Who Was the Beast? (Five Clues) – Long Island Conference Presentation


On March 25th I had the privilege of speaking for the second year in a row at the Blue Point Bible Conference in Long Island, New York. The theme of this conference, which was hosted by Pastor Michael Miano, was “Revelation Revealed.” It was a great weekend of fellowship, learning, encouragement, and discussion. I was also very glad to be able to bring my wife, Jasmine, along with me this year. My presentation revolved around five clues from the book of Revelation about the identity of the beast. Here’s the video, along with my written notes:

Introduction

The topic that I’m discussing is one that appears in eight out of 22 chapters in the book of Revelation. More space is given to this topic than to the harlot, the two witnesses, New Jerusalem, etc. So this topic is a key part of what John wanted to communicate to his first century readers. This topic is “the beast.”

In John’s day, the consequences for following the beast were very heavy, but the blessings for overcoming the beast were also very great. We see this contrast in Revelation 14 and 15, where one group received the full strength of God’s wrath and fiery torment, while the other group had the privilege of standing on the sea of glass and singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb:

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name’” (Rev. 14:9-11).

I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested’” (Rev. 15:2-4).

So there’s no doubt that the beast was a great enemy to the church, but who was this enemy? Was this enemy Roman? Or was it Jewish? Whoever or whatever it was, there are details about the beast in Daniel 7, and Revelation 11, 13 – 17, and 19 – 20 which all need to be reconciled. These details include:

  • 10 horns on the beast
  • a little horn coming up among the 10 horns
  • three horns that fell before the little horn
  • the little horn persecuting the saints for 3.5 years and changing time and law
  • a second beast that works very closely with the first beast
  • seven heads of the beast
  • a wounded head
  • the dragon, beast, and false prophet working together to gather people to a great battle
  • the beast and false prophet cast into the lake of fire

This presentation won’t cover all these details, but see the “Glossary of Terms” at the end of this article for some more details.

In my studies over the last six months or so, I’ve come to some very different conclusions than those I used to hold about the beast. Beginning in 2009, I believed that the beast was Rome (generally) and Nero (specifically). I did have unanswered questions, especially when it came to Daniel 7 and Revelation 19, but I kept those questions on the back burner. When I finally brought those questions to the forefront, I came to realize that Rome and Nero didn’t fit the visions that Daniel and John had about a beast that would oppose God’s people.

I’ve been putting together a series on this subject in chronological order, moving from Daniel 2 into Daniel 7 and on to Revelation 11, Revelation 13, and to the other chapters which at least mention the beast. In this presentation, though, I’d like to highlight certain pieces of evidence which I believe show that the beast was Israel, and in particular the Zealot movement in Israel that captured the loyalty of so many Jews in the first century. I’ve come to believe that the beast of Revelation wasn’t about emperor worship and persecuting those who wouldn’t worship the emperor Nero. Instead it was about:

  • extreme nationalism
  • idolizing and worshiping the kingdom of Israel
  • the persecution and killing of those who wouldn’t follow the war agenda of the Zealots and the Sicarii
  • a strong rejection of Jesus’ message that His kingdom isn’t of this world
  • a strong rejection of the Prince of Peace and His call to be peacemakers
  • clinging to Mount Sinai, the Jerusalem below, and the kingdom that could be shaken instead of embracing Mount Zion, the Jerusalem above and the kingdom that couldn’t be shaken (Galatians 4:21-31 and Hebrews 12:18-29)

Five Clues About the Beast’s Identity

In this presentation we will analyze five passages in Revelation in an effort to understand the beast’s identity:

1. The fifth bowl was poured out on the beast (Revelation 16:10-11).
2. The beast was given to the burning flame (Daniel 7:11; Revelation 19:20).
3. Who was killed by the sword AND went into captivity (Revelation 13:10)?
4. Who destroyed and burned the harlot (Revelation 17:16)?
5. How did the two beasts relate to “those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 13:3-15)?

1. The Fifth Bowl Poured Out on the Beast (Revelation 16:10-11)

The first piece of evidence I’d like to discuss has to do with the fifth bowl judgment. Here’s how Revelation 16:10-11 describes the pouring out of the fifth bowl:

Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.”

Notice that this bowl is poured out on the beast’s throne and kingdom. I want us to consider this fact in light of an observation that a number of preterist teachers and websites have rightfully made. That observation is that the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls were opened, sounded, and poured out on 1st century Israel (Judea, Samaria, Galilee). For example, in the book, “Four Views on The Book of Revelation,” by Stanley Gundry and C. Marvin Pate, Kenneth Gentry represents the preterist view. He says this on page 72:

“John turns his attention to further judgments on the land [of Israel] by means of the three woes (14:6-21) and the seven bowls (chaps. 15-16).”

Kenneth Gentry, of course, is well-known for his books and DVDs which teach that the beast was Rome and Nero. I don’t mean any disrespect to him, but he contradicts himself here when he says that [1] all seven bowl judgments were for Israel and [2] Rome was the beast, and yet Revelation 16:10 says that the fifth bowl was to be poured out on the throne and kingdom of the beast. I used to be inconsistent on that point as well.

There are several reasons why it’s valid to say that Israel was the target of the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls. I’ll list two of them:

  • Concerning the seven bowls, Revelation 16:1 shows that their target is “the earth,” otherwise translated as “the land,” that is, the land of Israel (I’ll discuss this translation pattern more when we look at Revelation 13). Here’s what verse 1 says: “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth’” (or ‘on the land’). So there was a specific land that the seven bowls would be poured out upon, and that land was Israel.
  • In Leviticus 26:18-28 God repeatedly warned Israel that a time would come when they would be punished “seven times” for their sins, as God would execute the vengeance of His covenant (verse 25). It’s no coincidence that the covenant imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) appears in the opening of the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh bowl (e.g. thunder, lightning, an earthquake, loud sounds, and smoke/fire).

