The Beast Empowered by the Dragon (Revelation 13:1-2)


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here. So far in this series we have examined the four kingdoms of Daniel 2, the four beasts of Daniel 7 (and the little horn), and Revelation 11.

Revelation 13 is probably cited more often than any other chapter when it comes to “the beast” of Revelation, and rightfully so. As you may have noticed in the introduction to this series, 46 percent of the verses in the book of Revelation (16 out of 35) which speak of a beast are in Revelation 13. This chapter actually speaks of two beasts, [1] the one briefly introduced in Revelation 11:7 and [2] a second beast which works closely with the first beast and is later called “the false prophet” (Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10).

The first eight verses of this chapter (Revelation 13:1-8), as well as verse 18, describe “the beast.” We already saw that this beast was responsible for hunting down and killing the two witnesses in Jerusalem. Here we will see that this beast:

-rose up out of the sea
-had seven heads
-had 10 horns with 10 crowns
-had a blasphemous name
-had body parts of a leopard, a bear, and a lion
-received its power, throne, and authority from the dragon (Rev. 12)
-had a mortally wounded head that was healed
-received worship
-was admired for its victories in war
-had authority to continue for 42 months
-blasphemed God, His name, His tabernacle, and His saints
-warred against and overcame the saints
-had authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation
-worked closely with the second beast, later called “the false prophet
-was represented by an image, a mark, a name, and a number

Verses 11-17 describe a second beast that:

-came up out of the earth (also translated “land”)
-had two horns like a lamb
-spoke like a dragon
-worked in the presence of the first beast
-directed those in the land to worship the first beast
-performed great, deceiving signs
-oversaw the creation of an image to the first beast
-granted power to give breath to the image, which could speak and cause people to be killed
-allowed buying and selling only for those who had the mark, number, or name of the first beast

Revelation 13:1

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”

John was “on the island that is called Patmos” when he recorded his prophetic visions (Rev. 1:9). Patmos is in the Aegian Sea, which “is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea” (Wikipedia). Did John see the beast rise up out of that sea? Recall that Daniel saw “the Great Sea” stirred up (Daniel 7:2) and all four beasts coming “up from the sea” (Daniel 7:3). So Daniel clearly saw the beasts rising up out of the Mediterranean Sea. The Babylonian, Persian, and Greek kingdoms all formed to the east, north, and south of the Mediterranean Sea. The western border of the Judean kingdom was also the Mediterranean Sea.

The term “sea” can represent Gentiles or nations, as it does in Revelation 17:1, 15. (See also Psalm 65:7; Isaiah 17:12-13, 57:20, 60:5; Jeremiah 6:23; Luke 21:25.) As we saw in our study of Revelation 11:1-2, it was not only the Romans in John’s day who were “Gentiles.” The Idumeans and Galileans were also considered to be Gentiles. In Wars 4.3.2-4, Josephus spoke of large multitudes from various regions that “crept into Jerusalem” as the Jewish-Roman War was about to begin, and these multitudes followed the lead of the Zealot movement. The three main Zealot leaders, Eleazar ben Simon, John Levi of Gischala, and Simon Bar Giora, were Galileans. When Simon came to Jerusalem in April 69 AD, he brought an army of 40,000 with him, including many Idumeans (Wars 4.9.3-12).

Revelation 13:1 describes the beast as having seven heads. This is the same number of heads that the dragon (“called the Devil and Satan”) also had (Rev. 12:3, 9). John provides more details about the seven heads in Revelation 17:9-11, and he singles out one of the heads in Rev. 13:3. So when we cover those verses we will explore who the heads were and what roles they played. I believe they were heads of the Zealot movement, some in the decades prior to the Jewish-Roman War and others during the war.

This verse also describes the beast as having 10 horns (Rev. 12:3). Again, this is the same number of horns that the dragon had. John likewise gives more details about the 10 horns in Revelation 17:12-17 than he does in Revelation 13, so we will have that discussion later in this series as well. In the meantime, please feel free to refer to a post I wrote in July 2016 in which I propose that the 10 horns were 10 Jewish generals who were given authority in December 66 AD (Wars 2.20.3-4).

