13.01.05 Lk. 19:41-44
JESUS SEES THE COMING DESTRUCTION
41 As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, 42 saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
“If you knew this day what would bring peace.” There are few verses more stunning than this one. This was the official presentation of Jesus to the nation of Israel as their Messiah, as the Prince of Peace, and as the Lamb of God. His statement and His entry are a fulfillment of the prophetic words of the Prophet Daniel. The phrase “this day” is a reference to the day Jesus enter Jerusalem and fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 118,
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The day that the messiah would ride into Jerusalem finally arrived. The next verse (25a) reads, “Lord, save us!” which is precisely why the people shouted “Hosanna” (Lk. 19:42), which means Lord, save us. The crowds knew that they were shouting a reference to Psalms when they addressed this phrase to Jesus – for they wanted Him to be their king; their messiah. Unfortunately, national Israel would reject Jesus, which is why Jesus later said in Luke 19:42 that if they “knew this day” would bring them peace – the phrase is a reference to Psalm 118:24.
Again, the humanity of Jesus is heavy as He wept. In this phrase the word for wept means to cry loudly. He looked into the future and could see the coming destruction of the temple, the dispersion of His people, and the rejection of His love. He wept because His people were still looking for a political leader to bring peace that only He could provide; the leadership preferred their socially popular aristocratic and prosperous life rather than a holy life committed to God.
“For the days will come on you.” Some translations read “the days are coming,” which is judgment terminology – a prediction based upon similar statements in the Old Testament that divine judgment is at hand. The destruction that Jesus foresaw was one of horrific carnage. As His followers saw the prophecies come into fulfillment, they followed His advice and escaped. History recorded the 9 steps to Jerusalem’s destruction:
- In A.D. 66, Florus, who was the Roman appointee over Jerusalem, stole money from the temple treasury. In response, the Zealots rioted first in Caesarea, then along the coast and Galillee, and soon it was widespread – an attempt to gain independance. Florus fought and eventually crucified an estimated 2,000 Zealots, but had to get reinforcements from Gallus.
- In response, General Sestus Gallus, who was the legate of Syria, marched his army from Caesarea to Jerualem in an attempt to restore order. He began to set up embankments, but was unable to capture the Temple Mount because the Zealots cut off his supply line.
- Gallus was forced to retreat to Caesarea during which time he was killed and his army suffered heavy casualties and lost significant military equipment. This Zealot victory encouraged many Jews, including some priests and Levites, to join their ranks.
- At this time Messianic Jews remembered the prophecy of Jesus when He said, “when your enemies will build an embankment against you.” (Lk. 19:43). This was a confirmation to the Messianic Jews that Jesus really was the expected prophet and Messiah. Consequently, there was a mass exodus of Messianic believers, twenty to twenty-five thousand from Jerusalem and approximately eighty thousand from the Galilee, who went to Pella and other Decapolis cities. There they waited until the siege was over. Cleopas, who was a leading church figure after the martyrdom of James, the half-brother of Jesus, organized the mass evacuation. Two church fathers, Eusebius and Epiphanius, said many of these believers lived in the area of Pella.
- It was bad enough that Gaius was killed, but the Romans passionately hated defeat. In response, Emperor Nero authorized Vespasian to crush the revolt using whatever means necessary.
- General Vespasian established the siege against Jerusalem, but was called back to Rome to be crowned emperor upon the suicide of Emperor Nero.
- The siege was continued by his son, General Titus, who attempted to make peace with the Jews, but they refused. According to Josephus, by this time the highly feared Legio X Fretensis, better known as the Tenth Roman Legion from Damascus, had surrounded the city. Due to the stronghold nature of Jerusalem, Titus ordered his men to build a siegeworks, enlarged the embankments begun by Gaius, and attacked the Holy City. The following paragraphs capsulize the graphic words of Josephus:
So now Titus’s banks were advanced a great way, notwithstanding his soldiers had been very much distressed from the wall. He then sent a part of horsemen and ordered they should lay ambushes for those that went out into the valleys to gather food.
Josephus, Wars 5.11.1 (446)
Now the length of this wall was forty furlongs, one only abated. Now this wall without were erected thirteen places to keep garrisons in, the circumference of which, put together, amounted to ten furlongs, the whole was completed in three days; so that what would naturally have required some months, was done in so short an interval as is incredible. When Titus had therefore encompassed the city with this wall and put garrisons into proper places, he went around the wall, at the first watch of the night, and observed how the guard was kept; the second watch he allotted to Alexander, the commanders of legions took the third watch.
Josephus, Wars 5.12.2 (508-510)
Now, so soon the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the subjects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other such work to be done) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is [the towers of] Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne, and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.
