NOTE: Who can deny the truth of the Bible, history is replete with the fulfillment of the prophecies contained therein, prophecies that are still being fulfilled today. I see many parallels with the United States in this day and time, it would be wise to be aware, and beware of the times that are upon us.
History of Jerusalem from 142 BC to 70 AD the Abomination of Desolation: With the Closing Scene of The Fall of Jerusalem; by Salathiel
Political Independence Gained and Lost (142-63 B. C.)
Glance over 1 Macc. 9—16; Josephus’ Antiquities, XIII.
1. When Judas [Maccabeus] died, the Maccabean struggle for political independence was continued by Jonathan, his younger brother. Jonathan was a diplomat. He set up a rival government at Michmash, and was the first Maccabee to be made high priest (153 B. C). He thus became “the real founder of the Maccabean state.” His end was tragic.
2. Simon, the last surviving member of Mattathias’ family, succeeded Jonathan. “It was given to Simon to put the copestone on the work which had been begun and developed by the other members of his house” (Fairweather). His crowning task was the capture of Akra, the citadel of Jerusalem. This victory gave the Jews independent nationality (142 B. a). Peace and prosperity followed. Simon was “the David of his age.” But Simon, like all his brothers, met a violent death.
3. His son, John, surnamed Hyrcanus, succeeded him, and for thirty years (135-105 B. c) reigned over a kingdom almost as extensive as Solomon’s. But by his indifference to the priesthood he completely alienated the Chasidim, who were now known as Pharisees. From his time onward the Maccabean dynasty rapidly degenerated.
4. Aristobulus was John’s son and successor. He is celebrated because he was the first to call himself “king of the Jews.” During the one brief year of his reign Galilee was added to the Jewish state. His brother and successor, Alexander Jannaeus, was, perhaps, the most profligate king and high priest in all Jewish history. He ruled for twenty-six years (104-78 B. C). From him the Pharisees turned away in utter disgust, and longed for deliverance from self-government.
5. Very soon, however, the reins of government fell into the Pharisees’ hands and they rejoiced. Alexander’s widow, Alexandra-Salome, ruled in strict accordance with their principles for nine years after his death. These years are frequently spoken of as “a truly golden age.” Upon her death, bitter strife ensued, and the Maceabean, or Hasmonean, dynasty hastened to its end. The Romans were invited to act as arbiters. Pompey responded, but at the cost of Jewish independence. Many thousands of Jews were either massacred or deported to Rome. “Thus the independence of the Jewish nation, which had lasted for nearly eighty years, was brought to an end” (Ottley).
The Roman Period till Christ (63-4 B. C)
Consult Josephus’ Antiquities, XIV-XVII.
1. The destinies of Rome, henceforth, determined the fate of the Jews. Julius Caesar generously allowed them to restore the walls of Jerusalem, which Pompey had thrown down. From 40 to 37 B. C. a certain Antigonus, the last representative of the Maceabean family, nominally ruled over Judea as king and priest. But while he was still in authority, the Roman senate appointed the Idumean Herod as king over Judea, and bade him conquer it. Herod did so, “sparing neither age nor sex.” He ruled from 37 to 4 B. C.
2. Herod was politic and born to rule. He was careful to keep the friendship of the Romans at any cost. The Jews, accordingly, doubted his motives. Even his splendid restoration of the Temple was not appreciated by them, because they dared not trust him. Yet some did, and formed a party known as the Herodians. See Mark 12:13.
3. Commerce flourished during Herod’s reign, but his government was thoroughly bad. His own heart was black with crime. It was he who slaughtered the children of Bethlehem, in order to put the infant Jesus to death. See Matt. 2:1-16. His reign is “perhaps the most convincing evidence that there are powers which are stronger than crown or sword, and that violence avails nothing against the spirit” (Cornill).
4. “But the importance of Herod’s life does not end with his personal history. He created, in great part, that Palestine which served as the platform on which the closing scenes of the Jewish and the opening scenes of the Christian church were to be enacted” (Stanley).
