The Destruction of Jerusalem
Ethan Smith,View of the Hebrews: 1825 Second Edition, ed. Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1996), 1–27.
The land of promise was long a land of wonders. The Hebrew nation there was for many centuries the cradle of the true and only church of God on earth. There glorious things were wrought for her salvation. Patriarchs had there prayed, sacrificed and praised. There Prophets had prophesied; and the Almighty had often made bare his holy arm. There his people had too often apostatized; had been expelled from their Canaan; and again mercifully restored. There the ten tribes of Israel had renounced the house of David, and their God; and were hence banished to some unknown region of the world, to the present day; while the Jews were still retained in the covenant of their God. There God, manifest in the flesh, made his appearance on earth;—performed his publick ministry;—atoned for the sins of the world;—and ascended to glory. There the first heralds of the gospel dispensation commenced their ministry; and thence the wonderful scheme of grace was propagated through the nations.
Jerusalem was the capital of this earthly Canaan. Glorious things were spoken of this city of our God. “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, was this Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King” [Ps 48:2]. This, for many centuries, might be called God’s Capital on earth. God said, alluding primarily to this city; “For the Lord hath chosen Zion to be an habitation for himself. Here will I dwell, fori have desired it” [Ps 132:13-14]. Here great things were done in divine faithfulness; which led the psalmist to say; “God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For lo, the Kings were assembled; they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and so they hasted away” [Ps 48:3-5]. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” [Ps 46:7]. “In Salem stood his tabernacle; and his dwelling place in Zion. There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield and the sword of the battle” [Ps 76:2-3]. This city of God long answered well to its name. —Jeru. they shall see; Salem, peace. Long did the church, while they walked with God, there see and enjoy peace.
But alas, we find recorded of this city, temple, and nation of the Jews, a fatal reverse. They found the sentiment in their sacred oracles fulfilled; “The Lord is with you while ye be with him; but if ye forsake him, he will cast you off” [2 Chron 15:2].
The Jews became carnal; crucified the Lord of glory; and they fell under the denunciations and the full execution of his wrath. Their lawgiver Moses and their prophets had long thundered against them solemn denunciations, that if ever they should become of the character which they did impiously assume, the most signal judgments of God should cut them off. And the Messiah uttered against them, in consequence of their rejecting him, a new edition of these fatal denunciations, which we find in Matt. xxiv. Mark xiii. Luke xix. 41—44. chap. xxi. and xxiii. 27—30; to which the reader is referred. These were to have a primary fulfilment in the desolation of Jerusalem, and of the Jewish commonwealth. This primary fulfilment Christ assured should take place on that generation. And the denunciation was fulfilled.
This fulfilment, inasmuch as it demonstrated the truth and divinity of our Saviour, exhibited a type of the destruction of Antichrist, and of the wicked at the end of the world; and shows the danger of rejecting the Son of God—ought to be duly noted in the church, and frequently contemplated. It is a subject too much neglected and forgotten in the present Christian world. I design then, to give a concise description of the event, in which Jesus Christ came in awful judgment upon the infidel Jews, and vindicated his cause against his persecutors and murderers. But some preliminary remarks will first be made.
This noted city was built on two mountains; and contained two parts, called the Upper and Lower City. The former was built on Mount Sion; the latter on Mount Acra. The city is supposed to have been founded by Melchisedec, and then called Salem, or Solyma. The warlike Jebusites possessed it when Israel entered Canaan.
In the higher city they long defended themselves against the Hebrews. Here they remained, till David subdued them; and called their city The City of David.
Herod the Great, when he repaired (or rather rebuilded) the temple, added vast strength and embellishments to this city; which accounts for its superb state and strength when it was destroyed.
Most of this city was surrounded with three walls. In some places, where it was deemed inaccessible, it had only one. The wall first built was adorned and strengthened with sixty towers. Fourteen towers rested on the middle wall. The outside one, (most remarkable for its workmanship) was secured with ninety towers.
The tower Psephinos was most celebrated. It was seventy cubits high; had eight angles; and commanded a most beautiful prospect. Here the visitor might (in a clear atmosphere) delight himself with a view of the Mediterranean, forty miles to the west; and of most of the Jewish dominions. Some of these towers were nearly ninety cubits in height; and famous for their beauty, elegance and curiosities. They were built of white marble; and had the appearance of vast marble blocks. These huge piles gave to the city, in the view of the adjacent country, a most majestick appearance.
Near the highest of these towers stood the royal palace, of the most commanding elegance. Incredible cost had furnished its pillars, porticoes, galleries, and apartments. Its gardens, groves, fountains, aqueducts, and walks, presented the richest and most delightful scenery. This was the beauty and elegance of the north side of Jerusalem.
On the east side stood the temple, and the fort of Antonio, over against Mount Olivet. This fort was built on a rock of fifty feet in height, and of inaccessible steepness, overlaid with slabs of marble. The castle of Antonio stood in the centre of this fortress. The workmanship of this castle made it more resemble a palace than a castle. A tower adorned each square of this fortress; one of which was seventy cubits high, and commanded a full view of the temple.
The temple was, in many respects, the most astonishing fabrick ever beheld. Its site was partly on a solid rock, originally steep on every side. The lower temple had a foundation of vast dimensions, said to be three hundred cubits from its lowest base. This foundation was composed of stones sixty feet in length; and the lower part of the superstructure was composed of stones of solid white marble, more than sixty feet long; and seven by nine feet in bigness. Four furlongs compassed the whole pile of building; which was one hundred cubits high; with one hundred and sixty pillars, to afford both support and ornament.
In the front were spacious and lofty galleries, with cedar wainscot, resting on uniform rows of white marble columns. Josephus asserts that nothing could exceed the exterior part of this house of God, for exquisite workmanship and elegance. Its solid plates of gold seemed to strive to out-dazzle the rising sun. The parts of the building not covered with gold, had, at a distance, the appearance of pillars of snow, or white marble mountains. And the grandeur of the internal workmanship of this magnificent dome did not fail of being fully equal to its external magnificence. Nothing superb, costly, or elegant, was spared. The different parts of the world had seemed to vie with each other, to pour their most costly treasures into this wonderful treasury of Heaven. The lower story was decorated with the sacred furniture, the table of shew bread, altar of incense, and the candlestick of pure beaten gold. The altar and table were overlaid with pure gold. Several doors of the sanctuary were fifty-five cubits in height, and sixteen in breadth, overlaid also with gold. The richest Babylonian tapestry, of purple, blue, and scarlet, and of exquisite workmanship, waved within these doors. Golden vines, with leaves and clusters of grapes of gold, were suspended from the ceiling five or six feet, of curious workmanship. The temple had a huge eastern gate of pure Corinthian brass,—a metal in the highest esteem. It would be a task to enumerate all the foldings of golden doors in the chambers;— carved works, paintings and gildings;—vessels of gold; scarlet, violet, and purple sacerdotal vestments; and all the incalculable piles of riches in this temple of Jehovah. The most precious stones, spices, and perfumes; every thing that nature, art, or riches could furnish, were stored within these stupendous and hallowed walls.
