THE WAR OF THE JEWS
For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. (Matthew 24:21).
For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side,44 and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:43-44).
The ministry of Jesus was very specific in its exclusion of the head officials of Israel. During His three years of preaching, teaching and healing, He specifically avoided contact with Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, with Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea, and with Caiaphas, the High Priest at Jerusalem.
Although He was no stranger to the city of Jerusalem, it was a stated fact that He never spent the night within the city. When He did visit the Temple, He made it His practice to spend His evenings in one of the small villages outside the city.
On the last week of His ministry, He came for the last time to Jerusalem. It was the season of the Passover. As He appeared openly in the Temple, the multitudes saw Him challenge the religious leaders.
Finally He was betrayed by one of His own disciples and arrested. He was brought before Caiaphas, the High Priest. Several charges were brought against Him, but none could be substantiated. Finally Caiaphas cut to the heart of the matter by asking Jesus if He were truly the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus answered in the affirmative. The trial ended at this point as Caiaphas judged Him guilty of blasphemy.
It must be remembered that this was the only charge for which Jesus was ever found guilty. Since the Jews did not possess the legal right to enforce capital punishment, they took Jesus to Pilate in the Antonia Fortress. Pilate found Him innocent and tried to pass the buck by sending Jesus to Herod Antipas who happened to be in town for the Passover. Antipas also found Him innocent and refused to judge the case. When Jesus was brought back to Pilate, the procurator protested the innocence of the accused. In desperation, Pilate offered to release Jesus on the basis of a popular custom of clemency, due to the Passover. The crowd called for a convicted murderer named Barabbas instead.
And when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves."
And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children."
Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he delivered Him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:24-26).
The crowd called for a curse to be brought upon themselves and their children. It would be in this same courtyard that the Romans would break through in 70 A.D. and slaughter the unbelieving Jews of Jerusalem.
JERUSALEM AND THE EARLY CHURCH
Although Jesus was crucified and buried, He refused to stay dead. Even a Roman guard could not keep Him in the grave. He arose and made numerous appearances before finally being caught up bodily into heaven.
1. The Pentecost Incident.
The disciples of Jesus remained in Jerusalem following His ascension, waiting for an event which He had promised. They waited for ten days, and the, on the day of the Feast of Pentecost, something spectacular happened.
And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
Jews were gathered together from all over the world to celebrate this Feast. Suddenly, in the midst of the crowded city, something took place that can only be explained in terms of the supernatural.
The followers of Jesus began to speak in other languages, relating the news the Jesus has risen from the dead. When the crowd gathered around to see what all of the commotion was about, Peter stood up and delivered a passionate sermon. As a result, 3000 people were baptized.
The initial persecutions of the early Jerusalem church were conducted exclusively by the Jewish religious leaders. These involved beatings and imprisonment. They escalated to the point where a mob took Stephen and stoned him to death.
Instead of destroying the church, these persecutions had the result of scattering the Christians to other lands. Within a few years, churches began to grow up in foreign cities.
THE ROAD TO REVOLUTION
Conditions in Judea were made rise for a revolution by the continued mismanagement of the Roman procurators.
1. Early Procurators.
Following the deposing of Archelaus from the position of Ethnarch (A.D. 6), the province of Judea was placed under a series of Roman procurators.
Pontius Pilate (26-36 A.D.) has the distinction of crucifying Jesus. He made several other mistakes in ruling the province, bringing graven images of eagles into Jerusalem and then confiscating Temple funds for civil projects.
In 39 A.D. the Emperor Caligula demanded that a statue of himself be set up for worship in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews pled their case to the Legate in Syria and the action was postponed. Before it could be carried out by force of arms, Caligula was assassinated and the order was rescinded.
2. Herod Agrippa I (41-44 A.D.).
All of Palestine was united for a brief period under the rule of Herod Agrippa 1st in A.D. 41. This time was a brief period of peace for the Jews.