According to John 2:20, 46 years were spent in building the Temple of Christ’s day.
The Times of Jesus (4 B. C—30 A. D.)
Consult Josephus’ Antiquities, XVIII; Wars of the Jews, II, 1-9.
1. Herod the Great bequeathed his kingdom to his sons as follows: to Archelaus, Judea, Samaria and Idumea; to Herod Antipas, Galilee and Perea; to Philip, the district of the northeast. Philip was kind to his subjects and ruled as tetarch thirty-seven years. Herod Antipas founded Tiberias, but is specially remembered because he beheaded John the Baptist (Matt. 14:3). Christ once spoke of him as “that fox” (Luke 13:32). He ruled as tetrarch forty-three years. Archelaus was a miserable tyrant, who, after a cruel reign of nine years as ethnarch, was banished.
2. Thereafter, Judea was governed by a Roman procurator who was directly subject to the imperial legate of Syria. The Jews had long desired this form of government, but they soon discovered that the Roman yoke was heavier than they anticipated. For the next sixty years these Roman representatives took a fiendish delight in showing their contempt for the Jews.
3. In due time a new party sprang into existence, known as the Zealots, who resisted vigorously Roman tyranny. More and more the Jews became divided into various rival factions. The strict Pharisees and their ascetic allies, the Essenes, were pitted against the Sadducees and Herodians, who were liberal in both law and religion. Their hatred for one another grew more and more intense to the very end of the drama.
4. One of these Roman procurators was Pontius Pilate, who is especially famous for having tormented the Jews from 26 to 36 A. D. The Jews, in return, hated him most cordially; and that, too, in spite of his having yielded to their desire to have Jesus condemned to death. See John 19:15, 16. He was insulting, abusive and barbarously cruel. For example, in suppressing a certain insurrection that had broken out in the Temple, he mingled the blood of the offending Galileans with their sacrifices. See Luke 13:1. His treatment of the Samaritans was so outrageous that they finally accused him to the emperor, who suspended him from office.
There were many illegalities in Pilate’s condemnation of Jesus. See Matt. 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 18:28— 19:16. Despite his wicked character, the Abyssinian Church, on the basis of Matt. 27:24, has canonized Pilate as a “Saint.”
The Birth of Jesus Christ (4 B. C.)
Read Matt, 2; Luke 2. 1. “The appearance of Christ amongst men was the greatest event in human history; the relations of God to man and of man to God and of man to man underwent a change” (Vallings). His advent had long before been foretold. The “seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15), the “sceptre” of Judah (Gen. 49:10), the “prophet” like unto Moses (Deut. 18:18), the “priest” after the order of Melchizedek (Ps. 110:4), the “prince of peace” (Isa. 8:6), the suffering “servant” (Isa. 53), the “branch of righteousness” (Jer. 33:15), the “shepherd” gathering his scattered sheep (Ezek. 34:12), the “stone” cut out of the mountains without hands (Dan. 2:45), the “king” riding into Jerusalem upon an ass (Zech. 9:9), and the “fountain” opened to the house of David for sin and for uncleanness (Zech. 13:1), are all adumbrations of the True Light which was one day to break upon the world. And this Messianic hope of Israel kept growing stronger and stronger until His actual advent. But, unfortunately, the Jews were looking for a Messiah who would wield a sword like Gideon, break the dominion of Rome, and reestablish the kingdom of Israel.
2. Concerning the details of His early life, we know comparatively little. This is doubtless providential, to teach us to avoid the mistake of supposing “that we know Him in knowing the date of His birth and of His death and the outward circumstances of His life: He is to stand before us simply in his work” (Cornill).
3. He was the “Son of man” as well as the “Son of God.” He occupies a conspicuous place in the history of the Hebrews, because He is their culmination and consummate flower. Though He failed to influence, to any large extent, His own nation, yet, as Jean Paul has eloquently said, “With His pierced hand He has lifted empires off their hinges, turned the stream of centuries out of its channels, and still governs the ages.” Most men are the product of their nationality, but Jesus “was not the outgrowth of His times, but their antithesis” (Lorimer). He even antagonized the dominating spirit of His times. His first recorded words are an index to His whole life and character. Look up Luke 2:49.
