time of David, yet the narrator still attributed the reason for the plague, which undoubtedly erupted close to the time of the census, to the very act of the census, without noting whether safety measures were taken during the census or not. On the other hand, it may be that the regulation for offering a ransom to the Lord is later and represents an outlook that considered it feasible, with proper measures, to prevent the damage involved in a census. In any case, the very fear of a disaster which might result from a census cannot be much later than the early monarchy in Israel. For in the later monarchy - and even more so during the Second Commonwealth - censuses were conducted regularly and were not viewed as anything extraordinary or as involving grave danger.

One of the assumptions of those scholars who connect the half-shekel regulation of Exodus 30:11-16 with the annual half-shekel offering of the Second Commonwealth is that in Exodus the atonement money was allocated for cultic needs, ie., it served the same purpose as the half-shekel offering during the Second Commonwealth. They find support for this view in v. 16: "And thou shalt take the atonement money ... and shalt appoint it for the service of the tent of meeting" (Avodat Ohel Moed). The phrase "the service of the tent of meeting" normally refers to the service of the Levites (cf. such verses as Numbers 4:30; 7:5; 18:6). Only by forced interpretation can the phrase "the service of the tent of meeting" be understood also to refer to the sacred service in the tent, that is, as having a meaning similar to the phrase "for service of the house of our G-d" in Nehemiah 10:33. On the other hand, a more common usage and one closer to the usual sense of the phrase would be a reference to the work of making the tent of meeting and its appurtenances (cf. Exodus 27:19; 39:32, and elsewhere). This being the case, Exodus 30:16, which relates that Moses was commanded to take the atonement money from the people and give it "for the service of the tent of meeting" refers to the use of this money to construct the tent and ready it for service. This literal sense of the text accords with the account in Exodus 38:25-28, which relates that the silver given by the entire people included in the census (Exodus 38:25 ff. gives as the total amount of the silver from those of the congregation who were numbered 100 talents and 1775 shekels, ie. half a shekel per capita offered by 603,550 persons. This figure is identical with that of the census in Numbers I, in which the shekels are not mentioned. According to Numbers I:1 Moses received the command to conduct that census on the first day of the second month of the second year of the Exodus, while Exodus 38:25-28 relates that the money from those numbered was used to build the sanctuary which had already been completed on the first day of the first month [Exodus 40:17]. M.D.[U.] Cassuto [commentary on the book of Exodus, 1952, pp. 328 ff. {Hebrew}] maintains that in both cases the reference is to the same census which was carried out in stages; its beginning, including the collection of the atonement money, preceded the completion of the tabernacle. But according to Numbers I:1, Moses received the order regarding the census in the tent of meeting on the first day of the second month, and there is no continuation of an earlier census involved. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that Exodus 38 and Numbers I represent two divergent traditions regarding the time of the execution of the census of Israel in the desert. Regarding the question of agreement between the texts concerning the atonement money, we may conclude that the narrator [or editor] did not feel constrained to mention the atonement money, which was not the essential element in the census, either in Numbers I or in Numbers 26, owing to the fact that a general instruction appears earlier in Exodus 30:11-16. The historical value and time of origin of the census list of Numbers I, 26 need not concern us here. I consider the treatment of W.F. Albright, JPOS 5 [1925], pp. 20-25, to be still the most convincing. A more recent study is that of G.E. Mendenhall, JBL 77 [1958], pp. 52-66.) was cast for the sockets of the tent of meeting, the sockets of the veil, and hooks for the pillars. Even Exodus 30:16 itself provides added proof that the phrase "the service of the tent of meeting" is connected with the construction of the tabernacle and not with the sacrificial service. Thus the expression "that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord" indicates that the atonement money itself was to serve as a memorial before the Lord, which fits its use in being cast as vessels or appurtenances of the tent. Perhaps the atonement money (Cf. the account in Numbers 31:48 ff. concerning the atonement money offered to the Lord by those who had fought in the battle with Midian, where the same terminology is used [v.54]: "And Moses and Eleazer ... brought it into the tent of meeting, for a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord." In the account of the temple repair under Joash, the narrator states explicitly that the consecrated money which was brought to the house of the Lord was given to those who repair the house: "But there were not made for the house of the Lord cups of silver, snuffers, basins, trumpets, any vessels of gold, or vessels of silver, of the money that was brought into the house of the Lord" [II Kings 12:14]. Perhaps the narrator took pains to point out that the silver was not cast for serving vessels for the sanctuary because this was the usual application of the consecrated money; and Joash, in allocating these funds to temple repair, deviated from the accepted earlier custom.) served a similar purpose in those periods when this regulation was really in force in Israel.


