Zechariah Chapter XXX
Will An Independent Jewish State Result In A Restored Temple?
In this chapter we take up the history of the "yishuv" where we left off in the description of the "Silent Years" with the overthrow of the Greeks and the establishment of an independent Jewish state in the period of the Macabbees. The restoration of the physical Temple in Jerusalem and the Golden Age that followed during the "Silent Years" occupied many of the prophetic utterances of Zechariah. In our time, many in the Christian world believe that the physical Temple at Jerusalem will be rebuilt. Therefore the history of the Temple and the attempts to rebuild it as well as the ongoing history of the nation of the Jews has relevance here as a post script.
History of the Independent Jewish State
Judea became a Roman province after a long relationship as a commonwealth with the Roman senate. The Macabbean revolt of 165 B.C.E., which resulted in throwing off the Grecian yoke, restoration of a previously desecrated Temple and the setting up of an independent Jewish state, was accomplished with the assistance of expanding Roman power just then extending into the eastern Mediterranean. Rome would not be a permanent power in the east until the campaigns of Pompey in 66 B.C.E. After the Macabbean rebellion of 165 B.C.E. was successful the leaders of the infant Jewish state knew they could not stand alone against the formidable Ptolemaic and Selucid kingdoms which had dominated them since Alexander's death in 325 B.C.E. Thus the Macabbees sent envoys to Rome who received a mutual assistance treaty* from the Roman senate, which was then a more democratic body than during the time of the Caesars. Israel had become "The Friend of Rome." One hundred years later, when imperial expansion became Roman policy, Judea was forcibly annexed into the empire.
* For the circumstances, participants, and terms related to this treaty see 1 Macabbees 8 and 12. For more details of the treaty with Rome see Josephus Antiqs. XII:10,6; XII:9,2; XIV:8,5.How?
About 66 B.C.E. Rome had become the ruling power in the eastern Mediterranean. Appian says all of the Selucid (Syrian) and Ptolemaic (Egyptian) provinces were won without a fight.
"The Jewish nation alone still resisted, and Pompey conquered them, sent their king Aristobulus to Rome, and destroyed their greatest, and to them, holiest city, Jerusalem, as Ptolemy the first king of Egypt, had formerly done. [Pompey took Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. which ended the Macabbean dynasty and the 100 years as an independent Jewish state.] It was afterwards rebuilt [by Herod] and Vespasian destroyed it again [by means of his son Titus in 70 C.E.], and Hadrian did the same in our time."
Appian's last reference* is to the city being destroyed in Hadrian's reign during the rebellion of Bar Cochbah about 135 C.E. Graetz says that Hadrian had Jerusalem completely destroyed and then the ground of Jerusalem plowed. Later he would have a city built north of the former site and name it after himself. His surname was Aelius and on the former site of the Temple he raised a statue to Capitoline Jupiter.** The city was known henceforth as Aelia Capitolinus, and Jews were forbidden to live there.***
* Appian: Syrian Wars;50. In this quotation Appian says that Ptolemy had previously destroyed Jerusalem. This is an overstatement; Josephus says, Ptolemy entered Jerusalem when he subdued Egypt in the division of Alexander's kingdom. It was the Sabbath and the Jews offered no resistance. Many Jews and Samaritans were taken to Egypt by Ptolemy but Josephus says they were well treated. See Josephus Antiq. XII;
** Dio says the war was brought on by Jews objection to the raising of the statue and that Hadrian then took action. Dio is mistaken. See Dio LXIX:12.
*** Graetz, H. (Translated by A.B. Rhine; Edited by Alexander Harkavy) Popular History of the Jews; Five Vols.; Hebrew Publishing Company, New York; 1919. Vol II, p. 322 Graetz says that Hadrian initially supported the rebuilding of the city by the Jews with a restored Temple as part of the plan. Many Jews returned to Judea under Hadrian's approval, and funds were collected from dispersed Jews for the rebuilding which was extensive and well under way when the revolt came. The prospect of rebuilding the Temple had ignited nationalistic and Messianic fervor fanned by the religious leaders. Most Jews followed R. Akibah, the foremost, and still today greatly respected, Jewish sage who supported Bar Cochbah in an insurrection (which set up an independent Jewish state lasting three years.) Hadrian delayed decisive action, and therefore he was unsuccessful at first. His Roman legions were defeated and suffered very heavy losses and he was forced to call his ablest general. Incredibly Hadrian sent to Britain for Severus to travel to Judea to put down the rebellion. In 66 Nero had done the same and called Vespasian from Badbury Rings near Lyme Regis in southern Britain to travel to Jerusalem to put down the rebellion of the Jews in the Jewish war from 68 to 70 when the city and the Temple were destroyed. That event was just 65 years to the day before the death of Bar Cochbah.
