11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. 13 Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. 14 All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. 15 The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives. 16 Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives.” Exodus 30:11-16
Having grown up in Egyptian society, Moses would know the importance they placed on numbers and statistics. Moses acted as a combined census taker and the tax collector. The rich, poor, and foreigner (those who “crossed over to those already counted”) paid the same amount, a half shekel. This tribute wasn’t to redeem their souls but to acknowledge their sin and honor the God who could save them. The money would be used for upkeep and maintenance of the tabernacle.
Already into this journey in the wilderness we see that there were rich and poor people. Not that long ago in the story, they were still in Egypt working as slaves. It was presumed that they were all on equal footing. No one owned land or lived in fancy homes. It didn’t take long for people to figure out how to become wealthy while many more remained in poverty. We don’t have numbers or anything to compare their riches with but the people knew who the rich were. How did they do it? How did they figure out how to make money when the vast majority of Israelites were still complaining about bread and manna?
But the Lord saw the rich and poor (and foreigners who traveled with them) as equals in His sight. Later Jesus would talk about giving out of abundance, but the half shekel was an equalizer. Everyone had “skin in the game” so to speak.
Fortunately this gives us yet another reason to pray for people regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus is no respecter of persons, poor, wealthy, foreigner, or citizen.
- Pray the governments have the wisdom to sustain an orderly society over the business closures.
- Pray that Satan would be defeated and many will come to faith in Christ.