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Jerusalem, Destruction of


DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM

Jesus had predicted the destruction of Jerusalem along with its Temple because of their denial of him as the Messiah. The destruction of the Temple and death of many Jews happened in 70 A.D., 40 years after that prediction. Besides the political destruction of Jerusalem and its inhabitants who, those who do not follow Jesus would also face spiritual damnation in the future.

Revolution was developing among the Jews against Roman rule. There were groups like zealots that organized such revolts. Forty years after Jesus’ warning, the Roman army, under the leadership of Titus, attacked the Jews and destroyed Jerusalem along with the Temple in 70 AD. The Jews would earnestly desire the intervention of the Messiah to save them from that distress. But no other Messiah would come because Jesus is the only Messiah, and they resolutely avoided him. According to the historian Josephus, the Roman army killed 1.1 million people and took away 97,000 as slaves to Rome. Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman army destroyed the prestigious Jewish Temple.

The prophecy of the destruction of the unrepentant happened within 40 years. The Christians who believed in Jesus escaped from the attack of Romans. They fled from Jerusalem because of persecution from Jews and because they believed in the words of Jesus about the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and had fled when they saw the sign of a Roman attack. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews” (Acts 11:19). According to the early Christian historians Eusebius and Epiphanius, the Christians in Jerusalem escaped to Pella, a Decapolis city prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.

It happened in 70 AD when the Roman army under the leadership of Titus attacked Jerusalem as a reaction to the Jewish revolt against Rome. According to the historian Josephus, the Roman army killed 1.1 million people and took away 97,000 as slaves to Rome. Many fled to areas around the Mediterranean Sea. The Roman army destroyed the prestigious Jewish Temple. Some viewed it as a wrath of God against Jews and Titus as God’s instrument for the punishment.

DESOLATION OF JERUSALEM

Desolate means deprived of inhabitants. Jesus predicted the desolation of Jerusalem that would happen because the Jews rejected the salvation that God offered them through Jesus. Before the destruction of the first Temple Solomon built, Jeremiah had also given a similar warning to the Israelites because of their rejection of his message for repentance. Through Jeremiah, God warned, “I will turn Jerusalem into a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; The cities of Judah I will make a waste, where no one dwells” (Jer 9:10). Before the Persians invaded Babylon, Jeremiah predicted the desolation of Babylon. “A nation from the north advances against it, making the land desolate so that no one can live there; human beings and animals have fled” (Jer 50:3). So, desolation is a state of destitution that is scary for any nation.

Biblically, the destitution of a city is a punishment from God for the sins of its inhabitants. Examples are the expulsion of our First Parents from the Garden of Eden, the destruction of people at the time of Noah, the collapse of the Tower of Babel, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jeremiah and Jesus warned of similar destructions for Jerusalem and its Temple. However, the resolute people did not listen to them. So, their prophesies took place on time.

As with the case of the hurricane forecast of the modern times, Jesus warned the Jews and his disciples of the imminent danger during their lifetime. However, God allowed 40 years for repentance and conversion. After that, the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem happened in 70 AD.

The attack of Romans against Jerusalem happened because of the repeated agitations of the Jewish radicals against the Roman government. Hence, the Romans ceased the agitation by fully destroying the Jews. Jesus foresaw this through his divine intuition and circumstantial assessment.

The prophecy of the destruction of the unrepentant happened within 40 years. The Christians who believed in Jesus escaped from the attack of Romans. They had fled from Jerusalem because of persecution from Jews and because they believed in the words of Jesus about the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews” (Acts 11:19). The remaining Christians fled when they saw signs of a Roman attack. According to the early Christian historians Eusebius and Epiphanius, the Christians in Jerusalem escaped to Pella when they noticed the signs of war in Jerusalem. It was a Decapolis city in the northern part of Perea, among the Transjordan hills.

According to Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem is the fulfilment of the divine prophecies in the Holy Scriptures. Moses warned the Israelites before their entry into the Promised Land, “If you do not obey the voice of the LORD, your God, carefully observing all his commandments and statutes which I give you today, all these curses shall come upon you and overwhelm you” (Deut 28:15). He continued, “The LORD will raise up against you a nation from afar, from the ends of the earth, that swoops down like an eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a nation of fierce appearance, that shows neither respect for the aged nor mercy for the young. They will consume the offspring of your livestock and the produce of your soil, until you are destroyed; they will leave you no grain or wine or oil, no issue of herd, no young of flock, until they have brought about your ruin. They will besiege you in each of your communities, until the great, fortified walls, in which you trust, come tumbling down all over your land” (Deut 28:49-52).

