The word "census" is not found in the KJV. Other translations, including the NKJV, ESV, NLT, HCS, GW, WEY, etc. use the word in reference to the registering or enumerating of people, often with the intent of levying a tax.
The numbering of Israel
- By Moses - Ex 38:26; Num 1; Num 3:14-43; Num 26
- By David - 2Sa 24:1-9
- 1Ch 21:1-8
- 1Ch 27:24
A poll tax to be levied at each
- Ex 30:12-16; Ex 38:26
Of the Roman Empire, by Caesar
- Luke 2:1-3
Smith’s Bible Dictionary, William Smith, 1884
TAXING The English word now conveys to us more distinctly the notion of a tax or tribute actually levied; but it appears to have been used in the sixteenth century for the simple assessment of a subsidy upon the property of a given county, or the registration of the people for the purpose of a poll-tax. Two distinct registrations, or taxings, are mentioned in the New Testament, both of them by St. Luke. The first is said to have been the result of an edict of the emperor Augustus, that "all the world (i.e. the Roman empire) should be taxed," Luke 2:1 and is connected by the evangelist with the name of Cyrenius Quirinus. [CYRENIUS] The second and more important, Acts 5:37 is distinctly associated, in point of time, with the revolt of Judas of Galilee.
Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton, 1897
There are five instances of a census of the Jewish people having been taken.
(1.) In the fourth month after the Exodus, when the people were encamped at Sinai. The number of men from twenty years old and upward was then 603,550 (Ex 38:26).
(2.) Another census was made just before the entrance into Canaan, when the number was found to be 601,730, showing thus a small decrease (Num 26:51).
(3.) The next census was in the time of David, when the number, exclusive of the tribes of Levi and Benjamin, was found to be 1,300,000 (2Sa 24:9; 1Ch 21:5).
(4.) Solomon made a census of the foreigners in the land, and found 153,600 able-bodied workmen (2Ch 2:17, 18).
(5.) After the return from Exile the whole congregation of Israel was numbered, and found to amount to 42,360 (Ezra 2:64). A census was made by the Roman government in the time of our Lord (Luke 2:1). (See TAXING.)
DEFINITIONSNumbering of the people
Besides the numbering of the tribes mentioned in the history of the wanderings in the wilderness, we have an account of a general census of the whole nation from Dan to Beersheba, which David gave directions to Joab to make (1Ch 21:1). Joab very reluctantly began to carry out the king's command.
This act of David in ordering a numbering of the people arose from pride and a self-glorifying spirit. It indicated a reliance on his part on an arm of flesh, an estimating of his power not by the divine favour but by the material resources of his kingdom. He thought of military achievement and of conquest, and forgot that he was God's vicegerent. In all this he sinned against God. While Joab was engaged in the census, David's heart smote him, and he became deeply conscious of his fault; and in profound humiliation he confessed, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done." The prophet Gad was sent to him to put before him three dreadful alternatives ((2Sa 24:13); for "seven years" in this verse, the LXX. and 1Ch 21:12 have "three years"), three of Jehovah's four sore judgments (Ezek 14:21). Two of these David had already experienced. He had fled for some months before Absalom, and had suffered three years' famine on account of the slaughter of the Gibeonites. In his "strait" David said, "Let me fall into the hands of the Lord." A pestilence broke out among the people, and in three days swept away 70,000. At David's intercession the plague was stayed, and at the threshing-floor of Araunah (q.v.), where the destroying angel was arrested in his progress, David erected an altar, and there offered up sacrifies to God (2Ch 3:1).
The census, so far as completed, showed that there were at least 1,300,000 fighting men in the kingdom, indicating at that time a population of about six or seven millions in all. (See CENSUS.)
Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1828
Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 1856CENSUS, noun
1. In ancient Rome, an authentic declaration made before the censors, by the citizens, of their names and places of abode. This declaration was registered, and contained an enumeration of all their lands and estates, their quantity and quality, with the wives, children, domestics, tenants, and slaves of each citizen. Hence the word signifies this enumeration or register, a mans whole substance, and the tax imposed according to each mans property.
2. In the United States of America, an-enumeration of the inhabitants of all the States, taken by order of the Congress, to furnish the rule of apportioning the representation among the States, and the number of representatives to which each State is entitled in the Congress; also, an enumeration of the inhabitants of a State, taken by order of its legislature.
Black’s Law Dictionary, 1st Edition, 1891, 2nd Edition, 1910CENSUS.
1. An enumeration of the inhabitants of a country.
2. For the purpose of keeping the representation of the several states in congress equal, the constitution provides, that " representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states, which may be included in this Union, according to their respective numbers; which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such a manner as they shall by law direct." Art. 1, s. 2; vide 1 Story, L. U. S., 73, 722, 751; 2 Id. 1134, 1139, 1169, 1194; 3 Id. 1776; 4 Sharsw. continuation, 2179.
The Century Dictionary, an Encyclopedic Lexicon of the English Language, 1895CENSUS.
The official counting or enumeration of the people of a state or nation, with statistics of wealth, commerce, education, etc.
In Roman law. A numbering or enrollment of the people, with a valuation at their fortunes.
In old European law. A tax. or tribute; a toll. Montesq. Esprit des Lois, liv. 80. c.14.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, 1919census (sen'sus), n. [L., a registering and rating of persons and property, a census, a censor's list, registered property, wealth, < censere, tax, rate, assess. Cf. cense^.]
1. In Rom. antiq.
(a) A registered statement of the particulars of a citizen's property for the purposes of taxation,
(b) An enumeration and register of the Roman citizens in their appropriate classes, with reference to tribe, family, children, slaves, freedmen, etc.
