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30 - 70 A.D.: The Forecast For Jerusalem . . . . . . Not Good At All.

Jerusalem was by all accounts a beautiful city in the years prior to 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed it. Its Jewish temple, the Temple of Yahweh, was first built by Solomon around 990 B.C. with materials gathered and readied by his father, King David, which is recorded to have included over 100,000 talents of gold. At about 75 pounds per talent and 16 English oz per pound (  the exact size of a talent is contested.  This is a higher end number for the talent, with about 65 pounds per talent being a lower end number) it would be worth about 60 Billion present day dollars. King David was rich! Of course, he warred all of his life, God gave him victory over all of his enemies, and many people paid him tribute.

After David and Solomon's deaths, after about 960 B.C. most likely, the city had a history of capture and even destruction. First, Shishak (also called Sheshonk) of Egypt captured it but did not destroy it in around 925 B.C., being satisfied with tributary gifts of gold and treasure. How much gold and treasure? No one knows, but later in his reign in Egypt, he gave gifts to the Egyptian gods in a great ceremony. It was traditional for every Pharoah once in their reign to do this in order to please the gods. And the scope of the gifts were usually carefully recorded for posterity. But Shishak's gift was notably large. He gave the most ever recorded.  It seems like it was in a 1996 publication of Biblical Archaeological Review Magazine that I read about it, and I think I remember it being something like 60 tons of gold, plus many other treasures. 

Jerusalem was next captured by Nebuchadnezzar in about 606 B.C.  He made the Jews agree to terms. Years later in Nebuchadnezzar's reign, in 586 B.C., when Jerusalem would not abide by the terms they agreed to, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. The temple and the city were rebuilt before and during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the temple rebuild being finished after 5 years work in about 515 B.C. according to some sources.  But the rebuilt temple had nothing like the architectural glory that it did in Solomon's day.  The oldest of the people, who had seen them both, were said to have been depressed by the comparison:

     Ezra 3:12  "And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord had been laid.  But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy." 

After this, Jerusalem was then prosperous again for a time. In fact it enjoyed several periods of great prosperity before it's Roman destruction. But, after the Babylonian conquest it was defeated in the following centuries by various conquerors: Ptolemy (also called Soter), son of Lagus, ruled Jerusalem in about 322 B.C.(he was a general of Alexander the Great who was basically given the region Jerusalem lies in to govern, upon Alexander's death).

Next was Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian King and a successor in the Seleucid line of rulers (Seleucus was one of Alexander's generals - he received the region of Syria.) in about 168 B.C. Antiochus was the great desecrator of the temple, sacrificing a pig to the false god Jupiter Olympias in the Holy of Holies and sparking off the Maccabean revolt wherin the Jews gained a certain level of independence.  

The Roman general Pompey captured Jerusalem in about 65 B.C., and then Sossius and Herod the Great captured it (this was the Herod who was King when Christ was born), probably in 37 or 36 B.C. King Herod the Great then renovated the Jewish holy temple to a high level of architectural magnificence in about 20 B.C., until it was widely acknowledged as among the most beautiful structures in the world.

But then, decades after Herod the Great, in 70 A.D., the Jewish temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed by Rome with a thoroughness and finality that has held for many centuries. Jerusalem exists again in our own time, a 'cup of trembling' for the whole world, as promised. Yet even today the Jewish temple has not been rebuilt, though scripture says it shall be, if I understand it rightly.  The coming world leader will stand at something referred to as the temple on the day that Satan's spirit enters his body, causing him to become the anti-Christ.  It seems like it's talking about a Jewish temple.  But, some disagree.

So this is Jerusalem, supposedly built around 2050 B.C. We first hear of Jerusalem in the Bible as simply Salem, in the book of Genesis, in the days of Melchizedek being its priest and king. Abraham encountered Melchizedek as Abraham returned from rescuing his nephew Lot from a group of kings that had captured Lot and his family in a war waged against the residents of the Sodom and Gomorrah area. ( Lot was an ancestor of Jesus' earthly parents, through Ruth the Moabite who was great grandma to King David, so it was an important rescue!)  Abraham so respected and venerated the mysterious Melchizedek that he paid a great tithing to him of the booty just taken in this war against the kings who kidnapped his nephew Lot.