Those seven-fold judgments of Leviticus 26 were reserved for Israel alone. They weren’t for both Israel and Rome. So it follows that when the fifth bowl judgment was poured out “on the throne of the beast,” it was Israel, not Rome, which experienced that darkness and pain. It was Israel that represented the kingdom of the beast. If the fifth bowl was poured out on Rome, then the bowls were only a six-fold judgment on Israel and “a one-fold judgment” on Rome, but that’s not the case. Leviticus 26 was completely, not partially, fulfilled.

Revelation 16:11 says that “pains” and “sores” would come upon the people who lived in the beast’s kingdom, and implies that further judgment would come upon this kingdom for refusing to repent. During the Jewish-Roman War did people throughout the Roman Empire experience “pains” and “sores,” or did this happen to the people of Israel? When we read Josephus’ descriptions of civil war, famine conditions, dead bodies lying unburied, etc., it’s easy enough to understand that Israel was plagued by “pains” and “sores” during that time, and this was especially true in Jerusalem. It was Israel that refused to repent, and it was upon Israel that more judgments were heaped.

2. The Beast Was Given to the Burning Flame (Daniel 7:11, Revelation 19:20)

The second point I’d like to bring up is the language of Daniel 7:11 and Revelation 19:20. Here’s what these two verses say:

“…I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11).

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).

If the Roman Empire was the beast of Revelation, how was this empire captured, slain, destroyed, burned, and cast into the lake of fire? Rome actually came out of the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66 -73) stronger than ever. History tells us that Rome was stronger in the second century AD than it was in the first century AD.

Someone might say that this applied to Nero, who is said to be the beast in a singular sense. Nero was indeed killed – with his own sword, but he was not captured and he was not burned. Nor did he go down at the same time as any false prophets who worked with him.

It was Israel that was captured, slain, destroyed, and burned – as we can see in great detail in “Wars of the Jews” by Josephus.

3. Who Was Killed by the Sword AND Went Into Captivity (Revelation 13:10)?

On a related note, in Revelation 13:10 we see a prophecy about the ultimate fate of the beast, and this prophecy was to be a comfort to the saints who were under persecution. John writes: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Some Romans were certainly killed in the Jewish-Roman War, but the end result was victory for Rome. On the other hand, there were mass casualties for Israel, the Zealots, and the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem from many nations but got trapped in the city when the siege began in April AD 70.

It’s important to take note of the first part of this verse: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity…” The Romans took people captive, but were they themselves taken captive? No, they weren’t. The Jewish Zealots also took people captive, especially their fellow Jews who wouldn’t go along with their war agenda. Were the Zealots themselves taken captive? Yes, they were. This prophecy was about them.

To point out a couple examples, the Zealot leaders John Levi of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora were both taken captive by the Romans in August or September AD 70, and both were humiliated in a parade all the way to the city of Rome. John was sentenced to life in prison and Simon was executed as “the general” of the revolt. See Wars 6.9.4, Wars 7.2.2, Wars 7.5.3, Wars 7.5.6.

4. Who Destroyed and Burned the Harlot? (Revelation 17:16)

Revelation 16:10 predicted what the 10 horns of the beast would do to the harlot:

And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

The harlot, of course, was the city of Jerusalem. As we see in Revelation 17:18 and elsewhere, the harlot was also called “the great city.” And when “the great city” was first mentioned in Revelation 11:8 it was said to be the place “where our Lord was crucified,” i.e. Jerusalem. So let’s consider how the writings of Josephus answer three details in this verse:

1. Who made Jerusalem desolate?
2. Who ate her flesh?
3. Who burned her with fire?

Was it Rome, or was it Israel under the Jewish Zealots? Josephus addressed all three of these questions repeatedly. For example, in Wars 5.1.1, 5 Josephus said that when the Zealots attacked the people of Jerusalem in February/March AD 68, this was the beginning of the city’s destruction. He also said that the Zealots were “like a wild beast grown mad” that was “eating its own flesh” and tearing the city into pieces:

“Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city’s destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh… And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces.”

Josephus also said in Wars 5.6.1 that the Romans showed more kindness to Jerusalem than the Zealots did:

“…for they never suffered any thing that was worse from the Romans than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city after these men’s actions that could be esteemed new. But it was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown, while those that took it [i.e. the Romans] did it a greater kindness for I venture to affirm that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition, which it was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls; so that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people, and the just vengeance taken on them to the Romans…”

FIRE

So Josephus lays the blame upon the Zealots for Jerusalem’s destruction and also says that the Zealots consumed Jerusalem like a beast eating its own flesh. What about Jerusalem being burned with fire? In Wars 5.4.4, Josephus described how a number of key buildings in Jerusalem were burned and destroyed at the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War by “the robbers” and the “internal plotters,” meaning the Sicarii and the Zealots:

“But indeed it is not possible to give a complete description of these palaces; and the very remembrance of them is a torment to one, as putting one in mind what vastly rich buildings that fire which was kindled by the robbers hath consumed; for these were not burnt by the Romans, but by these internal plotters, as we have already related, in the beginning of their rebellion. That fire began at the tower of Antonia, and went on to the palaces, and consumed the upper parts of the three towers themselves.”