Dio gives the number of Jews dead in Bar Cochbah's rebellion at 540,000, over 900 villages burned and 50 cities razed to the ground. Judea was made a literal desert, the slave markets filled with Jews and prices fell to near nothing because of the glut. The final dispersion of Jews from Judea, thus, took place under Hadrian, and Jerusalem ceased to be a center of Jewish culture until the twentieth century. Jerusalem was to be razed again more than once until in our time many of the structures and roads of that century are from 20 to 90 feet below the present surface. However some of Hadrian's rebuilding survives to this day in the Ecce Homo Arch in the convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Jerusalem.
Graetz says that Bar Cochbah received his name from R. Akibah. Akibah saw Bar Cochbah as the Messiah he longed for. He took the name from Nu 24:17,
"I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth."
Cochbah means "Star" and Akibah raised false hopes in a nation which had been brought virtually to the brink of extinction barely 60 years previously by similar foolhardy following of false Messiahs. This time the extinction in Judea was complete. Ironically, it had been more than needful to change Bar Cochbah's name. He was originally named after his home village, Kazib. His name, Bar Koziba, meant "son of a lie"!*
* Graetz; op.cit. vol. II, pg 315.Last Attempt to Restore the Temple
There would be one further attempt to restore Jerusalem as a Jewish city and rebuild the Temple. This took place in the days of the emperor Julian surnamed The Apostate. He is so called because he made an attempt to restore paganism after its decisive fall under Constantine. Julian, a nephew of Constantine ruled only from 361 - 363. He made Jesus his opponent and in trying to uproot the hold Christianity had taken on the empire decreed the policy of restoration of the Temple at Jerusalem. His intention was deliberate. The restoration of the Temple would discredit Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 24, that not one stone of the Temple would be left standing on another. Such an incredible historical development! The Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in the world, made a decision to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem! But the attempt would fail and it would be the last attempt from that time to this to restore the Temple. The whole power structure of the Imperial Roman system was brought to bear on this project. Again Jews from the nations returned to Judea and great funds were collected and the work of restoring the foundations was well under way.
One of the most incredible events of history associated with this extraordinary nation and the city of Jerusalem brought the work of Julian to an abrupt halt. It is recorded by Ammianus Marcellinus, whose history covers the years 353 to the Battle of Hadrianople in 378. Allusions in the text reach to 391. Ammianus was not a Christian but was rather a Pagan Latin writer. His work, including this portion, is cited by Gibbon as reliable and not to be disputed.* Ammianus says of Julian,
"He planned at vast cost to restore the once splendid Temple at Jerusalem, which after many mortal combats during the siege by Vespasian and later by Titus had barely been stormed. He had entrusted the speedy performance of this work to Alypius of Antioch... But though this Alypius pushed the work on with vigor, aided by the governor of the province, terrible balls of fire kept bursting forth near the foundations of the Temple and made the place inaccessible to the workmen, some of whom were burned to death; and since in this way the element persistently repelled them, the enterprise halted."**
* Gibbon owning an "astonished incredulous mind" said in his Decline and Fall, "Such authority should satisfy a believing, and must astonish an incredulous, mind." vol. II, p.328
** Ammianus Marcellinus: XXIII; 1; 1-3Thus ended the last attempt to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem in C.E. 365. The facts are plain. How could such a phenomenon take place? In God's providence these circumstances worked together: The city of Jerusalem and its walls were built from stone quarried from Mount Moriah itself. Solomon's extensive quarries honeycomb the whole subsurface of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount with arena size chambers. Beside these there are also other purpose-built networks of subterranean chambers which were used for storage under the Temple. Especially during the siege in 70 C.E. they became grain stores and many men hid in these chambers after the city was taken by Titus. In the systematic destruction of the city hundreds, perhaps thousands, were entombed there. The decomposition of their bodies and other organic matter created pockets of methane gas waiting for the careless spark caused by the stone mason's hammer three hundred years later. These sparks no doubt ignited the gas released by the excavations of the well-meaning builders and blew them and their foundations away.