Our study of Daniel 7 also discussed the three horns that were plucked out by the little horn – details that are not found in the book of Revelation. If you read that part of the series, you’ll recall that I proposed that the little horn was Eleazar ben Simon and that the three plucked horns were [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea, and [3] Joseph ben Gorion. Their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.

Revelation 13:2

Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.”

Here John describes the beast as having the traits of the first three beasts that Daniel saw come up from the sea in Daniel 7:3-6. There are a couple of things to notice about John’s description:

1. The animals are listed in reverse order compared to how they were listed by Daniel.
2. The leopard trait is most dominant, representing the beast’s body. Only the feet and the mouth of the beast are like a bear and like a lion.

leopard-lion-and-bear

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In Daniel’s vision, the lion represented Babylon (Daniel 7:4), the bear represented Medo-Persia (Daniel 7:5; 8:20), and the leopard represented Greece (Daniel 7:6; 8:21-22). In John’s vision, these same animals are listed in reverse order, referring to Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylon, respectively.

[The leopard = Greece]: As John saw the beast of his own time period, he also looked back into Israel’s history and first saw the kingdom which had most recently held dominion over Israel – Greece. That kingdom was represented in almost the entire body of the beast: “Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard…” It’s no surprise that the Greek trait was most dominant in the Jewish beast of John’s day, considering that Greece/Macedonia was the kingdom which had held dominion over Israel as recently as 323 BC – 142 BC. The Greek language was dominant in the Roman Empire, and was the language into which the Septuagint was translated and the language in which most of the New Testament was written.

A Greek influence was also seen near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War. When Vespasian captured part of Galilee in the summer of 67 AD, he “sat upon his tribunal at Taricheae, in order to distinguish the foreigners from the old inhabitants; for those foreigners appeared to have begun the war.” Some of those foreigners were from Hippos, which was “a Greco-Roman city” in the Decapolis that was “culturally tied more closely to Greece and Rome than to the Semitic ethnoi around” (Wikipedia). Josephus said that “the greatest part of [those foreigners] were seditious persons and fugitives, who were of such shameful characters that they preferred war before peace.” Most of the other foreigners were from Trachonitis and Gaulanitis, in the region of Batanea near Persia (Wars 3.10.10).

batanea

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[The bear = Medo-Persia]: Only the feet of the beast were “like the feet of a bear.” It may be that the sicarii of John’s day best represented the Persian trait of the beast. The sicarii worked with the Zealots in rebelling, making war, and destroying Israel. As Josephus wrote about this group:

“And then it was that the sicarii, as they were called, who were robbers, grew numerous. They made use of small swords, not much different in length from the Persian acinacae, but somewhat crooked, and like the Roman sicae, [or sickles,] as they were called; and from these weapons these robbers got their denomination; and with these weapons they slew a great many; for they mingled themselves among the multitude at their festivals, when they were come up in crowds from all parts to the city to worship God, as we said before, and easily slew those that they had a mind to slay. They also came frequently upon the villages belonging to their enemies, with their weapons, and plundered them, and set them on fire” (Antiquities 20.8.10).

As we saw in the section just above, a good number of the foreigners that “appeared to have begun the war” (Wars 3.10.10) were from the region of Batanea, very close to Persia.

[The lion = Babylon]: Only the mouth of the beast was “like the mouth of a lion.” Mark Mountjoy of Atavist Bible Church said the following in a conversation in New Testament Open University:

“The Babylonian trait can be seen in the mouth of the Lion and can be explained by extreme pride and arrogance (big and pretentious talk – Wars 4.3.1:121-124) around the architectural beauty and security of Jerusalem (and in Josephus this attitude is attributed to John of Gischala – see Wars 4.3.1:126-127).”

