This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "Zacchaeus". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.
Zacchaeus (Greek: Ζακχαῖος, Zakchaios; Hebrew: זכי, which means pure and righteous one ), according to chapter 19 of the Gospel of Luke, was a superintendent of customs; a chief tax-gatherer (Latin: publicanus) at Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). Tax collectors were often corrupt, and hated by many of their fellow Jews, who saw them as traitors for working for the Roman Empire.
Because the lucrative production and export of balsam was centered in Jericho, his position would have carried both importance and wealth. In the account, he arrived before the crowd who were later to meet with Jesus, who was passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. Described as a short man, Zacchaeus climbed up a sycamore fig tree so that he might be able to see Jesus. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up into the branches, addressed Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he intended to visit his house. The crowd was shocked that Jesus, a Jew, would sully himself by being a guest of a tax collector.
Moved by the audacity of Jesus' undeserved love and acceptance, Zacchaeus publicly repented acts of corruption and vowed to make restitution for them, and held a feast at his house.