Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jerusalem's Importance to Jews: The Defense from 70 to 135 CE

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                                
David, King of Israel from 1010 to 970 BCE 

When David, son of Jesse, who was the grandson of Ruth the Moabite  and Boaz-son of Judah  from the tribe of Judah, was king, he ruled Israel from c.1000 to 960 BCE;  over 3,000 years ago.  Israel's 1st king, Saul (11th century BCE) from the tribe of Benjamin, was killed in battle of Mt. Gilboa along with is 3 of his sons, when David declared himself king and made Hebron his capital, reigning there for 7 1/2 years.  Today Hebron  lies 18 miles south of Jerusalem. During the 2nd millennium BCE, before Abraham's day of 1948 BCE, Hebron  was under the control of the Hittites.  It's the city that Abraham had bought the land with the Cave of Machpelah in which to bury his wife and niece, Sarah.  Since the Arab Palestinians have now taken over this city , there is a mosque over this site.   When Saul's living son, Eshbaal, was killed in battle later, General Abner and all the 12 tribes accepted David as king.
David fighting the Amonites

It was in David's 8th year of his reign that David captured the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem which he made as his new capital of a united Israel , and where he moved the Ark of the Covenant from Moses. He dealt leniently with the Jebusites.  Under his direction, the fortress of Zion and a House of Heroes were built for his guard.  A tomb was constructed inside the city for himself and his dynasty.  It was the religious center of Israel.    He won over the Philistines and annexed the entire coastal belt, so Israel's region was at the Red Sea.    He defeated the Edomites, crushed Ammon and Moab which became subjects to Israel, and then defeated Aram (Syria) where he annexed large tracts of territory, including Damascus, and went as far as the Euphrates River. He had created  an empire.

 David then signed treaties with Tyre and Sidon, causing his frontiers to an extent never again attained.  He made preparations to build  a central temple and organized a national administration.  He was human, with many virtues and some vices that are acknowledged in our Tanakh (Bible). For instance, at times he ruled by his passions, shown in his conduct with Bathsheba.  He became a religious symbol and the feeling was that his descendants would include the Meshiach.  Both Christianity and Islam show they admire David as well.
Solomon's Temple 
King Solomon (970-930 BCE) 
David's son, Solomon, enlarged the city by adding the Palace and the Temple, Israel's 1st.
Cohens (Priests) of Aaron's line,  serving in the Temple.  
He also enriched the city with many commercial ventures and heavy taxation, which wasn't good.  The taxation and expected volunteer workers without pay caused the revolt which created Judah out of Israel's southern part.
After his death, the empire of Israel divided with the tribe of Judah in the south leaving the union and becoming the state of Judah.   They kept Jerusalem as their capital along with Solomon's son, Rehoboam (933-917)  as its king.  Mattaniah, calling himself Zedekiah later was the 19th king after Rehoboam, who reigned from 597 to 586 BCE.  He was installed as king by the Babylonian enemy, Nebuchadnezzar, who had attacked Judah in 597 and again taken captives in 586 BCE.   This Babylonian king killed Zedekiah's sons before his very eyes, then Zedikiah's  eyes were put out and he was put in prison in Babylon where he died.

 This was brought about because the Judean king had joined forces with Egypt against the Babylonian attack which had failed during his 9th year of his reign.  Syria, then known as Aram-Dammesek, was the most important Aramean kingdom in Syria in the 10th to 8th centuries BCE.  It was a constant danger to Israel after Solomon had died.  It frequently exploited Israel in its disputes with Judah.  It joined the kings of Israel, Judah and Syria in opposing the Assyrians in 853, 848 and 845 BCE.  In 805 BCE, the Assyrians took Damascus and forced the king to pay a heavy tribute.  The Israeli kings saw this as an opportunity to get back their land conquered by Aram and even to annex Aram for a time.  In 733 and 732 BCE, Aram was plundered and its population was exiled and this ended its existence as an independent state.