Pride is what marked the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (Daniel 4:37). Here is the quote from Wars 4.3.1 that Mark referred to above, which describes what happened when John Levi escaped from Gischala (in Galilee) and came to Jerusalem in November 67 AD:

“Now upon John’s entry into Jerusalem, the whole body of the people were in an uproar, and ten thousand of them crowded about every one of the fugitives that were come to them, and inquired of them what miseries had happened abroad, when their breath was so short, and hot, and quick, that of itself it declared the great distress they were in; yet did they talk big under their misfortunes, and pretended to say that they had not fled away from the Romans, but came thither in order to fight them with less hazard; for that it would be an unreasonable and a fruitless thing for them to expose themselves to desperate hazards about Gischala, and such weak cities, whereas they ought to lay up their weapons and their zeal, and reserve it for their metropolis… But for John, he was very little concerned for those whom he had left behind him, but went about among all the people, and persuaded them to go to war, by the hopes he gave them. He affirmed that the affairs of the Romans were in a weak condition, and extolled his own power. He also jested upon the ignorance of the unskillful, as if those Romans, although they should take to themselves wings, could never fly over the wall of Jerusalem, who found such great difficulties in taking the villages of Galilee, and had broken their engines of war against their walls. These harangues of John’s corrupted a great part of the young men, and puffed them up for the war.”

In this regard, we can also note that Eleazar ben Simon, the Zealot leader who was in Jerusalem for the entire war (until he was killed in April 70 AD), was known for his “tyrannical temper” (Wars 2.20.3). A man like that may also very well have had a mouth like a lion.

Mark Mountjoy provides this summary of the Greek, Medo-Persian, and Babylonian traits of the beast (New Testament Open University; January 24, 2017):

“Here are some fascinating tid-bits: The Zealots correspond to the leopard traits of the beast. As thorough-going Hellenists they warred against each other just like Alexander’s generals fought tooth and nail after he died. Leopards hunt at night and are swift and stealthy. The Sicarii correspond to the bear traits. The small knife they carried and were infamous for (and even named after) came from Persia (the bear). Unlike the Zealots (who were swift and prone to infighting), the Sicarii were slow and, after the initial wins in Jerusalem, retired to Masada for the duration of the war. I would say that John Gischala and his initial leadership of the beast corresponds to the Babylonians. His boast about the Romans being unable to fly over the walls of Jerusalem even if they had eagle’s wings (Wars 4.3.1:121-127) makes one think of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride for the grand architecture and gardens of Babylon. And John Gischala, (like Belshazzar) went into the Holy Place and used God’s utensils and the priestly oil and wine in a sacrilegious way (Wars 5.13.6:562-565).”

[The dragon gave its power to the beast]: In the last part of verse 2 we see the statement that “the dragon gave him [the beast] his power, his throne, and great authority.” This statement takes us back to Revelation 12, where John saw “a great, fiery red dragon” that had seven heads, ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads (Rev. 12:2) just like the beast (Rev. 13:1). That dragon had his own angels (Rev. 12:7), was kicked out of heaven (Rev. 12:8), and was cast to the earth (Rev. 12:9). He was also called “that serpent of old”, “the Devil,” and “Satan” (Rev. 12:9).

Notice that the dragon’s primary activity was accusing the brethren: “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down” (Rev. 12:10). This trait is another strong indication that the dragon gave his power, throne, and authority to a Jewish beast rather than to a Roman beast. The following Scripture passages demonstrate a repeated pattern among the Jewish authorities of accusing Jesus and His followers during the New Testament period (my thanks goes to Steven Haukdahl for initially sharing a similar list with me):

Matthew 12:10, 27:12, 27:37;
Mark 3:2, 15:3-4, 15:26;
Luke 11:54, 23:2, 23:10, 23:14;
John 8:6, 18:29;
Acts 22:30, 23:28-29, 24:2; 24:8, 24:13; 25:5, 25:11, 26:2, 26:7

Also note that Peter gave the following warning to his readers: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Interestingly, the prophet Zephaniah said this about Jerusalem in his day: “Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning” (Zephaniah 3:3). The Judaizers in Peter’s day, who were like “natural brute beasts,” apparently were known for bringing “a reviling accusation” against God’s people, which even the angels would not do (II Peter 2:11-12; Jude 8-10).