Here were the city and temple to be destroyed, for the infidelity, malice, hypocrisy, and persecution of the Lord of glory, (in himself, and his followers,) which characterized its rulers and people. Here a measure of unprecedented atrociousness was just filled up, which should bring down wrath upon them to the uttermost. This tremendous ruin our Lord foretold and fulfilled.
The last noted entrance into Jerusalem of Him, who was God manifest in the flesh, took place on the Monday before the scene of his sufferings. Amidst the acclamation of multitudes he was hailed King of Zion, with every token of joy and praise. The air rang again with their praises, uttered for all the mighty works they had seen. They sang, Hosanna! Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven; and glory in the highest. Our Lord (superior to all their adulation, and knowing how soon the hosannas of some of them would turn to, “Crucify him” [Mark 15:13-14; John 19:6, 15];—and being touched with sympathy and pity for a devoted city, now going to fill up their guilty measure of iniquity) “beheld the city and wept over it” [Luke 19:41]. He said; “If thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes! For the days shall come when thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round; and keep thee in on every side; and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee. And they shall not leave thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” [Luke 19:42-45].
The day but one after, Christ went into the temple for the last time, to instruct the people. While he was thus employed, the high priest, elders, Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees, gathered in turn around him, with a malicious view to entangle him in his talk. Christ returned such answers, spake such parables, and set home such reproof and conviction to their souls, as not only to astonish and silence them; but to give them some awful prelibation of the final judgment, which awaited them at his bar. He thus, in a free and pungent address to the disciples, administered the most dignified and keen reproofs for the cruelty, hypocrisy, and pride, of the Scribes and Pharisees. He foretold the malicious treatment the disciples would meet with at their hands; and then denounced the vengeance on that falling city, which for ages their crimes had been accumulating. He forewarned that this cup of divine indignation should be poured on that generation. His tender feelings of soul then melted in a most moving apostrophe: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee! How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings; and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matt 23:37-39]. Upon this our Saviour left the temple. The disciples took an occasion to speak to Christ of the magnificence of the sacred edifice; how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts. “Master, (said they,) see what manner of stones and buildings are here” [Mark 13:1]. “Jesus said unto them; See ye not all these things? Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” [24:1-2]. How very unlikely must such an event have seemed! But it was indeed fulfilled upon that generation.
Jesus and his disciples retired to the mount of Olives. Here the temple rose before them in all its majestick elegance. The surrounding scenery naturally suggested the conversation which followed. The disciples petitioned;— “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?” [Matt 24:3]. Their minds seem to have been impressed with the preceding discourse; and they fell most readily upon the same subject, and wished to know when such awful events should come; and what warnings should announce their approach. Our Lord replied; “Take heed that no man deceive you; for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” [Matt 24:4-5]. As though he had said; This shall be one signal token of the event, both as my denunciations relate to a primary accomplishment in the destruction of Jerusalem ; and to a more general and dreadful fulfilment in the destruction of Antichrist in the last days. Impostors shall abound. False religionists shall deceive and ruin many. Let us trace the fulfilment of this and several succeeding predictions.
This was fulfilled in relation to Jerusalem. Not long after Christ’s ascension, the Samaritan Dositheus appeared and declared himself the Messiah predicted by Moses. Simon Magus also declared himself “The Great power of God.” Soon after, another impostor appeared from the mongrel Samaritans. The church has ever been annoyed by such kind of Samaritans, who have ever been fruitful in vile impostors, crying, “Lo, here; and lo there” [Matt 24:23]. This impostor promised to exhibit to the people sacred utensils said to be deposited by Moses in Mount Gerazim. Here a new decision must be given from heaven, to the question between the Jews and Samaritans, as to the place of worship; a thing of which schismaticks have ever been exceedingly fond; to derive some new light upon their party question directly from above; as though decisions already given were insufficient.
Armed multitudes sallied forth to follow this Messiah, confident their Great Deliverer had at last made his appearance. But Pilate, the Roman governor, checked their fanaticism with the sword, and put their fancied Messiah to death.
Another impostor, Theudas, arose. He had the address to persuade multitudes to follow him into the wilderness, under his promise that he would cause the river Jordan to divide. The Roman procurator, Fadus, with a troop of horse, pursued them; slew the impostor, and many others; and dispersed the faction. Deceivers, under the government of Felix, were multiplied, leading off people into the wilderness under the promise and fanatical expectation that they should there see signs and wonders. The old Serpent often leads fanatical people into wildernesses of error and delusion, under similar expectations. The vigilant eye of the Roman governor rested on these impostors, and was sure to frustrate their designs, as oft as they appeared.
In the year 55, arose a notable Egyptian impostor, named Felix. Thirty thousand followed him, under the persuasion that from mount Olivet they should see the walls of Jerusalem fall to the ground at his command, for their easy capture of the Roman garrison there; and their taking possession of Jerusalem. They were attacked by the Roman governor; four hundred were slain; and the rest dispersed. The Egyptian impostor escaped for his life. In the year 60, another pretended Messiah appeared, engaging to break the Roman yoke, if they would follow him into the wilderness; but the deceiver and his followers soon fell a sacrifice to the vigilance of Festus, the governor. It would be too unwieldy to mention all the vile impostors of this period. They were a just retribution of righteous Heaven upon the Jews, for having rejected and put to death the true Messiah: and they fulfilled the warning given by our Lord, of a host of deceivers at that period. How prone are men to court deception. Christ had said to the Jews, ‘I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not. If another should come in his own name, him will ye receive’ [John 5:43]. This was fulfilled; and not only then, but in every age to this day. Those who give the best evangelical evidence of their being ambassadors of Christ, many will reject; while the confident and noisy claims of egotists are by them fully allowed. “As in water face answers to face; so the heart of man to man” [Prov 27:19].
Our Lord proceeds; “And ye shall hear of wars, and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things shall come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation; and kingdom against kingdom; and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; all these are the beginning of sorrows” [Matt 24:6-8].