Socrates, born circa 379, and Sozomen, born about 345, whose histories are reprinted in the collection of Post-Nicene Fathers, are two ecclesiastics who studied and wrote contemporaneously in Constantinople in the late fourth century. The events of Julian's reign and the first incursions of the barbarian nations, the battle of Hadrianople and the growth of Christian doctrine from Constantine to the first barbarian invasion of Italy was contemporary history to them.* Both give accounts of the end of Julian's attempt to restore the Temple. They agree with secular accounts except that there is mention of an earthquake that preceded the fire balls by one or two days. Many contemporary historians** agree that the major event which stopped the building, and appeared miraculous, was the fire of explosive force which demolished workmen, their accessories, and the foundations themselves.*** If such a natural phenomenon as an earthquake had preceded the fire, which is reported to be the case, that may answer the question as to what caused the fissures which released the explosive methane gas stored up since 70 C.E.
* Schaff, Phillip; Wace, Henry, editors; Nicene, Post-Nicene Fathers; Second Series, Vol.II. Eerdmans: See Soc. intro. i-xv and Soz. 191-202.
** Chrysostom mentions the fire as a contemporary miracle; Theodoret, Socrates and Sozoman, mention the earthquake preceding the fiery explosions. The latter claims to have spoken to eye witnesses. See Theodoret Ecc. Hist. III:15; Chrysostom Homilies on Matthew IV:2; Socrates III:20; Sozoman Ecc. Hist. Book V:22; See also Gregory Nazianzen Oration contr. Julian II:3,4.
*** Graetz; op. cit. Graetz's Popular History of the Jews is a long time standard history of the Jews written by and published by Jews as an authority on the past. Graetz confirms the event mentioning the frequency of the burst of fire which he says Julian blamed on the Christians. See page 421 to 424.Incidently, Julian died shortly after hearing the news of this and other disasters. He died in a battle in Mesopotamia with the Persians. Although some over-zealous Christian may have embellished the story of his parting words, his conscious and determined opposition against, and his commitment to discredit Jesus of Nazareth, make them believable. As he died of a Parthian spear, it is recorded that he said, "Vicisti Galilaee: Oh Galilean, You have conquered!"
A short time after this, historically speaking, the Moslem conquests placed the ensign of Mohammed on the Temple Mount by the 680's and the Mosque of Omar has stood in that spot by the providence of God for 1300 years!
Resettlement of Jewish communities in Palestine began about 1880. There were several waves of immigrations called aliyahs for the next sixty years. The redemption of the land was accomplished through great privation, dedication and sacrifice. The pioneers (chalutsiym) and kibbutzniks of the 1920's drained the swamps of Esdraelon and made it a productive garden. Many died of malaria and others heroically died in feudal war with resentful Palestinians, whose standard of living ironically was raised by the enterprise and sacrifice of the Jews. The end of the second World War marked the beginning of general "aliyah" which was resisted by the British and Arabs. Restoration of statehood came for the nation in 1948 and the right of general "aliyah" became a legislated fact for all Jews. A restored independent Jewish state was a fact but most of us Gentiles did not take notice until the 1967 Six Day War which announced clearly that the nation existed!
Israel is a fact of life and still as controversial as ever! What will become of them? Whatever, the fate of the rest of us will somehow be linked. Will an attempt be made to rebuild the Temple? Will the Temple be rebuilt? If there is such an attempt, it is my opinion that it will fail just as all other attempts on the part of this extraordinary nation to establish their own righteousness while disregarding political realities have failed. That is not to say that there are not many in Israel who would be opposed to any self-willed attempt to remove the Mosque of Omar and replace it with the symbol of the nation's religious past. Many clear headed people do exist even among the most religious who believe that the removal of the Temple was within the will of God and therefore, God, not man, must bring about the circumstances for change.
However, inexorable developments associated with immigration and settlement and use of force in establishing national claims without regard to the well being of present inhabitants have already scarred the national conscience. If the trend continues will another Akibah arise to rally the nation to another son of a lie and will a people prepared for self sacrifice be offered again on the same altar of self-will? Since it is possible that the circumstances and the spirit of the people could be brought to the identical position, why will the results not be the same? That is: attempt to rebuild the Temple based on a misdirected over-reaction to crisis, fueled by unfounded conviction in the rights of the Jewish nation in Palestine over the rights of others resulting in chaos, which will lead to large loss of life and extinction of statehood. It is my opinion that this will sooner happen than that the Temple will be rebuilt. It is not my hope that such a loss does happen. My hope is that the Jewish nation will not follow any leader to mass suicide again. May we never have to say "never again," again.
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