Sunday, July 17, 2016

Horrors of 2nd Temple and Jerusalem Destruction in 70 CE

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                       
The rebuilding of 2nd Temple in Jerusalem in 349 BCE 

2,000 years ago there were 8 million Jews throughout the world compared to the 14 million of today. Inside the Roman Empire, Jews made up 6-9% of the population.  Today we make up 0.02% of the world population.  The eastern half of the Roman Empire made up 20% of the the people.  Josephus wrote, "Men of Jewish blood in great numbers are diffused among the native populations all over the world, especially in SYRIA, where the 2 nations are neighbors."  It was in 349 BCE that the 2nd Temple was rebuilt being the 1st Temple had been destroyed.  It stood for 420 years, destroyed by the Romans soldiers along with thousands and thousands of Jewish lives.
Destruction of 2nd Temple and Jerusalem in September 70 CE
Like Nazis destroying Warsaw in WWII, the Romans were attacking Jerusalem in 70 CE.  First, the Romans built a high earthen barricade around Jerusalem to keep Jews inside and unable to escape.  The Romans practiced crucifixion on all their enemies, so crucified Jews they found.  They placed crosses atop the hill to terrorize those watching from inside the city.  500 were crucified in one day.  The Romans' siege of the city brought about starvation in Jerusalem.  In this terrible siege of Jerusalem according to Josephus, 1,100,000 Jews were slain.  He often exaggerated numbers, but this appears to be the correct number during this Passover. .  At this time, Jerusalem usually had a population of about 120,000, BUT at the time of this event, the city and its surrounding area could accommodate 2,500,000, the number Josephus reported to have been trapped by the Roman siege during that year's Passover pilgrimage.  Tacitus, a true Roman historian, reported 600,000 slain.

An additional 114,000 Jews were taken captive and out of them, 17,000 were slaughtered in bloody shows as the Romans brought them to Rome by way of Syria.
Josephus Flavius (Yoseph ben Mattityahu ha-Cohen (38-100 CE) Palestinian Jew of a priestly family.
In 64 CE he went to Rome on a semi-public mission.  Jews had revolted and had temporarily gained their independence in 66, and Josephus was regarded as an expert in political affairs and was sent as a representative of the Revolutionary Government to Galilee where he assumed the supreme military command.  Romans attacked Galilee in 67.  He was head of resistance then.  He went over to the Romans in 70, calling himself Flavius.  In the end, he lived in Rome.  
Josephus was a Jewish general who surrendered to the Romans and collaborated with them by being the historian for the Romans.  One must remember that his audience were the Romans of the day.  He later recorded the times vividly in his book, "The Jewish War."  He wrote, "In the city, famine raged.  It's victims dropped dead in countless numbers, and the horrors were unspeakable."

Titus's Roman legions used flaming torches of wood to set fire to the Temple and other buildings in the final battle. Wrote Josephus, "Through the roar of the flames as the Romans swept relentlessly on could be heard the groans of the falling...the entire city seemed to be on fire.  The Temple Hill, enveloped in flames from top to bottom, appeared to be boiling up from its very roots."

The Romans "were so avaricious that they pushed on, climbing over the piles of corpses;  for many valuable were found in the passages and all scruples were silenced by the prospect of gain."  The Romans took so much gold from the Jews that its price fell by half in Syria.

Romans sent thousands of Jewish captives to work on projects in Egypt.  Titus had thousands of Jewish captives killed in gladiatorial contests and staged fights between them and wild beasts to celebrate his victory and, once, his brother's birthday; and Vespasian, the Roman Emperor, had Jews who couldn't swim shackled with their hands behind them and thrown into the deepest parts of the Dead Sea to test the theory that no one could sink in the heavily salted water.
Masada where Jews held out for 3 years against Roman soldiers
THREE YEARS after destroying Jerusalem, the Romans had to put down the final Jewish revolt of the war by capturing Masada, the high mountain holding King Herod's palace where Jews had held out and finally committed suicide as a group rather than suffer in being taken alive.  They knew the cruelty of the Romans!
Bar Kokhba d: 135 CE. 
By 132 CE, a Jewish Aluf (General), Bar Kokhba (Ben Kosiba Simeon, nephew of Rabbi Eleazar of Modiin and of Davidic descent, thought by some to be the Messiah,   took Jerusalem back and held out for 3 years before being killed by the Romans.  By 135 CE, Romans were so angry that they changed the name of the city and the land to Palaestina (Palestine).  The Roman counterattack against the Jews was the army of 35,000 under Hadrian and the commander, Julius Severus.  The Romans took their 50 fortresses and 985 villages, and of 580,000 Jewish casualties besides those who died of hunger and disease.  All this caused Judea to fall into desolation.  The population was  annihilated, and Jerusalem was turned into a heathen city, barred to Jews!  Those Jews who did survive had to find a way out of the city without being seen as only death awaited them from the Romans.
Note that the fall of the 2nd Temple was so terrible for the Jewish people that we remember this date every year since with a fast during Tisha B'Av.  This year the remembrance starts the evening of Saturday, August 13th and lasts until Sunday, August 14th.  On the Hebrew calendar this is the 9th of Av.  The fast is a 24 hour fast, sundown to sundown.  It was a most terrible experience for the people.  No other people  has suffered a devastation comparable in the ancient world.  "No destruction ever wrought by G-d or man approached the wholesale carnage of this war," said Josephus.

"Then Josephus speaks of a 1,100,000 deaths as a result of the Great Revolt. We learned of the result of the Bar Kochba Revolt from a Roman source, Cassius Dio. He gives as a number 580,000 Jews who were killed in battle alone. But doesn't count the civilian population at the end of the Bar Kochba Revolt, but he tells of 985 villages or towns and 50 fortresses. Archaeology teaches us that those numbers that Cassius Dio records are apparently trustworthy." (Updated 8/15/16),7340,L-4841735,00.html                                                                     
Arch of Titus seen in Rome even today
Titus returned to Rome leading a procession of Jewish slaves.  Rome then had a Jewish population of 50,000.  The city held 11 synagogues.

So with so many of us slaughtered back in 70 CE, how did we survive?  For several hundred years before, more Jews had been living outside Israel than inside.  By this year, more Jews were living in Alexandria, Egypt than in the capital of Jerusalem!  Jews were still living in Babylonia. 250,000 were living there.   This is where the famous Babylonian Talmud was written that is still referred to today. 1 million Jews were living in Babylonia at this time.  Only 120,000 Jews  had been living in Jerusalem.

  By 1000 CE, Jews had moved into France and the Rhineland.  In fact, Jews were in today's France before 70 CE.  Organized communities existed there made up of Jews in the period of the Roman Empire.  Their position deteriorated with the triumph of Christianity.  Church Councils took steps to enforce the conventional anti-Jewish codes.  Jews lived in Cologne, Germany by 321 CE because the Emperor Constantine had issued regulations then which indicate the existence of an organized Jewish community with rabbis and elders there.  They probably had settled in other places on the Rhineland at the time.  We know a big community of Jews lived in Worms, Germany early on.
Edited 9:37pm Sunday. 
Resource:  THE JEWISH CONNECTION, book by M. Hirsh Goldberg, 1977.pp34-38.
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia-Josephus

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