Before the Roman general, Titus, arrived and began the siege of Jerusalem in April AD 70, Josephus pointed out that John Levi and Simon Bar Giora, two main Zealot leaders, had already burned down “all the places” around the temple:

“[They] attacked the city also; as if they had, on purpose, done it to serve the Romans, by destroying what the city had laid up against the siege, and by thus cutting off the nerves of their own power. Accordingly, it so came to pass, that all the places that were about the temple were burnt down, and were become an intermediate desert space, ready for fighting on both sides of it; and that almost all that corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years. So they were taken by the means of the famine, which it was impossible they should have been, unless they had thus prepared the way for it by this procedure” (Wars 5.1.4).

Then notice in Wars 4.6.3 what Josephus said they did to the temple itself:

“…these Zealots occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their country. For there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews and their own hands should pollute the Temple of God. Now, while these Zealots did not disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment.”

So Josephus said that the Zealots were the instruments by which the temple was burnt. To confirm this, here’s what Titus said in his speech to the Zealots soon after the temple burned down:

“When I came near your temple, I again departed from the laws of war, and exhorted you to spare your own sanctuary, and to preserve your holy house to yourselves. I allowed you a quiet exit out of it, and security for your preservation; nay, if you had a mind, I gave you leave to fight in another place. Yet have you still despised every one of my proposals, and have set fire to your holy house with your own hands” (Wars 6.6.2).

In Wars 6.2.9, Josephus described how the Jews started the fire in the temple. At one point, they even let the fire spread on purpose, believing that it would give them an advantage:

“[T]he Jews were so distressed by the fights they had been in, as the war advanced higher and higher, and creeping up to the holy house itself, that they, as it were, cut off those limbs of their body which were infected, in order to prevent the distemper’s spreading further; for they set the north-west cloister, which was joined to the tower of Antonia, on fire, and after that brake off about twenty cubits of that cloister, and thereby made a beginning in burning the sanctuary; two days after which, or on the twenty-fourth day of the forenamed month, [Panemus or Tamuz,] the Romans set fire to the cloister that joined to the other, when the fire went fifteen cubits farther. The Jews, in like manner, cut off its roof; nor did they entirely leave off what they were about till the tower of Antonia was parted from the temple, even when it was in their power to have stopped the fire; nay, they lay still while the temple was first set on fire, and deemed this spreading of the fire to be for their own advantage. However, the armies were still fighting one against another about the temple, and the war was managed by continual sallies of particular parties against one another.”

After this a Roman soldier set fire to a window of the temple which ultimately led to the fire getting out of control and the temple burning to the ground. According to Josephus, the fire had already been started by the Zealots in the inner court of the temple, and they had even fought against those who tried to put the fire out:

“…now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of the ages: it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Av,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them; for upon Titus’s retiring, the seditious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again, when those that guarded the Holy House fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning in the inner court of the Temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight, and proceeded as far as the Holy House itself. 

At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the Holy House, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamour…” (Wars 6.4.5).

10 HORNS

How do we identify the 10 horns that John said would hate the harlot? Among those who say that the beast was Rome, I’ve generally seen the explanation that they were the 10 Senatorial Provinces of the Roman Empire. However, as far as I’m aware, neither Josephus nor the Roman historians of that time period (e.g. Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius) ever said that those provinces assisted Titus in the siege of Jerusalem. Instead, Titus came with four legions (Wars 5.1.6).

The idea that the 10 horns were Roman provinces (or any land territories at all) really falls apart when we take note that Daniel 7:24-25 says that a little horn would arise and persecute the saints for 3.5 years AFTER the 10 horns arise. That little horn also had “eyes like the eyes of a man” (Daniel 7:8), which sure sounds like a human. So I believe the 10 horns were people rather than provinces, in the same way that the two horns of the ram in Daniel 8:20 were identified as “kings of Media and Persia” and the four horns on the goat (Daniel 8:8, 22) turned out to be four generals of Greece after the death of Alexander the Great.

Here’s my proposal about the 10 horns of the beast described in Daniel 7:7-8, 20-25 and Revelation 17:3, 7, 12-17. In December AD 66, Israel’s war effort was placed into the hands of exactly 10 generals (Wars 2.20.3-4). This decision was made after the Jews’ shocking victory over Cestius Gallus in late November AD 66. The Jews only lost a few men in that short battle, but they killed nearly 5,800 Romans (see Wars 2.19) in addition to the Romans they had already slaughtered at Masada and the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem. They knew it was only a matter of time before the Romans returned with a full-scale retaliation, and they needed to prepare.

Daniel provides a detail about the 10 horns which John never mentions in the book of Revelation. According to Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 three of the 10 horns would be “plucked out,” would fall, and would be subdued by a little horn. I believe those three horns were [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea, and [3] Joseph ben Gorion, who were among the 10 original generals. They were killed by the Zealots and the Idumeans during the Zealot siege of February/March 68 AD, and their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.

Were they later replaced? Josephus was one of those 10 generals, and he was captured by the Romans (Wars 3.8.8) only about a year into the war. So at least four of the generals needed to be replaced if Israel’s war effort was to remain in the hands of 10 generals. In any case, John spoke as if the same 10 horns worked together until the harlot was consumed and burned with fire, but Daniel said that three out of the 10 horns would be removed. So this is a point of difficulty regardless of how a person identifies the beast (as being Roman, Jewish, etc.).

There is evidence, though, that the Zealots chose leaders as they pleased. Josephus said in Wars 4.4.1 that the Zealots seized the power of the government during the Zealot siege of February/March AD 68 and that they “presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.”