An important problem related to the history of the half-shekel regulation is that of the relationship between the account in Exodus 30:11-16 and the story of the renovation of the temple under Joash as related in Chronicles. This incident is recounted in Chronicles somewhat differently from what it is in Kings. According to II Kings 12:5-17, Joash ordered that all the money of the hallowed things (The wording of the text in specifying the classes of consecrated money in II Kings 12:5 is problematic; cf. M. Delcor, VT 12 [1962], 360 ff.) brought to the house of the Lord be spent by the priests for repair of the house. Since the priests did not follow his order and did not repair the breaches in the house - no doubt because it was the king's obligation to do so - Joash ordered a chest placed near the altar, into which the guards of the threshold put the money that was brought; with this money the renovation was then carried out. In contrast to this, II Chronicles 24:4-14 relates that the king commanded the priests and Levites to collect money in the cities of Judah for the repair of the Lord's house. As the priests did not dispatch the matter promptly, a special chest was made at the king's behest; and proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem to bring the money which was then used in the repair of the Lord's house. (Cf. above) According to the account in Chronicles, when the money was not collected by the priests and Levites, the king addressed Jehoiada as follows (v.6): "Why hast thou not required of the Levites to bring in out of Judah and out of Jerusalem the tax of Moses the servant of the Lord (Maasat Moshe eved HaShem), and of the congregation of Israel, for the tent of testimony?" And again, when the collection of the money called for by the king is described (v.9): "And they made a proclamation through Judah and Jerusalem, to bring in for the Lord the tax that Moses the servant of G-d laid upon Israel in the wilderness." According to the dominant opinion, in traditional exegesis as well as in modern scholarship, (So, for example, Curtis-Madsen, Chronicles, 1910, p.435, and Rudolph, Chronikbucher, 1955, p.275.) the phrase "the tax of Moses the servant of the Lord" pertains to the half-shekel offering and refers to Exodus 30:12: "When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel (Ki tissa et rosh bnai yisrael) according to their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord." The accepted opinion in modern scholarship maintains that not only the half-shekel ordinance in Exodus but also the Chronicles version of the story of the renovation under Joash reflects the conditions of the Second Commonwealth when an annual half-shekel tax for sacrifice and other sanctuary needs was in force. According to this view the narrator introduced the tax imposed by Moses into his account of the renovation under Joash on the basis of an institution that existed in his own times. Thus, according to the narrative Joash instructed the Levites to collect in the cities of Judah the money for the repair of the house every year (II Chronicles 24:5). With the money collected, they not only repaired the house, but also - in contradiction to what is explicitly stated in Kings - made serving vessels and offered burnt offerings as long as Jehoiada lived (v.14).

It is doubtful whether the phrase Masat Moshe from Chronicles is itself related to the ordinance in Exodus 30. In a ritual context Masat means "offering" or "impost". (Cf. Ezekiel 20:40. Note the use of this word in Phoenician and Punic inscriptions, especially in the sacrificial tariff from Marseilles; cf. N. Slouschz, Thesaurus of Phoenician Inscriptions, 1942, pp. 140 ff. and pp.164 ff.) Thus the phrase in II Chronicles 24:6,9 means the impost that Moses imposed on the people of Israel in the desert for the erection of the tent of meeting. On the other hand, the expression "when thou takest the sum" is parallel in meaning to "when you number." (Cf. Numbers 1:2, 26:2, and elsewhere. Also cf. E.A. Speiser, BASOR 149 [1958], pp.22 ff.) Indeed, the story in Chronicles refers not to the half-shekel tax but to the offering for the construction of the tabernacle described in Exodus 25 ff. (Cf. Y. Kaufmann, History of the Reigion of Israel, Vol. Viii, 1956, p. 333, n. 46 [Hebrew]). Neither in II Chronicles 24 nor in the parallel account in II Kings 12 are there any details that might point to the atonement money of those numbered in the census.

Similarly, it is doubtful whether one can find any details in the Chronicles account that refer to the half-shekel tax in force during the time of the Second Commonwealth. The primary object of the latter was to furnish the regular sacrifices; the remainder, which did in fact involve very substantial sums towards the end of the period, was applied to other uses. The Chronicles account relates that the money left over after the renovation was used for making vessels for the Lord's house, and adds: "and they offered burnt offerings in the house of the Lord continually all the days of Jehoiada" (24:14). Only by a severely forced interpretation can one understand the end of this verse as indicating that, as long as Jehoiada lived, burnt offerings were furnished out of the money left over from the temple repair. But even granting such an interpretation, surely a description of sacrifices offered over a period of many years from silver taken in a single collection cannot possibly reflect an annual tax instituted to provide for the sacrificial service. The import of the text seems to be that they continually offered burnt offerings with those vessels made at the time of renovation. Indeed, in contradiction to the account in Kings, which fixes the renovation in the twenty-third year of Joash's reign (12:7), the account in Chronicles connects the renovation with the neglect of the temple by Athaliah and her sons, who "had broken up the house of G-d; and also all the hallowed things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon the Baalim" (24:7). As a result, the narrator felt the need to emphasize that under Joash not only was the temple repaired and restored, but also new utensils were made which served for the sacrificial service from that time on.

The opinion that II Chronicles 24 tells us of an instruction issued by the king to collect the money yearly also warrants examination, although by itself even this would not establish a nexus between "the tax of Moses" and the half-shekel regulation. The text reads as follows (v.5): "...and (Joash) said to them: 'Go out into the cities of Judah, and gather of all Israel money to repair the house of your G-d from year to year; and see that ye hasten the matter.'"Furthemore, v. II relates that they would empty the chest daily of the great amount of money collected, which cannot be reconciled with a mandate to collect money over a period of years. It is therefore possible that the words "from year to year" are merely a gloss which later found its way into the text of Joash's address, and their import is that the king annually commanded the Levites to collect the money until his patience was exhausted. This gloss was evidently intended to harmonize the report in Kings that the renovation was carried out in the twenty-third year of Joash with the account in Chronicles, which connects the temple renovation with the damage caused be Athaliah.

Furthemore, the author of Chronicles knows nothing of a half-shekel tax or any similar tax for the maintenance of the regular sacrifices in the sanctuary. In describing the reign of Hezekiah, he tells in great detail about the king's regulations designed to provide for sanctuary needs and to administer the collection and distribution of gifts for the priests and Levites. To all appearances, these regulations (II Chronicles 31:2-21) reflect the conditions of the author's own period. (Cf.Neh. 12:44 and 13:12; Mal. 3:10. Also cf. G.Allon, Studies in Jewish History, Vol. I, 1957, pp. 84 ff. [Hebrew]). He mentions the contributions, tithes, and dedicated things which the people brought to the chambers of the temple (v.12). Not only does he mention no offering for the maintenance of sacrifices, but he explicitly describes such provision as "the king's portion of his substance for the burnt offerings, to wit, for the morning and evening burnt offerings, and the burnt offerings for the sabbaths and for the new moons and for the appointed seasons ..." (v.3).