Josephus, Wars 7.1.1 (1-4)
Luke said this coming destruction (21:22) would be the “time of punishment,” prophesied because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people. That may be why the temple doors mysteriously opened for the Romans to enter, as reported by the historian:
The security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate opened for the advantage of their enemies.
Josephus, Wars 6.5.3 (296)
- The four-year encampment resulted in starvation for the city’s occupants. The famine was so severe that Josephus wrote that those within the city fought each other for small morsels of food. When Jesus looked into the future and saw not only the destruction of the temple, but also the suffering that occurred for their refusal to accept Him.
Concerning Jerusalem, Josephus further wrote that the pain and suffering they endured was the worst they ever experienced in their history. Those who attempted an escape were caught and crucified a short distance outside the city walls for all inside to see. With the decline of moral and religious values, God’s chosen people acted worse than animals. One account is of a woman who cooked and ate her own son in an attempt to survive the starvation. The news of the event horrified everybody, and the survivors deemed those who had already died as “happy.”
Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food; but the robbers would search. Now of those who perished by famine in the city, the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable; for if so much as a shadow of any food did appear, a war was commenced presently; and the dearest friends fell a fighting one with another about it, snatching from each other the most miserable supports of life. Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food, but robbers would search them when they were expiring, lest any should have any concealed food in their bosoms, and counterfeited dying.
Josephus, Wars 6.3.3 (193-195)
Josephus, who was an eyewitness to the destruction, was so moved by what he saw, that he recorded his personal opinions, something which he seldom did.
But why do I describe the shameless impudence that the famine brought on men in eating their inanimate things, while I am going to relate a matter of fact, the things to which no history relates, either among the Greeks or Barbarians! It is horrible to speak of, and incredible when heard.
Josephus, Wars 6.3.3 (199)
The madness of the seditious did also increase together with their famine, and both miseries were every day inflamed more and more; for there was no corn (grain) which appeared anywhere publicly, but the robbers came running into, and searching men’s private houses; and then, if they found any, they tormented them because they had denied they had any. And if they found none, they tormented them worse because they supposed they had more carefully concealed it. The indication they made use of whether they had any or not, was taken from the bodies of these miserable wretches; which, if they were in good case, they supposed they were in no want at all of food. But if they wasted away they walked off without searching any farther; nor did they think it proper to kill such as these because they would very soon die for want of food.
Josephus, Wars 5.10.2 (424b-426a)
It was now a miserable case and a sight that would bring tears to our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more powerful had more than enough and the weaker were lamenting (for the want of it). But the famine was too hard for other passions, and it is destructive to nothing so much as to modesty; for what was otherwise worthy of reverence was in this case despised insomuch that children pulled out the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and, what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives.
Josephus, Wars 5.10.3 (429-430)
The events that occurred in Jerusalem were so horrific that the Jews were forced, by the severity of the famine, to eat their own children. This kind of cannibalistic action was completely unknown even by the pagan Greeks and Barbarians. Yet the historian’s account records the fulfillment of the prophetic words of Moses.
You will eat the flesh of your sons;
You will eat the flesh of your daughters.
The historian continues his lengthy account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the famine that accompanied it. He presented the account of a certain wealthy woman named Mary, who had moved into the city with her son. She, too, was among the famine victims who became unusually desperate. Of her Josephus wrote:
She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, “O you miserable infant! For whom shall I preserve you in this war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives we will be slaves! This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us: – yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be my food, and be a fury to these seditious varlets and a byword to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews.”
As soon as she said this she slew her son; and then roasted him, and ate half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon the seditious came in presently and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them; and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Thereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight; when she said to them, “This is my own son and what was done was my own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half let the rest be reserved for me also.”
After which those men went out trembling being never so much affrighted at anything as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while everybody laid his miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled as if this unheard of action had been by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or see such miseries.
Josephus, Wars 6.3.4 (208-213)
Various attempts to escape were made by the desperate defenders. One such individual was a freedom fighter, Simon, who thought he could escape capture by merely acting like the messiah. The prolific Josephus recorded an interesting account of Simon, who after the destruction of the temple, but still during the siege against Jerusalem, realized he and his men were going to be destroyed. Simon, therefore, took several men, and entered the tunnels below the temple in an attempt to escape. They dug for a while before they realized their plight was hopeless and their provisions were nearly exhausted. Simon then decided he would escape by dressing like the messiah and magically appearing before the people. The story:
And now Simon, thinking that he might be able to astonish and delude the Romans, put on a white frock, and buttoned upon him a purple cloak, appeared out of the ground in the place the temple had formerly been. At the first, indeed, those that saw him were greatly astonished, and stood still where they were; but afterward came near to him, and asked him who he was, but bade them call their captain; and when they ran to tell him, Terentius Rufus, who was left to command the army there, came to Simon, and learned the whole truth, and put him in bonds, and let Caesar know that he was taken. Thus did God bring this man to be punished for what bitter and savage tyranny he had exercised against his countrymen.