5. How Did the Two Beasts Relate to “Those Who Dwell on the Earth” (Revelation 13)?

According to Revelation 13:8, 11-12, 14-15, the beast would be worshiped by all who dwelt “on the earth.” This expression, “on the earth,” can also be translated as “in the land,” i.e. the land of Israel. In the following verses, please notice that the expression “those who dwell on the earth” appears four times:

(Verse 8) “And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

(Verses 11-12) “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”

(Verses 14-15) “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”

I want to briefly give some background on this expression (“on the earth” or “in the land”) before explaining why this is so significant when it comes to the identity of the beast and the close partnership between the two beasts that we see in Revelation 13. There are two Greek words that are typically translated as “earth” or “world” in the New Testament. These words are “ge” and “kosmos.”

Dr. Jonathan Welton has shown that “kosmos” appears in Revelation only three times, even though John used this word 57 times in his gospel account and 17 times in I John. Dr. Welton explains that this word “refers to the entire globe, the entirety of planet earth, and the heavens.” On the other hand, the word “ge” appears in Revelation 67 times (i.e. 22 times more often than “kosmos”). Dr. Welton says that this word “refers to a localized inhabited civilization or the land of a particular nation.”

Source: Dr. Jonathan Welton

John’s books Number of chapters in each book Number of times John uses the word “kosmos,” meaning the entire planet Number of times John uses the word “ge,” meaning a specific land
The Gospel According to John 21 57 3
I John 5 17 1
II John 1 1 0
III John 1 0 0
Book of Revelation 22 3 67

This pattern was already established in the Old Testament, where a word which is often translated as “earth” meant “a specific land” rather than the planet. This pattern can be seen especially in the book of Isaiah. Thomas Ice, a Dispensationalist Futurist, acknowledged this in a 2008 article published in the Pre-Trib Research Center. He pointed out that the phrase “earth dwellers” appears about 50 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, and that “the overwhelming majority of times…it is rightfully translated as ‘land dwellers’ or ‘inhabitants of the land’ since the context references a localized area of land or country like Israel.”

Probably the clearest example of the word “ge” in the New Testament as a local (not global) reference is in Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:23). There, Jesus is clearly speaking about Judea, yet some Bible versions translate this word as “earth,” while others translate it as “land”:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:20-23).

If you do a study of the various New Testament passages which use the word “ge,” you’ll find that one Bible version consistently translates this word as “land” instead of “earth,” and that’s (Robert) Young’s Literal Translation. You can also see this in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Albert Marshall.

In 1876 a book was published by the Biblical scholar, Alfred Edersheim, and was titled, “Sketches of Jewish Public Life.” Alfred wrote about the significance of the phrase “the land” to the Jewish Rabbis of the first century. “Palestine,” he said, “was to the Rabbis simply ‘the land,’ all other countries being summed up under the designation of ‘outside the land’” (p. 14). About 20 years before Edersheim’s book was published, P.S. Desprez made the following remarks in his 1855 book, “Apocalypse Fulfilled” (p. 13):

“[When the phrase ‘on the earth’ appears in the book of Revelation] in connection with the governing clauses ‘they that dwell’… Then they have, and can have, only one meaning; then they refer only to one land and to one people, and this land and this people must be the land and the people of Judea.

This exact phrase (“those who dwell on the earth”) is found in 10 verses in the book of Revelation (3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 13:12, 13:14, 14:6, 17:2, and 17:8). Here’s where we come back to why this is so important when looking at Revelation 13 and the close relationship between the two beasts. Four of these 10 instances are in connection with the beast (the verses in bold font above), and three of them are in Revelation 13 (verse 8, twice in verse 12, and verse 14). Revelation 13 speaks of two beasts, one that rises up out of the sea and one that comes up out of the earth (land). What we see is that both beasts demanded worship and loyalty from “those who dwell in the land,” and one beast acted as an enforcer for the other.

It’s very significant that all the activity described in Revelation 13 was centralized in Israel. According to verse 3, all the land followed the beast. According to verse 4, they also worshiped the beast and said, “Who is able to make war with him?” I believe this describes the response after the Zealots kicked the Romans out of Masada and Jerusalem in August/September AD 66, and after they achieved victory over Cestius Gallus and his army in November AD 66. The second beast, described in verses 11-17, was later called “the false prophet” (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). According to verses 11-14, that beast exercised authority in the presence of the first beast, causing the people in the land of Israel to worship him, to make an image to him, etc.

A number of preterist authors have identified the first beast as Rome/Nero and the second beast as the religious leaders of Israel. In other words, the implication would be that religious leaders in Israel forced the people of Israel to give their loyalty and worship to Rome and to Nero. However, this is simply not possible. There was an extremely anti-Roman climate in Israel, especially once the Zealots took over. Anti-Roman feelings were already strong in Israel before the war, but they were the only feelings that the people were allowed to have once the war began. Josephus repeatedly described the Zealots killing anyone whom they even suspected of wanting peace with Rome.

In Wars 2.19.4, Josephus said this about Jerusalem in November AD 66: “Now as for the people, they were kept under by the seditious.” Clearly, then, Jerusalem was under the control of the Zealots and already off-limits to the Romans by that time. So any 3.5 year period featuring a deep partnership between Rome/Nero and false prophets from Israel would have ended by AD 66 (even earlier actually), and therefore would have begun by at least AD 62. However, there was no such time period, and preterists don’t even look for any time period as early as that to fulfill the 42 months of Revelation 13, as far as I’m aware.

I would like to submit that Revelation 13 describes a partnership between the Zealot movement (the first beast) and the false prophets in the land (the second beast). Let’s look at a few examples from the works of Josephus to see what this partnership looked like.