When the Zealots gained control of Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War, they displayed this same trait by frequently bringing accusations against the people, even killing those whom they merely suspected of having any sympathy toward Rome (Wars 5.1.5). During the Zealot siege of early 68 AD, the Zealots, with the help of the Idumeans, set up “fictitious tribunals and judicatures” to falsely accuse their enemies:

“And now these zealots and Idumeans were quite weary of barely killing men, so they had the impudence of setting up fictitious tribunals and judicatures for that purpose; and as they intended to have Zacharias the son of Baruch, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain, – so what provoked them against him was, that hatred of wickedness and love of liberty which were so eminent in him: he was also a rich man, so that by taking him off, they did not only hope to seize his effects, but also to get rid of a man that had great power to destroy them. So they called together, by a public proclamation, seventy of the principal men of the populace, for a show, as if they were real judges, while they had no proper authority. Before these was Zacharias accused of a design to betray their polity to the Romans, and having traitorously sent to Vespasian for that purpose. Now there appeared no proof or sign of what he was accused; but they affirmed themselves that they were well persuaded that so it was… So two of the boldest of them fell upon Zacharias in the middle of the temple, and slew him…” (Wars 4.5.4).

After the Zealots eliminated the prominent men whom they considered to be threats, Josephus described how they suspected, targeted, and accused anyone and everyone:

“…and indeed there was no part of the people but they found out some pretense to destroy them; for some were therefore slain, because they had had differences with some of them; and as to those that had not opposed them in times of peace, they watched seasonable opportunities to gain some accusation against them; and if any one did not come near them at all, he was under their suspicion as a proud man; if any one came with boldness, he was esteemed a contemner of them; and if any one came as aiming to oblige them, he was supposed to have some treacherous plot against them; while the only punishment of crimes, whether they were of the greatest or smallest sort, was death” (Wars 4.6.1).

The Roman siege of Jerusalem began in mid-April AD 70. As it heated up, Simon and John worked together in the most sinister way, falsely accusing people of plotting against them, attempting to betray Jerusalem to the Romans, or attempting to flee to the Romans. Josephus says that they passed these victims back and forth between each other:

“For the men that were in dignity, and withal were rich, they were carried before the tyrants themselves; some of whom were falsely accused of laying treacherous plots, and so were destroyed; others of them were charged with designs of betraying the city to the Romans; but the readiest way of all was this, to suborn [hire] somebody to affirm that they were resolved to desert to the enemy. And he who was utterly despoiled of what he had by Simon was sent back again to John, as of those who had been already plundered by Jotre, Simon got what remained; insomuch that they drank the blood of the populace to one another, and divided the dead bodies of the poor creatures between them; so that although, on account of their ambition after dominion, they contended with each other, yet did they very well agree in their wicked practices” (Wars 5.10.4).

Josephus recorded many other instances of the Zealots and Jewish leaders accusing their enemies, including the following examples: Wars 1.5.3; 1.9.2; 1.10.1; 1.12.4-5 (“accused the brethren”); 1.16.7; 1.22.3; 1.23.1, 3, 4; 1.24.6, 8; 1.26.2-5; 1.27.1-3, 5-6; 1.29.2-3; 1.32.4, 6; 1.33.4; 2.2.1, 4-6; 2.6.1-2; 2.9.5-6; 2.14.3, 5; 2.21.2, 7; 4.4.3; 4.5.4; 4.6.17.2.1; 7.3.3; 7.10.1; and 7.11.1-3.

In the next post we will look at Revelation 13:3, the mortal wounding of one of the beast’s seven heads, and the healing of that wound. I will also present an overview of the Zealot movement, the movement which I believe was led by those seven heads.

All of the posts in this series can be found at this page.

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The Two Witnesses Killed by the Beast (Revelation 11:3-13)


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here. In the previous post, “The Gentiles Trampled Jerusalem for 42 Months,” we looked at Revelation 11:1-2 and concluded that the Gentiles mentioned in those verses were not the Romans. Instead they were the Zealots, the Galileans, and the Idumeans who trampled Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. The rest of our study on Revelation 11 will cover:

Verse 3 – the two witnesses prophesying for 1260 days (3.5 years)
Verse 4 – their identity as two olive trees and two lampstands
Verses 5-6 – their ability to escape harm and cause plagues
Verse 7 – the beast killing the two witnesses
Verses 8-9 – the two witnesses lying dead and unburied in Jerusalem
Verse 10 – their enemies rejoicing
Verse 13 – an earthquake taking place in Jerusalem

This series is about “the beast,” which, in this chapter, is only mentioned in verse 7. We will examine more than verse 7, however, because it’s necessary to look at the greater context of this verse. This will help us to validate the identity of the beast and to better understand his actions.

