HOW THE WORDS OF JESUS WERE FULFILLED IN 70 A.D
Judea had always been one of the most restless and rebellious parts of the Roman Empire, and from 60 A.D. onwards the situation began to deteriorate rapidly. Felix the Roman governor was succeeded by Festus, Albinius and then Gessius Florus, a brutal tyrant whose cruelty and maladministration was bound to result in an uprising; which it soon did; Florus was driven out of Jerusalem, the fortress of Antonio was seized by the Zealots and the pro Roman faction in the Holy City was slaughtered. The revolt spread like wildfire, and when Cestius Gallus the Roman governor of Syria who had advanced on Jerusalem, suddenly retreated for no apparent reason, the Jewish Zealots went on the offensive, convinced that God was on their side.
However, over the next three years, under the command of Vespasian who subsequently became Roman Emperor, and then of his son Titus, the Imperial Legions systematically subdued Palestine, gradually tightening the net around the Holy City, in which anarchy reigned as rival Jewish groups fought each other for control. Gabara, Jotapata, Tarichaea, Gischala, and Gamala all fell to the Romans with great slaughter, as the defenders and citizens were exterminated or engaged in mass suicide. These events are recorded for us by the Jewish historian Josephus, who was at first a commander of the rebels in Galilee before going over to the Romans.
The account of the Siege of Jerusalem, as given by Josephus makes gruesome reading. Over one million Jews perished in the siege by famine and the sword. The defenders were reduced to eating human flesh, and chewing grass and leather for sustenance. Those who ventured outside the walls by night in search of food, if captured were scourged, then crucified by the Romans in full view of the defenders. Sometimes hundreds met their fate in this manner during the space of one day. Perhaps some recalled the words of Jesus, when making His way to Calvary and crucifixion. He said to the women of Jerusalem:-
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me but for yourselves and for your children.” Luke 23:28
Josephus writing of the conflict says:-
“Our city of all those which have been subjected to the Romans, was advanced to the highest felicity and was thrust down again to the extremist misery; for if the misfortunes of all men from the beginning of the world, were compared to those of the Jews, they would appear much inferior upon the comparison . . . to speak in brief, no other city every suffered such things, as no generation from the beginning of the world was ever more fruitful of wickedness.”
As the plight of those within the walls grew worse, many attempted to escape, swallowing their money so that it would not be taken by the Romans. When this was discovered, any subsequent deserters were ripped open and disemboweled by the Romans in search of gold. Eventually most of the city and the Castle of Antonio had fallen to the invaders, and the Jews took refuge within the Temple precincts. They prepared to make a final stand there, still believing that God would intervene and save them. Finally the Holy Temple fell to the soldiers of the Roman Prince Titus; fire brands were used by the Roman soldiers to set the Sanctuary ablaze, and soon the magnificent temple ot Herod was a heap of smoking ruins. The Roman Legions now carried their
standards, the Eagle and the Serpent into the Temple and sacrificed before them in the traditional Roman manner, an ox, a sheep and the ultimate abomination — a pig. It has been estimated that at least one milion perished in the Siege of Jerusalem, and some ninety thousand survivors were sold into slavery, whilst seven hundred of the tallest most handsome captives were reserved for the March of Triumph through Rome by ‘Titus and his Legions. Thus were fulfilled the predictions of the Lord Jesus, a generation earlier, and also of the prophet Daniel several hundred years before, when he had foretold concerning Titus and the armies of Imperial Rome:-
“And the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined . . . and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Daniel 9:26-27