Jewish False Prophets Working with the Zealots

In Antiquities 20.8.6 Josephus wrote the following about numerous false prophets who deceived the Jews during the time of the Procurators Felix (52-58 AD) and Festus (59-62 AD):

“These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them suffered the punishments of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and then punished them. Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives…”

In Wars 2.13.4-6 Josephus wrote about various false prophets and deceivers who worked to persuade the people to revolt against the Romans and who killed those who refused to revolt:

“There was also another body of wicked men gotten together… These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of Divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty…

for a company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from such their desired inclinations; for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war.”

In Wars 6.5.1-2 Josephus talked about how, when the temple was burned down, the number of people killed in that blaze was especially high because so many people listened to the words of a false prophet. Josephus also revealed that this false prophet was one of many false prophets who had been hired by the Zealots to control the people and keep them from fleeing from their control:

“A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now there was then a great number of false prophets suborned [hired] by the tyrants to impose on the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God; and this was in order to keep them from deserting” (Wars 6.5.2).

Limitations of Nero’s Persecution

Some may ask, “Well, what about Nero’s persecution?” Revelation 13:5-7 says that the beast would have authority for 42 months (3.5 years) and would “make war with the saints” and overcome them. Didn’t Nero persecute Christians for 3.5 years, beginning in AD 64? Let’s quickly look at what historians say about why Nero persecuted Christians, where this persecution took place, and for how long it took place.

The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote that Nero punished Christians in Rome in order to “get rid of the report” that he had ordered Rome to be burned. Tacitus only mentions this happening in the city of Rome, but not elsewhere in the empire:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace… Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind” (Tacitus, Annals 15).

So Tacitus said that Christians in Rome were persecuted for “hatred against mankind” and as scapegoats for arson. This was an entirely different cause for persecution than what John saw taking place in Revelation 13:15. There John saw that persecution and death came from refusing to worship the image of the beast.

The “Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 6” says that Nero’s persecution of Christians “does not seem to have extended through all the provinces [of the Roman empire], but rather to have been restricted to Rome and the surrounding country” (p. 956). On the other hand, John saw persecution happening to those who were dwelling in the land (i.e. of Israel), carried out by the second beast (false prophet) that came up out of the land, and taking place in the presence of the first beast (verses 11-14).

Again, it’s quite impossible to imagine the false prophets from the land demanding that the people of Israel worship Nero, and sentencing to death those who refused, when those same people came under the tight control of the fanatically anti-Roman Zealots in AD 66, less than two years after Nero’s persecution began. (There was a heavy anti-Roman climate in Israel even well before AD 66, and Jews were killed for feeling otherwise before AD 66 as well.)

Another resource, “A Critical Study of the Sources of the History of the Emperor Nero,” written by John Nicholas Henry Jahn, notes that Nero’s persecution may not have lasted even two years. This is because Nero left Rome in late AD 66 and went to Greece, where he remained for more than a year (pp. 14-15). Jahn also agreed that it “is not likely that Nero ordered the persecution to be extended to the provinces” of the Roman Empire (p. 15).

So various sources indicate that Nero’s persecution, as severe as it was, did not match the motive, location, or duration spoken of in Revelation 13:5-8. It also needs to be pointed out that Daniel 7 shows the little horn of the beast persecuting the saints for 3.5 years all the way up until the very time that the kingdom would be stripped from that beast and given into the hands of the saints. This does not suggest that the persecution stopped in AD 68 when Nero died, but rather that it stopped when Israel was stripped of the kingdom (Matthew 21:43-44) at the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in April – September AD 70.

Revelation 20:4 elaborates on Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 by saying that those who refused to worship the beast and receive his mark were beheaded. Quite a number of times, Josephus spoke of the Zealots cutting the throats of Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere, especially those who talked about peace, showed disloyalty to their cause, or whom they suspected of wanting to escape to the Romans. The phrase “cut their throats” could very well mean beheading since the Zealots used swords and not just knives. Examples of this throat cutting from the fall of AD 66 through the summer of AD 70 can be seen in Wars 2.18.3, 4.4.3, 4.5.3, 4.6.3, 5.1.5, 5.8.1, and 5.10.1.

Conclusion

Among preterists, it appears that there has been a shift when it comes to the man of lawlessness of II Thessalonians 2. It used to be taken for granted that this man was Nero. In the Sibylline Oracles, dating to the end of the 1st century AD or the early 2nd century AD, Nero was depicted as the man of lawlessness of II Thessalonians 2:3-4 (Oracle 5, James Eason, “Nero As the Antichrist”). In the 4th century AD, Augustine, in his book “The City of God” (XX.19.3), also wrote that many thought Nero was the man of sin of II Thess. 2.

Now, however, a number of writers have concluded that the man of lawlessness was a Jew, one of the Zealots. I would like to suggest that this same shift is justified when it comes to the beast of Revelation.

Several early church fathers (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, Augustine) seemed to hint that Nero was the beast of Revelation, but didn’t say it directly (source). From what I’ve seen, there were four different authors around the 1830s who were the first to directly say that Nero was the beast. Then this idea gained momentum with the publishing of “The Parousia” in 1878 by J. Stuart Russell, who shared this idea in his book. In any case, I’m hoping that a more critical analysis will be applied to the identity of the beast as some have done regarding the man of sin.

Takeaways

The primary message and agenda of the Zealots was war. They persecuted those who threatened that agenda or wouldn’t go along with it. The Zealots stood in total opposition to the message of Jesus, the new covenant, and the kingdom of God. They were determined to maintain, build, and spread their own kingdom. They were extreme nationalists, but ironically they destroyed their own nation and region fighting for that ideal.