At the time of division between Israel and Judah, Jeroboam (933-912 BCE)  had been chosen to be king of Israel.  Their 18th and last king was Hoshea who reigned from 730 to 721 BCE.  The Assyrians had attacked and taken captives in 722 to 721 BCE.
Assyrian  King Shalmaneser took Jewish slaves in 722 -721 BCE. Hoshea, king of Israel (730-721 BCE) 
revolted against Shalmaneser, but fell into his hands.  Shalmaneser died during the siege of Samaria.  
At the time, the king of Judah was Ahaz (735- 720) BCE.   Judah had been attacked by Israel and Syria, while the Edomites and Philistines had been raiding and pillaging  his most southern part of Judah.  The prophet, Isaiah,  had warned him, but he had gone against his advice and sought aid from Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria. who had  invaded Syria and Israel in 733 BCE.  Judah then became an Assyrian vassal and was also subjected by Assyria to Assyrian idolatry.
Babylonian destruction of 597, 586 BCE 
Babylon; land of Shinar or of the Kasdim (Chaldees, the cradle of humanity and scene of the Tower of Babel, home of Hammurabi, the lawgiver,  the symbol of insolent pagan tyranny and present ruler, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-561 BCE) who had inherited the Assyrian Empire.  After his conquest of Judah from 597 and 586 BCE, he exiled many Jews to Babylon.  Ten of the 12 tribes of Israel had been exiled by Assyria previously, and it was they who made up a large Jewish population of Babylon.
Ezekiel the Prophet in Babylon (today's Iraq).He was a member of the priestly family of Cohens of Zadok, probably serving in the Temple before its destruction in 586 BCE.  He was exiled to Tel Abib on the river Kebar in Babylonia where he prophecied for 22 years from 592 to 570 BCE.  He forsaw the destruction of Jerusalem after which the people of Israel would rehabilitate itself.  
  The Jews of Babylon remained in constant touch with the Jews in Eretz Israel.
Jews leaving Babylon for Jerusalem
King Cyrus telling Jews they
could return to Jerusalem

  Cyrus, king of Persia (today's Iran)  permitted the Jews to return to Judah in 538 BCE. and to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem!  By 519 BCE, they were able to renew the Temple worship.   The Jews regarded Cyrus as a divine agent for allowing this.  Not all Jews went back, however. They had been away for 50 years.  Hillel was a leader who returned.     Cyrus was in the position to do this good deed  because during the course of history, he had overrun the Babylonian Empire, which included Eretz Israel.  His policy of treating his subject people was most enlightened.  Some think he was the son of Queen Esther, married to King Ahashueros of Persia, who was Jewish.  Cyrus died  in 529 BCE.
Working on 2nd Temple rebuilding in Jerusalem,
destroyed in 586 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar, rebuilt from 538-515 BCE ,
some 70 years later.  

Jerusalem was now the capital of a Persian province, autonomous in internal matters, and under the rule of the high priest or Cohen of the House of Zadok.  In the 5th century BCE, Jerusalem's walls were repaired by Nehemiah, governor of Judah.  Ezra brought about a spiritual reform.  He was also from the priestly family of Zadok and was a Cohen and was a scribe for the Persian government.   All the nobles and 1/10th of the people were brought in to fill the half-empty city by official decree.  They had this theocratic rule continue in the Hellenistic times, and the city prospered materially.  This was because the Jews that lived far away regarded Jerusalem as its spiritual center.  

Hellenization grew under a Ptolemaic rule (Macedonian king of Egypt) from 312 to 198 BCE, and then under the Seleucids (Alexander the Great's general, founder Seleucus Nicator)  it led to try to establish a parallel Greek city on the western ridge.  Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reign 175-163 BCE)  intervened in favor of Hellenization and this led to the desecration of the Temple and religious persecution of the Jews which brought about the Hasmonean revolt.  Anatiochus occupied Jerusalem, plundered the Temple treasure and used for to convert it into a frontier-province.  The uprising of the Jewish people caused this Greek King to suppress it with great cruelty.  Thousands of Jews were killed and many sold into slavery.  He then brought in gentile settlers into Jerusalem and fortified the Acra as a stronghold of the Hellenizers to dominate the city, and began a fierce religious persecution of the Jews.  He forbade circumcision and the observance of the Sabbath.  He desecrated the Temple altar and set up pagan altars in other towns, forcing Jews to participate in pagan ceremonies.  His son, Antiochus V (164-162 BCE) continued until 163 BCE when he granted them religious and some political autonomy.  Antiochus IX reigned from 125 to 95 BCE and was defeated in 107 when trying to help Samaria. He was under siege by a Jewish army.

It was Judah the Maccabee, eldest son of Mattathias the Hasmonean who succeeded his father as leader of the revolt against Antiochus the Greek king ruling over Syria  in 167-166 BCE.  He was called The Hammerer.  This is because of his guerilla warfare style of using ambush, rapid movement, and night-attacks.  He occupied Jerusalem in 164 when he purified the Temple and brought assistance to Jewish communities in the area across the Jordan on the east side and Galilee.  Then he was defeated by strong forces under Lysias, a Syrian general in 163 at Bet Zechariah.  Lysias, who died in 162 BCE,  actually murdered by the pretender, Demetrius Soter.   was in a position where he had to recognize Jewish religious freedom.  Judah the Maccabee, however, also wanted political freedom, too, and was killed in battle at Elasa.  He has become the prototype of a hero among the Jews.  The story of his life brings to us today the  holiday of Chanukah.  Our hero died in 160 BCE.  Within  c. 30 years, the Romans took over the story.   Jews were in Rome by 139 BCE as Jewish slaves were brought there.