Melchizedek is possibly a Canaanite king and was certainly a priest of the true God. The scriptures confirm and/or imply this much. He was a man who lived and dwelled in Salem when Abraham encountered him. This was probably only a few hundred years after the great flood, (possibly about 300 to 400 years afterward) and everyone descended from Noah's family had good reason to all be great believers in God. And everyone was from Noah's family, right?

 So, though Canaan was a son of Ham, and a certain unknown number of the Canaanite generations indeed bore a curse that Noah called down upon them, none the less, the sons of Ham may have carried and held to their belief in the true God for some number of generations after the curse was laid upon them. So perhaps this Melchizedek is a great Hamitic priest of God. I don't really know, but I'll keep looking for that answer.) The Jebusites later lived in what was once called the city of Salem. King David obtained Jerusalem from them in battle in around 1000 B.C. give or take 30 years as I presently understand the history. I suppose it is from these JEBUsites of SALEM that the city came to have the name JERUSALEM later, at the time King David conquered it. Interestingly, Salem means 'peace', most sources say. So the King of Salem is in a sense the King of Peace.

So let's let that suffice for a discussion about Jerusalem. Returning to speaking of the time period when Rome destroyed Jerusalem, it could be said that the Jews were in a bad spiritual state. Strangely, there was also a lot of zealous and inflexible adherence to God's law by some of the Jews at this time. But most all were way off course, and had been since even the time of Jesus's earthly life, which ended about 40 years previously.  Though the adults of Jesus's time in Jerusalem largely rejected Him, and of course crucified Him cruelly, God still waited long enough to let their children and even their children's children have a chance to learn who Jesus was from the Christians that now lived among them.  But their over all response was just to persecute the Christians much as their parents and grand parents had done to Jesus.  

And this brings up the most important point. They had also killed their Messiah, their long awaited Messiah, who was Jesus. Let's remember that this is God's very own son who was whipped, slapped, ridiculed, jeered, and then crucified. Even a man would not easily forgive a people that did that to one of our sons, and we are a sinful bunch, we men. But this was God's only and much loved son. And worst of all, most Jews would by no means admit that Jesus was this Messiah. As far as they were concerned, the Messiah just hadn't come yet. That's the story the Jewish leadership was putting out.

I'd like to quickly hit upon an amazing deliverance that occurred before Rome came and destroyed Jerusalem.  The Christians (Jesus's apostles) had been warned by Jesus that there was a judgement coming, and they were warned that when they saw it approaching they were to flee without delay for their very lives.

     "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.  Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.  For these are the days of vengeance, that all things that are written may be fulfilled." Luke 21:20

When most of Judah was assembled in Jerusalem for one of their annual national feasts, the Feast of Tabernacles, a Roman General named Cestius surrounded the city.  It looked like the Christians had missed their chance to heed Jesus' warning to flee.  And inside, some prayed for deliverance by God, and others counseled surrendering to the Romans.  But then, unexpectedly, certain news made it appear wise to Cestius to temporarily lift the siege and relocate to another area for a while, and as he left, the Jews supposed that God had given them their sign, and they sallied out to overtake Cestius and attack him a good distance from Jerusalem.  This they did with great success, killing a great many Romans and capturing even the storied 'standard' born by that legion.  This would later cause them to be very confident and courageous in the belief that they should not surrender to the Romans when their city was again encircled, so it ultimately worked to the destruction of the Jews that they had this early victory.   

But in the meantime, with the Romans withdrawn and their countrymen the Jewish soldiers mostly gone chasing out after them, the Christians fled out of the city.  They did not join the battle, nor were they attacked as traitors for the simple reason that all the Jews were preoccupied.  Also, few people were left in the countryside because of the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, and because most country people had fled to the protection of the walled cities when the Romans came to make war.  So the Christians fled east across the Jordan River to a city called Pella in an area then called Perea, and also the region of the Decapolis.  Some old writers have said that not a single Christian failed to escape.  Who knows?  But that is jumping ahead of this story, which is focused on very what strange things occurred in the years preceding Jerusalem's destruction to warn the Jews of the coming time of their disaster.   

In reality Jerusalem was about to receive a devastatingly severe rebuke at the hands of God. To God it was important that those who were about to be punished should know that it was God himself delivering this blow, so God gave them some pretty clear and amazing signs that He was the source of the devastation that they would soon be facing. And some of those who saw the signs understood - and dreaded the future. Just what sort of signs were there?

Well, to start with, Jesus Himself made some dire predictions before He was crucified. As one of the disciples pointed out to him the beauty and grandeur of the temple they were walking by He told them that soon not one stone would stand upon another - it would destroyed that completely!  And this did come to pass around 70 A.D. See Mark 13 or Matthew 24.

Then, after Jesus was crucified, and Christianity was spread widely enough for about 40 years that even many in Rome had begun to hear of it and be believers, the years drew close to 68 A.D. and more signs began to appear. Some of these were very odd. Some of the signs that I've heard of, said to be authentic signs witnessed by many at that time, are:

I read a source which said that, according to the Talmud, each year the Jewish high priest would perform a ceremony, part of which involved a sort of prediction about whether the coming year would be good or bad.  The Priest would reach into a bag and pull out one of two smooth stones:  a black one or a white one.  He couldn't feel which was which.  He just reached in and withdrew one.  If it was white, the coming year would be good.  If it was black, that was a bad omen about the coming year.  The source said that the Talmud records that for the 40 years prior to the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem, the black stone was drawn every single year without exception.  This would have begun at possibly the exact year that the Lord Jesus was crucified in 30 or 31 A.D.  The odds that the white stone would be drawn were 50/50.  The chances of not drawing it even once in 40 years are (1/2) exp 40.  Or .5x.5x.5x.5.......for 40 total .5's.  Less than a one in a trillion chance of that happening.  There never was another white stone drawn. 

Here are some other signs that were seen according to the Jewish historian Josephus, from his writing named "The Wars of the Jews", book 6, chapter 5 mostly.  I'll post that chapter at the very bottom of this account, but all of Josephus can be read on line I believe for anyone interested.

A couple of years before the final war and before the disturbances surrounding it, the people came up to one of the Feasts, and at night a very bright light shone down around the temple's alter. It was as bright as mid daytime and lasted somewhat less than an hour. Those most trained in understanding holy signs thought it was a harbinger of bad things to come.

Shortly before Jerusalem's destruction there was an odd star that appeared and stood over the city - it resembled a sword.

Also (and this is one truly astounding occurrence) at one of the great feasts commanded by the laws of Moses a cow was being led forward by a priest to be sacrificed, and it stopped and gave birth to a lamb.  Again, consider the enormity of it:  a cow gave birth to a sheep!  That is one very powerful sign!  Certainly an impossibility without God's hand in the matter.

Then, again during one of the Feasts, as the priests went into the temple's inner court to perform their priestly duties, they felt an earthquake-like shaking and then heard a large commotion and a sound like a great crowd crying out in a panicked sort of way that they needed to relocate to somewhere else quickly because of some danger that these listening priests could not see.  And in only a couple of years, great crowds indeed would be panicking inside of Jerusalem's walls - even in the temple the Roman soldiers surrounded them and slaughtered them. 

Remember Isaiah 6:66  :  "Hear the uproar from the city, hear the noise from the temple!  It is the sound of the Lord repaying his enemies all they deserve."  NIV 

Then, as if this were not enough strange events, one of the collossal metal gates leading to an inner court of the temple (a gate that took over a dozen men to swing open or closed because of its tremendous weight) opened itself one night. It took the normal number of men to shut it again. The more learned saw it as a sign that the protection and safety of their temple was being given up voluntarily by God, with the gate opening up as if to their enemies. These learned Jews publicly announced as much, telling everyone that it was a sign of bad things to come.

A few days after one of the Feasts, at about sunset, armored soldiers and chariots were seen running around in battle and attacking cities, but they were seen in the clouds in the sky.

There was a comet that stayed visible for nearly a year near the time of the destruction.

Another strange thing was witnessed by a large number of the people. It began a few years before the war with the Roman's began, which culminated in the 70 A.D. destruction. What happened is this:  when people came to Jerusalem to observe another of the Feasts of Israel there was a farmer that began to suddenly cry out. While in the temple he was seized uncontrollably by some impulse and he started crying out doomsday sorts of prophesies against Jerusalem and Israel.