The vision of the Old Testament prophets for the new covenant age was one of peace. That was true for the 1st century church during the Jewish-Roman War, and it’s true for the church now in the year 2017. Are there “beasts” even now trying to get us to follow some type of war agenda? How about the Christian Zionist movement with its open calls for war with Iran and any other perceived “enemies of Israel”? How about voices outside of Christianity, and unfortunately inside of Christianity as well, that want us to fight against refugees, Muslims, liberals, or other groups? N.T. Wright said this in his book, “Mark for Everyone” (p. 152):

“The word ‘brigand’ in Jesus day wasn’t a word for “thief” or “robber” in the ordinary sense, but for the revolutionaries, those we today would call the ultra-orthodox, plotting and ready to use violence to bring about their nationalist dreams. Part of Jesus’ charge against his fellow Jews was that Israel as a whole had used its vocation to be a light for the world as an excuse for a hard, narrow, nationalist piety and politics in which the rest of the world was to be not enlightened but condemned” (Source).

Let’s be careful not to go down the same type of path. Let’s be the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be.

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Glossary of Terms

(These are my suggestions. Please feel free to personally investigate these things.)

The beast: Judea/Israel and later Zealot-led Israel; referenced in Daniel 2, 7; Revelation 11, 13-17, and 19-20

A beast from the land: the false prophets (collectively) who worked with, and on behalf of, the Zealots/Sicarii; this beast was later called “the false prophet”; referenced in Revelation 13:11-17, 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10

10 horns: initially 10 Jewish generals chosen to lead Israel’s war effort (Wars 2.20.3-4) soon after the Jews’ surprising victory over Cestius Gallus in November AD 66 (Wars 2.19); later some of them were replaced as the Zealots pleased (Wars 4.4.1); referenced in Daniel 7:7, 20, 24; Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 7, 12-14, and 16-17

Three horns fell: [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea [3] Joseph ben Gorion; deaths recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1; referenced in Daniel 7:8, 20, 24

A little horn: most likely Eleazar ben Simon, Zealot leader from late AD 66 until April AD 70 whose headquarters was the temple, including the inner court; this person: [A] came up among the 10 horns [B] plucked out three of the first horns [C] had a mouth speaking pompous words [D] made war against the saints [E] was different than the other 10 horns [F] would “intend to change times and the law [G] and prevailed against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints; referenced in Daniel 7:8, 11, 20-22, and 24-27

Seven heads: the family dynasty of “Hezekiah the Zealot” (killed in 47 BC), who Josephus called “the head of the robbers” (Wars 1.10.5); included “Judas the Galilean” (Acts 5:35-37), his three sons, his grandson (Menahem), and Eleazar ben Jairus (Menahem’s cousin), who led the final rebel holdout at Masada until AD 73; referenced in Revelation 13:1, 3; 17:3, 7, and 9-11

Wounded head: Menahem, the seventh head who only continued “a short time” (Revelation 17:10); in late August AD 66 he raided Herod’s armory at Masada, “returned to Jerusalem in the state of a king”, “became the leader of the sedition” (Wars 2.17.8), led the massacre of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem’s Antonia Fortress, and was killed a month later; Menahem is recognized as a Messianic figure; his sudden death was a great blow to the Zealot cause because he was their top leader and it happened so soon after the war began; referenced in Revelation 13:3, 12

Deadly wound healed: two months after Menahem’s death the Zealots defeated the armies of Cestius Gallus, and their followers rejoiced and came to believe they could defeat Rome; another Messianic figure, Simon Bar Gioras, emerged as a hero of that war, became a “king” (Wars 4.9.4), took possession of Jerusalem (Wars 4.9.12, Wars 5.7.3), and was “the general” of the war (Wars 7.5.1-7); referenced in Revelation 13:3, 12

The saints persecuted for 42 months: approximately late fall AD 66 – spring AD 70; this persecution was carried out and/or supervised by the little horn up until the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom; referenced in Daniel 7:21-27; Revelation 13:5-7

No one may buy or sell: The Zealots minted their own coins beginning in AD 66 to represent their independence from Rome and discontinued the use of other coins in Jerusalem, at Masada (60 miles away), and perhaps elsewhere; some were labeled “For the Redemption of Zion”; referenced in Revelation 13:17

Two witnesses: Ananus ben Ananus and Jesus ben Gamaliel, two former high priests who led a peace movement in opposition to the Zealots until they were killed during the Zealot Temple Siege of February/March AD 68; they had “the mastery” over those who opposed them (Wars 4.5.2) until the time came for them to be killed; their bodies remained unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; they were killed the day after a great earthquake; their enemies rejoiced over their deaths; referenced in Revelation 11:3-13

For a more detailed study on the beast of Revelation, please see my series titled “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel,” which is being developed here.

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Revelation 13:3 and the Wounded Head of the Zealot Movement


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 we looked at Revelation 13:1-2. We considered how the beast in John’s day had Babylonian, Persian, and Greek traits. We also looked at how the Zealots and Jewish leaders in the first century followed the same pattern as Satan, who gave his power, throne, and authority to the beast. They frequently accused others, especially the brethren, just like Satan did (Rev. 12:10).

This post will examine Revelation 13:3 and the wounded head, and it includes an extensive overview of the Zealot movement and 12 key leaders of that movement. This is a long post, but even if you disagree that Zealot-led Israel was the beast of Revelation, I believe you’ll find it to be resourceful and informative.

Revelation 13:3

I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”

The seven heads of the beast are first mentioned in Revelation 13:1, and are later spoken of in more detail in Revelation 17:9-11. Here in verse 3, John tells his readers that one of those heads would be mortally wounded. Although I would prefer to wait until we reach Revelation 17 to discuss the seven heads, it’s necessary to do so at this point in order to try to identify the wounded head. It’s in Revelation 17 that John told his readers that:

  • five of the seven heads had already fallen;
  • one was;
  • one hadn’t come yet, and he would only “continue a short time”;
  • the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.”

