The Heart Problem Continues
By the end of the Bar-Cochba revolt, the history of post-Jerusalem Judaism was only beginning. And yet the two revolts in which the Jews suffered such disasters shaped the more subdued Judaism that emerged afterward. It was not that the Jews hated Rome less, but that the hatred was suppressed. It was replaced by despair, hurt, and (in my view) a certain anger against God for appearing to abandon them in their hour of need. Such anger was inevitable, given the fact that their leaders had twice encouraged them to fight to the bitter end by convincing them first that it was God's will that they be a free people, and that He would provide a last-minute miraculous intervention to save them from destruction.
Those hopes were dashed by reality, for no divine help came. But reality is often unacceptable, and so alternative explanations are more readily accepted, which pacify the conscience but do not remove the bitterness and anger at God.
Although the religion itself claimed to believe the law and prophets, and although they had regularly persecuted Christians for their blasphemy and lawlessness (as they viewed it), they themselves did not believe the law and prophets in the one area that mattered most. If they had believed the laws of tribulation in Lev. 26 and Deut. 28, and if they had believed the words of Jeremiah and Daniel, they could have avoided all of this bloodshed and destruction.
The part of the law with which they disagreed stated that if they were disobedient to the covenant, God would bring foreign nations to judge them by war and disaster. This condition would change only when they repented of the sins which were the root cause of the problem, for Lev. 26:40-42 says,
40 If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against Me— 41 I also was acting with hostility against them, in order to bring them into the land of their enemies—or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land.
Throughout biblical history, God did indeed bring foreign nations against them, giving them the power to conquer them. The terminology in the book of Judges is that God “sold them” into the hands of these foreign nations—Mesopotamia, Moab, Canaan, Midian, Philistia, Ammon, and a second time to Philistia.
Each time, God took the credit for bringing judgment upon Israel by the law of Exodus 22:3. It said that if a man sins and owes restitution, but has nothing with which to pay, “then he shall be sold for his theft.” God treated Israel as the sinner in question, and the foreign nation as the redeemer stepping forward to pay the debt and thereby purchase the sinner in the divine court according to the divine law. God did this many times in the book of Judges.
But the time finally came when the judgments of God became more severe, on account of the people's continual pursuit of disobedience. So God raised up Jeremiah the prophet to give the verdict of judgment that they would be sold to Babylon. This time God gave them the choice of the type of “yoke” to be placed upon them. If they submitted to the judgment of God, the judgment would be more merciful, and they could remain in their own land under tribute to Babylon. But if they revolted against the divine judgment, they would be given the “yoke of iron” described in the law (Deut. 28:48).
They chose the iron yoke by following their prophet Hananiah, who claimed that God would overthrow the Babylonians within two years (Jer. 28:10-13). Their refusal to believe Jeremiah brought about the destruction of Solomon's temple and the 70-year captivity to Babylon under the iron yoke.
After 70 years, Daniel repented on behalf of his people (Dan. 9), and God changed their captivity from an iron yoke to a wooden yoke, allowing the captives to return to the old land and rebuild Jerusalem. They remained, however, under the wooden yoke of Medo-Persia, which had conquered Babylon by this time. Daniel's prophecies had made it clear that this captivity would be extended through four or five kingdoms—not merely Babylon itself.
And so Judea remained under Medo-Persia for two centuries, followed by Alexander's Grecian Empire, then the Roman Empire. Finally, the “little horn,” an extension of Rome, was to come, whose character was somewhat obscure in Daniel's day, but explained further in the book of Revelation. Taken together, all of these formed a continuous captivity for Judea (and other nations). If the Judeans had believed Daniel's prophecies, they would have known that it was the will of God that they be contented under the wooden yoke of bondage to these “beasts” until their time ended.
But as time passed, the Judeans chafed under the wooden yoke. False messiahs came and went, exciting the people to revolt, while many of the priests and rabbis taught the doctrines of discontent as well. Jeremiah’s words were forgotten, as well as the laws of tribulation. The more the people revolted in their hearts against the judgment of God (i.e., the wooden yoke), the more God put it in the hearts of their masters to oppress them further and inflict the lash of atrocities. But this only caused more discontent among the people, until finally, they revolted altogether.
From the divine perspective, the people again refused the wooden yoke of Rome, repeating the pattern set in the days of Jeremiah. They “broke” the wooden yoke (Jer. 28:10), and so God imposed a yoke of iron upon them, even as He had done in the days of Babylon. The rabbis and prophets of the two revolts against Rome were inspired by the same spirit that motivated Hananiah, the opponent of Jeremiah.
The Judeans were finally scattered into foreign lands and forbidden to set foot in the old city of Jerusalem that was now being built as a pagan city, Aelia Capitolina. Such is the character of the yoke of iron.
The Jewish rabbis then determined that the people were to submit to the wooden yoke until the Messiah came. They were not to try to return prior to that time. This even became ingrained into Jews by oaths. Anti-Zionist Rabbi Gedalya Liebermann of Australia wrote an article entitled, The Role of Zionism in the Holocaust, where he quoted from the Talmud Tractate Ksubos, p. 111a, saying,
“We have been forsworn by G-d ‘not to enter the Holy Land as a body before the predestined time’, ‘not to rebel against the nations’, to be loyal citizens, not to do anything against the will of any nation or its honour, not to seek vengeance, discord, restitution or compensation; ‘not to leave exile ahead of time.’ On the contrary; we have to be humble and accept the yoke of exile. To violate the oaths would result in ‘your flesh will be made prey as the deer and the antelope in the forest,’ and the redemption will be delayed. . .
“To violate the oaths is not only a sin, it is a heresy because it is against the fundamentals of our Belief. Only through complete repentance will the Almighty alone, without any human effort or intervention, redeem us from exile. This will be after G-d will send the prophet Elijah and Moshiach who will induce all Jews to complete repentance. At that time there will be universal peace.”
Thus, for 1,800 years after the Bar-Cochba revolt the Jews understood that their exile was divine judgment according to the Law. This was, however, only a partial resolution, for while it did cause them to submit to the wooden yoke, they did not repent of their rejection of Jesus Christ, nor did they see that rejection as having any bearing on their current condition.
When we come to modern times, we find that Zionism repudiated the earlier rabbinic decision that they remain in captivity until the coming of the Messiah. One of the earliest Zionist organizations in Palestine was called Betar, named after the last fortress of the Bar Cochba revolt. Bar Cochba was made a national hero of the more militant side of the Zionist movement, led by Vladimir Jabotinsky.
Like ancient Judaism, Zionism had two sides to it, one very militant, and the other relatively peaceful. But the bottom line is that both wanted to throw off the wooden yoke without repenting of their hostility against Jesus Christ. Zionism seemed determined by the arm of flesh to succeed where Bar Cochba had failed. The only “repentance” on their part was to change their minds, overthrowing the earlier rabbinic decision and reverting to the same spirit that brought about the two earlier disasters.
The law in Lev. 26:40-42 (quoted earlier) lays down the condition of confessing their iniquity and admitting their “hostility” against God before He would remember His covenant and remove their “yoke.” From a Christian perspective, they did not do this. They are still as hostile to Jesus Christ as ever.
And so, Zionism has re-established all the conditions for a final great disaster. Like the first two revolts, they have been encouraged by the illusions of early success. But the day of reckoning is coming soon.