Thus far we have discussed mainly the regulation of the half-shekel in Exodus 30:11-16 by itself. It is best understood against the background of a relatively early period - the early monarchy, or even earlier. There still remains the question whether any connection can be established between the half-shekel in Exodus and the stipulation in the "firm covenant" in which the people obligated themselves in the time of Nehemiah to give annually a third of a shekel for the service of the Lord's house (Nehemiah 10:33-34). (The text of Neh. 10:33-34 reads: "Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our G-d; for the showbread, and for the continual meal-offering, and for the continual burnt offering, of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the appointed seasons, and for the holy things, and for the sin-offerings to make atonement for Israel and for all the work of the house of our G-d." For the phrase "to make atonement for Israel," cf. the phrase "to make atonement for the house of Israel" in Ezekiel 45:17, where the sacrifices are the responsibilty of the prince and not of the community. Cf. further on.)

Those who have connected these two offer various explanations for the discrepancy between the half-shekel denomination in Exodus and the third of a shekel in Nehemiah. (Cf. infra.) Some have conjectured that the third of a shekel in Nehemiah's time was equal in value to the half-shekel of Exodus 30. (This opinion, which appears already in the commentary of Nachmanides [on Exodus 30:12], has been maintained by many modern scholars. Cf., for example, A. Bertholet, Esra und Nehemia, 1902, p.78, and I. Benzinger, Hebraische Archaologie, 1927, pp.200 ff. It is true that we are unable to determine the value of "the sanctuary shekel" or even according to what standard the Jews of Nehemiah's time offered a third of a shekel, but in any case the proposition that the half-shekel of Exodus and the third of a shekel of Nehemiah are identical is extremely doubtful. Although we are unable to decide which of the weights discovered in the excavations served as a standard for the monetary shekel, it may be that the beka weights from the First Commonwealth, weighing approximately 6 to 6.6 gm. [cf. D. Diringer, PEQ 1942, pp.89 ff.], are half the sanctuary shekel [cf.Exodus 38:26]. The monetary shekel of the Persian Empire, weighed about 5.6 gm. But the coins current in Palestine followed primarily the standard of the Attic drachma, which weighed approximately 4.3 gm., or the somewhat lower Phoenician standard. A coin inscribed in Hebrew-Phoenician script from the fifth or fourth century B.C.E. which was acquired in Hebron and bears the inscription 'beka' weighs approximately 3.9 gm. [cf.A. Reifenberg, PEF QSt 1934, pp. 100 ff., idem, Coins of the Jews, 1948, pp. 7 ff.{Hebrew}], i.e., a drachma by the Phoenician standard. Accordingly, in the Elephantine papyri it is stated explicitly that 2 shekels = 1 stater [cf. A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri, 1923, no. 35, II. 3-4,9], viz., 4 drachmas. The LXX generally translates a shekel of money, including the sanctuary shekel, by the word didrachma, and beka by drachma; so in Neh. 10:33 it has a "third of a didrachma.") Not only is this conjecture doubtful in its own right, but if there had been a nexus between the two offerings, it is the denomination that would have been preserved and not the monetary value of the offering. Thus we find that, according to the tradition in the Mishnah, the value of the half-shekel offering varied throughout the generations, but during the entire period the contribution was a coin with half-shekel denomination. (Cf. Mishnah Shekalim 2:4; cf. also J.N. Epstein, Prolegomena ad Litteras Tannaiticas, 1957, p.337 [Hebrew]).

In the "firm covenant," the stipulation of an offering of a third of a shekel appears as an innovation, not as one of the general obligations of the covenant to "walk in G-d's law, which was given by Moses the servant of G-d" (Nehemiah 10:30). This is clear from the phrase "also we made ordinances for us," which is specially stated as an introduction to the regulation of the third of a shekel (v.33). And indeed, in the First Commonwealth the regular sacrifices were the king's prerogative - the contribution of the king from his own possessions. (Cf. II Chronicles 31:3; and cf. supra, section III). Even in the future regulations of Ezekiel, which generally tend to restrict the status of the ruler, the regular sacrifices in the temple are the province of the prince (Ezekiel 45:16-17) - a title referring to the Davidic ruler. (On the image of the prince in the future regulations of Ezekiel, cf. Y. Kaufmann, op. cit. [n. 14], Vol. VII, 1948, pp. 566 ff.; J. Liver, The House of David, 1959, pp. 66 ff. [Hebrew]; E. Hammershaimb, Studia Orietalia Ioanni Pedersen dicata, 1953, pp. 130-140). The principle that the regular sanctuary sacrifices are the province of the ruler was operative even in the early days of the Restoration. In the decree of Darius (Ezra 6:8 ff.), there is the explicit instruction that the daily sacrifices as well as other temple needs be provided out of the king's possessions. A similar instruction appears in the rescript of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:12 ff.). But here it is not clear from the formulation of the order which fixes the exact amount allocated for the temple needs (Ezra 7:22) whether the reference is to a single allowance in a limited period, or to the renewal of the ordinance providing for the sacrificial service on a permanent basis under royal auspices. These documents in Ezra, written in Aramaic, are unquestionably authentic authorized documents of the Persian kings. (Cf. E. Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judentums, 1896, pp. 7-80; R. de Vaux, RB 46 (1937), pp. 29-57. On the sequence of the Persian Kings in Ezra, cf. my paper in the M.H. Segal Jubilee Volume [1963]). That these orders were not fully carried out is clear, first and foremost, from the regulation concerning the third of a shekel in the covenant. It was, of course, in the nature of things that no small gap seperated the royal command from its execution, especially when it required an expenditure from the treasury of the satrapy. Nevertheless, the principle did exist that expenditures for the maintenance of the sanctuary sacrifices came from the royal treasury. In themselves, the decrees of Darius and Artaxerxes regarding royal provision for sanctuary needs accord with the policy of the Achaemenian kings which was to court the priestly circles in the various provinces of their realm, (Cf. the studies cited in n. 22) and they also carried an assertion of their sovereignty over Judea and its Temple. The author of Ezra and Nehemiah, however, far from viewing this as a sign of dependency and subjection, considers it a mark of honor and prominence for the temple that the king should care for the maintenance of its service. It follows that the regulation of Nehemiah for a yearly contribution for the sacrificial service involved no permanent, radical change in the maintenance of sacrificial service in having it supported and offered by the entire community, but merely a temporary regulation dictated by the requirements of the time.