An Overview of the Zealots/Sicarii

In this post I will propose that the seven heads were seven leaders of the Zealot movement, which Josephus also called “the Fourth Philosophy.” While examining an overview of the movement and its key figureheads, we will consider who the seven heads of the beast were. My proposal is that they all belonged to the family dynasty of Hezekiah (mid-1st century BC) which dominated the Zealot movement for 120 years. This post will discuss the following Zealot/Sicarii leaders (members of Hezekiah’s family dynasty are in bold font):

1. Hezekiah (mid-1st century BC)
2. Judas the Galilean (early 1st century AD; son of Hezekiah)

3. Zadok the Pharisee (early 1st century AD: worked with Judas)
4. Jacob (mid-1st century AD; son of Judas)
5. Simon (mid-1st century AD; son of Judas)
6. Jair (mid-1st century AD; son of Judas)
7. Eleazar ben Ananias (AD 66)
8. Eleazar ben Jair (AD 66-73)
9. Menahem (AD 66; son or grandson of Judas)
10. Eleazar ben Simon (AD 66-70)
11. John Levi of Gischala (AD 66-70)
12. Simon Bar Giora (AD 66-70; uncle of Eleazar ben Simon)

Ray Vander Laan is an author and a teacher who “has been actively involved in studying and teaching Jewish culture” since 1976. In his book, “Life and Ministry of the Messiah,” he includes the following outline of the Zealot movement’s key leadership (p. 130). Even though Eleazar ben Simon, John Levi of Gischala, and Simon Bar Giora held positions of great power in Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War, Ray’s outline of the Zealot leadership is limited to the family dynasty of Hezekiah:

Here Ray lists seven Zealots, all within the family of Hezekiah, extending from 47 BC to AD 73, a period of 120 years:

  1. Hezekiah
    2. Judah (son of Hezekiah)
    3. Jacob (son of Judah)
    4. Simeon (son of Judah)
    5. Yair (son of Judah)
    6. Eleazar ben Yair
    7. Menahem

In 1961 Martin Hengel, a German historian and professor, published a book titled, “The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I until 70 A.D.” Hengel listed these same seven Zealots on page 332 of his book, where he outlined “the dynasty that began with Hezekiah the ‘robber captain’”:

The Zealot movement is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

“The Zealots were originally a political movement in 1st century Second Temple Judaism which sought to incite the people of Judaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land by force of arms, most notably during the First Jewish–Roman War (66-70). Zealotry was the term used by Josephus for a ‘fourth sect’ during this period.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (a Jewish scholar, lecturer, author, and senior associate of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership) gives the following summary of the political undercurrents which fueled the Zealots’ opposition toward Rome. This summary is adapted from his 1991 book, “Jewish Literacy,” and is archived at the Jewish Virtual Library:

No one could argue with the Jews for wanting to throw off Roman rule. Since the Romans had first occupied Israel in 63 B.C.E., their rule had grown more and more onerous. From almost the beginning of the Common Era, Judea was ruled by Roman procurators, whose chief responsibility was to collect and deliver an annual tax to the empire… Equally infuriating to the Judeans, Rome took over the appointment of the High Priest… As a result, the High Priests, who represented the Jews before God on their most sacred occasions, increasingly came from the ranks of Jews who collaborated with Rome…

The Jews’ anti-Roman feelings were seriously exacerbated during the reign of the half-crazed emperor Caligula, who in the year [AD] 39 declared himself to be a deity and ordered his statue to be set up at every temple in the Roman Empire. The Jews, alone in the empire, refused the command… Only the emperor’s sudden, violent death saved the Jews from wholesale massacre…

In the decades after Caligula’s death, Jews found their religion subject to periodic gross indignities, Roman soldiers exposing themselves in the Temple on one occasion, and burning a Torah scroll on another…

In the year 66, Florus, the last Roman procurator, stole vast quantities of silver from the Temple. The outraged Jewish masses rioted and wiped out the small Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem. Cestius Gallus, the Roman ruler in neighboring Syria, sent in a larger force of soldiers. But the Jewish insurgents routed them as well. This was a heartening victory that had a terrible consequence: Many Jews suddenly became convinced that they could defeat Rome, and the Zealots’ ranks grew geometrically…

When the Romans returned, they had 60,000 heavily armed and highly professional troops. They launched their first attack against the Jewish state’s most radicalized area, the Galilee in the north [in 67 AD]. The Romans vanquished the Galilee, and an estimated 100,000 Jews were killed or sold into slavery… The highly embittered refugees who succeeded in escaping the Galilean massacres fled to the last major Jewish stronghold—Jerusalem. There, they killed anyone in the Jewish leadership who was not as radical as they. Thus, all the more moderate Jewish leaders who headed the Jewish government at the revolt’s beginning in 66 were dead by 68—and not one died at the hands of a Roman. All were killed by fellow Jews… The scene was now set for the revolt’s final catastrophe.

Zealots and Sicarii

The Sicarii were famous for hiding their daggers in their cloaks and using them to secretly target their enemies during the festivals (Antiquities 20.8.10). Some sources make a sharp distinction between the Zealots and the Sicarii, while others do not. It seems fair to say that the Sicarii were part of the Zealot movement, but not all Zealots were Sicarii. Thus, “Zealot” was an umbrella term for the revolutionaries who rebelled against Rome.