Whence the origin of the expression “Son of Man”? See Ezek. 2:1; Dan. 7:13.
Jesus, the Greatest of Israel’s Leaders.
Read Matt. 5—7.
1. “Never man spake like this man” was the verdict of the “officers” concerning Jesus. See John 7:46. “He taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes,” was likewise the testimony of the multitudes who had listened to that marvelous discourse known as. “the Sermon on the Mount.”
2. In that famous discourse we have the essence of His teaching. He begins with an octave of “Blesseds” upon those who would live the ideal life. Blessed are those who are without worldly ambition, who mourn on account of their sins, who bear injuries without resentment, who intensely long for character, who are forgiving and sympathetic, who are deeply sincere and are not satisfied with outward correctness, who promote peace, and who patiently endure reproach (Matt. 5:3-10). All such are to be congratulated, because they live the ideal life.
3. He then goes on to show the relation of the new Gospel form to the old Jewish standards. Jesus came not to destroy, but to unify and complete. The Gospel does not supersede the Law. The Old Testament is not to be abrogated by the New. Rather, as Augustine has suggested,
“The New is in the Old con-tained,
The Old is in the New re-tained,
The New is in the Old con-cealed,
The Old is in the New re-vealed,
The New is in the Old en-folded,
The Old is in the New un-folded.”
4. The glory of the Gospel is that it “magnified the Law and made it honorable” in the eyes of the Gentiles. See Isa. 42:21. Christ recognized that the new wine was bursting the old bottles when the Greeks came requesting to “see Jesus.” Look up John 12:21. The logical development of Christianity out of Judaism was, later, set forth more fully by the Apostle Paul, especially in his simile of the wild olive branch (the Gentiles) which has been grafted, contrary to nature, into the good olive tree (the Jews). See Rom. 11:24.
“In the days of faithful Abraham,
Who from Ur was led to flee,
God selected from the nations
One peculiar family-tree.
“This tree He grafted as an olive,
With His own almighty hand,
Causing it to grow and flourish
In fair Canaan’s fruitful land.
“But, alas! the branches withered
In the blight of unbelief;
From the stock they then were severed,
Not in anger, but in grief.
“Then our God, in His great mercy,
Grafted in the Gentile shoot;
Now the olives, wild by nature,
Draw their life from Hebrew root.”
From Jesus’ Crucifixion to the Siege of Jerusalem (30-66 A. D.)
Glance at Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, II, 11-16.
1. With the death of the Emperor Tiberias, Judea’s peace was practically at an end. Caligula indeed made Agrippa, a grandson of Herod the Great, “king” of his uncle Philip’s territory, and Claudius gave him the remainder of Palestine, so that in the year 41 A. D. there was once more a Jewish kingdom under a native ruler. But “the three years of his dominion are the last bright spot in the history of the people of Israel” (Cornill). Even Agrippa, in order to please the Jews, persecuted the rising Christian Church, and had the apostle James beheaded. See Acts 12:2.
2. Agrippa died suddenly at Caesarea (cf. Acts 12:23) and Judea passed again under the rule of Roman procurators, of whom several in succession vied with each other, as it were, in heaping insult upon their Jewish subjects (44-66 A. D.). Their terrible outrages drove the Jews to despair. Even Felix resorted to the most extreme forms of brutal violence, attacking the Zealots and sending their leader to Rome in chains. Another new party arose, called the Sicarii, who carried concealed daggers and assassinated all who sympathized with Rome. No wonder that Felix, who was largely responsible for such conditions, trembled when the great apostle reasoned before him at Caesarea “of righteousness, temperance and judgment to come.” See Acts 24:25.
3. Porcius Festus, who ruled about 60 A. D., was nobler; but his successors were little less than villains. Florus, especially, scourged and crucified the Jews without mercy. In a single day thirty-six hundred were condemned at his command. Bernice, King Agrippa’s sister, went barefoot to him, to implore mercy for her people, but she was rudely insulted and turned away. The Jews could bear such atrocities no longer. They ordered the daily sacrifices in the Temple for the emperor to cease, which was equivalent to a declaration of war (66 A. D.).