3. Ventilius Cumanus.
Following the death of Agrippa, Judea was placed back under the authority of a Roman governor.
a. The Passover Incident.
Josephus describes one of the events which took place under the procuratorship of Cumanus. It took place on the Passover.
For when the multitude were come together to Jerusalem, to the feast of unleavened bread, and a Roman cohort stood over the cloisters of the temple (for they were always armed and kept guard at the festivals, to prevent any innovation which the multitude thus gathered together might make), one of the soldiers pulled back his garment and cowering down after an indecent manner, turned his buttocks to the Jews and spoke words as you might expect upon such a posture. At this the whole multitude had indignation and made a clamor to Cumanus, that he would punish the soldier; while the rasher part of the youth, and such as were naturally the most tumultuous, fell to fighting and caught up stones and threw them at the soldiers. (Wars of the Jews 2:12:1)
Cumanus tried to smooth things over, but the crowd would not be quieted. He called for more reinforcements and a panic ensued. Josephus estimates that 20,000 people were killed in the riot.
b. The Samaritan Conflict.
Further unrest was unleashed when a Jewish pilgrim traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem was murdered while passing through Samaria.
A Jewish mob, upon hearing the news, set out from Jerusalem to take vengeance upon the Samaritans.
Cumanus was recalled to Rome to answer for his inability to keep the peace. Cumanus was deposed and banished.
4. Antonius Felix (52-60 A.D.).
Felix had been the governor of Samaria and had been just as remiss as Cumanus in keeping the peace.
However, Felix had some strong political connections in Rome so that Cumanus was given the blame while Felix was given the position of procurator of Judea, Samaria and Galilee.
It was while Felix was procurator that the Apostle Paul came to the Temple in Jerusalem. Antagonistic Jews began a riot and the Roman garrison in the Antonia Fortress intervened, arresting Paul. Finding that he could not receive a fair trial in Jerusalem, Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship and was therefore transported to Caesarea to appear before Felix.
Felix heard the case, but refused to make a final decision. Paul was kept under house arrest for a period of two years. During this time, Felix had regular audiences with him.
5. Porcius Festus (60-62 A.D.).
When Festus came to power, there was already a complete breakdown of law and order in Palestine. Realizing the nature of the situation, he resolved to do nothing that would add to it. At the same time, he realized that he had little familiarity with Jewish laws and customs.
Accordingly, he brought in Agrippa 2nd to hear the case of Paul and agreed with the result that Paul was innocent of any wrongdoing. However, since Paul had already appealed to Caesar, he was sent to Rome. Festus did not rule for long, dying early in his tenure of office.
6. Albinus (62-65 A.D.).
It was remarked once that Roman governors generally spent their first year in office collecting taxes to pay the bribes which had served to acquire the governorship, the second year collecting taxes to pay the bribes to the judges who would try them for mismanagement, and the remainder of their years collecting taxes from which to make them wealthy for life. Albinus was an excellent example of this.
He did not only, in his political capacity, steal and plunder everyone's substance, nor did he only burden the whole nation with taxes, but he permitted the relations of such as were in prison for robbery... to redeem them for money. (Wars of the Jews 2:14:1)
7. Gessius Florus (65-66 A.D.).
Florus was even worse than Albinus. Thousands were put to death in senseless slaughter. Even Roman citizens were crucified.
Bernice, the sister of Agrippa 2nd tried to intercede, but her requests were ignored and she was forced to flee for her own life.
As Jerusalem balanced on the brink of revolt, Agrippa 2nd himself came to the city to urge the Jews to be patient. The crowds pelted him with stones.
There had been a growing antisemitism in Palestine for many years now, especially in those cities which were predominantly Greek. This flared into an eruption when a pagan sacrifice was made at the entrance of the synagogue in Caesarea.
1. The Temple Sacrifice.
For many years there had been a regular sacrifice offered in the Temple on behalf of the Roman Emperor. Eleazer, the Temple captain, ordered that these sacrifices be stopped.
