THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
In 70 AD Titus surrounded the city of Jerusalem with an army of 70,000 men. Josephus, the historian, claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, a majority of which were Jewish, and that 97,000 were captured and enslaved:
The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.
Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean through underground tunnels, while the Romans hunted them down. Titus reportedly refused to accept a wreath of victory, as there is “no merit in vanquishing people forsaken by their own God”.
Josephus continued, “No other city ever suffered miseries, nor did any age, from the beginning of the world, ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness that this was.” He also wrote, “If the miseries of all mankind from the creation were compared with those which the Jews then suffered, they would appear inferior.”
This period of several years leading up to the Fall of Jerusalem was a time of great tribulation, a time of unimaginable suffering brought about by a stubborn people’s refusal to submit to Roman authority. Joshua accurately predicted all that was about to transpire. Because of the Jewish insistence on a worldly Messiah who would elevate them to their imagined role as supreme nation on earth they forfeited their role as spiritual light-bearers to the world.
Tacitus, the historian, tells of this period:
I proceed to a work rich in disasters, full of atrocious battles, of discord and rebellion, yea, horrible even in peace. Four princes killed by the sword; three civil wars, several foreign wars; cities swallowed up or buried in ruins; Rome laid waste by conflagrations, the old temples burned up, even the capitol set on fire by citizens; sanctuaries desecrated; adultery rampant in high places. The sea filled with exiles; the rocky islands contaminated with murder. Still more horrible the fury in the city.
There may not be a more terrible chapter in history as these few years before the temple was destroyed. And destroyed it was. Titus’ men set the temple on fire and ran off with all the treasures in 70 AD, thereby fulfilling the prediction of Joshua that not one stone would be left upon another.
A man named Joshua (coincidentally) stood on the streets of Jerusalem for seven and a half years lamenting the coming fall of Jerusalem. The authorities were terrified by his constant proclamations of Woe onto Jerusalem! They had him scoured until the bones on his back showed through but he continued his prophecies until he was unceremoniously killed by a stone thrown by a Roman soldier during the siege of Jerusalem.
The Son of Man warned his followers to flee to the mountains when they saw the armies surrounding Jerusalem. Many who were convinced he would return at the same time as the fall of Jerusalem had sold all they had and given it to the church. These somewhat misguided early believers were forced to take handouts from the church when their means of support ran out and still no Second Coming.
While many clung to this idea of the Second Coming at a time of crisis, unfortunately they did not heed their Master’s advice and were killed by the Romans in 70 AD along with thousands of pilgrims who were in Jerusalem for the annual Passover celebrations.
Those that did listen and fled, took with them the gospel of the kingdom which was subsequently preached to all corners of the earth. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Several false messiahs were to appear and lead revolts against Rome. All of these revolts, many led by the Zealots, were doomed to fail. Eusebius says of this period:
Thus were the miserable people won over at this time by the impostors and false prophets; but they did not heed nor give credit to the visions and signs that foretold the approaching desolation. On the contrary, as if struck by lightning, and as if possessing neither eyes nor understanding, they slighted the proclamations of God.
Simon the Zealot was so called because he was a member of the Zealots, a group of militants who advocated the overthrow of Rome through acts of violence and targeted assassinations. One branch of these Zealots were named the Sicarii, which literally means daggermen, due to their use of concealed daggers to stab those Jews who defiled the Law by preaching without being circumcised or were collaborating with the Romans.
Herod was singled out as a traitor to the Jewish nation by these Sicarii on one occasion. Ten of them entered a theater where Herod was reported to be but one of Herod’s spies got wind of it. The conspiracy was uncovered and the perpetrators were tortured to death. The spy was likewise found out and the people “in their wrath tore him to pieces.”
The Zealots were among the first recorded groups of what we might call terrorists who incited rebellion and went about stirring up rebel groups to action. They met with complete failure and were either beheaded or crucified or were soundly defeated in battle by the Roman armies.
The End of Israel
The last false messiah brought about the final destruction of Israel. In 135 AD Simon bar Kosiba was proclaimed messiah and re-named Simon bar Kokhba, which means son of the star, alluding to the Star of Judah prophecy in the Book of Numbers. He actually succeeded in temporarily overthrowing Rome, and Israel declared her independence for a short period of 3 years. The Roman emperor, Hadrian had recently outlawed circumcision which was considered barbaric by the Romans. This plus the building of a temple to the Roman god Jupiter on the ruins of the Second Temple enraged the militant and rebellious Jews.
Hadrian set forth a policy of anti-Judaism because he saw their religion as the root of the problem. Jews were henceforth forbidden to enter Jerusalem upon pain of death except once a year at Tisha B’Av. Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina. The sacred books were burned on the Temple Mount and the whole area of Judea and Israel was renamed Syria Palestine, a supposed dig at the Jews by naming the area after their long-time enemies the Philistines.
Bar Kochba silver Zuz/denarius, Obverse: trumpets surrounded by “To the freedom of Jerusalem”. Reverse: A lyre surrounded by “Year two to the freedom of Israel”
The Talmud and the Hebrew calendar were banned; and ten scholars were made an example of and publicly martyred. These ten leading rabbis of the Sanhedrin were killed in agonizing tortures: Rabbi Akiba was flayed, Rabbi Ishmael had the skin of his head pulled off slowly, and Rabbi Hanania was burned at a stake, with wet wool held by a Torah scroll wrapped around his body to prolong his death.
After the revolt failed, the Jewish leaders renamed their defeated messiah Simon bar Koseba – literally, son of deception.
The poet, Hayim Nahman Bialik, wrote of the later exile and persecution of the nationless Hebrews:
And my heart weeps for my unhappy people …
How burned, how blasted must our portion be,
If seed like this is withered in its soil …
The Abrahamic Covenant
The covenant that God made with Abraham, a partnership between Man and God was at this time abolished. The Jewish nation was given a chosen mission: to be the receivers and torch-bearers of the new gospel which Joshua brought to the world. First to the Jew and then to the Gentile.
The only way the Hebrews could have fulfilled the plan and blessed all nations was by taking the gospel which Joshua brought and spreading it throughout the world. God is no respecter of persons, he does not play favorites with any person or race or nation of peoples. There are no chosen people – Israel had a chosen mission. They failed at this mission – and quite dramatically so.
Whether the fall of Jerusalem was the judgment of God upon Israel for her rejection of the Gospel of the Kingdom or whether it was simply the natural result of their refusal to accept God is a question open to debate. The fact that later Christians saw fit to punish and marginalize Jews because of the actions of a handful of Jewish leaders seems unfair and very un-Christian. Obviously not all Jews were against Joshua nor did they all participate in the murder of Joshua. The early apostles were all Jewish men as were the majority of the first converts to the new faith.
Joshua said to the Samaritan woman a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.
In Isaiah, it is written that he would establish a new covenant and would put his laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. This is because the new Kingdom of Heaven was a purely spiritual kingdom and does not need holy cities or mountains to be its exclusive home. The kingdom of heaven in within you. The Kingdom of Heaven is the will of God.