There is, therefore, no reason to link the covenant regulation for a third of a shekel, in itself, with the half-shekel tax paid by those numbered in the census. On the other hand, the application of the third of a shekel in Nehemiah's regulation was identical with that of the annual half-shekel tax for the sanctuary offered by the Jews throughout the Second Temple period. According to the Halakhah in the Mishnah, this money was used for daily and additional (festival) sacrifices and their libations, the sheaf offering, the two loaves of bread, the showbread, all the communal sacrifices, and the other sanctuary needs (Mishnah Shekalim 4:1-4). The rabbis linked the annual half-shekel tax to the half-shekel offering of the Pentateuch. (Cf. Palestinian Talmud Shekalim 1:46a, and Babylonian Talmud Megillah 29b. It is true that according to the tradition quoted in Mishnah Shekalim 2:4 in the name of R. Judah the half-shekel tax was regarded as a regulation that had been operative from the time of the return from the Exile; and the Palestinian Talmud on that Mishnah [P.T. Shekalim 2:46b] even refers to Neh. 10:33 for determining the value of the half-shekel. At the same time, the Sages expounded the verse in Neh. as referring to the requirement to pay the half-shekel three times yearly [P.T. ibid], or even as referring to charity for the poor [B.T. Baba Bathra 9a].) Josephus, after describing the construction of the tabernacle, related that Moses assembled the people and imposed on them a tax of half a shekel per person, which was spent on sanctuary needs (Antiquities III, 194-196). At the same time, he does not mention in this context the ransom money of those numbered in the census, which is the essential element in the Pentateuchal account. (In his account Josephus tries to harmonize the biblical narrative and the desideratum - that is, the inclination to base the half-shekel tax of his own day on a regulation that was issued, as it were, by Moses in the desert. Thus he alludes to the census only indirectly, in giving the number of donors as 605,550 free men 20 years old and upward [the figure is referring to that of the Pentateuch, 603,550, which it approximates]; but he does not mention a ransom or the conduct of a census. He tells us that the money was allocated for sanctuary needs; but he avoids specifying for which needs it was spent, for this would confute his tendentious exposition.) Thus Josephus understood the biblical text to refer to the half-shekel contribution brought to the sanctuary in his own time. Even the value of the half-shekel that he specifies - two drachmas - is that of the half-shekel in his own day, (Cf. Antiquities XVIII, 312; Matt. 17:24. The sanctuary shekel was equivalent to four drachmas according to the notion that it was a double shekel. Cf. B.T. Baba Bathra 90b and Bechorot 5a.) while the LXX renders the half-shekel in this verse as one drachma. (Cf. also supra, n.18.)

As we have said, the half-shekel offering for the sanctuary in the Halakhah accords, both in the nature of the obligation and in the application of the money, with the offering of a third of a shekel in the covenant. Indeed, according to the widely accepted theory of Wellhausen, (Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 153.) an offering of only a third of a shekel for sanctuary needs was fixed in the time of Nehemiah. At a later time the tax was raised to half a shekel, which found expression in the Exodus account. We have shown above that the regulation for the ransom money of those numbered in the census is rooted in a period much earlier than the Second Commonwealth, and that it is a forced interpretation to relate the annual sanctuary offering of the Second Commonwealth to the account in Exodus. If the narrator or editor of Exodus 30 had wished to reinforce such an offering by attributing it to Moses, he would have done so by giving an account of a regulation instituted by Moses for a monetary offering of half a shekel for sanctuary needs, similar to the description given by Josephus in the Antiquities as cited above, not by a story such as that in Exodus 30.


According to the prevalent opinion in biblical research, when it was stipulated in the "firm covenant" that every Jew would present an annual sanctuary offering primarily to maintain the regular sacrifices, they intended this regulation to signify that sacrifices are the affair of the community; and once this regulation was fixed, it was in force without a lapse until the destruction of the Second Temple. Although we are unable to ascertain anything definitely, owing to the paucity of source material, the earliest testimonies we have for an annual half-shekel tax for the temple service date to the Roman rule in Judea. On the other hand, we have data from earlier sources to support the hypothesis that the regulation for the contribution of a third of a shekel fixed by Nehemiah was only temporary.

Let us consider the positive evidence. Beyond the regulation in the covenant itself, our earliest data about an annual sanctuary offering of a fixed amount for each person is from the period following Hasmonean rule. However, data from the last period of the Second Commonwealth, even without the Halakhah in the Mishnah, (As Epstein has shown, M. Shekalim is one of the early tractates; in substance it dates to the end of the Second Commonwealth. Cf. J.N. Epstein, opp. cit., pp. 25 ff. and 338 ff.) are numerous. Josephus tells of a half-shekel tax which, according to the laws of the Jews, each person had to give for the Lord and which Babylonian Jewry collected together with the other sanctuary perquisites (Antiquities XVIII, 312). Philo speaks of funds collected in Egypt for the sanctuary. (De Spec. leg. I, 78.) The gospel Matthew tells about collectors of the didrachmon, i.e., the half-shekel tax, in Capernaum (Matthew 17:24). (The account in Matt. is unquestionably instinct with an opposition to the entire institution of the annual half-shekel tax. Concerning the background of this opposition in the religious usage of Jewish sects of the Second Commonwealth, cf. infra, section VI, and especially n. 60.) Even after the destruction of the Second Temple the Jews were forced to continue paying the tax of two drachmas which they had previously offered annually to the sanctuary in Jerusalem; at that time it was given for Jupiter Capitolinus. This we learn from Josephus (Wars VII, 218), from Dio Cassius (LXVI, 7, 2), and from epigraphic sources. (Cf. A.[V.] Tcherikover, The Jews in Egypt in the Hellenistic-Roman Age in the light of the Papyri, 1945, pp. 102 ff. [Hebrew]). In Mishnah Shekalim we have the Halakhah regarding the general nature of an annual half-shekel offering for sanctuary needs given in the form of a coin of fixed value (Cf. M. Shekalim 2:4) and binding on every Jew, (Ibid., 1:3-6. There was a dispute, to be sure, about obligating the priests to pay the shekel; cf. ibid.,4. Cf. also P.T. Shekalim 1:46a.) while the alien and the Cuthean who offered to pay it were refused, in order to exclude them from participating in the communal sacrifices. The Sages of the generations following the Destruction even saw in the annual sanctuary offering a regulation that had been in force from the time of the return from Babylon to the destruction of the Second Temple. (Cf. the tradition quoted in the name of R. Judah in M. Shekalim 2:4; and cf. P.T. Shekalim 2:46b.)