The portentous thunders of wars and rumours of wars may be said to have occupied most of the time from the death of our Saviour, to the destruction of Jerusalem. The historick pages, which treat of these times, are stained with blood. A war between Herod and Aretas, king of Arabia, opened the bloody scene, after a short season of peace. In Selucia, the Greeks and Syrians rose against the Jews, who fled thither from the pestilence in Babylon, and slew fifty thousand of them. Five years after, the Jews in Perea and people of Philadelphia contended about the limits of a city, when many of the Jews were slain. Four years after this, an insult being offered to the Jews within the precincts of the temple, by a Roman soldier; and being violently resented; a Roman force rushed upon them, which so terrified the Jews, that they fled in vast disorder, and ten thousand of them lost their lives in the streets. After another four years, the Jews ravaged the country of the Samaritans, in consequence of their having murdered a Galilean, who was going to keep the passover. Many were slain. Soon after, a contention arose between the Jews in Caesarea and the Syrians, relative to the government of Caesarea. In the first encounter more than twenty thousand Jews were slain. This contention raged in many cities where the Jews and Syrians dwelt; and mutual slaughter prevailed. And in five other cities the carnage among the Jews was dreadful. At Damascus ten thousand Jews were slain in one hour. And at Scythopolis thirteen thousand were slain in one night. In Alexandria the Jews rose upon the Romans; and had fifty thousand of their people slain, without any regard to infancy or age. Soon after, in a contention at Totapata, forty thousand Jews perished. These contentions rose and increased, till the whole Jewish nation took up arms against the Romans, and brought on themselves their final destruction. Thus the prediction of our Saviour quoted, received in those days a striking primary fulfilment.
Our Saviour added; “And great earthquakes shall be in divers places” [Matt 24:7]. These significant warnings too were accomplished in those days. Two are recorded by Tacitus; one at Rome in the reign of Claudius; another at Apamea, in Syria, where were many Jews. So destructive was the one at the latter place, that the tribute due to the Romans was for five years remitted. One also was terrifick at Crete; one at Smyrna; one at Miletus; one at Chios, and one at Samos; in all which places Jews dwelt. These are noted by Philastratus. Soon after, in the reign of Nero, both Tacitus and Eusebius inform, that Hierapolis and Colosse, as well as Laodicea, were overthrown by earthquakes. Another is noted at Rome; one at Campania; and others tremendous are mentioned as taking place at Jerusalem in the night, just before the commencement of the last siege of that city. Of these, Josephus gives the following account: “A heavy storm burst on them, during the night; violent winds arose, with most excessive rains, with constant lightning, most tremendous thunders, and dreadful roarings of earthquakes. It seemed as if the system of the world had been confounded for the destruction of mankind. And one might well conjecture that these were signs of no common event” [Wars of the Jews 4.4.5; hereafter Wars].
The famines predicted by Christ were likewise fulfilled. The one foretold by Agabus, noted in the Acts of the Apostles, was dreadful, and of long continuance. It extended through Greece and Italy; but was most severely felt at Judea, and especially at Jerusalem. The contributions noted as brought by Paul from abroad, to relieve the poor brethren there, were sent during this sore famine. Authors of that time mention two other famines in the empire, previous to the one occasioned by the siege of Jerusalem.
“Pestilences” too, the Saviour adds [Matt 24:7]. Two instances of this signal judgment took place before the last Jewish war. The one took place at Babylon, where many Jews resided; the other at Rome, which swept off vast multitudes. Other lighter instances of this calamity occurred, in various parts of the empire; as both Tacitus and Suetonius record.
Our Lord also adds, “And fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” [Matt 24:24], Josephus (who can never be suspected of wishing to favour any prediction of Christ; and who probably knew not of any such prediction, when he wrote,) gives accounts of events, which strikingly answer to this premonition. Speaking of the infatuation of his countrymen, in running after impostors, while they neglected the plainest admonitions from heaven, he gives account of the seven following events;
1. He says; “On the 8th of the month Zanthicus, (before the feast of unleavened bread,) at the ninth hour of the night, there shone round about the altar and the circumjacent buildings of the temple, a light equal to the brightness of the day; which continued for the space of half an hour” [Wars 6.5.3].
2. “About the sixth hour of the night, (says Josephus,) the eastern gate of the temple was found to open without human assistance.” This gate was of solid brass; and so large and heavy, as to require twenty men to close it. And Josephus says, “it was secured by iron bolts, and bars, that were let down into a large threshold consisting of one entire stone.” The Jews themselves concluded, from the miraculous nature of this event, that the security of their temple had fled. When the procurator was informed of it, he sent a band of men to close the door; who with great difficulty executed their orders [Wars 6.5.3].
3. Again, the same celebrated Jewish author says: “At a subsequent feast of pentecost, while the priests were going by night into the inner temple, to perform their customary ministrations, they first felt (as they said,) a shaking accompanied by an indistinct murmuring; and afterwards voices as of a multitude, saying in a distinct and earnest manner: “Let us depart hence” [ Wars 6.5.3]. How striking was this miraculous premonition. It commenced with a shaking, to call and fix the attention of these Jewish priests. Then was heard an indistinct murmur. This would make them listen with all possible heed. Then they heard the distinct voices, as of a multitude in great earnestness and haste;—”Let us depart hence!” And their last fatal war with the Romans commenced before the next season for celebrating this feast.
4. Another sign was the following. The same author says; “A meteor, resembling a sword, hung over Jerusalem, during one whole year” [Wars 6.5.3]. This could not have been a comet, for it was stationary a whole year, and seems, from the words of Josephus, to have been much nearer than a comet, and appeared to be appropriated to that city. This reminds one of the sword of the destroying angel, stretched out over Jerusalem, I Chro. xxi. 16. This stationary position of the sword for a year, was a lively indication that the impending ruin was fatal.
5. Josephus says again: “As the high priests were leading a heifer to the altar to be sacrificed, she brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple” [Wars 6.5.3].—Most striking rebuke to those infidel priests, who had rejected the Lamb of God who had shed his blood once for all, and abrogated the Levitical sacrifices; which yet they were impiously continuing. This wonder was exhibited in the temple, the type of the body of Christ, and at the passover, when at a preceding passover Jesus was arrested and sacrificed; and it took place before the high priests and their attendants; so that they could never complain for want of evidence of the fact.
6. This author says: “Soon after the feast of the passover, in various parts of the country, before the setting of the sun, chariots and armed men were seen in the air passing round about Jerusalem” [Wars 6.5.3]. This strange sight occurring before sunset, and being seen in various parts of the country, must have been a miraculous portent; a sign from heaven. The Jews had said, “What sign showest thou, that we may see and believe.” Now they had their signs in abundance; yet they would not believe.