This is the time of Nero, who is said to have fiddled during the fall of the Roman Empire.
The Siege and Fall of Jerusalem (66-70 A. D.)
Consult Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, III-VI.
1. We now come to the final act of the terrible drama. The saddest feature of Jerusalem’s great catastrophe is the fact that the Jews turned upon one another, and butchered more of themselves than did the Romans. The ruin was complete.
2. The war party had their quarters in the Temple, while the peace party occupied the citadel of Akra. Blood flowed daily, and civil war raged in the streets of the besieged city. The Jews had made elaborate preparations, impressing even the historian Josephus into service, to drill the soldiers. But they were destined to be completely outmatched by Vespasian, a veteran warrior of the Romans, who was placed in command of sixty thousand of Rome’s best troops.
3. Hostilities began in the year 67 A. D., and by the end of that year all Galilee was in the hands of the Romans. In 68 A. D. the entire region east of the Jordan, except Machaerus, was conquered. Then Nero died and war was suspended for a year (69 A. D.). Vespasian was made emperor, and Titus, his son, was given command of the imperial forces in Palestine. He marched upon Jerusalem in the spring of 70 A. D., shortly before the Passover festival. The city was filled with Jewish pilgrims. Titus encamped on the Mount of Olives and began a systematic siege, blockading the city, throwing up defences and thundering with the battering ram, until, after many futile attempts, a breach was made in the outer wall, May 7th, and then in the second wall, May 16th. Famine began to be felt within the city. To escape death, many deserted to Titus, but were rewarded with tortures indescribable. “Crosses could not be found for all, and so Titus cut off their hands and drove them back into the city” (Josephus). Hundreds of thousands died of famine alone.
4. On July 2d the inner wall fell, and on July 5th still another new wall, which had been constructed during the siege. Only the Temple hill and the citadel remained to be taken. At last, on July 17th, the morning and evening sacrifices in the Temple, which had been kept up in spite of the famine throughout the siege, were suspended— never to be resumed. A soldier hurled a fagot through one of the open windows of the sacred edifice, and the sanctuary went up in flames. Titus barely rescued the holy vessels. Finally, on September 7th the walls of the citadel were scaled, and the destruction of Jerusalem was complete (70 A. D.) Of the one million one hundred thousand Jews who were imprisoned in Jerusalem during the siege, only seven hundred of the strongest were spared to grace the triumphal procession of Titus in Rome.
5. Thus the Jews lost forever their nationality. But they fell like heroes, and, even in their fall, they triumphed over their victors. “While Rome has long since passed away, and only ruins tell of its glory, Israel is still, after two thousand years, what it was. Rome, in a sense, has been conquered by Israel. For even Rome now confesses the supremacy of Jerusalem” (Cornill).
The Epistle to the Hebrews was probably written about 70 A. D. to encourage the Jewish Christians not to give up Christianity; the author’s thesis being that Christianity is greater than Judaism, and that it is the complete, and final, and eternal religion; Jesus Christ being the same yesterday, to-day, and forever (Hebrews 13:3).
The following extract from Salathiel describes the horrors which prevailed in the doomed city the last night of the siege.
“The fall of our illustrious and unhappy city was supernatural. The destruction of the conquered was against the first principles of the Roman policy, and to the last hour of our national existence, Rome held out offers of peace, and lamented our frantic determination to be undone. But the decree was gone forth from a mightier throne. During the latter days of the siege, a hostility, to which that of man was as the grain of sand to the tempest that it drives on, overpowered our strength and senses. Fearful shapes and voices in the air—visions startling us from our short and troubled sleep—lunacy, in its most hideous forms sudden death, in the midst of vigour—the fury of the elements let loose upon our unsheltered heads—we had every terror and evil that could beset human nature, but pestilence; the most probable of all in a city crowded with the famishing, the deceased, the wounded, and the dead. Yet, though the streets were covered with the unburied—though every well and trench was teeming—though six hundred thousand corpses lay flung over the ramparts, and naked to the sun—pestilence came not; if it had come, the enemy would have been scared away. But the “abomination of desolation,” the pagan standard, was fixed, where it was to remain until the plough passed over the ruins of Jerusalem.