By contrast, the sources relating to the period prior to Roman rule in Judea do not mention the annual half-shekel offering. We are told in our sources about funds sent by Diaspora Jews for the sanctuary at the time of the last Hasmonean rulers; (Antiquities XIV, 244 ff., and XVI, 162, ff. Cf. also Cicero, Pro Flacco, par. 66 ff.,and cf. J.H. Levy, Zion 7 [1942], pp. 109 ff. [Hebrew].) but these sources do not specify their nature, and it is very doubtful whether we may assume, on the basis of data from a later period, that the reference is to the annual half-shekel offering.

The half-shekel is not mentioned at all in the apocryphal literature, not even in those works where mention is made of the Jew's offerings for the sanctuary. Thus, for instance, it is omitted in the book of Tobit, where the hero's father describes in great detail his careful observance of the precepts related to the sanctuary - the pilgrimage, the first fruits, the firstborn, and the various tithes (Tobit 1:6 ff.). We have, on the other hand, evidence from the period prior to the Hasmonean rule that cannot be reconciled with the assumption that at that time it was customary to meet the needs of the sanctuary - particularly the daily and additional sacrifices - from the half-shekel tax, i.e., the communal offering.

Most important in relation to this matter is a document from the time of Antiochus III - a letter from the king to an official by the name of Ptolemaios (It is interesting that this same Ptolemaios is mentioned in an inscription on a stone recently found in the fields of Kibbutz Hephzibah in central Israel. The entire inscription comprises copies of seven official documents from ca. 200 B.C.E. Six are letters from Antiochus III and are concerned with the seventh document, a memorandum by the military governor, Ptolemaios. The inscription is to be published by Mr. Y.H. Landau of the Israel Department of Antiquities. Cf. provisionally IEJ 10 [1960], 262-263.) who had been appointed the governor of Coele-Syria. The letter details various allowances and privileges accorded to the Jews who had supported Antiochus III in his conquest of Judea and cities, inter alia, a royal order to allocate for the sanctuary a sum of money to provide for the sacrifices (Antiquities XII, 138 ff.) (Many studies have been written about the degree of reliability of the documents attributed to Antiochus III in Book XII of the Antiquities, and it has been demonstrated that we may consider them reliable. Cf.E. Bikerman, REJ 100 [1935], pp. 4-35; V. Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, 1959, pp. 82 ff.) A similar report appears in brief for in II Maccabees, where it is related that Seleucus, son of Antiochus III, supplied from royal resources the expenditures entailed in the sacrificial service (II Maccabees 3:3). (Cf.E. Bikerman, Annuaire de l'institut de philologie et d'histoire orientales et slaves 7 [1939-1944], pp. 6 ff.) We have proof of the general nature of this usage of the Seleucid kings (It is a forced interpretation that the funds allocated to the santuary by those kings were intended to furnish the sacrifice for the well-being of the ruler; cf. E. Schurer, Geschichte des judischen Volkes, II, 1907, pp. 360 ff.) in the enticement address of Demetrius II (during his struggle for power with Alexander Balas) to Jonathan the Hasmonean. This appeal contains a pledge of a large sum of money for sanctuary needs and another pledge to refund all such sums unpaid by the officials in previous years (I Maccabees 10:40). The principle that allocations for state sanctuaries are provided by the ruler was common in the Hellenistic states, including the Seleucid kingdom. (Cf. the studies cited above.) Regardless of whether maintenance of the sanctuary in Jerusalem by Seleucid kings was really operative or was merely a matter of a promise without sequel to the first grant by the king in question, it is difficult to reconcile this historical evidence with the Halakhah in the Mishnah that the regular sacrifices were to come exclusively from the funds of the temple chamber, i.e., from the annual half-shekel offering of the entire community. On the other hand, it is in perfect accord with the account in Ezra regarding the maintenance of the sanctuary under the auspices of Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia, and with the actual practice in the sanctuary prior to the destruction of the First Temple (see above).