2. Florus at the Temple.
Florus, the Roman procurator, responded by marching to Jerusalem with the soldiers under his command and raiding the Temple Treasury. When the Jews protested, he set his troops on the people, allowing them to murder, rape, and plunder at will. About 3600 Jews were killed.
3. Jerusalem Liberated.
The spark of revolt was now fanned into an open flame. The Romans within the city of Jerusalem were slaughtered. In the riot that followed, the High Priest was killed and his house burned along with the official archives in which all public records were kept.
4. Capture of Masada.
Menahem, son of Judas the Galilean, attacked and captured the fortress of Masada with its armory.
THE ROMAN DEFEAT
Josephus speaks of an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings, how "about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." The Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular, and many of the wise men were thereby deceived in their determination (Wars of the Jews 6:5:4).
1. The Attack of the 12th Legion.
Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of Syria marched against Israel with the 12th Legion. He fought his way into Jerusalem, but was stopped before the walls of the Temple.
For a week he made repeated attacks until the defenders were on the point of surrender. At the last moment and for no apparent reason, he pulled back and retreated from the city.
As he began to withdraw, the Jews counterattacked, inflicting enormous losses. The 12th Legion lost its eagle and its siege equipment.
2. The Results of the Jewish Victory.
This loss turned the revolt into a full-scale war for independence. The Jews were ecstatic. They set up their own government in Jerusalem, organized the country into seven military districts, and minted their own silver coins.
Only one group saw these events through different eyes. The Jewish Christians in Judea remembered the warning of Jesus.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand.
The Christians remembered these words and they began to pack up and move out of Judea.
Learning about the defeat of the 12th Legion, Nero commissioned his top general with the task of subduing the rebels. His name was Titus Flavius Vespasianus.
1. Rendezvous at Ptolemais.
Vespasian landed in Antioch and took command of the 10th and the rebuilt 12th Legions. Marching south along the coast, he set up his headquarters in Ptolemais on the southern edge of Phoenicia in 67 A.D. Vespasian's son, Titus, marched up from Egypt with the 15th Legion.
Linking up with his father, the Romans now moved inland into the region of Galilee. Battles were fought on both land and on the lake of Galilee.
...one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrified, they corrupted the air... (Wars of the Jews 3:10:9).
The Jewish defenders in Galilee were led by a young priest named Josephus. He had no military experience and his forces were no match for the Romans. They retreated to the fortress of Jotapata where they held out for 47 days.
Josephus and a small band broke out of the fort and hid themselves for several days in a well before being captured.
When Josephus was brought before Vespasian, he managed to flatter him into keeping him instead of sending him on to Nero in Rome.
Josephus went to be become a personal friend and supporter of Vespasian and Titus, eventually writing a history of this war. To the Jews, Josephus was perceived as a traitor to his people.
3. Conquest of Samaria.
The Romans attacked the Samaritans at Mount Gerizim and dispersed them. Then the city of Joppa was attacked in a two-pronged assault by land and by sea. The Jewish navy was captured, giving Vespasian complete command of the sea.
Meanwhile, the Jews had fallen to fighting among themselves as various factions tried to gain control.
4. Conquest of Judea.
Beginning in the spring of 68 A.D. Vespasian began to whittle away at the province of Judea, first cutting off Perea and then advancing down the lowlands to Emmaus.
Later in the year, Vespasian marched down the Jordan River Valley, capturing Jericho and Qumran, the center for the Essenes.
Realizing that the Romans were coming, the Essenes took their copies of the Scriptures, sealed them in jars and pots, and hid them in the caves on the northwest side of the Dead Sea. These "Dead Sea Scrolls" were not discovered until 1948.
By the summer of 69 A.D. the Jews held only Jerusalem, Herodium, Masada and Macherus.