7. The last and most fearful sign Josephus relates; that one Jesus, son of Ananus, a rustic of the lower class, appeared in the temple at the feast of tabernacles, and suddenly exclaimed, “A voice from the east—a voice from the west—a voice from the four winds— a voice against Jerusalem and the temple—a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides—a voice against the whole people!” [ Wars 6.5.3]. These words he continued to exclaim through the streets of Jerusalem by day and by night, with no cessation (unless what was needed for the support of nature) for seven years! He commenced in the year 63, while the city was in peace and prosperity, and terminated his exclamations only in his death, amidst the horrors of the siege, in the year 70. This strange thing, when it commenced, soon excited great attention; and this Jesus was brought before Albinus, the Roman governor, who interrogated him, but could obtain no answer except the continuation of his woes. He commanded him to be scourged, but to no effect. During times of festivals, this cry of his was peculiarly loud and urgent. After the commencement of the siege, he ascended the walls, and in a voice still more tremendous than ever, he exclaimed, “Wo, wo to this city, this temple, and this people!” And he then added, (for the first time for the seven years,)” Wo, wo to myself!” [Wars 6.5.3]. The words were no sooner uttered, than a stone from a Roman machine without the walls, struck him dead on the spot!
Such were the signs in the heavens and in the earth, which just preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. Several of them are recorded by Tacitus as well as by Josephus. The veracity of Josephus as a historian is probably allowed by all. Scaliger affirms that he deserves more credit as a writer than all the Greek and Roman historians put together.
From the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey, sixty years before Christ, the Jews repeatedly had exhibited a most rebellious spirit against the Romans. The Jews had basely said to Pilate concerning Christ, “If thou let this man go, thou art not a friend to Caesar” [John 19:12]. But the fact was, they persecuted Christ because he would not erect a temporal throne in opposition to Caesar. Any impostor who seemed prepared to do this, they were ready to follow; and were ready to improve every apparent occasion to evince their decided hostility to the Romans. And they hardly needed a prophet’s eye to discern that this spirit and conduct (manifested on all occasions) would soon draw against them the Roman sword.
Judas, a Gaulonite, and Saddue, a Pharisee, had rallied the Jews with the idea that their paying tribute to the Romans would not fail to confirm them in the most abject slavery; in consequence of which, their enmity often burst forth with malignant violence.—Tumults and riots increased; and Florus, the Roman governor of Judea, by his cruel exactions, increased this spirit among the Jews. Eleazer, son of the high priest, persuaded the officers of the temple to reject the offerings of foreigners, and to withhold publick prayers for them. The Roman government felt the insult; and a basis was soon found to be laid for a Roman war! Feuds and contentions increased in Judea, till Cestius Gallus marched an army thither from Syria to restore order. His march was marked with blood and desolation. The city of Zebulon, Joppa, and other villages in his way, he plundered and burned. Eight thousand four hundred of the inhabitants of the former place he slew. The district of Narbatene he laid waste, and slew two thousand of the Jews in Galilee; reduced the city of Lydda to ashes, and drove the Jews, (who made desperate sallies upon him) till he encamped within a hundred miles of the capital. Soon after, he entered Jerusalem, and burned some part of the city. But through the treachery of his own officers, he made an unexpected flight. The enraged Jews pursued him, and slew about sixty thousand of his men. Many of the rich Jews, alarmed at the Roman invasion, fled from Jerusalem, as from a foundering ship. Some suppose many of the Christians now fled to a place called Pella in the mountains of Judea. Matt, xxiv, 15—17.
Nero being informed of the defeat of Cestius, gave the command to Vespasian to press the war against the rebellious Jews. He and his son Titus soon collected an army of sixty thousand men. In A.D. 67, he marched from Ptolemais to Judea, marking his steps with ravages and desolation. Infancy and age fell before the furious soldiery. All the strong towns of Galilee and many of those of Judea fell before the victorious arms of Vespasian, who slew not less than one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. Signal vengeance was taken on Joppa, which had in part been rebuilt, after it had been by Cestius reduced to ashes. Vespasian was enraged at the frequent piracies of this people. The Jews of this place fleeing before him, betook themselves to their shipping. But a furious tempest overtook those who stood out to sea, and they were lost. The others were dashed vessel against vessel, or against the rocks. Some in their distress laid violent hands on themselves. Such as reached the shore were slain by the enraged Romans. The sea for some distance was stained with their blood. Forty thousand are said to have been swallowed up in the waves; and not one escaped to relate their catastrophe. Truly this was “distress of their nation, with the sea and the waves thereof roaring!” [Luke 21:25].
Vespasian returned from Jericho to Caesarea, to prepare for a grand siege of Jerusalem. Here he received intelligence of the death of the emperor Nero. This led him to suspend for the present the execution of his plan against the Jews. This respite to that devoted people continued about two years, and but encouraged them to deeds of greater enormity.
A spirit of faction now appeared in Jerusalem.—Two parties first, and afterwards three, raged there; each contending with deadly animosity for the precedence. A part of one these factions having been excluded from the city, entered it by force during the night; and to such madness were they abandoned, that they butchered on that fatal night not less than eight thousand five hundred of men, women and children, whose mangled bodies appeared the next morning strewed in the streets of Jerusalem. These abandoned murderers plundered in the city; murdered the high priests Ananus and Jesus, and insulted their dead bodies. They slew their brethren of Jerusalem, as though they had been wild animals. They scourged and imprisoned the nobles, in hopes to terrify them to become of their party; and many who could not be thus won, they slew. In this reign of terror, twelve thousand of the higher orders of the people thus perished; and no relative dared to shed a mourning tear, lest this should bring on him a similar fate. Accusation and death became the most common events.—Many fled, but were intercepted and slain. Piles of their carcasses lay on publick roads; and all pity, as well as regard for human or divine authority, seemed extinguished.
To add to the horrid calamities of the times occasioned by the bloody factions, Judea was infested by bands of robbers and murderers, plundering their towns and cutting in pieces such as made any resistance, whether men, women or children. Here were exhibited the most horrid pictures of what fallen man is capable of perpetrating when restraints are taken off; that they would turn their own towns and societies into scenes of horror like kennels of mad animals.
One Simon became commander of one of these factions; John of another. Simon entered Jerusalem at the head of forty thousand banditti. A third faction rose; and discord blazed with terrific fury. The three factions were intoxicated with rage and desperation, and went on slaying and trampling on piles of the dead, with an indescribable fury. People coming to the temple to worship, were murdered, both natives and foreigners. Their bodies lay in piles, and a collection of blood defiled the sacred courts.
John of Gischala, head of a faction, burned a store of provisions. Simon, at the head of another faction, burned another. Thus the Jews were weakening and destroying themselves, and preparing the way for “wrath to come upon them to the uttermost” [1 Thes 2:16].
