Fall of Jerusalem: Part 3--Forty Years, Continued
Aug 27, 2007
There were four beginning points for the 40 years of grace for Judah and Jerusalem in the first century. These were September of 26 and 29 A.D., and Passover of 30 and 33.
Adding 40 years to each of these beginning points brings us to September of 66 and 69, and Passover of 70 and 73.
We have shown how 26 A.D. was the 80th Jubilee from Adam and the beginning of Daniel's 70th week. Essentially, the 70th week of Daniel encompasses all four of the beginning points above.
The Revolt broke out in September of 66, when the Judeans destroyed Rome's 12th Legion while they were on their way to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.
This brought retribution, and Rome sent Vespasian and his son, Titus, to quell the revolt. They took control of most of the country by the summer of 68, but then Nero committed suicide on June 9, 68 A.D. Nero's death put the war in Judea on hold, while Vespasian waited for new instructions from the next emperor.
The Spanish provinces also had revolted under the leadership of Galba. Nero had many enemies by setting fire to Rome in July of 64, and much of the city yet remained in ashes. Suetonius writes about Nero's suicide:
"While he [Nero] hesitated, a letter was brought to Phaon by one of his couriers. Nero snatching it from his hand, read that he had been pronounced a public enemy by the Senate, and that they were seeking him to punish him in the ancient fashion , and he asked what manner of punishment that was. When he learned that the criminal was stripped, fastened by the neck in a fork and then beaten to death with rods, in mortal terror he seized two daggers . . .
"And now the horsemen were at hand who had orders to take him off alive. When he heard them, he quavered, 'Hark, now strikes on my ear the trampling of swift-footed coursers.' [a quote from Homer's The Iliad, 10.535], and drove a dagger into his throat, aided by Epaphroditus, his private secretary." [Seutonius, Lives of the Caesars: Nero, XLIX]
The next emperor, Galba, had been governor of Spain and had been induced by Vindex, Governor of Aquitania, to lead the revolt against Nero. When Vindex suddenly died, he was frightened, but then got word of Nero's death as well. The people and Senate swore allegiance to Galba, and so he became the next Caesar.
So ended the last of the Julian dynasty of emperors that had begun with Julius Caesar a century earlier. Nero's death marked the beginning of the reign of military generals. But Galba's avarice and cruelty turned the people (and especially the soldiers) against him almost immediately. He reigned only 7 months before Otho killed him in January of 69.
Otho was the next emperor for a short time, but he was overthrown by Vitellius. Suetonius tells us:
"In the eighth month of his reign [Vitellius] the armies of the Moesian provinces and Pannonia revolted from him, and also the provinces beyond the seas, those of Judea and Syria, the former swearing allegiance to Vespasian in his absence and the latter in his presence." (Lives of the Caesars: Vitellius, XV]
Vitellius was put in prison, brought to the Forum. There he was tortured for a long time and finally killed and dragged off with a hook and his body thrown into the Tiber River.
Vespasian was more successful. He began his "ministry" as Roman Emperor in the fall of 69 A.D., precisely 40 years after Jesus had been baptized to begin His ministry in September, 29 A.D. Vespasian was the general of God's army, sent to "set their city on fire" (Matt. 22:7). This was the same Vespasian who had fought in Britain earlier, as Suetonius tells us:
"In the reign of Claudius he was sent in command of a legion to Germania, through the influence of Narcissus; from there he was transferred to Britannia, where he fought thirty battles with the enemy. He reduced to subjection two powerful nations, more than twenty towns, and the island of Vectis [The Isle of Wight], near Britannia, partly under the leadership of Aulus Plautius, the consular governor, and partly under that of Claudius himself." [Lives of the Caesars: Vespasian, IV]
You may recall the name of Aulus Plautius, who was the general that captured the British royal family in 52 A.D. after Claudius himself had come to Britain with some elephants that had stampeded the horses of the British chariots.
When the troops proclaimed Vespasian as Roman Emperor, he was still in Judea. By this time he had taken Josephus captive at the battle of Jotapata. Suetonius tells us:
"When he consulted the oracle of the god of Carmel in Judea, the lots were highly encouraging, promising that whatever he planned or wished, however great it might be, would come to pass; and one of his highborn prisoners, Josephus by name, as he was being put in chains, declared most confidently that he would soon be released by the same man, who would then, however, be emperor."
Vespasian was proclaimed emperor by the troops in July of 69, and the prefect of Egypt was the first to take an oath of loyalty to him. Vespasian then left his son Titus as head of the army in Judea and went to Alexandria to secure the strategic support of Egypt. It was while he was in Egypt that letters arrived, telling him the news that Vitellius had been deposed and killed. He then took a ship to Rome.
When he had secured his place as Emperor in Rome by the fall of 69, he sent instructions to his son, Titus, to lay siege to Jerusalem. The siege then began on Passover morning of 70 A.D. This was precisely 40 years after the beheading of John the Baptist. This is confirmed by Josephus in Wars of the Jews, V, xiii, 8, when he tells us that the casualties of that war were:
". . . no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies, in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus, or Nisan [the month in which Passover was celebrated], when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus, or Tamuz" [when the city was destroyed].
In other words, the siege began on the fourteenth day of Nisam, which was the day that the people were supposed to kill the Passover lambs. It was precisely 40 years from the execution of John.
After the fall of Jerusalem, the only stronghold to be subdued was Masada, a fortress on top of a mountain with only one narrow, steep path up the top. The Sicarii (assassins) had taken this fortress in 66 A.D. just before the beginning of the war.
In order to take this fortress, the Romans used Jewish labor to build a ramp of earth and rocks, which took considerable time to complete. They finished it on the 14th day of Nisan in 73 A.D. and decided to take the fortress the next day. But that same night, the defenders of Masada committed suicide. The only ones who escaped were two women and five children who were able to hide. Josephus tells us in Wars of the Jews, VII, ix, 1,
"This calamitous slaughter was made on the fifteenth day of the month Xanthicus, or Nisan."
This was the Day of Passover, the first day of Unleavened Bread. The suicide occurred on the anniversary of that first Passover night when the first-born of Egypt were slain in the days of Moses. But this time it was the Sicarii who were killed, identifying them with those who were not covered by the blood of the lamb.
This occurred precisely 40 years after Jesus' crucifixion as the Lamb of God. The Sicarii of Masada were unbelievers, much like the Egyptians in Moses' day who had refused to apply the blood of the lamb to their homes on that first Passover evening. This ended the Revolt.
This is the third part of a series titled "Fall of Jerusalem." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones