Volume 9, Issue 5: Eschaton
The Destruction of Jerusalem-Pt. 2
Jack Van Deventer
Part 1 of this article detailed the New Testament prophecies anticipating severe judgment upon the Jews for murdering Christ. In calling for Jesus' death, the Jews had cried out, "Let Him be crucified! His blood be upon us and our children!" The subsequent divine judgment against the Jews was prolonged and widespread, culminating in the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.
The slaughter of the Jews began several years earlier at the hands of the Romans, armies under Roman control, and gentile groups. First century Jewish historian Josephus records many of the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem. His accounts detail the rise of false prophets, treacheries, revolts, warfare, and murder. Here are some excerpts:
The Slaughter of the Jews
Jerusalem (June 3, 66 A.D.)--"So the [Roman] soldiers did not only plunder the place they were sent to, but forcing themselves into every house, they slew its [Jewish] inhabitants; so the citizens fled along the narrow lanes, and the soldiers slew those that they caught, and no method of plunder was omitted; they also caught many of the quiet people, and brought them before Florus, whom he first chastised with stripes, and then crucified. Accordingly, the whole number of those that were destroyed that day, with their wives and children (for they did not spare even the infants themselves), was about 3,600."
Cesarea (66 A.D.)--"Now the people of Cesarea had slain the Jews that were among them. . . . [I]n one hour's time above 20,000 Jews were killed, and all Cesarea was emptied of its Jewish inhabitants; for Florus caught such as ran away, and sent them to the galleys."
Scythopolis and other cities (66 A.D.)--"The people of Scythopolis watched their opportunity, and cut all [the Jews'] throats, some of them as they lay unguarded, and some as they lay asleep. The number that was slain was above 13,000, and then they plundered them of all they had." "Besides this murder at Scythopolis, the other cities rose up against the Jews that were among them: those of Askelon slew 2,500, and those of Ptolemais 2,000, and put not a few in bonds; those of Tyre also put a great number to death, but kept a greater number in prison."
Alexandria (66 A.D.)--These [Roman] soldiers rushed violently into that part of the city which was called Delta, where the Jewish people lived together [The Jews were] destroyed unmercifully; and this their destruction was complete, some being caught in the open field, and others forced into their houses, which houses were first plundered of what was in them, and then set on fire by the Romans; wherein no mercy was shown to the infants, and no regard had to the aged; but they went on in the slaughter of persons of every age, till all the place was overflowed with blood, and 50,000 of them lay dead upon heaps. . . ."
Jotapata (July, 67 A.D.)--"[T]he Romans slew all the multitude that appeared openly; but on the following days they searched the hiding places, and fell upon those that were underground, and in the caverns, and went thus through every age, excepting the infants and the women, and of these there were gathered together as captives twelve hundred; and as for those that were slain at the taking of the city, and in the former fights, they were numbered to be 40,000.
The slaughter of the Jews continued for several years. Many of the Jews fled to Jerusalem for safety and the city was under siege for a long period.
Jerusalem and the Temple Destroyed
Josephus described in detail the attempts of the Jews to defend the temple, but in time the temple was filled not with the blood of sacrificial animals, but with the blood of the Jews themselves.
Josephus writes, "Now, round about the altar lay dead bodies heaped one upon another; as at the steps going up to it ran a great quantity of their blood, whither also the dead bodies that were slain above [the altar] fell down."
"While the holy house was on fire, every thing 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. . . . "
"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 than those that slew them; for the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it; but the soldiers went over heaps of bodies, as they ran upon such as fled from them."
In the end, the city was utterly destroyed. Over a million Jews were killed. As noted in Part 1 of this article, the New Testament is full of passages anticipating God's judgment upon those who killed His Son. Jesus Himself had predicted that a generation would not pass before the temple would be destroyed such that not one stone would be left upon another (Matt. 24:2). Although Josephus was not a Christian, he concluded "I cannot help but think that it was because God had doomed this city to destruction, as a polluted city, and was resolved to purge his sanctuary by fire. . . . "