Having seen that it was the Zealots and the Idumeans who trampled Jerusalem for 3.5 years (42 months), we also see in Revelation 11:3 that God gave power to His two witnesses to prophesy for 3.5 years (1260 days). These time periods were identical in length, but did they begin and end at the same time? I don’t believe they did, and I will propose that they only halfway overlapped as in the following diagram:

revelation-11-timeline

I’ve developed a series of case studies comparing the works of Josephus and the book of Revelation. As the chart in that analysis shows, it would be very fitting for the events of Revelation 11 to have taken place in early 68 AD.

Revelation 11:4

In Revelation 11:4, the two witnesses are identified as “the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” As many scholars have recognized, this description draws on Zechariah’s “Vision of the Lampstand and Olive Trees”:

Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of sleep. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I said, ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.’ … Then I answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees…?’ So he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones, who stand before the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:1-3, 11, 14).

This vision came on the heels of Zechariah’s “Vision of the High Priest,” concerning the high priest, Joshua (Zechariah 3), who served alongside the governor, Zerubbabel (Zech. 4). As Albert Barnes said in his 1834 commentary on Revelation 11:4,

“This representation, that the ministers of religion “stand before the Lord,” is one that is not uncommon in the Bible. Thus it is said of the priests and Levites: ‘The Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to stand before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless his name,’ Deuteronomy 10:8; compare Deuteronomy 18:7. The same thing is said of the prophets, as in the cases of Elijah and Elisha: ‘As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand,’ 1 Kings 17:1; also, 1 Kings 18:152 Kings 3:142 Kings 5:16; compare Jeremiah 15:19. The representation is that they ministered, as it were, constantly in his presence and under his eye.”

In Zechariah’s vision, he saw one lampstand (Zech. 4:2). In Revelation 1:12 John saw seven lampstands, which he was told were the seven churches (Rev. 1:20). Here in Rev. 11:4 there were two lampstands, the two witnesses.

Ananus ben Ananus and Jesus ben Gamaliel

I would like to propose that the two witnesses were two first century high priests, Ananus ben Ananus and Jesus ben Gamaliel (also known as Joshua). According to Josephus, they led the peace movement in Jerusalem when the Zealots were determined to rebel and incite war with the Romans, hoping to gain full independence for Israel. As we will see, their roles, deaths, the aftermath of their deaths, and the timing of their deaths line up with a number of details John saw in Revelation 11. Here is a short summary of these two men.

1. Ananus: The appointment of Ananus as high priest is recorded in Antiquities 20.9.1. He was appointed in 62 AD. Josephus called him “the ancientest of the high priests” and “a very prudent man” (Wars 4.3.7), “a prodigious lover of liberty” who “preferred peace above all things,” and “a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people” (Wars 4.5.2). Ironically, in December 66 AD he was appointed as a general over Jerusalem, one of 10 generals appointed to prepare for war with Rome (Wars 2.20.3). A long speech given by Ananus against the Zealots is recorded in Wars 4.3.10.

2. Jesus: The appointment of Jesus as high priest is recorded in Antiquities 20.9.4. He was appointed in 63 or 64 AD, but only for about a year (Ant. 20.9.7). From that time on, Josephus said, Jerusalem was “greatly disordered” and “all things grew worse and worse” (Ant. 20.9.4). Josephus referred to Jesus as “a friend and companion” (Life 41.204), and called him “the eldest of the high priests next to Ananus.” Josephus added that “although he was inferior to [Ananus] upon the comparison, he was superior to the rest” (Wars 4.5.2). Jesus also gave a long speech against the Zealots, which is recorded in Wars 4.4.3.

The Zealot Temple Siege

Ananus and Jesus were both killed at the same time during the Zealot Temple Siege of February-March 68 AD. This siege took place after the Zealots appointed a fake high priest, Phannias, who “did not well know what the high priesthood was” (Wars 4.3.6-8), and he unworthily presided over that post until Jerusalem was destroyed. In a sense, Ananus and Jesus represented the final lampstands, the final oil-bearing olive trees, of the temple before it was destroyed.

