Volume. XXXIV, No. 12
Sunday, 22 September 2019


From the Pastor’s Heart: Jerusalem (14)


People within the city tried to leave, if there was any chance.  However, if their plan was discovered, they lost their lives to the rebels in the city.  Some sold “what they had, and even the most precious things that had been laid up as treasures by them, for every small matter, and swallowed down pieces of gold, that they might not be found out by the robbers; and when they had escaped to the Romans, went to stool,* and had wherewithal to provide plentifully for themselves” (The Wars of the Jews, book 5, chapter 10, 1).  While the populace suffered, main factions fought against each other to gain greater power for control over the city.  (*i.e. went to the toilet, and had sufficient...)

Interestingly, Josephus argued with the stubborn Jews that there were even signs that the Romans were there under divine guidance.  He said to the Jews, “… As for Titus, those springs that were formerly almost dried up when they were under your power, since he is come, run more plentifully than they did before; accordingly you know that Siloam, as well as all the other springs that were without the city, did so far fail, that water was sold by distinct measures; whereas they now have such a great quantity of water for your enemies, as is sufficient not only for drink both for themselves and their cattle, but for watering their garden also…” (chapter 9, 4).   

The Jewish resistance against the Romans was very intense and ferocious.  The seditious even advanced to the enemies’ camp and fought with the Roman guards.  Roman law did not allow its soldiers to leave their post, regardless of reasons.  If they left their posts, they would  die for it. Thus, they chose to die courageously rather than be sentenced to death for their cowardice (book 5, chapter 11, 5). 

Famine in the city

Having seen troubles enough, Titus suggested building walls against the Jews, which was an effective way to keep the Jews from coming out of the city.  At the same time, there was widespread famine in the city.  Here is Josephus’ testimony: “So all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews, together with their liberty of going out of the city. Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine, and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead, wheresoever their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves; for many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before that fatal hour was come. Nor was there any lamentations made under these calamities, nor were heard any mournful complaints; but the famine confounded all natural passions; for those who were just going to die looked upon those that were gone to rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths. A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night, had seized upon the city; while yet the robbers were still more terrible than these miseries were themselves; for they brake open those houses which were no other than graves of dead bodies, and plundered them of what they had; and carrying off the coverings of their bodies, went out laughing, and tried the points of their swords in their dead bodies; and, in order to prove what metal they were made of they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground; but for those that entreated them to lend them their right hand and their sword to dispatch them, they were too proud to grant their requests, and left them to be consumed by the famine. Now every one of these died with their eyes fixed upon the temple, and left the seditious alive behind them. Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath” (chapter 12, 3).  Having seen such miseries, Titus “gave a groan; and spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing; and such was the sad case of the city itself” (chapter 12, 4). 

“Now of those that perished by famine in the city, the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable; for if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did any where appear, a war was commenced presently, and the dearest friends fell a fighting one with another about it, snatching from each other the most miserable supports of life. Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food, but the robbers would search them when they were expiring, lest any one should have concealed food in their bosoms, and counterfeited dying; nay, these robbers gaped for want, and ran about stumbling and staggering along like mad dogs, and reeling against the doors of the houses like drunken men; they would also, in the great distress they were in, rush into the very same houses two or three times in one and the same day. Moreover, their hunger was so intolerable, that it obliged them to chew every thing, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them; nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed: the very wisps of old hay became food to some; and some gathered up fibres, and sold a very small weight of them for four Attic [drachmae]” (book 6, chapter 3, 3). 

There are many other pitiful stories related to famine inside of the city.  However, the worst kind is the following.  It is quite unspeakable to speak such an horror story to any healthy mind.  It is a story about a woman, whose name was Mary.  She fled to Jerusalem to escape during the siege.  Instead of finding peace, her life was disturbed by the rapacious guards amongst the rebels.  When all of her food supplies were taken away, she did something that normal mind would not allow to happen.  She snatched her son, “who was a child sucking at her breast, and she said, ‘O thou miserable infant! For whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews’” (chapter 3, 4).  Then, she killed her son, roasted him, and ate half of him, and kept the other half.  The evil ones smelled the food and demanded that she give them whatever she had.  She told them that she had saved a good portion of it for them and gave them the remaining part of her son.  She told them, “This is mine own son, and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also” (chapter 3, 4).

Even if the Jews deserted to the Romans, their misery did not end.  Arabians, Syrians, even some Roman soldiers, found out that the deserters carried much gold in their bodies.  Out of the love of money, they were eager to dissect the bodies of the deserters.  Even though Titus threatened his own soldiers not to do it, this practice did not cease.  It is a sad history leading to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Lovingly,

Your Pastor


More Lively Hope

 

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  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren; Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); Grandpa Ki (S’pore); and others who are afflicted.
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