We may add to this evidence from Maccabees and Josephus the following tradition from Megillat Taanit: "From the first to the eighth of Nisan, during which time the daily offering was established, mourning is forbidden." In the scholion on Megillat Taanit, we have further data regarding the provision for the daily sacrifices: "The Boethusians used to say, 'The daily sacrifices are provided by individuals - one person provides it for one sabbath (week), another for two sabbaths (weeks), another for thirty days' ...The Sages say to them, 'You are not allowed to do so, for a sacrifice may only be provided by all Israel ... so that all of them should be provided out of the offering of the (temple) chamber' ... and when they gained mastery over them they fixed the regulation that (all Israel) would pay their shekels and deposit them in the (temple) chamber, and the daily offerings would be provided by the community, and all the days they contended were declared festival days." (Lichtenstein edition, HUCA 8-9 [1931-1932), p. 323.) The same tradition appears also in a baraitha in B.T. Menachot 65a; the version there is shorter, (The text from B.T. Manachot 65a that parallels the account in in the Megillat Taanit scholion reads as follows: "For the Sadducees used to say that an individual may offer and bring [i.e., defray the cost of] the daily offering ... And what was the reply [of the Rabbis]? ... Hence all the sacrifices were to be taken out of the offering of the [temple] chamber.") but the essential argument appears. According to this tradition, then, the regulation concerning the half-shekel offering was innovated only after the Pharisees gained ascendancy over their opponents, and it conflicts with the saying brought in the name of R. Judah in Mishnah Shekalim about the continuity of the payment of the shekel ever since Israel's return from Exile. (Cf. supra above) But specifically for this reason it seems to be an early tradition, dating to the time when the regulation of a yearly tax for the sacrificial service was still new. In the contentions between the Pharisees and the Saducees or Boethusians in matters of Halakhah, the latter generally represent the earlier custom; (The ingenious explanation offered recently by M. Beer [Tarbiz 31 {1962}, 298-299 {Hebrew}], for the opposition of the sects to the half-shekel sanctuary offering is rather unconvincing.) and such a contention itself cannot antedate the end of the Hasmonean dynasty. In fact, scholars who have studied Megillat Taanit have shown that this section in the scholion bears the stamp of historicity, and that it should be dated no earlier than the rule of Salome Alexandra and perhaps even later. (Cf. the detailed discussion in H. Lichtenstein, op. cit., pp. 290-292, and the bibliography there.)

As we have shown above, the prevalent opinion in biblical research that the half-shekel ordinance in the Pentateuch is merely a retrojection of a late regulation (later than that of the "firm covenant") is based upon the hypothesis that at the time of the composition of the account in Exodus 30 an annual half-shekel sanctuary offering was already an institution, and that this regulation was related to the notion that daily sacrifices were to be provided by the entire congregation of Israel, i.e., by the community. (Cf. the studies listed above.) The data adduced above not only fail to substantiate this supposition, but on the contrary they tend to support the opposite. The annual monetary offering to the sanctuary mentioned in the covenant did not become an established institution and was not fixed as an obligation incumbent on every Jew until the end of the Hasmonean rule or somewhat later, (Cf. E. Bikerman, op. cit., p. 14.) that is to say, a long time after the canonization of the Torah, including the half-shekel ordinance in Exodus 30:11-16. As for the regular sacrifices, our sources prove conclusively that until the time when, according to the tradition recorded in Megillat Taanit, "the daily offering was established," the principle that daily sacrifices were to be provided by the community was not operative. (Until then the regular sacrifices were the province of the individual, whether Jews made an annual monetary offering for the sanctuary or not. In various periods the regular sacrifices came from the state treasury, i.e., from the ruler; or they came from the funds placed at the disposal of the high priest and were offered in his name. Perhaps the regular sacrifices were offered in the name of the influential priestly families who controlled the tithes and priestly dues. The scholars who have proposed this suggestion rely on the scholion to Megillat Taanit: "One person provides it for one sabbath [week], another for two sabbaths [weeks], another for thirty days;" cf. H. Lichtenstein, op.cit., pp. 291 ff. But it is doubtful whether this excerpt, which does not appear in the baraitha in Menachoth 65a, is an integral part of the early tradition.)


Bearing upon the problem of the evolution of the half-shekel offering is a fragment of one of the Dead Sea scrolls which was published recently by J.M. Allegro. (J.M. Allegro, "An unpublished Fragment of Essene Halakhah [4Q Ordinances]," JSS 6 [1961], pp. 71-73.) We learn from this text that the Dead Sea sect understood the Pentateuchal regulation of the half-shekel as referring to a ransom offering made only once in a lifetime by those included in the census. The sect must have objected to the half-shekel sanctuary offering - no doubt because it was instituted as an annual obligation for all Israel only after they had segregated themselves from the Jerusalem temple and the rest of Israel - and they refused to recognize a Halakhah that was innovated outside the sect.

The text published by Allegro is a small fragment reconstituted from twelve scraps of a scroll from Qumran Cave IV bought from a Bedouin. The script is elegant and clear. Only traces of letters remain of one entire page. The same is true for the first line of a second page, in which the ends of all the lines are missing. Since the fragment is brief and it is important for us to view the context in which the half-shekel offering is cited, we shall reproduce the entire fragment, i.e., p. 2, II. 2-17.

  1. .].. his com[mand]ments and to make atonement for all th[eir] sins[...
  2. ...] one make of it a threshing floor or a wine press; he who comes to the threshing flo[or...
  3. who in I[sra]el, who has nothing shall eat it, and gather for himself and for [his] house[hold...
  4. the field shall eat in his mouth but shall not bring to his house to deposit it[...
  5. ...] money of [va]luations; that they gave every man a ransom for his soul: half [a shekel for an offering to the Lord]
  6. only one [time] shall he give it all his days; the shekel is twenty gerahs after the [shekel of the sanctuary...
  7. for the six hundred thousand one hundred talents, for the third (The third comprises 3000 persons. This is clear from the amount of the half-talent, i.e., 1500 shekels, which accords with this number of persons. The name 'shlishit' (third) itself unquestionably refers to a military unit. Perhaps the term has its origin in II Samuel 18:2; cf. Allegro, op. cit., p. 73. On military units composed of 3000 men in the Bible and in the Dead Sea scrolls, cf. Y. Yadin, The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness, 1955, pp. 160-161 [Hebrew].) half a talent, [for the five hundred five minas]
  8. and for the fifty half a mi[n]a, [twenty-] five shekels the ..[.
  9. the mina[.. ....].. for ten minas [...
  10. ...fi]ve (shekels of) [silv]er a tenth of a [mina...
  11. ...shek]el of the sanctuary hal[f...
  12. ...] the ephah and the bath of o[ne] measure [...
  13. ...th]ree tenths [...
  15. ...]the people and concerning [...
  16. ... I]srael burnt Mos[es...