5. Revolt in Rome.
In 68 A.D. a revolt broke out against Emperor Nero in Gaul and Spain. Fearing the worst, Nero committed suicide. The year of 69 A.D. has come to be known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" because four different men were proclaimed Emperor of the Roman Empire. The last of those men was Vespasian.
Leaving his son, Titus, to complete the conquest of the Jews, Vespasian returned to Rome to assume the mantle of Emperor.
THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM
Titus brought another Legion up from Egypt, giving him a total strength of four Legions to attack the city of Jerusalem.
1. There were three primary Jewish factions within the city of Jerusalem.
John of Gischala
He had been a general in the Jewish army. He hated Josephus and had predicted that he would betray the Jews to the Romans. He had become the leader of the Zealots.
Simon Bar Gioras
He headed the remnants of the army of Josephus. They numbered several thousand, but had degenerated into a band of looters.
Eleazer, son of Simon
He began as an ally of John's, but broke away from him and headed a group that was more religious in nature, desiring to establish Judaism.
These groups had begun to fight among themselves. During one of these fights, a torch was thrown into a supply depot and a great deal of the food reserves were destroyed.
2. Titus Arrives at Jerusalem.
In January of 70 A.D. Titus advanced with his forces to a point several miles to the north of Jerusalem.
Leaving his army there, he took 600 horsemen to reconnoiter. As he approached Jerusalem, he was attacked by a band of Jews which scattered his cavalry unit. Titus barely escaped with his life.
The next day, Titus advanced his camp to the hill of Scopus from which he could view the entire city.
3. The Defense of Jerusalem.
With the Roman array outside the city, the factions in Jerusalem put aside their differences and formed an alliance. Their combined force numbered less than 25,000 men. Against them were four full Legions plus their auxiliaries, numbering a total of 80,000 men.
4. The Jews Attack.
The Jews launched an attack from the Woman's Gate on the north wall of the New Quarter. They rushed out against the 10th Legion and drove them from their camp. The Romans had been working on fortifications and had laid aside their arms.
5. Attack Against the New Quarter.
After bitter fighting during which the Jews repeatedly rushed out and set fire to the siege engines, the Romans managed to break through the northern wall and enter the New Quarter of Jerusalem. This breakthrough was made on May 25, 70 A.D.
6. Attack Against the Second Quarter.
The Jews had retreated to the second wall. This time, it took the Romans only five days to knock out a narrow breach in the wall. They poured through the breach and found themselves in that area of the marketplace which housed the wool shops, the blacksmith shops and the cloth markets. This section was honeycombed with narrow alleys leading from the wall at different angles.
The Jewish defenders counterattacked inside the wall. The Romans became disoriented in the winding maze and were forced to retreat to the safety of the second wall.
This position held for three days. On the fourth, Titus overran the Jews in a massive attack. Once in possession of the wall, Titus proceeded to tear it down.
7. Propaganda Tactics.
Titus now suspended the siege operations for a while to see if the famine within the city and the demoralization of the Jewish rebels might lead to a surrender.
To add to this demoralization, he paraded his entire army before the northern wall of the Temple area. This parade lasted for four days.
When the rebels refused to surrender, Titus began building earthworks and siege engines for the assault on the Antonia Fortress. These were completed on the 16th of June.
While the siege engines were being brought up into position, the Jews dug tunnels under the ground, out underneath the walls of the city and right up to the Roman earthworks. As they were digging, they supported these tunnels with wooden beams. When they were done, they pulled back and set fire to the supporting wooden beams which caused them to collapse. The Roman earthworks toppled over with a thundering crash as the ground gave way beneath them in a smoking pit.
The Romans brought up more siege engines and the Jews rushed out in a lightning attack, setting fire to them and destroying them. For a time the Romans were forced to pull back.
9. A Wall Around the City.
Titus now had a wall constructed around the entire city of Jerusalem so that no one could go in and no one could go out. This wall was reputed to be as high as the defensive walls of the city. All hope for escape for the Jews was cut off. This action was a direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus.
For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side. (Luke 19:43).