Before the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians in 722/721 BC, Hosea said, “They have come, the days of punishment! They have come, the days of recompense! Let Israel know it! ‘The prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad!’ Because your iniquity is great, great, too, is your hostility” (Hos 9:7). Isaiah spoke of the fall of Jerusalem: “For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of requital for the cause of Zion” (Isa 34:8). The Psalmist laments the fall of Jerusalem, “O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have left the corpses of your servants as food for the birds of the sky, the flesh of those devoted to you for the beasts of the earth. They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and no one is left to do the burying. We have become the reproach of our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those around us” (Ps 79:1-4). The history of the fall of the first Temple was repeated of the Temple Herod rebuilt.

The destruction of the Temple was in tune with God’s plan. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Titus said, “We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than the God who ejected the Jews out of these fortifications; for what could the hands of men, or any machines, do towards overthrowing these towers!” (Josephus B.J. §411). So, relying on the Temple guards or rebellious Jews would be dangerous. Rome will succeed and those who do not flee would face extreme consequences like death, deportation as slaves, or dispersal to foreign countries for forced labor.

FLEE FROM THE CITY

Predicting the fall of Jerusalem, Jesus warned, “Then those in Judaea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city” (Lk 21:21). During the past, the cities had fortifications. At the start of a war, the citizens will take refuge inside the fortified city while the army counter attacks the invaders. Jesus was sure of the fall of Jerusalem. Hence, it was unsafe for people to take shelter within the city walls. Those who believe in the words of Jesus must flee to the nearby mountain for rescue because the mighty Romans were concentrating their attack on the city.
A comparable situation happened to Lot and his family. The angels asked them to “flee to the hills at once, or you will be swept away” (Gen 19:17). At Lot’s request, the angels allowed them to take refuge in a small town called Zoar (Gen 19:18-22). The Lord then destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by showering sulfur and fire from heaven (Gen 19:24).

Jesus had warned those staying in the city to flee from there to save their lives. God had saved the lives of the righteous during the punishment of sinners with natural calamities. He protected Noah’s family during the deluge and Lot’s family during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Neither strong city walls nor an army can save our lives unless God is our refuge and fortress (Ps 91:2). God protects the lives of his faithful. “The punishment of the wicked you will see. Because you have the LORD for your refuge and have made the Most High your stronghold, No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps 91:8-12).

Jeremiah had given a similar warning to the Benjaminite people to flee from Jerusalem before the Babylonian attack on the city. “Seek refuge, Benjaminites, from the midst of Jerusalem! Blow the trumpet in Tekoa, raise a signal over Beth-haccherem; for disaster threatens from the north, and mighty destruction” (Jer 6:1).

The countryside means any area outside the fortress of Jerusalem. If the people in the field or in the neighbourhood take refuge in the fortress, the Roman army would destroy them. Fleeing away from the city would be a safe option for them.

Jesus advised people who were in three diverse locations to take refuge away from the city of Jerusalem. They were those in Judaea around Jerusalem, the people already in the city, and those who were in the city’s neighbourhood. They should realize that God had determined to destroy the city because of the sins of the Jews there.

DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND INNOCENT MAN’S BLOOD

When Pilate could not convince the Jews to release Jesus and they were on the verge of rioting, Pilate washed his hands in public and said, “‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves.’ And all the people answered, ‘Let his blood be upon us and upon our children’” (Mt 27:24-25).

Jesus’ blood stands for his life and sacrifice. He shed it for the forgiveness of the sins of all humanity. However, the entire crowd gathered at Jesus’ trial was so taken up by the influence of the Sanhedrin that they, out of their emotion, took up the curse of the innocent blood on them and their future generations. The Jews believed that the guilt of innocent blood shall fall upon the false witnesses and their children to the end of the world. Some interpreters view that Rome’s attack of Jerusalem after 40 years in 70 AD, the destruction of the Temple and its sacrifices, the assassination of many Jews, and the exile and dispersion of the Jews were results of the above pledge they made. The Catholic Church does not hold this view and attributes them to the Temple aristocracy and the supporters of Barabbas.

REFLECTION

God dwelt among the Israelites in the Holy of Holies of the Tent and later in the Temple Solomon built. When the Israelites abandoned God and ended up in idolatry, the Temple was destroyed. Babylonians and Romans were only instruments of God for this destruction. Now God dwells in the hearts of his faithful (Eph 3:17; 1 Cor 3:16). Jesus clarified the condition for this: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23).

 


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