Phannias was a fraud, and the people of Jerusalem finally had enough of the Zealots. Ananus and Jesus led them in an uprising:

“And now the people could no longer bear the insolence of this procedure, but did altogether run zealously, in order to overthrow that tyranny… The best esteemed also of the high priests, Jesus the son of Gamalas, and Ananus the son of Ananus, when they were at their assemblies, bitterly reproached the people for their sloth, and excited them against the zealots…” (Wars 4.3.9).

In his speech (Wars 4.3.10), Ananus said that he would lead the people in an all-or-nothing attack against the Zealots, and that he would not spare his own body in that effort. In that battle, Ananus and his followers actually gained the upper hand against the Zealots, forcing them into the inner temple and gaining control of the rest of the city (Wars 4.3.12). Ananus then chose 6000 armed men to keep the Zealots surrounded and under guard. Unfortunately, as we will see, this strategy came undone because of the trickery of John Levi of Gischala (Wars 4.3.13-14).

Revelation 11:5-6

In Revelation 11:5 we read that fire would proceed out of the mouths of the two witnesses to devour their enemies who would try to harm them. Compare this to what Jeremiah was told:

Because you speak this word, behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them” (Jeremiah 5:14).

For more on God’s word being like a fire, and having the power to “slay” people, see Jeremiah 23:29 and Hosea 6:5.

Revelation 11:6 says that the two witnesses would “have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy…” Note that during the days of Elijah “it did not rain for three years and six months” (James 5:17; Luke 4:25). This matches the duration of time that the two witnesses would prophesy (Rev. 11:3). During the Roman siege in 70 AD, Josephus gave a speech to the Zealots in which he mentioned that the springs of water were “almost dried up” while Jerusalem was in the hands of the Zealots, but suddenly had more than enough water once the Romans arrived. This indicates that there was a lack of rain during the time that the Zealots controlled Jerusalem:

“…and as for Titus, those springs that were formerly almost dried up when they were under your power since he is come, run more plentifully than they did before; accordingly, you know that Siloam, as well as all the other springs that were without the city, did so far fail, that water was sold by distinct measures; whereas they now have such a great quantity of water for your enemies, as is sufficient not only for drink both for themselves and their cattle, but for watering their gardens also” (Wars 5.9.4.409-410).

Josephus said that Ananus had “the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war” (Wars 4.5.2). Josephus didn’t give many details about how he mastered his opponents, but this indicates that Ananus remained untouchable for a significant period of time even while the Zealots had their way in Jerusalem.

Revelation 11:7-9

Revelation 11:7-9 says this about the two witnesses:

Now when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into the graves.

Here “the beast” is mentioned for the very first time in the book of Revelation. (As we discussed in the previous post, it seems evident that John expected his readers to be familiar with Daniel’s description of the fourth beast in Daniel 7.) Here is also the first mention of “the great city” (later mentioned in Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18-19, 21). “The great city” is clearly defined as Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was crucified (e.g. Luke 9:31).

It’s significant that the beast oversees the deaths of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. This has a bearing on whether the beast was Roman, as many suppose, or Jewish, which is the view I’m presenting in this series. As we saw in our study of Daniel, the Romans were not in Jerusalem from August 66 AD until April 70 AD, except for a few days in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led a failed attack on the city. If the events of Revelation 11 took place anytime between late 66 AD and the spring of 70 AD, the beast that overcame the two witnesses was Jewish, not Roman. The events which I believe fulfilled this prophecy took place in February-March 68 AD.

In February 68 AD, Ananus urged the people of Jerusalem to oppose the lawless Jewish Zealots who had taken over the temple as “blood-shedding villains.” John Levi of Gischala was a Zealot leader who had recently come to Jerusalem, but he pretended to be on the side of Ananus and was invited to be an ambassador to the Zealots (Wars 4.3.13). John quickly betrayed him and falsely claimed that Ananus had invited the Roman general Vespasian to conquer Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.14).