Josephus, Wars 7.2.1 (29-31)
- By the end of A.D. 70, the temple was a heap of rubble. The pride of the Jewish establishment was utterly destroyed and, in fact, the Sadducees and Herodians were likewise destroyed. Throughout the world, the Jewish people mourned the day of ‘Tisha B’Bv, the day both temples were destroyed. Josephus, who rarely shared his personal thoughts, recorded this commentary:
And where is not that great city, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which was fortified by so many walls around it, which could hardly contain the instruments prepared for the war, and which had so many ten thousands of men to fight for it? Where is the city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations; and has nothing but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those that has destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins, some unfortunate old men also lie upon the ashes of the temple, and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach.
Josephus, Wars 7.8.7 (377)
13.01.05.A JUDAEA CAPTA COIN. This coin was minted by the Romans in honor of the conquest over the Jewish people in A.D. 70. No other victory was commemorated by such a large number of coins as the crushing of this revolt. The front honors Emperor Vespasian and the reverse side (right) shows the woman (symbolic of Judea) in a captive position and a man with his hands tied behind his back. SOURCE: Wikipedia Commons.
When the events of the destruction of Jerusalem are compared to the actions of Pilate, it is obvious that his response to Jesus was incredibly compassionate. Jerusalem was in ruins and the Roman army went to the Dead Sea to destroy Qumran and Masada. Soon the Jewish believers, who had previously fled to Pella, returned, and the Holy City was rebuilt.
Unfortunately, within six decades after the temple was destroyed, another messianic pretender, Simon bar Kokhba, arose. He was determined to give the Jews the national freedom they longed for. In the early days of the Bar Kokhba Revolt (A.D. 132-135), many believed that he was their messiah. He minted coins that declared freedom from Roman domination.
Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, there is no significant extra-biblical literature concerning tension between Jewish believers and the Synagogue. However, tensions increased dramatically after the destruction because Jewish believers had escaped the Roman slaughter and were considered to be cowards by those Jews who remained and suffered. But by the beginning of the Bar Kokhba War in the 130s, there was a complete separation between Jewish believers and traditional Jews. In fact, Eusebius wrote that Bar Kokhba punished believers because they refused to fight against the Romans.
13.01.05.B BAR KOKHBA COIN (A.D. 132) Bar Kokhba Revolt Coin. LEFT: The palm tree represents sovereignity, as it has throughout centuries past. RIGHT: Palm branches and the words “For the Freedom of Jerusalem.” Wikipedia Commons.
But the Romans responded with might, power, and fury. The revolt was crushed by Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 135) who evicted all Jews from Jerusalem, destroyed all trees and gardens within ten Roman miles (stadia) of the city – probably both for military use and to devastate the Jews. He also renamed the land Philistinia, in honor of the ancient Philistines. This is the origin of the modern term Palestine.
Finally, Jesus clearly told them that they failed to “recognize the time of your visitation.” Had they carefully observed Daniel’s prophecies, they would have known the time of the Messiah’s coming was near. Even the magi, those wise men from the east, knew the time was near. Even if the leading Jews missed the prophecies, the visit of the magi should have given them the proverbial wake-up call. Yet they refused to recognize the obvious signs and related consequences. No wonder Jesus was in such deep sorrow for them.
. For additional information related to Daniel’s prophecy, see Appendix 15 and 16.01.18.Q5.
. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 315.
. 1 Sam. 2:31; 2 Kg. 20:17; Jer. 7:32-34; 31:38; Isa. 39:6; Zech. 14:1.
. Josephus, Wars 2.14.8 (306-08); 5.11.1 (449-51).
. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 341.
. Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 26, page 14.
. Eusebius, Church History 3.5.3; Epiphanius, Panarion 29.7.7.
. Josephus, Wars 5.7.2.
. Isa. 63:4; Jer. 5:29; Hos. 9:7.
. Josephus, Wars 6.4.4-5.
. A growing number of scholars believe this date was the date of destruction for Solomon’s temple, and it became the date to observe other horrific events in Jewish history such as the destruction of the second temple and when the spies returned from Canaan and rejected the land promised by God. Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 10, Session 2.
. Tongue, “Decapolis.” 1:379.
. For further study, see Yigael Yigael, Bar-Kokhba. New York: Random House. 1971.
. Cited by Flusser, “The Jewish-Christian Schism (Part II).” 32.
. Flusser, “The Jewish-Christian Schism (Part II).” 30-31.