Volume. XXXIV, No. 10
Sunday, 08 September 2019


From the Pastor’s Heart: Jerusalem (12)


Since the Roman General Pompey captured Jerusalem in 63 BC the Romans ruled through local client kings and largely allowed free religious practices in Judaea.  However, there were inevitable frictions between the Romans and the Jews over religious views, taxation, and unwanted imperialistic governance.  The discontent of the Jews against the Romans burst forth into open rebellion in AD 66, which is commonly known as the First Jewish Revolt.  At first, their attempt to remove the Romans from Jerusalem was successful.  In response, the Roman emperor, Nero, sent his general Vespasian, to challenge the Jewish forces, and he succeeded in cornering the majority of the rebels in Jerusalem by AD 69, when he became an emperor, after Nero. 

 

The Roman general, Titus, employed a clever strategy to defeat the Jews in April, AD 70, around the time of Passover.  Many pilgrims came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and the Romans besieged the city.  However, the Romans allowed the pilgrims to enter the city but refused to let them leave the city.  As a result, there was a large population in Jerusalem, and the Romans encircled the city and cut off supplies to the city completely, which drove the Jews to starvation.  By August of the same year, The Romans breached the final defense line and massacred many of the remaining population in the city. 

 

At this point, I bring to your attention the eyewitness account of the destruction of Jerusalem.  Flavius Josephus wrote a book, The Jewish War (The Wars of the Jews).  In particular, Books V and VI offer us very detailed descriptions of the final days of Jerusalem.  I cannot quote the whole book but will quote a few portions so that you will get some idea of the magnitude of the tragedy of the destruction - not just the city walls and buildings but also the people in the city.  In order to understand the destruction of Jerusalem, we, first of all, need to know that the revolting Jews suffered internal divisions, which resulted in their fighting against each other.  And we also should know that religious zealots were the main culprits leading the ordinary Jews to war against the Romans.  Many people who came to Jerusalem were either chased out by the Romans or they ran away from the Romans after futile attempts to defeat the Romans.  These men coming from the country to Jerusalem were already divided amongst themselves, even before the Jerusalem revolt began.  Book 4, Chapter 3, 2: “There were besides disorders and civil wars in every city; and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another.  There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous for peace.”  There were even divisions within families, and eventually in many cases, people began to associate with those of their own opinions.  Josephus continues, “all the people of every place betook themselves to rapine; after which they got together in bodies, in order to rob the people of the country, insomuch that for barbarity and iniquity those of the same nation did no way differ from the Romans; nay, it seemed to be a much lighter thing to be ruined by the Romans than by themselves.” 

 

These bad people came into Jerusalem.  Some of them behaved themselves lawlessly and there was no law and order in the city.  Thus, everyone had to contend for himself. These evil men even disannulled the succession of the high priests by families, and appointed and ordained their own kind for the office.  These men made the Temple of God their refuge, or a stronghold to avoid the troubles from the people. 

 

Under the leadership of Ananus, the ordinary citizens got together to remove such robbers and wicked people from the sacred place, and they were passionate about what they were going to do.  At the same time, the evil ones in the Temple, zealots not for good but for bad, were equally passionate to keep their position.  They clashed and fought against each other.  At the first, they cast stones at each other, then javelins, and then they fought with swords, which made great slaughters on both sides.  The zealots were not allowed to make any further advancement but pushed to the Temple site.  However, these wicked men appealed to the Idumeans to come and conquer the city of Jerusalem, and they themselves opened a gate of Jerusalem to let the Idumeans come in and take the city.  So the Idumeans and the zealots ransacked the city and defiled the temple which means that even before the coming of the Romans to the city to destroy it, Jerusalem suffered destruction by the Jewish zealots and the Idumeans.  It is an indication that the judgment upon the city was not a short one but a prolonged one.  The Temple was tainted with the blood of the slaughtered, and Josephus wrote that there were 8,500 dead bodies in the outer Temple alone (Book 4, Chapter 5, 2).  They did not stop there but went on to kill anyone they met, and they sought out the high priests and killed them. 

