The two most prominent tax collectors in the Gospel stories with Matthew son of Alphaeus who became one of the twelve and Zacchaeus the head tax collector in Jericho. Both became disciples of Jesus.

Tax collectors were considered the scum of Jewish society. People despised paying taxes to the Romans as this money was used to fund their occupation of Israel. The Romans required tax payments from Herod (the Great) who would in turn would charge exorbitant taxes on just about everything on the people. Herod then used his ‘generous’ share of the taxes to build for himself many opulent mansions.

The amount of tax people had to pay was too burdensome and they just lived to work to fund their own occupation.

Then if a Jew became a tax collector they were considered traitors and were despised even more than the Romans. These tax collectors would then make their living from extracting even more money than the tax required. Greedy tax collectors could make a good living: ‘One denarii for Herod, two denarii for me.’ It may have been profitable but it came at great personal cost.

Later that day Jesus went down to the lake and on his way he saw Matthew the Levite (Mattityahu) the son of Alphaeus sitting in his tax collector’s booth which was surrounded by armed guards. TJB 9:9

The Bible story doesn’t specifically mention it but at the time Jesus called Matthew to follow his and become his disciple he would have been sitting at his tax collector’s booth with Roman soldiers standing guard so as to protect the tax collector otherwise things would have got out of hand.

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