Famine now began to rage through the city. Starving people turned to cannibalism, even killing and eating their own children. Those who were captured trying to escape from the city were crucified.
So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses for the bodies. (Wars of the Jews 5:11:1).
The wall around Jerusalem, the city which had crucified her Messiah, was now ringed with its crucified inhabitants.
10. Assault on the Antonia. Fortress.
Next Titus began construction of more earthworks opposite the Antonia Fortress. Building materials for this construction came from as far as ten miles away. Not a tree was left standing around Jerusalem. The siege machines were brought up, but they only managed to dislodge four stones.
That night, the portion of the wall where the rams had been pounding, further weakened by the cave-in of the Jewish tunnel, suddenly collapsed. The Roman found a second wall which the Jews had built behind it.
Four nights later, the Romans mounted a surprise attack. The Jews abandoned the Antonia Fortress and fled to the Temple.
11. Fight for the Temple.
The Romans attacked down into the Temple compound, but had limited access and were forced to retreat. Titus spent seven days dismantling the Antonia Fortress, using the materials to build a roadway up to the Temple. Now his entire force was brought up into the Court of the Gentiles (pictured below with the Fortress Antonia in the upper right).
This was the last stand for the Jews. They fought bitterly, keeping the Romans at bay for a time by sheer determination.
On August 27, Titus issued orders to set fire to the Gate Beautiful. This was done and the fire raged all day.
On August 30, the Romans finally gained entrance into the Temple, setting it on fire and slaughtering thousands. Women and children had hidden themselves in the treasury chambers and these were also set on fire. The Temple was burned to the ground. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus, not one stone was left upon another.
Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and the temple... the wall was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundations, that there was left nothing to make those that came there believe it had ever been inhabited. (Wars of the Jews 7:1:1).
12. The Fall of the Remainder of the City.
The Romans now swept down into the Lower City, but it took another month for them to take the Upper City and Herod's Palace.
Titus ordered that the city be leveled and that all of the surviving inhabitants to be taken captive. Some of these were sent to the salt mines while others were held in reserve to be paraded in the Triumph of Titus.
The Romans began a search through the sewers for the hidden rebels. John gave himself up and was imprisoned. Simon was caught while digging his own tunnel under the walls. He was also through into chains.
With Jerusalem destroyed, the only place of resistance in Palestine was the isolated fortress of Masada, located on the western shore of the Dead Sea.
The fortress had been built by John Hyrcanus and then refurbished by Herod the Great. It had enough food and water tolast for ten years. Located atop a flat mesa surrounded by 1200 foot sheer cliffs, it was considered to be impregnable.
1. The Defenders.
The fortress had been captured by a. group of Zealots at the beginning of the Jewish revolt. It was held by a group of 960 men, women and children. They were led by Eleazer, a descendant of Judas the Galilean.
2. The Siege.
The 10th Roman Legion was sent under governor Flavius Silva to take the fortress in 72 A.D. They encamped around it and surrounded it with a wall.
The lot of the Romans was difficult. Both food and water had to be transported from long distances to support the Legion.
3. The Ramp.
Unable to scale the steep cliffs, Silva built a giant ramp up to the plateau. His siege engines were pushed up this ramp and, in the spring of 73 A.D. they managed to break through the wall of the fortress, only to find that the Jews had built another wall behind the first wall.
This second wall was inset so that the siege engines could not reach it. However, it had been constructed of combustible materials and the Romans set it on fire.
Seeing their last defense go up in flames, Eleazer called his people together and suggested that they commit mass suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Romans.
The entire group agreed except for two women and five children who hid themselves among the buildings of the fortress.
The next morning when the Romans advanced, they found nothing but silence to greet them. Walking through the fortress, they came upon the entire group, lying together by families with their throats cut.
Nor could they do other than wonder at the courage of their resolution, and at the immovable contempt of death which so great a number of them had shown, when they went through with such an action as that was. (Wars of the Jews 7:9:2).