(c) The drawing up of such a register. See censor, 1.—
2. In modern times, an official enumeration of the inhabitants of a state or country, with details of sex and age, family, occupation, possessions, etc. a census has been taken by the United States once in ten years, beginning with 1790 : and many of the States take an intermediate census. The first actual enumeration of the peoples of England and Scotland was made in 1801. Since then a census, including Ireland, has been taken every ten years. In some countries a census is taken at intervals of three, five, or six years.
Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, James A. Ballentine, Third Edition, 1969census, n.
Official numbering of population with various statistics (in Gt Britain taken every ten years) ; c.-paper, form left at every house to be filled up with names, ages, &c, of inmates. [L, f. censere to rate]
An official enumeration of the population of inhabitants of a country, state, county, city, or other political subdivision or administrative district. 14 Am J2d Census § 1: a decennial official count by the government of the United States of the inhabitants and wealth of the country and the taking of other statistics.
Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th Edition, 1968Census Bureau.
An agency within, and under, the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, having the function of administering the federal census laws. 14 Ani J2d Census § 3.
Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edition, 1979CENSUS.
The official counting or enumeration of people of a state, nation or district, Huntington v. Cast, 149 Ind. 255, 48 N.E. 1025; Republic v. Paris, 10 Hawaii, 581; Vale Independent Consol. School Dist. No. 2 of Butte County v. School Dist. No. 71 of Meade County, 54 S.D. 207, 222 N.W. 948. It is a finding of the population and not an "estimate." State ex rel. Reynolds v. Jost, 265 Mo. 51, 175 S.W. 591, 597, Ann.Cas.1917D, 1102.
In Roman law. A numbering or enrollment of the people, with a valuation of their fortunes.
In old European law. A tax, or tribute; a toll. Montesq. Esprit des Lois, liv. 30, c. 14.
The official counting or enumeration of people of a state, nation, district, or other political subdivision. Such contains classified information relating to social and economic conditions. City of Compton v. Adams, 33 Cal.2d 596, 203 P.2d 745, 746. The national census has been compiled decennially since 1790, and has increasingly listed a great variety of social and economic data. A primary use of such data is to apportion or reapportion legislative districts. See also Federal census.
In Roman law, a numbering or enrollment of the people, with a valuation of their fortunes.
In old European law, a tax, or tribute; a toll.
The Bureau of the Census was established as a permanent office by act of Congress on March 6, 1902 (32 Stat. 5 1). The major functions of the Bureau are authorized by the Constitution, which provides that a census of population shall be taken every 10 years, and by laws codified as title 13, U.S. Code. The law also provides that the information collected by the Bureau from individual persons, households, or establishments be kept strictly confidential and be used only for statistical purposes.
A census of each state or territory or of a certain state or of any subdivision or portion of any state, provided it is taken by and under the direction and supervision of the Census Bureau of the United States, and approved and certified by it as the census of that state or subdivision. See Census.
Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, vol. 1 Abdication-Duty, John Joseph Lalor, 
The Story of the Law, John Maxcy Zane, 1927CENSUS.
Census taking, or the counting of the population of a country, has been practiced from time immemorial. The Bible makes mention of it, but not always approvingly. The oriental nations still retain their prejudices against the taking of a census, which is so necessary in every state. It is fortunate that Christian countries do not share these prejudices; for there are many cases in which it is indispensable to know the number of the population.
—The operation is not, however, so easy as one might believe. Various systems have been tried, and agreement among specialists in the matter is of only recent date. Formerly the custom was to count the legal population, that is, inhabitants with a domicile, and who were present, or only temporarily absent, when the census was taken. Now the census gives the actual population.
—The actual population is that which is found in each locality, at a given time, whether it be "resident" or "floating." An inhabitant of Bordeaux or Lille, so-journing in Paris at the time of the census, would, under the old system in France, be numbered among the inhabitants of Bordeaux or Lille, and under the new system, among the floating population of Paris (as a traveler).
—In order to ascertain the actual population the census must be taken throughout the entire extent of a country on the same day (or same night). For this reason, before the day indicated for the taking of the census, the government sends to all the house-holders blanks which they are required to fill. This is the method adopted in England, and we think it may be recommended. We would not even hesitate to establish by law, as that country does, a penalty against such as refuse to furnish the desired information, or who give it in an incorrect manner. In Germany they have tried to substitute individual blanks for family ones, but we do not know whether the experiment has been successful.
—In some countries, in France for example, the taking of the census lasts several weeks, because the census-takers go from house to house. This method admits of more errors, and especially of more repetitions than the other. The traveler may be counted in two places in the same census.
—In many countries the census includes, beside the inhabitants, an enumeration of the cattle, houses, and factories, and the government also avails itself of this circumstance to collect other information.
Wonder what your obligations are when they come a knocking at your door in 2020? This is a good little book that explains how you can deal with all the nosy questions.As soon as William was firmly seated on the English throne, he proceeded in the sound Norman way to find out what his English realm contained. He took a census, which not only enumerated almost all of the inhabitants except some of the slaves and serfs but listed their lands and property. It required a number of years to complete this enumeration, but when it was finished the king had what is called the Domesday Book. He could now accurately tell who held particular lands and on what services they were held, what were the lands of the crown and who had claims upon them. The status of the inhabitants was determined with accuracy. How
modern it is to picture the king and his clerks thumbing the rolls of the Domesday census, to ascertain where he could screw out a little more revenue or a few more knights and footmen!
Census: Mandatory or Voluntary? By Steven D. Miller
It includes chapters such as -
The Enemy Within
Religious objections to the census
Census protesters in Court Cases
Questions need to be asked
More questions for census takers
Right to remain silent