In the midst of these most dismal events, an alarm was made that a Roman army was approaching the city! Vespasian becoming emperor, and learning the factious and horrid state of the Jews, determined to prosecute the war against them, and sent his son Titus to reduce Jerusalem and Judea. The Jews, on hearing of the approach of the Roman army, were petrified with horror. They could have no hope of peace. They had no means of flight. They had no time for counsel. They had no confidence in each other. What could be done? Several things they possessed in abundance. They had a measure of iniquity filled up; a full ripeness for destruction. All seemed wild disorder and despair. Nothing could be imagined but the confused noise of the warrior, and garments rolled in blood. They knew nothing was their due from the Romans, but exemplary vengeance. The ceaseless cry of combatants, and the horrors of faction, had induced some to desire the intervention of a foreign foe to give them deliverance from their domestic horrors. Such was the state of Jerusalem when Titus appeared before it with a besieging army. But he came not to deliver it from its excruciating tortures; but to execute upon it divine vengeance; to fulfil the fatal predictions of our Lord Jesus Christ, that “when ye see the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place [Matt 24:15]—when ye see Jerusalem compassed about with armies,—then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” [Luke 21:26]. “Wheresoever the carcass is, there shall the eagles be gathered together” [Matt 24:28]. Jerusalem was now the carcass to be devoured; the Roman eagles had arrived to tear it as their prey.
The day on which Titus had encompassed Jerusalem, was the feast of the passover. Here let it be remembered, that it was the time of this feast, (on a preceding occasion) that Christ was taken, condemned and executed. It was at the time of this feast, that the heifer, in the hands of the sacrificing priests, brought forth a lamb. And just after this feast at another time, that the miraculous besieging armies were seen over Jerusalem, just before sunset. And now at the time of the passover, the antitype of this prodigy appears in the besieging army of Titus. Multitudes of Jews had convened at Jerusalem from surrounding nations to celebrate this feast. Ah, miserable people,— going with intent to feed on the paschal lamb; but really to their own final slaughter, for rejecting “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world!” [John 1:29]. The Jews had imprecated the blood of the true Paschal Lamb, (by them wantonly shed) on themselves and on their children. God was now going in a signal manner to take them at their word. He hence providentially collected their nation, under sentence of death, as into a great prison, for the day of execution. And as their execution of Christ was signal, low, degrading,—the death of the cross; so their execution should be signal and dreadful. The falling city was now crowded with little short of two millions of that devoted people. The event came suddenly and unexpectedly to the Jews, as the coming of a thief, and almost like lightning. Josephus notes this; and thus without design, shows the fulfilment of these hints of Christ, that his coming should be like a thief in the night, and like lightning shining under the whole heavens.
The furious contending factions of the Jews, on finding themselves environed with the Roman armies, laid aside (for the moment) their party contentions, sallied out, rushed furiously on their common foe, and came near utterly destroying the tenth legion of the Roman army. This panic among the Romans occasioned a short suspension of hostilities. Some new confidence hence inspired the hopes of the Jews; and they now determined to defend their city. But being a little released from their terrors of the Romans, their factious resentments again rekindled, and broke out in great fury. The faction under Eleazer was swallowed up in the other two, under John and Simon. Slaughter, conflagration and plunder ensued. A portion of the centre of the city was burned, and the inhabitants became as prisoners to the two furious parties. The Romans here saw their own proverb verified: “Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat.” “Whom God will destroy, he gives up to madness.”
The invading armies knew how to profit by the madness of the Jews. They were soon found by the Jews to have possession of the two outer walls of their city. This alarm reached the heart of the factions, and once more united them against the common enemy. But they had already proceeded too far to retreat from the effects of their madness. Famine, with its ghastly horrors, stared them in the face. It had (as might be expected) been making a silent approach; and some of the more obscure had already fallen before it. But even this did not annihilate the fury of faction, which again returned with redoubled fury, and presented new scenes of wo. As the famine increased, the sufferers would snatch bread from each other’s mouths, and devour their grain unprepared. To discover handfuls of food, tortures were inflicted. Food was violently taken by husbands from wives, and wives from husbands; and even by mothers from their famishing infants. The breast itself was robbed from the famishing suckling, as our Lord denounced: “Wo to them that give suck in those days” [Matt 24:19].
This terror produced a new scene of righteous retribution. Multitudes of the Jews were forced by hunger to flee to the enemy’s camp. Here instead of pitying and relieving them, the Romans cut off the hands of many, and sent them back; but most of them they crucified as fast as they could lay their hands on them; till wood was wanting for crosses, and space on which to erect them! Behold here thousands of those despairing Jews suspended on crosses round the walls of Jerusalem! Verily “the Lord is known by the judgments that he executeth!” [Ps 9:16]. Yea, this did not suffice. Behold two thousand Jews, who had fled to the mercy of their invaders, ripped open alive (two thousand in one night!) by Arabs and Syrians in the Roman armies, in hopes of finding gold, which these Jews had (or the enemies fancied they had) swallowed to carry off with them!
Titus being a merciful general, was touched to the heart at the miseries of the Jews; and in person he tenderly entreated the besieged to surrender. But all the answer he obtained for his tenderness was base revilings. He now resolved to make thorough work with this obstinate people; and hence surrounded the city with a circumvallation of thirty nine furlongs in length, strengthened with thirteen towers. This, by the astonishing activity of the soldiers, was effected in three days. Then was fulfilled this prediction of our blessed Lord; “Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and keep thee in on every side” [Luke 19:43].
As the city was now cut off from all possible supplies, famine became more dreadful. Whole families fell a sacrifice to it; and the dead bodies of women, children, and the aged, were seen covering roofs of houses, and various recesses. Youth and the middle aged appeared like spectres; and fell many of them dead in public places. The dead became too numerous to be interred. Many died while attempting to perform this office. So great and awful became the calamities, that lamentation ceased; and an awful silence of despair overwhelmed the city. But all this failed of restraining the more abandoned from most horrid deeds. They took this opportunity to rob the tombs; and with loud infernal laughter, to strip the dead of their habiliments of death; and would try the edge of their swords on dead bodies, and on some while yet breathing. Simon Georas now vented his rage against Matthias, the high priest, and his three sons. He caused them to be condemned, as though favouring the Romans. The father asked the favour to be first executed, and not see the death of his sons; but the malicious Simon reserved him for the last execution. And as he was expiring he put the insulting question, whether the Romans could now relieve him?
Things being thus, one Mannaeus, a Jew, escaped to Titus, and informed him of the consummate wretchedness of the Jews; that in less than three months one hundred and fifteen thousand and eight hundred dead bodies of Jews had been conveyed through one gate, under his care and register; and he assured him of the ravages of famine and death. Other deserters confirmed the account, and added, that not less than six hundred thousand dead bodies of Jews had been carried out at different gates. The humane heart of Titus was deeply affected; and he, under those accounts, and while surveying the piles of dead bodies of Jews under the walls, and in the visible parts of the city, raised his eyes and hands to heaven in solemn protestation, that he would have prevented these dire calamities; that the obstinate Jews had procured them upon their own heads.
