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Friday, August 17 2012
Israel In History and Prophecy: The Zealots
"There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down"
When the people of the nation of Judah (the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi; see A History Of Jerusalem: The Capital Of Judah) returned from their seventy-years Babylonian exile, the Temple, that had been destroyed by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, was rebuilt under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah (see A History Of Jerusalem: Ezra And Nehemiah). That "Second Temple" existed for about four centuries before it was magnificently renovated and expanded by Herod in the years just before the birth of the Messiah (see A History Of Jerusalem: The Herodian Dynasty). It was that "Herodian Temple" that the Messiah frequented throughout His life, from the week that He was born (see A History Of Jerusalem: The Coming Of The Messiah) until the day that He died. Many of the most-famous events and teachings of His life occurred in or around that Temple (see also What Was Holy About Herod's Temple?).
One day, while at the Temple with His disciples ("disciple" means student), He startled them with a prophecy about the Temple (the photograph below shows some of the actual stones that He was talking about, as they are seen today, as rubble):
"24:1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple.
The Messiah's famous "Olivet Prophecy" (named after the Mount of Olives upon which it was spoken; see also When And Where Your Eternal Life Will Begin) was delivered as a further explanation of that coming destruction of the Temple, as well as further abominations that would happen there in the far-greater future, at the time of His return.
"24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
The "there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down" part of the prophecy happened, exactly as the Messiah said that it would, in 70 AD. As we will read, a vast number of people of Judah died when the Romans destroyed the city and the Temple at that time, but very few, if any, of Christ's true and obedient followers were killed during that siege of Jerusalem - for two reasons.
First, the stoning to death of Stephen resulted in most Christians, "except the apostles," leaving Jerusalem during those years.
"7:59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 7:60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:59-60 KJV)
While the number of Christians may then have again increased up to 70 AD, they kept Christ's warning, that they heard first-hand, or were taught, in mind. The result?
"Under the reign of Vespasian, Rome declared war against the Jews because of their repeated revolts, and General Titus besieged the city of Jerusalem 70 A.D. It is said that eleven hundred thousand [i.e. one million, one hundred thousand] Jews perished in the six month siege, but the church there escaped the horrors of the siege by following the instruction of Christ in Matthew 24, and fleeing to the mountains beyond the Jordan. This timely retreat was made to the small town of Pella." (Hugh Smith's History)
The Zealots Of Masada
According to the historian Josephus (who actually lived at the time, and was present right in Jerusalem when it fell), the Zealots were one of the four major sects in Judah at the time of the birth of the Christ. Unlike the other three (the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes) who were longer-established (see The Origin Of The Essenes, Sadducees And Pharisees) and religious in their function, the Zealots were primarily political and military - they began with a rebellion against the Roman occupation forces around the year 6, led by Judas of Galilee (or "Judas the Gaulonite"), who is also briefly mentioned in the book of Acts.
"5:37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed." (Acts 5:37 KJV)
The Zealots nevertheless grew into a formidable rebel, or insurgency (or "terrorist" - then as now, "patriot" or "terrorist" was determined by which side was speaking) force in the land of Judah. It seems obvious what the Messiah thought of them - He chose at least one Zealot as one of the twelve apostles, "Simon called Zelotes" (at least one; the Zealots were also known as the Sicarii, from their use of the sica, the Roman dagger - that the apostle Peter also carried; coincidentally, Peter, and most of the other apostles, were from Galilee, just as was Judas, the founder of the Zealots).
"6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; 6:14 Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, 6:15 Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, 6:16 And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor." (Luke 6:13-16 KJV)
The Zealots were fierce and ruthless, targeting not only Roman troops and political leaders, but anyone among their own people who willingly collaborated with the occupiers.
The Zealots were the primary leaders of the Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 66 AD. They took Jerusalem, and held it for about four years, before the city fell to the Roman siege under the command of Titus in 70 AD.
After the fall of Jerusalem, nearly 1,000 of the remaining Zealots under the leadership of Elazar ben Yair captured and took refuge in the now-famous fortress of Masada. After a three-year siege, the Romans finally broke through the defenses - only to find that nearly all of the Zealots had committed mass suicide rather than being captured.
"When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh"
Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus (more commonly known as Titus) was the son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. Prior to succeeding his father as Emperor in 79 AD, Titus served as a Roman military commander, of the Praetorian Guard, as well as battlefield assignments.
Titus began his siege of Jerusalem in the spring of 70 AD; despite his four legions surrounding the city (see also Legions Of Men And Angels), Titus permitted many thousands of people to enter Jerusalem for Passover, with the goal of bringing starvation to the city much more quickly when he closed the city entirely. It was exactly what Jesus Christ told people not to do, in His dual prophecy of "when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies":
"21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21:21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto." (Luke 21:20-21 KJV)
The city fell. According to the historian Josephus (who was personally present), over 1 million people of Judah were killed by the Romans. The city was destroyed. The Temple was also destroyed, exactly as the Messiah prophesied would happen.
