In those days - About the time of the birth of John and of Christ.
A decree - A law commanding a thing to be done.
Caesar Augustus - This was the Roman emperor. His first name was Octavianus. He was the nephew of Julius Caesar, and obtained the empire after his death. He took the name "Augustus - i. e., august," or honorable - as a compliment to his own greatness; and from him the month "August," which was before called "Sextilis," received its name.
That all the world - There has been much difficulty respecting this passage, from the fact that no such taxing of "all the world" is mentioned by ancient writers. It should have been rendered "the whole land" - that is, the whole land of Palestine. The "whole land" is mentioned to show that it was not "Judea" only, but that it included also "Galilee," the place where Joseph and Mary dwelt. That the passage refers only to the land of Palestine, and not to the whole world, or to all the Roman empire, is clear from the following considerations:
1.The fact that no such taxing is mentioned as pertaining to any other country.
2.The account of Luke demands only that it should be understood of Palestine, or the country where the Saviour was born.
3.The words "world" and "whole world" are not unfrequently used in this limited sense as confined to a single country.
See Matthew 4:8, where Satan is said to have shown to Christ all the kingdoms of "the world," that is, of the land of Judea. See also Joshua 2:3; Luke 4:25 (Greek); Luke 21:26; Acts 11:28.
Should be taxed - Our word "tax" means to levy and raise money for the use of the government. This is not the meaning of the original word here. It means rather to "enroll," or take a "list" of the citizens, with their employments, the amount of their property, etc., equivalent to what was meant by census. Judea was at that time tributary to Rome. It paid taxes to the Roman emperor; and, though Herod was "king," yet he held his appointment under the Roman emperor, and was subject in most matters to him. Farther, as this "enrollment" was merely to ascertain the numbers and property of the Jews, it is probable that they were very willing to be enrolled in this manner; and hence we hear that they went willingly, without tumult - contrary to the common way when they were "to be taxed."
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Luke 2:1:
DISCLAIMER: Church of the Great God (CGG) provides these resources to aid the individual in studying the Bible. However, it is up to the individual to "prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21). The content of these resources does not necessarily reflect the views of CGG. They are provided for information purposes only.