Josephus, the Jew, now earnestly entreated the leader John and his brethren to surrender to the Romans, and thus save the residue of the Jews. But he received in return nothing but insolent reproaches and imprecations; John declaring his firm persuasion that God would never suffer his own city, Jerusalem, to be taken by the enemy! Alas, had he forgotten the history of his own nation, and the denunciations of the prophets? Micah had foretold that in this very calamity they would presumptuously “lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? No evil shall come upon us” [Micah 3:11]. So blind and presumptuous are hypocrisy and self-confidence! “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these” [Jer7:4].
The famine in the city became (as might be expected) still more deadly. For want of food the Jews ate their belts, sandals, skins of their shields, dried grass, and even ordure of cattle. Now it was that a noble Jewess, urged by the insufferable pangs of hunger, slew and prepared for food her own infant child! She had eaten half the horrible preparation, when the smell of food brought in a hoard of soldiery, who threatened her with instant death, if she did not produce to them the food she had in possession. She being thus compelled to obey, produced the remaining half of her child! The soldiers stood aghast; and the recital petrified the hearers with horror; and congratulations were poured on those whose eyes death had closed upon such horrid scenes. Humanity seems ready to sink at the recital of the woeful events of that day. No words can reach the horrors of the situation of the female part of the community at that period. Such scenes force upon our recollection the tender pathetic address of our Saviour to the pious females who followed him, going to the cross: “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me; but weep for yourselves and for your children; for behold the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the breasts that never gave suck” [Luke 23:28-29]. Moses had long predicted this very scene. “The tender and delicate woman among you, (said he,) who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness; her eye shall be evil towards her young one, and toward her children, which she shall bear; for she shall eat them, for want of all things, secretly in the siege and straitness wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates” [Deut 28:56-57]. Probably the history of the world will not afford a-parallel to this. God prepared peculiar judgments for peculiarly horrid crimes! “These be the days of vengeance; that all things that are written may be fulfilled” [Luke 21:22]. Josephus declares, that if there had not been many credible witnesses of that awful fact, he never would have recorded it; for, said he, “such a shocking violation of nature never has been perpetrated by any Greek or barbarian” [Wars 6.3.4].
While famine thus spread desolation, the Romans finally succeeded in removing part of the inner wall, and in possessing themselves of the high and commanding tower of Antonio, which seemed to overlook the temple. Titus with his council of war had formed a determination to save the temple, to grace his conquest, and remain an ornament to his empire.—But God had not so determined. And “though there be many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord that shall stand” [Prov 19:21]. A Roman soldier, violating the general order of Titus, succeeded in hurling a brand of fire into the golden window of the temple; and soon (as righteous Heaven would have it!)the sacred edifice was in flames. The Jews perceiving this, rushed with horrid outcries to extinguish the fire. Titus too flew to the spot in his chariot, with his chief officers and legions. With loud command, and every token of anxiety, he enforced the extinguishing of the fire; but in vain. So great was the confusion, that no attention was paid to him. His soldiers, deaf to all cries, assiduously spread the flames far and wide; rushing at the same time on the Jews, sword in hand, slaying and trampling down, or crushing them to death against the walls. Many were plunged into the flames, and perished in the burning of the out buildings of the temple. The fury of the Roman soldiers slaughtered the poor, the unarmed, and the rich, as well as men in arms. Multitudes of dead bodies were piled round about the altar, to which they had fled for protection. The way leading to the inner court was deluged with blood.
Titus finding the fire had not yet reached the inner temple, entered it with his superior officers, and surveyed its magnificence with silent admiration. He found it to exceed all he had heard. This view led him to renew his efforts to save this stupendous pile of building, though so many of the out-buildings were gone. He even entreated his soldiers to extinguish the flames, and appointed an officer to punish any who should disobey. But all his renewed efforts were still in vain. The feelings of his soldiery were utterly unmanageable. Plunder, revenge, and slaughter had combined to render them deaf and most furious. A soldier succeeded in firing the door posts of the inner temple, and the conflagration soon became general.
One needs a heart of steel to contemplate the scenes which followed. The triumphant Roman soldiers were in a most ungovernable rage and fury.—They were indeed instruments prepared for their work, to execute the most signal vengeance of Heaven; the flame of which was now reaching its height! The Romans slew of the Jews all before them; sparing neither age, sex or rank. They seemed determined to annihilate the Jewish race on the spot. Priests and common people; those who surrendered, and those who still fought; all were alike subjects of an indiscriminate slaughter. The fire of the temple at length completely enveloped the stupendous pile of building. The fury of the flames exceeded description. It impressed on distant spectators an idea that the whole city was in flames. The ensuing disorder and tumult, Josephus pronounces to have been such as to baffle all description. The outcry of the Roman legions was as great as they could make. And the Jews finding themselves a prey to the fury of both fire and sword, exerted themselves in the wildest accents of screaming. The people in the city, and those on the hill, mutually responded to each other in groans and screeches. People who had seemed just expiring through famine derived new strength from unprecedented scenes of horror and death, to deplore their wretchedness. From mountain to mountain, and from places distant, lamentations echoed to each other.
As the temple was sinking under the fury of the raging element, the mount on which it stood seemed in that part of it, (says the historian) to “impress the idea of a lake of liquid fire!” [Wars 6.5.1]. The blood of the slain ran in rivulets. The earth around became covered with the slain; and the victorious Romans trampled over those piles of the dead, in pursuit of the thousands who were fleeing from the points of their swords. In a word, the roar and crackling of fire; the shrieks of thousands in despair; the dying groans of thousands, and the sights which met the eye wherever it was turned, were such as never before had any parallel on earth. They probably as much exceeded all antecedent scenes of horror, as the guilt which occasioned them, in their treatment of the Lord of Glory, exceeded all guilt ever before known among men.
A tragical event had transpired worthy of particular detail. Before the temple was wrapped in flames, an impostor appeared among the Jews, asserting a divine commission; and that if the people would follow him to the temple, they would see signs, wonders and deliverance. About six thousand (mostly women and children) followed him, and were in the galleries of the temple, waiting for this promised deliverance, when fire was set to that building. Not one escaped. All were consumed in the conflagration of the sacred edifice! What multitudes are by false prophets plunged in eternal fire!
The place of the temple now presented a vast pile of ruins. Here terminated the glory and existence of this stupendous building, this type of the body of Christ and of his church; this type of the Millennium, and of heaven. Here it reached its close, after the period of one thousand and thirty years, from the time of its dedication by Solomon; and of six hundred and thirty-nine years, from its being rebuilt in the days of Haggai, after the seventy years captivity. It is singular, that it should be reduced to ashes not only soon after the feast of the passover, which convened so many thousands of Jews to Jerusalem to meet the ruins of their city and nation; but that it should be consumed on the same month, on the same day of the month, on which the Babylonians had before destroyed it by fire.