The result may have been another "glorious victory" for Titus, but it was absolutely horrendous for the people of Judah, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple. Excerpts, as recorded in Josephus' The Wars Of The Jews:
"Now of those that perished by famine in the city, the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable ; for if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did anywhere appear , a war was commenced presently; and the dearest friends fell a-fighting one with another about it , snatching from each other the most miserable supports of life. Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food; but the robbers would search them when they were expiring, lest any one should have concealed food in their bosoms, and counterfeited dying: nay, these robbers gaped for want, and ran about stumbling and staggering along like mad dogs, and reeling against the doors of the houses like drunken men; they would also, in the great distress they were in, rush into the very same houses two or three times in one and the same day. Moreover, their hunger was so intolerable, that it obliged them to chew everything, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them; nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed : the very wisps of old hay became food to some; and some gathered up fibres, and sold a very small weight of them for four Attic, [drachmae.] But why should I describe the shameless impudence that the famine brought on men in their eating inanimate things, while I am going to relate matter of fact, the like to which no history relates, either among the Greeks or Barbarians! It is horrible to speak of it, and incredible when heard. I had indeed willingly omitted this calamity of ours, that I might not seem to deliver what is so portentous to posterity, but that I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age; and besides, my country would have had little reason to thank me for suppressing the miseries that she underwent at this time." (Book VI, Chapter III, Section 3)
Further, the fire and destruction, as recorded by the eyewitness, Josephus:
"While the holy house was on fire, everything was plundered that came to hand, and ten thousand of those that were caught were slain; nor was there a commiseration of any age, or any reverence of gravity; but children, and old men, and profane persons, and priests, were all slain in the same manner; so that this war went round all sorts of men, and brought them to destruction, and as well those that made supplication for their lives, as those that defended themselves by fighting. The flame was also carried a long way, and made an echo, together with the groans of those that were slain ; and because this hill was high , and the works at the temple were very great, one would have thought that the whole city had been on fire. Nor can one imagine anything either greater or more terrible than this noise; for there was at once a shout of the Roman legions, who were marching all together, and a sad clamour of the seditious, who were now surrounded with fire and sword. The people also that were left above were beaten back upon the enemy, and under a great consternation, and made sad moans at the calamity they were under; the multitude also that was in the city joined in this outcry with those that were upon the hill; and besides many of those that were worn away by the famine, and their mouths almost closed when they saw the fire of the holy house, they exerted their utmost strength, and brake out into groans and outcries again: Perea did also return he echo, as well as the mountains round about, [the city,] and augmented the force of the entire noise. Yet was the misery itself more terrible than this disorder; for one would have thought that the hill itself, on which the temple stood, was seething-hot , as full of fire on every part of it, that the blood was larger in quantity than the fire, and those that were slain more in number that those that slew them; for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over the heaps of these bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them.
Fact Finder: What happened to the Temple Vessels that were plundered by Titus in 70 AD? What evidence is there, in Rome, that they were plundered?
This Day In History, August 17
986: A Byzantine army was destroyed in the pass of Trajan's Gate by the Bulgarians under the Comitopuli Samuel and Aron. The Byzantine emperor Basil II narrowly escaped.
1424: The English fought the Scots and French at the Battle of Verneuil during the Hundred Years War.
1585: Spanish forces, led by Duke of Parma, took Antwerp after a 14-month siege in the Dutch War of Liberation.
1590: John White, the leader of 117 colonists sent in 1587 to Roanoke Island (North Carolina) to establish a colony, returned from a trip to England to find the settlement deserted. No trace of the settlers is ever found.
1743: The Peace of Abo was signed, ending the Russo-Swedish War of 1741-43.
1812: Napoleon Bonaparte's army defeated the Russians at the Battle of Smolensk during the Russian retreat to Moscow.
1833: The first steam ship to cross the Atlantic entirely on its own power, the Canadian ship Royal William, began its journey from Nova Scotia to The Isle of Wight.
1915: A Category 4 hurricane hit Galveston, Texas with winds at 217 km/hr (135 mph).
1943: During the Second World War, the U.S. Eighth Air Force lost 60 bombers on the Schweinfurt-Regensburg bombing mission.
1945: Indonesia claimed independence from the Netherlands with the setting up the Provisional Indonesian Republican Government.
1962: Peter Fechter, 18, was shot by East German guards as he attempted to flee across the Berlin Wall. Left to bleed to death, his case was the most notorious in the history of the Wall. In July 1996, two former guards were charged with manslaughter.
1969: A Category 5 Hurricane, named Camille, struck the Mississippi coast, killing 248 people and causing $1.5 billion in damage.
1969: Dr. Philip Blaiberg died in South Africa, 19 months and 15 days after receiving a heart transplant, a survival record at the time.
1987: Nazi war criminal Rudolph Hess committed suicide by hanging with a lamp cord, at age 93, after 46 years in Spandau Prison. He had been the only inmate of the prison for the last 20 years of his life.
1998: U.S. President Bill Clinton testified before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's grand jury regarding Clinton's sexual adventures with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. Clinton thereby became the first U.S. President to testify under oath (he had previously denied any adultery and fornication with the young assistant) before a grand jury.
1999: A magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck Izmit, Turkey; over 17,000 people were killed and 44,000 were injured.