Antipater, an Idumean-of the Edomites,  was ruler of Judea from 63 to 43 BCE.  He had a lot of influence since he supported Hyrcanus in his war against his brother, Aristobulus.  He had assisted the Romans.  He was the father of Herod.  Anitpater joined Julius Caesar after his victory over Pompey, and recruited Jewish and Nabatean troops for his army.  Caesar made Antipater the financial administrator of Judea in 47 BCE and he became an effective ruler of the country.  He appointed his sons, Phasael and Herod to the chief administrative posts.

 The Romans had taken over from the Greeks and were occupiers of Judah and it's capital, Jerusalem.  By the year 73 BCE, Herod I, son of Antipater the Idumean and Cypros the Nabatean, was made king of Judea, and this lasted until 4 BCE.  His father had made him governor of Galilee, and he seemed to enjoy executing dissidents.  The Sanhedrin was a viable part of the government at the time and they summoned him before this court and was saved from a death punishment for his acts by Hyrcanus and Sextus Caesar, governor of Syria. Herod rebuilt the Temple and erected a huge surrounding outer wall, now known as the Wailing Wall, then the Western Wall where Jews of today come to pray since they can't pray on the Temple Mount since that is policed by a Jordanian religious leader by agreement.

 The Parthians, an empire of Iranic people (Distribution of Iranian peoples in 100 BCE: who were  SarmatiaScythia,  Bactria and the Parthian Empire from the 3rd century BCE to 226 CE who ruled over the Jews in Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Media,  made Antigonus (Mattathias) King in 40-37 BCE.  This is when Herod escaped to Rome and was then appointed king of Judea by the senate.  The Jews of the Roman Empire looked upon the Parthians as their future savior for in Parthia the Jews had much autonomy under  the exilarch.  The exilarch refers to "  the leaders of the Diaspora Jewish community in Babylon following the deportation of King Jeconiah/Jehoiachin (598-597 BCE)  and his court into Babylonian exile after the first fall of Jerusalem in 597 BCE and augmented after the further deportations following the destruction of the kingdom of Judah in 587 BCE. The people in exile were called golah (Jeremiah 28:629:1) or galut(Jeremiah 29:22)". The famous rabbinic schools in Mesopotamia began to flourish under their rule.  Antigonus was the last Hasmonean king.

When Pompey (106-48 BCE), a Roman General, captured Jerusalem in 63, but left the Temple's shrine intact.  He entered the Holy of Holies, which  was not a good thing.  Judea was made a tributary and stripped of the territories acquired by the Hasmoneans.  Aristobulus and his family were taken to Rome to show off Pompey's triumph.  Pompey terminated the Jew's independence they had enjoyed since the days of Simon the Maccabee.

Aristobulus, son of Herod and Mariaanme, now a Judean prince from 35 BCE to 7 BCE had been given permission to return to Judea in 39 where he took refuge at the court of Chalcis.  The Parthians helped him to re-capture Jerusalem in 40, and he put to death  Herod's brother, Phasael.  He also mutilated his own uncle Hyrcanus so as to disqualify him for the position of high priesthood.  He ruled Judea as king and high priest.  When the Romans drove the Parthians from Syria in 39, Herod attacked Antigonus who was defeated in battle.  Antigonus had fortified himself in Jerusalem, but was captured after a 5 months' siege and then put to death.
After Herod's death and the deposition of his son and successor, Archelaus in 6 CE, the city was ruled by Roman Procurators except from 41 to 44 when Agrippa reigned.  It was during the procurator, Pontius Pilate, that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem in 29 CE.  The Romans continued to be unbearable to all those who weren't crucified, as thousands of Jews were at this time, and they revolted in 66.

Fall of Jerusalem and the Temple: 70 CE: 
 After 3 years of independence, the city was taken by the Romans under Titus and fell in 70.  It was a most horrible fall.
The Romans had the Jews trapped in Jerusalem with the wall around it.  Food was not to be found after a period of time and people were starving to death.  Because so many were in the city at the time, the crowded condition caused diseases and then epidemics spread.  The Jews held on.  So the enemy brought troops outside the wall and had the latest of weapons.  They attacked these starving people and used fire to spread destruction.  The Jews repelled their enemy a number of times. The Roman campaign thus took longer than they had expected to destroy the Jewish population and it was costing more troops than they thought.  Street to street fighting raged with hand -to-hand combat between heavily armed troops and starving defenders.  Some tried to escape through their sewer system, but they were flushed out by fire.  The city lay in ruins, still smoking while the survivors were rounded up to be used as slave laborers or to be killed.  All the victims of the bombings of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Tokyo, Rotterdam, Coventry and London added together do not equal the number of Jews killed by the Romans in the siege of Jerusalem in the year 70.
Aluf Bar Kokhba who held Jerusalem from 132 to 135 CE
Bar Kokhba, a Jewish general, which means "Jewish Star", whose real name was Simeon ben Kosiba, was a revolutionary leader and of Davidic descent.  An outbreak of the revolt against Hadrian occurred in 132 which he led.  Some people thought he was the awaited Messiah.   He saw that Jerusalem was being rebuilt as a Roman colony.  Circumcision was again prohibited.  Occupation by the Romans was causing great distress and it had been 62 years since Jerusalem had fallen and was in Roman hands.