Josephus records another striking event, which seemed a sign of the destruction of Jerusalem. He says; (addressing the Jews who survived this ruin) “The fountains flow copiously for Titus, which to you were dried up. For before he came, you know that both Siloam and all the springs without the city failed; so that water was brought by the amphora, (a vessel.)—But now they are so abundant to your enemies, as to suffice for themselves and their cattle. This wonder you also formerly experienced, when the king of Babylon laid siege to your city” [Wars 5.9.4].
The priests of the temple, after the destruction of their sacred edifice, betook themselves (those who had thus far escaped the general slaughter) to the top of one of its broken walls, where they sat mourning and famishing. On the fifth day necessity compelled them to descend, and humbly to ask pardon of the Roman general. But Titus at this late period rejected their petition, saying; “As the temple, for the sake of which I would have spared you, is destroyed; it is but fit the priests should perish also” [Wars 6.6.1]. All were put to death.
The obstinate leaders of the great Jewish factions, beholding now the desperateness of their cause, desired a conference with Titus. One would imagine they would at least now lay down their arms. Their desiring an interview with the triumphant Roman general, appeared as though they would be glad to do this. But righteous Heaven designed their still greater destruction. Titus, after all their mad rebellions, kindly offered to spare the residue of the Jews, if they would now submit. But strange to relate, they refused to comply. The noble general then, as must have been expected, was highly exasperat ed; and issued his general order that he would grant no further pardon to the insurgents. His legions now were ordered to “ravage and destroy” [Wars 6.6.3]. With the light of the next morning, arose the tremendous flame of the castle of Antonio, the council chamber, register’s office, and the noble palace of the queen Helena. These magnificent piles were reduced to ashes. The furious legions, (executioners of divine vengeance, Ezek. ix. 5, 6,) then flew through the lower city, of which they soon became masters, slaughtering and burning in every street. The Jews themselves aided the slaughter.—In the royal palace, containing vast treasures, eight thousand four hundred Jews were murdered by their seditious brethren. Great numbers of deserters from the furious leaders of faction, flocked to the Romans; but it was too late. The general order was given, all should be slain. Such therefore fell.
The Roman soldiers however, being at length weary with butchery, and more than satisfied with blood, for a short time sheathed their swords, and betook themselves to plunder. They collected multitudes of Jews,—husbands, wives, children, and servants; formed a market; and set them up at vendue for slaves. They sold them for any trifle; while purchasers were but few. Their law-giver, Moses, had forewarned them of this; Deut. xxviii. 68: “And ye shall be sold for bond men, and bond women; and no man shall buy you.” Tremendous indeed must the lot of those be, who reject the Messiah, and are found fighting against the Son of God. Often had these Jews heard read (but little it seems did they understand the sense of the tremendous passage) relative to the Jewish rejectors of Christ, “He that sitteth in the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” [Ps 2:4-6, 9]. “Thus saith the Lord, say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished: it is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter; (said God by the prophet, Ezek. xxi. [vv 9-10] alluding to this very event;) the sword is sharpened, and it is furbished to give it into the hand of the slayer. Cry and howl, son of man; smite upon thy thigh; smite thy hands together, and let the sword be doubled a third time; the sword of the slain. I have set the point of the sword against all their gates, that their hearts may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: Ah, it is made bright! it is wrapped up for the slaughter” [Ezek 21:11-15].—Such, and much more, were the divine denunciations of this very scene, which the infidel Jews would not escape, but would incur! And even a merciful God shrunk not from the execution! Let antichristian powers, yea, let all infidels and gospel despisers, consider this and tremble!
The whole lower city now in the possession of the Roman legions, (after the respite noted,) was set on fire. But the insolence of the devoted Jews in a part of the higher city remained unabated. They even insulted and exasperated their enemies, as though afraid the work of vengeance might not be sufficiently executed.
The Romans brought their engines to operate upon the walls of this higher branch of the city, still standing; which soon gave way before them. Before their demolition, Titus reconnoitred the city, and its fortifications; and expressed his astonishment that it should ever fall before his arms. He exclaimed, “Had not God himself aided our operations, and driven the Jews from their fortresses, it would have been absolutely impossible to have taken them. For what could men and the force of engines have done against such towers as these?” [ Wars 6.9.1]. Yes, unless their Rock had sold them for their iniquities, no enemy could have prevailed against Jerusalem. Josephus, who was an eye witness of all the scene, says; “All the calamities, which ever befel any nation, since the beginning of the world, were inferior to the miseries of the Jews at this awful period.”
The upper city too fell before the victorious arms of the Roman conquerors. Titus would have spared all who had not been forward in resisting the Romans; and gave his orders accordingly. But his soldiers, callous to all the feelings of humanity, slaughtered the aged and sick, as well as the mass of the people. The tall and most beautiful young men, however, were spared by Titus to grace his triumph at Rome. Of the rest, many above the age of seventeen were sent in chains to Egypt to be disposed of as slaves. Some were reserved to be sacrificed on their amphitheatres, as gladiators; to be slain in sham fights, for the sport of their conquerors. Others were distributed through the empire. All who survived, under the age of seventeen, were exposed for sale.
The triumphant general commanded what remained of the city, to be razed to its foundation, except three of the most stately towers, Mariamne, Hippocos, and Phasael. These should stand as monuments of the magnificence of the place, and of his victory. A small part of the wall of the city at the west also, he commanded should be spared, as a rampart for his garrison. The other parts of the city he wished to have so effectually erased, as never to be recognized to have been inhabited. The Talmud and Mamonides relate that the foundations of the temple were so removed, that the site of it was ploughed by Terentius Rufus. Thus our Saviour predicted, that “there should not be left one stone upon another.”
One awful occurrence is noted as transpiring during these scenes; that eleven thousand Jews, under the guard of one Fronto, a Roman general, were (owing to their own obstinacy, and to the scarcity of provisions) literally starved to death!
Josephus informs that eleven hundred thousand Jews perished in this siege of Jerusalem; that two hundred and thirty-seven thousand perished in that last war in other sieges and battles; besides multitudes who perished by famine and pestilence: making a total of at least fourteen hundred thousand. Some hundreds of thousands, in sullen despair, laid violent hands on themselves. About ninety-seven thousand were captured, and dispersed. Relative to the two great leaders of the Jewish factions, Simon and John, they were led to Rome, to grace the triumph of Titus; after which Simon was scourged and executed as a malefactor; and John was committed for life to dungeon. Thus ended their violent factious contentions.
