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The Zealots' Last Stand

Masada is the name given to the ancient mountain-top fortress that has become a symbol of Israeli pride and national struggle. It was there that less than 1,000 Jewish zealots (coincidentally, one of the twelve apostles, Simon, not to be confused with Simon Peter, was a Zealot, although he was almost certainly not among those who died on Masada; after traveling widely, preaching the Gospel as commanded by the Messiah in the "great commission," according to one account he was crucified in what is today Britain - see also Zealots), men, women and children, made a defiant stand against the brutal, imperialistic Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) that had invaded the land of Israel.

Masada

Masada Masada is located in southern Israel. The oblong mountain looms about 430 meters / 1,400 feet over the nearby Dead Sea. Its features are a curious contradiction: steep, craggy sides that made defense against ancient military forces relatively easy, with a large, flat, open summit.

Masada's ancient history included construction and fortification during the time of the first Temple about 900 BC (see Temples), to work done by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus around 90 BC (see The Maccabees), to more work done by Herod The Great (see The Herods) at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ. It has a long history.

By 70 AD the Roman forces had taken all of Israel. Jerusalem was once again conquered by a foreign army, and the Temple was destroyed, exactly as Jesus Christ said would happen (see Fall of Jerusalem In 70 A.D. and "My Father's House"). In the end, all that remained was the rag-tag garrison atop Masada. Nevertheless, the Romans were about to find that the last hold-outs were not going to go down without a fight.

The outcome of the "battle" would normally have seemed relatively certain - the Roman Tenth Legion of nearly 15,000 experienced thugs/troops (see Roman Legions), against less than 1,000 Jews, many just ordinary people, and children, with no military ability or experience.

Nevertheless, it took the Romans almost two years to conquer Masada, at the cost of many casualties, and only then because they managed to construct a siege ramp up one of the slopes of the mountain to breach the wooden walls of the fortress with fire. The Romans were then in for one more surprise.

Upon entering the summit, the Romans found that the Jews inside, rather than accept defeat, had nearly all committed suicide. Only seven women and children, who had hidden in part of a cistern, chose to survive and surrender to the "mercy" of the Romans.

Fact Finder: Who were the two Roman emperors who ruled during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ?
See Augustus and Tiberius


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