In response, the Zealot leaders Eleazar ben Simon and Zacharias ben Phalek requested help from the Idumeans, who lived south of Judea. The Zealots told the Idumeans that “unless they would come immediately to their assistance… the city would be in the power of the Romans.” Even though the Zealots were trapped in the inner temple, they somehow managed to sneak out two messengers to deliver this message to the Idumeans (Wars 4.4.2-3). In fulfillment of Revelation 9:13-16, the Idumeans quickly prepared an army of 20,000 directed by four commanders (Wars 4.4.2):

“Now these [Idumean] rulers were greatly surprised at the contents of the letter, and at what those that came with it further told them; whereupon they ran about the nation like madmen, and made proclamation that the people should come to war; so a multitude was suddenly got together, sooner indeed than the time appointed in the proclamation, and everybody caught up their arms, in order to maintain the liberty of their metropolis; and twenty thousand of them were put into battle-array, and came to Jerusalem, under four commanders, John, and Jacob the son of Sosas; and besides these were Simon, the son of Cathlas, and Phineas, the son of Clusothus.”

When the Idumeans came to Jerusalem, at first Ananus’ guards prevented them from coming into the city. Jesus gave a speech in which he denied that anyone had betrayed Jerusalem to the Romans. He invited the Idumeans to help deliver the city from the real enemies, the Zealots, but the Idumeans were not persuaded (Wars 4.4.3-4).

In the midst of a terrible storm and an earthquake that night, most of the guards were allowed to go home and some of the Zealots managed to come out of the temple and use saws to cut through the gates. This allowed the Idumeans to enter the city, and the Zealots joined them in slaughtering the guards (Wars 4.5.1). The next day the Idumeans, working on behalf of the Zealots, hunted down and killed Ananus and Jesus, who had long tormented the Zealots by opposing their war and working for peace:

“[The Idumeans] sought for the high priests, and…went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus with his speech made to them from the wall. Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial… I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city… He…preferred peace above all things; …he was a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people, and had already gotten the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war… And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus” (Wars 4.5.2).

So John and Josephus both described two individuals in Jerusalem who were hated, basically invincible for a while, finally killed, and not allowed to be buried.

Revelation 11:10 (Festival of Purim?)

Revelation 11:10 describes the reaction of those who were glad to be rid of the two witnesses:

And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”

The word “earth,” as we discussed earlier, often means “land,” i.e. the land of Israel. This is certainly the case here, as the two witnesses were based in, and killed in, Jerusalem.

In the previous verse we read that “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” would see the dead bodies of the two witnesses. Why was there such a diverse population at that time? Was it because it took place during a festival, when Jews from various nations would be gathered in Jerusalem? If so, the description in verse 10 sounds like the festival of Purim:

“Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was plotting to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Persian Empire… The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing. Based on the conclusions of the Scroll of Esther (Esther 9:22): “…that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” Purim is therefore celebrated among Jews by: Exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink… Eating a celebratory meal… Other customs include drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration (Wikipedia: Purim).

The deaths of Ananus and Jesus are commonly said to have taken place in February or March 68 AD. The Fast of Esther and Purim are typically celebrated from the 13th – 16th of Adar. In the year 68 AD, the last day of Adar was March 22nd, according to our modern calendar (“The Jewish war: a new tr.,” p. 191). Therefore, since each Jewish month was 29 or 30 days, we can know that the Fast of Esther and Purim took place around March 4-7 in 68 AD.

It appears that when the Zealots celebrated Purim in March 68 AD, they not only celebrated the deliverance from Haman that took place in Esther’s day, but they also celebrated being free from Ananus and Jesus and all their efforts to oppose the Zealots and achieve peace with Rome.  After all, they believed the lie told by John of Gischala – that Ananus had invited Vespasian to capture Jerusalem, and that Ananus intended for them all to be captured by the Romans.

A short while later, another Zealot leader, Simon Bar Giora, found out that Ananus was dead. He was at Masada because Ananus had previously driven him away from Acrabattene, a toparchy of Judea, because of his tyranny there (Wars 2.22.1-2). When Simon “heard of the death of Ananus, he…went into the mountainous part of the country. So he proclaimed liberty to those in slavery, and a reward to those already free, and got together a set of wicked men from all quarters” (Wars 4.9.3). This is just one example of how the Zealots behaved as if they were free of the “torments” of Ananus and Jesus.