Bar Kokhba's forces captured Jerusalem and the claim heard was that they had annihilated a legion.  They were able to hold it for 3 years.  In 133 the Romans counterattacked with an army of 35,000 under Hadrian, Roman emperor (117-138)  and the commander, Julius Severus.  The enemy had first entered through the Galilee.  They fought against actions for the Valley of Jezreel, Ephraim and the Judean Hills and then took Jerusalem.  In 134 and 135, the Romans began to work on the Jews' last stronghold of Betar and reduced the remaining hill and cave strongholds, killing Bar Kokhba.  Records tell of the destruction of 50 fortresses and 985 villages; and of 580,000 Jewish casualties besides those who died of hunger and disease.  Then Judea fell into desolation;  its population was almost annihilated and it turned into a heathen city, barred to Jews.  He was said to be the cause of the Roman Army's worst nightmare, lasting against them for 3 years. After this, the Romans renamed Israel and Judah, which they also called Judea, as Palestine.  The name reflected the Phoenicians, Israel's worst enemies.  Palestine was a name Greeks first used.  The land used to be called Palestinian Syria in classical antiquity.  Romans tried to erase the presence of Judeans by renaming the land that the Jews themselves called Eretz Canaan, and later as Eretz Israel.  

After Jerusalem fell, no one wanted to live in Jerusalem again.  It has waited for 2,000 years to regain its people. Nothing grew here except weeds and mosquitoes.  It was a wasteland, a backwash.  Jews managed to remain through much poverty with the help of other Jews in the diaspora.  The Ottoman Empire (Turkey)  claimed the land and would collect taxes from the poor Arabs and Jews and held it for 400 years from 1517  but they lost it by losing WWI by 1917.

Russian Jews were being persecuted and so groups calling themselves an Aliyah, started to return in the 1880s.  Arabs unable to find jobs in their surrounding lands, especially in Syria, followed them to gain employment by them.  Very few Arabs owned land as they were all highly taxed, and many who did gladly sold their land to the entering Jews, but at very high prices.  Being it was the land of their fathers and central in their religion, they paid.  Israel was finally created once again on May 14, 1948.
It was Moses who led the Jews to the land of Canaan which became Israel, and through Moses, who was told by G-d, that these people were to live here.  After all the persecution the Jews have gone through, history has proven to them that they cannot live for a long period of time and maintain their strong religious beliefs of monotheism and righteousness without their homeland..

The  best of life in the Diaspora has been in the USA for Jews, holding c. 6 million today.  One has to remember that this wonderful country is only 240 years old.   As history shows above, and then especially after 135, the place of Israel and Jerusalem must be with the Jews, and the Jews belong in Israel.  Think how many lives would have been saved had Jews been able to enter Palestine at the start of WWII in 1939 from Germany.  They were kept out by the English who held the mandate then at a time when they were allowing the Palestinian Arabs entrance.  This ancient attitude of a people who dared to declare that there was only one G-d for our universe some 4,000 years ago, conceived as having originated with the Divine call to Abraham,  has been held in contempt and envy ever since.  It shows itself even today.
 Though Judaism has never reached a conclusion, but has continued to grow and add literature to its beginnings of the Five Books of Moses, the Gentile people see it as a dead religion, already replaced by Christianity and then by Islam.  Following its dictum, it continues to live.  Am Yisrael Chai;  the Jewish people live.  Aluf Bar Kokhba need not feel he failed.  Because of him, his people continue on with their assignment of leading mankind to an age when "the world will be perfected unto the Kingdom of Heaven."  We were given a world-redeeming mission in spite of all the persecutions we have suffered from.  As Job had said, "though he slay me, yet will I believe in G-d.  Whether we Jews are from strict Orthodoxy or radical Reform, Zionism has tended to shift the emphasis to the ideal of a continuance of our Hebrew culture in the reborn state of Israel.  Underneath it all there remains a passionate affirmation of Judaism as a living faith destined to benefit not only Jews but the whole of the human race.  Jerusalem, one city, Israel's capital, of ancient days and today, City of David; City of Peace.  Change that and you dare to change the world-for the worst.

Resource:  The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
The Jewish Connection by M. Hirsh Goldberg, pp 32, 33.

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