A key point in any effort to understand the text is an estimate of the length of its lines. Allegro assumed that ll.4-8 are almost complete and he reads them consecutively with the interpolation of single words or letters. But he evidently did not realize that the numbers given for men and money in ll.8-9 coincide with the number of those counted in the census and the money offered by them in Exodus 38:25-26: "And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was a hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; a beka a head, that is half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for everyone that passed over to them that are numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three tousand and five hundred and fifty men." We therefore have before us an exposition and paraphrase of these two verses in Exodus on the basis of which the end of l.8 should be restored thus: l'chamesh hameoth chameshet manim. With this restoration, the order of the numbers of those who paid the shekel according to the scroll is precisely the order of the numbers in the biblical text, and the sum total of money collected corresponds with the sum in Exodus. (At the rate of 50 shekels = 1 maneh. Cf. S. Loewenstamm, Kiryat Sefer 34 [1959], p. 48 [Hebrew].) According to this restoration, the length of the line is not more than some 5 in,. which is normal for Qumran scrolls. Furthermore, it is not at all certain that we have the original length of the page. We do have the bottomof p.2, but the top line is severed in the middle and there may have been several lines before it. At the top of p.1 there is a small space above the end of the top line, but it is not certain that this is the beginning of the page; it may be the blank end of a line, similar to l.15 of p. 2. But even if we assume that we have the full length, it is not rare to find such short and broad pages, as, for example, in the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light.

Regarding the last truncated lines, we have nothing to add to Allegro's remarks. L.13 is based on Ezekiel 45:11: "The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure..." L.17 is apparently based on Exodus 32:20; that is to say, here also the subject matter is biblical and relates to cult practices. L.5 is unquestionably a commentary on Deuteronomy 23:25-26, as noted by Allegro. On the other hand, he is not correct in viewing ll.3-4 as an expansion of that same biblical law. Furthermore, thoroughly illogical is his conjecture that since grain on the threshing floor is not considered "standing corn," a poor person is allowed to take it home. Why should the ruling be lenient for produce already on the threshing floor and in the wine-vat, after the labor of harvest and vintage, and more severe for produce in the field? This interpretation is based on the supposition that only one word is required to complete ll.3-4, while we have shown that the last third of both lines is missing. It seems most likely that the full text ruled that after the produce was collected on the threshing floor and in the wine press, what remained in the field was for the poor person who could then both eat of it and gather it (The verb 'kanes' suits the meaning of gathering and picking up what is scattered, rather than taking what is already collected. Cf. Neh. 12:44; and in the Mishnah, cf. Baba Bathra 3:1, Shebiith 4:9, and others. Prof. Y. Yadin has informed me of a similar use of the verb 'kanes' in tenancy contracts from the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt, recently found in the Nahal Hever caves; I am indebted to him for this information.) for himself and his family. This is apparently an exposition of the provisions for the poor in the form of "gleanings and forgotten and marginal produce" (Deuteronomy 24:19-21) in accordance with the literal meaning of the biblical text.

As we have indicated, ll.6-9 bear on the half-shekel offering. The text deals with the atonement money paid by those numbered in the census that Moses was commanded to carry out in Exodus 30:11-16 and the money collected according to the account in Exodus 38:25-26. The phrase 'asher natnu ish kopher nafsho' in l.6 is a reasonably accurate quotation from Exodus 30:12: "Then they shall give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord" (v'natnu ish kofer nafsho l'hashem), and what follows in the scroll corresponds with 30:13: "Then they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary - the shekel is twenty gerahs - half a shekel for an offering to the Lord." Accordingly, the end of l.6 should perhaps be restored thus: (Cf. the Thanksgiving Scroll, p.7, l.28, and Ex.15:11; also the I Qumran Benedictions, p.3, l.1, and Nu.6:26.) half [a shekel for an offering to the Lord].The correspondence between ll.8-9 and Exodus 38:25-26 has already been pointed out.

The matter of 'kesef he[a]rachim' in l.6 is very difficult. The extant letters are quite legible and the best restoration is that suggested by Allegro. (Dr. J. Licht has suggested to me the possible alternate reading 'kesef hasarchim'. This reading is based on a certain proximity between the meaning of 'sarech' and the concept of registration and census; cf. the Manuel of Discipline, p.2, ll.19 ff. and also the Rule of the Congregation, p.1, l.21. I should also like to express my thanks here to Dr. Licht for reading the manuscript of setion VI of this essay and for his helpful comments.) On the other hand, there is a clear distinction between the half-shekel offering which is a fixed amount given by each person, rich and poor alike, and binding on all Israel in certain circumstances, and the valuation money of Leviticus 27:1 ff. (It seems also that 'ish kesef nefeshot arcko' in II Kings 12:5 refers to valuation money of the kind described in Lev. 27.) which is a voluntary votive offering, redeemable in money, the value of which varies from donor to donor. This distinction applies equally to the Bible and to the rabbinic Halakhah; and it is doubtful whether the word 'arahim' had a different meaning for the Dead Sea sect, although it is not impossible that the expression 'kesef hearachim' here had a meaning similar to that of 'kesef hakipurim' of Exodus 30:16, viz., the life ransom. (Cf.Ex.30:12; 31:30; and Lev. 27:2 ff.) The most reasonable explanation seems to be that the valuation money is treated independently in the end of l.5 and the beginning of l.6; then the subject of the half-shekel offering is treated, beginning with the biblical text, introduced by the word 'asher'. (Comparable ways of quoting biblical texts, though not perfectly parallel, appear in the dead Sea scrolls.)