Revelation 11:11-12

Now after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them” (Revelation 11:11-12).

At this time, I don’t have much insight into what these verses mean or how they may fit the narrative described above (or any narrative described by Josephus or any other first century historian). Does this simply mean that heaven validated their message of peace? Did Ananus and Jesus embrace the gospel and become followers of Christ (something Josephus wouldn’t have mentioned)? I hope to gain insight on these verses in the future. In the meantime, those who read this are invited to share any insight you may have.

Revelation 11:13

Revelation 11:13 reads this way:

In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

In Wars 4.4.5 Josephus described an earthquake that took place the night the Idumeans broke into Jerusalem, the day before Ananus and Jesus were killed:

“[F]or there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake… anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.”

That same night the Idumeans slaughtered those who had prevented them from coming in:

“The zealots also joined in the shouts raised by the Idumeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumeans spare anybody; for as they are naturally a most barbarous and bloody nation, and had been distressed by the tempest, they made use of their weapons against those that had shut the gates against them… Now there was at present neither any place for flight, nor any hope of preservation; but as they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain… And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it came on, they saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there” (Wars 4.5.1).

Did 7000 die in the earthquake, and another 1500 die by the swords of the Idumeans? In any case, John’s prediction of 7000 deaths is very close to the 8500 deaths mentioned by Josephus. Furthermore, this earthquake and the deaths of Ananus and Jesus were less than 24 hours apart, certainly qualifying as taking place “in the same hour.”

Typically, estimates of Jerusalem’s population in the first century range from 30,000 to 100,000 people, so it’s very reasonable to conclude that 7000 deaths in 68 AD represented a tenth of the city falling. Even if the normal population was closer to 30,000, it would have been higher at the time of that earthquake if it took place around the festival of Purim. This was a minor festival, so the population may have doubled, but it wouldn’t have swollen to 250,000 or more as it would during the major festivals.

Jerusalem Took a Turn for the Worse

The deaths of Ananus and Jesus marked a significant turning point for Jerusalem, according to Josephus:

“I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs, whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city… to say all in a word, if Ananus had survived they had certainly compounded matters… And the Jews had then put abundance of delays in the way of the Romans, if they had had such a general as he was” (Wars 4.5.2).

After their deaths, the Zealots and the Idumeans “fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats.” Others endured “terrible torments” before finally meeting their deaths. At least 12,000 died in that massacre (Wars 4.5.3).

Then one of the Zealots told the Idumeans that they had been tricked, and that Ananus and the high priests never did plot to betray Jerusalem to the Romans. So the Idumeans regretted their actions, saw “the horrid barbarity of [the Zealots who] had invited them,” and they left Jerusalem (Wars 4.5.5). The Zealots, no longer hindered by the high priests or even the Idumeans, then increased their wickedness:

“[T]he zealots grew more insolent, not as deserted by their confederates, but as freed from such men as might hinder their designs, and put some stop to their wickedness. Accordingly they made no longer any delay, nor took any deliberation in their enormous practices, but made use of the shortest methods for all their executions, and what they had once resolved upon, they put in practice sooner than anyone could imagine…” (Wars 4.6.1).

In summary, Ananus and Jesus were two former high priests, and the most prominent of the high priests during the Jewish-Roman War. As such, they fit the Old Testament imagery of olive trees and lampstands representing those who stood before the Lord in the service of the temple. Until the time of their deaths, they were immune to the harm that their enemies wanted to inflict upon them. They gave speeches predicting the destruction that would come to Jerusalem because of the Zealots and due to the rejection of their message of peace. Jerusalem experienced a drought during that time. They were killed by the Zealots (and their cohorts, the Idumeans) just as the Zealots gained full control of the city. They were not allowed to be buried, and their enemies rejoiced over their deaths. This happened at the same time as an earthquake and the deaths of 8500 people.

In the next post we will begin to look at Revelation 13.

All of the posts in this series can be found at this page.