The Revolt Begins
In AD 66, a Gentile in Caesarea offered a pagan sacrifice next to the synagogue’s entrance on the Sabbath. Jewish citizens protested, so Jerusalem authorities ended all foreign sacrifices in the temple, including those to Caesar.
Governor Florus, who lived in Caesarea, then raided the temple treasury in Jerusalem. When people began to protest, Florus unleashed his troops on innocent civilians. More than 3,500 people were killed, including women and children. Hundreds of women were raped, whipped, and crucified.
In response to all of this, Jewish mobs drove the outnumbered Roman soldiers out of Jerusalem, stormed the Antonia (the Roman fort), and burned records of debts kept there. Jewish Zealots surprised the Roman troops at Masada, occupied it, and then distributed its weapons to the Jews.
The Violence Escalates
When Gentiles in Caesarea learned about the violence against fellow Romans in Jerusalem, they killed about twenty thousand Jews within a day’s time. Fifty thousand Jews were killed in Alexandria, and the slaughter of more Jewish people escalated throughout the empire.
Gallus, the governor of Syria, and Nero made advances on Jerusalem, Galilee, Sepphoris, Jotapa, Gamla, and other towns, hoping to put an end to the Jewish problem. Many Jewish men were executed, often by crucifixion; Jewish women and children were sold into slavery or saved for games in the arena.
In AD 70, Titus arrived in Jerusalem with at least eighty thousand troops. He captured half the city, slaughtered its inhabitants, and built a siege wall around the remaining part of the city.
Trapped inside, the different Jewish groups fought one another. People killed each other for scraps of food, and anyone who was suspected of considering surrender was killed. Six hundred thousand bodies were thrown out of the city as a result of the famine.
The Revolt is Crushed‘
The Roman troops eventually recaptured the Antonia fortress, and about a month later burned and destroyed the temple. The lower city and the upper city both fell.
Titus ordered all the buildings in Jerusalem to be leveled, except for the three towers in Herod’s palace. All the citizens of Jerusalem were executed, sold into slavery, or saved for games in the arena.
Alleys were choked with corpses. Babies were thrown off walls. People were burned alive. Eleven thousand prisoners died of starvation while awaiting their execution. More than one million Jews died, and nearly one hundred thousand were sold into slavery.
A Final Stand‘
A few Zealots fled to Herod’s fortress of Masada, hoping to outlast the Romans. In AD 72, the Romans, using Jewish slaves, built a wall six feet high and more than two miles long around the base of Masada?s mountain plateau.
For seven months, the Romans built a siege ramp against the western side of the mountains and then used a battering ram to smash a hole in the fortress wall. The Zealots in Masada committed mass suicide. Only two women and five children survived to share the Zealot’s story with the world.
A Tragic Postscript: The Second Jewish Revolt‘
Eventually the Romans wanted to build a Roman city on Jerusalem’s ruins. The few Jews who remained in Jerusalem were strictly opposed to this idea, and revolted in AD 131.
The Jews were initially successful, however the Romans struck back with overwhelming force. The Romans destroyed nearly a thousand villages, killing or enslaving any Jews who had not fled. By AD 135, the Second Jewish Revolt had come to an end. The Jewish religion was outlawed and the Jews became a people without a land.
The Jewish Revolts diminished Jewish influence while Christianity spread to all ends of the earth. With so many Jews killed and deported, Christianity became a largely Gentile faith. Only today are its Jewish roots again being recognized.
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