On this night, this fatal night, no man laid his head on the pillow. Heaven and earth were in conflict—meteors burned above us; the ground shook under our feet; the volcano blazed; the wind burst forth in irresistible blasts, and swept the living and the dead, in whirlwinds, far into the desert. We heard the bellowing of the distant Mediterranean, as if its waters were at our sides, swelled by a new deluge. The lakes and rivers roared and inundated the land. The fiery sword shot tenfold fire. Showers of blood fell. Thunder pealed from every quarter of the heavens. Lightnings, immense sheets, of an intensity of duration that turned the darkness into noon day, withered eye and soul, burned from the zenith to the ground, and marked its track by the forests on flame and the shattered summits of the hills.
Defence was unthought of, for the mortal enemy had passed from the mind. Our hearts quaked for fear; but it was to see the “powers of heaven shaken.” All cast away the shield and spear, and crouched before the descending judgment. We were conscience smitten. Our cries of remorse, anguish, and horror, were heard through the roar of the storm. We howled to the earth to hide us; we plunged into the sepulchres to escape the wrath that consumed the living—we would have buried ourselves under the mountains.
I knew the cause, the unspeakable cause, and knew that the last hour of crime was at hand. A few fugitives, astonished to see one man among them not sunk in the lowest feebleness of fear, came around me, and besought me to lead them to some place of safety, if such were now to be found on earth. I told them openly that they were to die, and counselled them to die on the hallowed ground of the temple. They followed, and I led them through the streets encumbered with every shape of human suffering to the foot of Mount Moriah. But beyond that, we found advance impossible. Piles of cloud, whose darkness was palpable even in the midnight in which we stood, covered the Holy Hill. Impatient, and not to be daunted by anything that man could overcome, I cheered my disheartened band, and attempted to lead the way up the ascent. But I had scarcely entered the cloud, when I was swept downward by a gust that tore the rocks in flinty showers around me. Now came the last and most wondrous sign that marked the fate of rejected Israel.
While I lay helpless, I heard the whirlwind roar through the cloudy hill, and the vapours began to revolve. A pale light, that of the rising moon, quivered on their edges, and the clouds rose, and rapidly shaped themselves into forms, and battlements, and towers. The sound of voices was heard within, low and distant, yet strangely sweet. Still the lustre brightened, and the airy buildings rose, tower on tower and battlement on battlement. In awe, that held us mute, we knelt and gazed on this more than mortal architecture, that continued rising and spreading, and glowing with a serener light, still soft and silvery, yet to which the broadest moonbeam was dim. At last it stood forth to earth and heaven, the colossal image of the first temple, of the buildings raised by the wisest of men, and consecrated by the visible glory. All Jerusalem saw the image; and the shout, that in the midst of their despair, ascended from its thousands and tens of thousands, told what proud remembrances were there. But a hymn was heard, that might have hushed the world beside. Never fell on my ear, never on human sense, a sound so majestic, yet so subduing; so full of melancholy, yet of grandeur and command. The vast portal opened, and from it marched a host, such as man shall never see but once again—the guardian angels of the city of David! They came forth glorious, but with woe in all their steps; the stars upon their helmets dim; their robes stained; tears flowing down their celestial beauty—”Let us go hence,” was their song of sorrow. “Let us go hence,” was answered by the sad echoes of the mountains “Let us go hence” swelled upon the night to the farthest limits of the land. The procession lingered on the summit of the hill. The thunder pealed, and rose over the expanse of heaven. Their chorus was heard still, magnificent and melancholy, when their splendour was diminished to the brightness of a star. Then the thunder roared again— the cloudy temple was scattered on the wind and darkness, the omen of her grave, settled upon Jerusalem.”