 

Ananus was a man greatly respected by the people.  However, he was one of the first group of people killed by evil hands.  When Josephus explained his death and the situation of the city, he commented: “I cannot 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, that he cut off these their great defenders and well-wishers while those that a little before had worn the sacred garments, and had presided over the public worship; and had been esteemed venerable by those that dwelt on the whole habitable earth when they came into our city, were cast out naked. And seen to be the food of dogs and wild beasts.  And I cannot but imagine that virtue itself groaned at these men’s case, and lamented that she was here so terribly conquered by wickedness” (Ibid.). The Idumeans later regretted what they had done to the Jerusalemites because of the deception by the zealots and left the city. 

 

Even after the Idumeans departed, the atrocities of the zealots did not cease but increased.  Even if the inhabitants of Jerusalem wanted to flee from the city, the zealots guarded every passage out of the city.  If they caught anyone trying to flee away from the city, they slew them.  However, if anyone paid them, then they were allowed to leave.  Thus the rich purchased their flight by money.  The zealots did not allow the dead to be buried, if they were slain in the city or their bodies were along the roads.  They left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun. 

 

In the meanwhile, the Roman general Vespasian had fortified all the places round about Jerusalem.  While he was ready to finish the Jewish war, he heard the news that Nero had died after reigning thirteen years and eight days.  Galba succeeded Nero but was slain after reigning a little more than seven months.  Otho then took power for only three months and three days.  Vitellius then claimed himself to be emperor and his soldiers plundered Rome.  In the meanwhile, The commanders and soldiers of Vespasian met and consulted before openly demanding that he be the next emperor.  They then declared him emperor.  It may amuse you to know the relationship between Vespasian and Josephus (a Jewish defector to the Romans who was hated by the Jews and despised by the Romans).  It has been said that Josephus foretold Vespasian that he was going to be the emperor, while Nero was still alive.  Thus, when Vespasian came to the throne, Josephus became a free man (Book IV, Chapter 10, 7).  The army, taking the side of Vespasian, defeated and killed Vitellius who reigned in Rome for eight months and five days (Book IV, Chapter 11, 4), paving the way for Vespasian to come to Rome. 

 

As Vespasian hurriedly returned to Rome, he needed to settle the affairs in Judaea.  He appointed his son, Titus, and sent him with a part of the army to destroy Jerusalem.  The Wars of the Jews, books V – VII, describe the siege of Jerusalem by Titus and the miseries of the city. 

 

We will look into it next time.

 

Lovingly,

Your Pastor


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

  • Holiday Bible Club: Registration forms and flyers available in the Foyer. Parents please register your children & invite many friends.
  • Holiday Bible Club: Roster for HBC lunch available in the Foyer. If you are able to contribute to & help with lunch, please fill out the roster. Many helpers are also needed for HBC. Please let Dn John Wong know if you are available to help & for more details.
  • Special thanks to the congregation for completing survey questions for Sunday School dinner.
  • Special thanks to Dn John Wong & Sunday School teachers for organising the Sunday School Dinner yesterday. Thanks also to students & family who attended.
  • Combined Senior’s & Ladies’ Fellowship lunch & share & prayer on Sat, 28 Sep in the rectory. Please contact Dn Boong Atijatuporn for more details.
  • Missions trips to Batam (16-21 Jan) & Phnom Penh (24 Jan–6 Feb) in 2020. If interested, please see Elder Michael D Lee or any Missions Committee member by 30
  • Lunch Duty: This week: Neighbourhood Groups. Next week: YAF.  

 

Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Church visitors & activities in the past week.
  • Journey mercies: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki; Elder David & Sis Giok Yeo (Adl); Elder Michael D Lee (Melb);  & others who have travelled.

 

Prayer

  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren; Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); Grandpa Ki (S’pore); and others in affliction.
  • Missions – IBPFM Missionaries worldwide.
  • Wellspring Bible Church in Glen Waverley, Melb. Elder Michael D Lee’s ministry.
  • Ebenezer BPC (Melb) – Session & members.
  • Journey mercies: Elder Michael D Lee (Adl);  & others who are travelling.

 

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063