The whole treatise, in so far as we can judge from the fragment in our possesion, was an exposition of several biblical texts. It is not technically a collection of Halakhot. Of course, the sect - as Israel in general - viewed Pentateuchal laws framed in their authorized interpretations as having essentially the force of Halakhah. We can hardly assume that they would interpret the Pentateuchal half-shekel offering as the atonement money of every man of those numbered in the census who "only one [time] shall he give it all his days" (l.7) in direct opposition to the Halakhah of their time, i.e., if the annual half-shekel offering had been a sanctioned and commonly accepted institution over a period of generations. It is therefore reasonable to assume that this is an obligation that was fixed after the sect had sequestered itself from the community and the temple. It seems to me that the emphasis on "only one [time] shall he give it all his days" which does not proceed directly from the biblical text is intended as an objection to the annual half-shekel sanctuary offering related by the rabbis to the half-shekel in the Pentateuch, (Cf. supra, above.) and that the Dead Sea sect opposed the entire institution. (Perhaps the account in Matt. 17:24-27 about Yesu and the collectors of the half-shekel tax in Capernaum is also based on a principled objection to an annual half-shekel sanctuary offering; cf. Allegro, op. cit., p.73; and especially the detailed treatment by Dr. Flusser, Tarbiz 31 [1962], 150-156 [Hebrew].)

The question arises of the correspondence between the interpretation of the half-shekel offering as an offering made only once in a lifetime and the literal meaning of the Pentateuchal text. The latter fixes the half-shekel offering for every census of the people of Israel (Exodus 30:12). The census of Numbers 1, which according to the text (v.1) was carried out in the second month of the second year of the Exodus, embraced the generation of the desert. In contrast to this, the census of Numbers 26 was conducted in the plains of Moab (v.3)(For the purposes of this study, it does not matter whether the two census lists [in Num. 1 and in Num. 26] are parallel versions of a single list.) toward the end of the fortieth year of the Exodus (cf. Numbers 33:38 ff.). This, then, was a census of the generation that conquered Canaan after the death of the generation of the Exodus (cf. Deuteronomy 2:14). As regards the census of Exodus 38:25-26, it could be considered the same as that of Numbers 1. (Cf.M.D.[U.] Cassuto, Commentary on the Book of Exodus, 1952, pp. 328 ff.) Therefore, by exposition and interpretation, the Pentateuchal regulation of the half-shekel could be construed as an offering made once in a lifetime.

There remains the question of coordination between the exposition of the biblical account in our text and sectarian regulations concerning censuses in general. According to the Manual of Discipline (p.5,ll.23 ff. and p.2,ll.19 ff.), the sect had an annual census that included the registration of its members. A census is also mentioned in the Damascus Covenant, p.14,ll.3 ff.,but without any indication of how often it was held. On pp.15, ll.5 ff. of the same work, however, it is written that: "It is to be a statute forever to all Israel that whoever enters the covenant shall let their sons who attain 'to pass among them that are numbered' to swear with an oath of the covenant." Here we have a single census of those who reached adulthood. It is noteworthy that in this context the Damascus Covenant uses the idiom 'l'over al hapikudim' (to pass among them that are numbered), which is almost a quotation of 'haover al hapikudim' of the half-shekel ordinance in Exodus 30:13,14. The same expression appears in the Damascus Covenant, p.10, ll.1-2, which speaks of the person "whose days have not been completed 'to pass among them that are numbered.'" (The age of those numbered according to the Damascus Covenant is apparently 20 years, as in Ex. 30:14; 38:26; and in Num. 1:3; 26:4, and as in the Rule of the Congregation, p.1, l.8. Cf. Ch. Rabin, The Zadokite Documents, 1959, pp. 49,73.) A similar regulation for the end of days appears in the Rule of the Congregation, pp.1, ll.8-9: "At the age of twenty years he shall pass among them that are numbered." Here the age of those included in the census is stated explicitly and it accords with the minimum age of the Pentateuch.

None of these writings of the Dead Sea sect mention the atonement money. We do not know whether its members understood the half-shekel regulation in the Pentateuch as referring also to the special conditions of their situation - a small group sequestered from the people at large and refraining from contact with the sanctuary - or whether they viewed it as a law that was to apply to the community of Israel only in the end of days. In any case the Damascus Covenant (p.10, ll.1-2 and p.15, ll.5 ff.) and the Rule of the Congregation (p.1, ll.8-9) that mention only the census of those who reached adulthood accord with the notion that finds emphatic expression in the text under discussion, namely, that the half-shekel is a life-ransom to the Lord from every Jew and "one [time] shall he give it all his days." On the other hand, it is difficult to reconcile this exposition of the biblical regulation, which does not follow necessarily from the biblcal text itself and which most probably contains a polemic against opposing viewpoints, with the regulation concerning an annual census in the Manual of Discipline; for, according to the Pentateuch, the obligation of the half-shekel applies whenever a census is conducted (Exodus 30:12). Perhaps the sect understood the Pentateuchal ordinance of the life-ransom as referring exclusively to a first census when a man reached adulthood, at which time his name was recorded for the first time in the census registers, and not to the annual ceremony of entering the covenant and reviewing the registers, which apparently was not considered a census" for those whose names already appeared in the registers. (It is noteworthy that in the Manual of Discipline, p.2, ll.19 ff. and p. 5, ll.23 ff., we do not have any expressions from the half-shekel account in Exodus; which contrasts with the texts relating to the census in the Damascus Covenant and the Rule of the Congregation.) An alternative explanation is that the members of the sect viewed the half-shekel regulation as a commandment applicable only in the end of days, when a general census of all Israel would be carried out, (The half-shekel ordinance in Exodus also refers to a census of the entire community of Israel; cf. Ex.30:12. On the census of all Israel in the end of days according to the Rule of the Congregation, p. 2, ll.11-17, cf. Y. Yadin, "A Crucial Passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls," IQSa 2:11-17, JBL 77 [1959], p. 238 ff.) and not applicable also to the administration of the sect's internal organization in the circumstances under consideration in the Manuel of Discipline. (On the differences between the closed consolidated society described in the Manuel of Discipline on one hand, and the more open society described in the Damascus Covenant and the future Israel described in the Rule of the Congregation on the other hand, cf. J. Licht, The Plant Eternal and the People of Divine Deliverance, Essays on the Dead Sea Scrolls, 1961, pp. 67-69 [Hebrew]).