At first the Jews listened, but he kept this up continuously and would not stop. "Woe is Jerusalem!!  Woe woe is Jerusalem!!"  And it never ceased.  

Days went by, and people began to take offense. They seized the man and whipped him severely, but he didn't answer them or even become angry at them. He just kept crying out dire things about their future.

These Jews then decided the man was in the grip of something and wasn't going to stop, so they turned him over to the Romans, who took care of punishments at that time. The Roman officials had him whipped so badly that glimpses of bone showed. But the man just kept prophesying against Jerusalem. He seemed like a man gone mad, so the Romans released him.  The Romans were not yet at war with Jerusalem then.  They just ruled over it and oversaw it's government.   

For years then this man went about the city crying out like this. Then one day, after Israel and Rome were at war, and Rome had surrounded Jerusalem and was besieging it, he was walking around speaking the same grim prophesies against the city and the people, when he suddenly included himself in his utterances as one who could expect doom. "Woe woe is Jerusalem, and woe is me." Just then a hurled siege stone struck and killed him.

The Jews fought unbelievably hard, but were defeated in the end and nearly destroyed. Of the survivors, tens of thousands went to Egypt as slaves for the mines, and some went to gladiatorial arenas, and some of the handsomest specimens and toughest looking of the men had to be paraded through Rome in victory parades known as Triumphs so that everyone back home in Rome could see what a tough and manly looking people their Roman army had whipped. Those prisoners would usually then be executed or enslaved for life. It was not a good ending for the storied city of Jerusalem, but according to these recorded portents, some from Jesus himself, they can't really say they weren't warned!

The Roman General Titus, who also became Emperor Titus during his later lifetime, conducted most of the siege that destroyed Jerusalem, and he spent a few years afterwards wiping out scattered pockets of resistance throughout Israel (including Masada.) As a General he could see how massive the fortifications, walls, and towers of Jerusalem were, and though the victory had not come easily, in fact it had been a very bloody one for the Romans, yet he could see that it was somewhat amazing that his army had been successful at all. 

As a conquering Roman hero returning home, a certain Roman group intended to award Titus with a great victory wreath for his victories in the Jewish wars.  He is reported to have refused that particular honor by saying something similar to this:

"There is no merit in defeating a people who have been forsaken by their God." 

When God uses some enemy nation to punish His chosen people - the Jews - he seems to always make sure that the punishing nation understands that they were only given the victory by God's allowance - a victory which they did not otherwise have the strength to obtain.  For though Israel may be small and may seem vulnerable, their protector scorns and laughs at even the mightiest powers of mere men.  Which nation of little clay men shall ever prevail against the potter of all things?

But never be fooled where the Jews and Israelites are concerned...they are pronounced God's chosen people in scripture.  They were selected, this small and not then very distinguished group of ancient Egyptian slaves, to be God's nation through which He would reveal His might to the whole world, and they are also prophesied to be His special people once Jesus reigns.  They didn't do something wonderful to deserve it.  They just happen to have been chosen because God saw fit to choose them.  They are relatively small in number, and so whenever they prevail against outlandish odds people know it was God's power, and not the inherent power of the Jewish nation.  This way, God can show His glory to the whole world through His protection and love for the numerically unmighty Jewish race.  And others may be convinced to revere Him as they should.

Today we see Israel is again a nation.  It may have seemed that God 'stayed angry' at them for a truly long time, but now they are again in His favor.  And it is an honor to God whenever we treat the Jewish people in a tender way out of love for God and Jesus.  It is yet another way for the Gentile, allowed the salvation of Jesus because of the Jewish rejection of Jesus, to honor God:  love the Jewish like God loves the Jewish. 


  Please share this account with family, friends, and co-workers.  We can all help the prophecy come true:  knowledge of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will fill the Earth!  With social media and so much inter connection, this generation certainly has the means!


Here is chapter 5 of book 6 of Josephus' "Wars of the Jews":

3. Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. Thus there was a star (20) resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. Thus also before the Jews' rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, (21) [Nisan,] and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it. At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner (22) [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. Now those that kept watch in the temple came hereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared that the signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence." But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, (23) began on a sudden to cry aloud, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!" This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, "Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!" And just as he added at the last, "Woe, woe to myself also!" there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.


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