The Roman army, before they left Jerusalem, not only demolished the buildings there, but even dug up their foundations. How fatal was the divine judgment on this devoted city. Five months before it was the wonder of the world; and contained, at the commencement of the siege, more than a million and a half of Jews, natives and visitors; now it lay in total ruins, with not “one stone upon another” [Matt 24:2]; as Christ had denounced. These ruins Eusebius informs us he beheld. And Eleazer is introduced by Josephus as exclaiming; “Where is our great city, which it was believed God inhabited” [Wars 7.8.6]. The prophet Micah had predicted; “Therefore shall Zion for your sakes be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the Lord’s house as the high places of the forest” [Micah 3:12]. A captain of the army of Titus, did in fact plough where some part of the foundation of the temple had stood, as the Talmud records, and thus fulfilled this prediction.
Jesus Christ had foretold of this destruction, that “there should be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world” [Matt 24:21]. And of the event Josephus says; “If the misfortunes of all nations from the beginning of the world, were compared with those which befel the Jews, they would appear far less.” Again, “No other city ever suffered such things; as no other generation from the beginning of the world, was ever more fruitful in wickedness” [ Wars 5.10.5].
Other parts of Judea were still to be subdued. Macherus was attacked. Seventeen hundred Jews surrendered and were slain; also three thousand fugitives taken in the woods of Jardes. Titus at Caesarea celebrated in great splendour the birth day of his brother Domitian. Here a horrid scene, according to the bloody customs of those times, was presented. To grace this occasion, more than two thousand five hundred Jews fell; some by burning; some by fighting with wild beasts; and some by mutual combat with the sword.
Massada was besieged. The Jewish commander, in despair, induced the garrison first to destroy their stores, and then themselves. They (nine hundred and sixty in number) consented to the horrid proposal. Men, women, and children took their seats upon the ground, and offered their necks to the sword. Ten men were selected to execute the fatal deed. The dreadful work was done. One of the ten was then chosen to execute the nine, and then himself. The nine being put to death, and fire being set to the place, the last man plunged his dagger into his own heart.
Seven persons, (women and children,) found means to conceal themselves, and escape the ruin. When the Romans approached, these seven related to them these horrid events.
Most of the remaining places now, through sullen despair, gave up all opposition, and submitted to the conquerors. Thus Judea became as a desolate wilderness; and the following passage in Isaiah had at least a primary accomplishment; “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant; and the houses without man; and the land be utterly desolate; and the Lord have removed man far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land” [Isa 6:11-12].
A line of prophecies is found in the sacred oracles, which relate to a signal temporal destruction of the most notorious enemies of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Those were to have a two fold accomplishment; first upon the Jews; and secondly upon the great Antichrist of the last days, typified by the infidel Jews. Accordingly those prophecies in the Old Testament are ever found in close connexion with the Millennium. The predictions of our Saviour, in Matt. xxiv. Mark xiii. and Luke xxi. are but a new edition of these sacred prophecies. This has been noted as “the destruction of the city and temple foretold.” It is so indeed, and more.—It is also a denunciation of the destruction of the great Antichrist of the last days. The certainty of this will appear in the following things, as New Testament writers decide. The Thessalonians, having heard what our Lord denounced, that all those things he had predicted should take place on that generation, were trembling with the apprehension, that the coming of Christ predicted, would then very soon burst upon the world. Paul writes to them, (2 Thes. ii.) and beseeches them by this coming of Christ, not to be shaken in mind, or troubled with such an apprehension. For that day, (that predicted coming of Christ, as it related to others beside the Jews,) was not to take place on that generation. It was not to come till the Antichristian apostacy come first; that man of sin was first to be revealed. This long apostacy was to be accomplished before the noted coming of Christ in its more important sense be fulfilled. After the Roman government, which hindered the rise of the man of sin, should be taken out of the way, Paul says, “Then shall that wicked one be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming” [2 Thes 2:8]. Here then is the predicted coming of Christ, in its more interesting sense, in the battle of that great day, which introduces the Millennium. Here is a full decision that these noted denunciations of Christ alluded more especially (though not primarily) to a coming which is still future.
The same is decided by Christ himself, in Rev. xvi. After the sixth vial, in the drying up of the Turkish Euphrates, three unclean spirits of devils, like frogs, go forth to the kings of the earth, and of all the world, to gather them to the great battle. The awful account is interrupted by this notice from the mouth of Christ; verse 15, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments; lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” This is as though our Lord should say; now the time is at hand, to which my predictions of coming as a thief, principally alluded. Now is the time when my people on earth shall need to watch, as I directed, when predicting my coming to destroy first the type of Antichrist, and secondly the antitype.
The predictions in the prophets, which received an incipient fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem, were to receive a more interesting fulfilment in Christ’s coming to destroy his antichristian foes. Hence it is that the seventh vial is called (Rev. xvi. 14,) “the battle of that great day of God Almighty;” clearly alluding to that great day noted through the prophets. And of the same event it is said, Rev. x. 7; “the mystery of God shall be finished, as he hath declared to his servants, the prophets.” Here again the allusion clearly is to the many predictions in the prophets of the destruction of the enemies of Christ’s kingdom, which were to receive an incipient fulfilment in the destruction of Jerusalem; and a far more interesting one, in the sweeping from the earth the last antichristian powers, to introduce the millennial kingdom of Christ. We accordingly find those predictions through the prophets clearly alluding to the last days, and the introduction of the Millennium.
Viewing the destruction of Jerusalem then, as but a type of an event now pending upon antichristian nations, we peruse it with new interest; and it must be viewed in the light of a most impressive warning to this age of the world.—The factions, madness, and selfruin of the former, give but a lively practical comment upon the various predictions of the latter. Three great and noted factions introduced the destruction of Jerusalem. And of the destruction of Antichrist we read (perhaps alluding to that very circumstance) Rev. xvi. 19; “And the great city was divided into three parts.” Then it follows; “and the cities of the nations fell; and great Babylon came in remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” In the desolation of Gog and his bands, faction draws the sword of extermination. “I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God; every man’s sword shall be against his brother.” Ezek xxxviii. 21.
The great coalition against the Jews, in the time of Jehoshaphat, was destroyed by the sword of mutiny and faction: See 2 Chron. xx. And in allusion to this very battle which God fought for his church, the vast coalitions of Antichrist, in the last days, when the Jews are restored, is said to be gathered “to the valley of Jehoshaphat:” See Joel iii [v 2]. The various circumstances of the destruction of Jerusalem afforded a lively incipient comment on the many denunciations of the battle of that great day of God Almighty, which awaits the antichristian world; while it is fully evident, that the passages more especially allude to the tremendous scenes of judgment, which shall introduce the Millennium.