Some sources say that those who belonged to the family dynasty of Hezekiah were all Sicarii. Wikipedia designates the Sicarii as “a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots.” The Sicarii are mentioned in Acts 21:38, where Paul was asked if he was the Egyptian who had led 4000 assassins (or “dagger-bearers”) into the wilderness. According to Encyclopedia Judaica,

“The name [‘Sicarii’] derived from the Latin word sica, ‘curved dagger’; in Roman usage, sicarii, i.e., those armed with such weapons, was a synonym for bandits. According to Josephus, the Jewish Sicarii used short daggers, μικρἁ Ξιφίδια (mikra ziphidia), concealed in their clothing, to murder their victims, usually at religious festivals (Wars, 2:254–5, 425; Ant., 20:186–7). The fact that Josephus employs the Latin sicarii, transliterated into Greek as σικαριοι (sikarioi) suggests that he adopted a term used by the Roman occupation forces; his own (Greek) word for ‘bandit,’ which he more generally uses to describe the Jewish resistance fighters, is λησταί (lestai).”

Sicarii.” Encyclopaedia JudaicaEncyclopedia.com. 4 Mar. 2017.

Photo Source: Pinterest (Sicarii Dagger)

A classic article by the Israeli historian, Menahem Stern (1925-1989), “Zealots and Sicarii,” proposed a distinction between the Sicarii and the Zealots in terms of their loyalty:

“The Sicarii continued to be loyal to the dynasty of Judah the Galilean, their last leaders being Menahem and Eleazar b. Jair, who were scions of that house; in contrast the Zealots showed no particular loyalty to any house or dynasty.”

This article also pointed out that a “revolutionary government” was set up in Jerusalem near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66-73), but lasted for only about six months. This was the same temporary government that, just after the Jews defeated Cestius Gallus in November AD 66, appointed 10 Jewish generals to lead the inevitable war with Rome (Wars 2.20.3-4):

“Just before the war, ‘a kind of enmity and factionalism broke out among the high priests and leaders of the Jerusalem populace’ who joined hands with ‘the boldest revolutionaries’ to carry out their high-level power feuds (Ant. 20:180, cf. Pes. 57a)… And significantly, the first revolutionary government formed in Jerusalem in 66 C.E. and lasting about six months was composed of high priests, noble priests, and lay nobility: the roster of noble rebels is long. These rebellious aristocrats joined the struggle for a variety of motives, including desire to protect their local power and influence, a feeling of genuine outrage at abuses by the Roman procurators, and infection by the messianic fervor and eschatological hopes pervading Judea before the war.”

This revolutionary government soon gave way to the Zealot leaders who seized control of Jerusalem over the following 3.5 years: Eleazar ben Simon, John Levi of Gischala, and Simon Bar Giora. Momentarily we’ll look at these three characters, but let’s start at the beginning and look at 12 Zealot/Sicarii leaders, beginning with Hezekiah.

Hezekiah

On page 313 of his book, “The Zealots,” Martin Hengel explained why a Jewish hero by the name of Hezekiah should be considered the first head of the Zealot movement:

“A historical outline of the Jewish freedom movement between the reign of Herod I and 70 A.D. has to begin at the point where Josephus speaks for the first time about Jewish ‘robbers,’ which is the most general term that he uses to include all the groups opposing foreign rule. We come across these ‘robbers’ quite abruptly in connection with the sending of the young Herod to Galilee as commander-in-chief.”

Hengel then cited the first occasion where Josephus spoke of these “robbers” in his works. In 46 BC Herod captured “the robber captain Hezekiah,” took him prisoner, and “had him put to death with many of his robbers” (see Josephus, Antiquities 14.9.2-3). In Wars 1.10.5, Josephus says that Hezekiah had “a great band of men.” It may be noteworthy that Josephus calls Hezekiah “the head,” the same term that John used in Revelation 13:1, 3; 17:3, 7, 9-11:

“Now Herod was an active man, and soon found proper materials for his active spirit to work upon. As therefore he found that Hezekias, the head of the robbers, ran over the neighboring parts of Syria with a great band of men, he caught him and slew him, and many more of the robbers with him; which exploit was chiefly grateful to the Syrians…”

Kaufmann Kohler, PHD, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth-El (New York) and President of Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati, Ohio), also agrees that the Zealot movement began in the time of Herod the Great and Hezekiah. He says that the Zealots were an “aggressive and fanatical war party from the time of Herod until the fall of Jerusalem and Masada. The members of this party bore also the name Sicarii… The reign of the Idumean Herod gave the impetus for the organization of the Zealots as a political party.” (Jewish Encyclopedia: Zealots).

Menahem Stern also saw Hezekiah as the founder of a movement which eventually spread throughout the entire Jewish Diaspora:

“Hezekiah and his son were the founders of a dynasty of leaders of an extremist freedom movement, a dynasty which it is possible to trace until the fall of Masada… They, the proponents of the Fourth Philosophy, were the first to raise the standard of revolt…and preached rebellion throughout the length and breadth of the Diaspora.”

1st Century Jewish Diaspora (Jewish Virtual Library)

The following description of “Hezekiah (The Zealot)” in The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906) reveals that his rebellion was in response to the actions of Pompey the Great, who conquered Judea in 63 BC. It also reveals that Hezekiah was beheaded:

He fought for Jewish freedom and the supremacy of the Jewish law at the time when Herod was governor of Galilee (47 B.C.). When King Aristobulus, taken prisoner by the Romans, had been poisoned by the followers of Pompey, Hezekiah (‘Ezekias’ in Josephus, ‘Ant.’ xiv. 9, §§ 2 et seq) gathered together the remnants of that king’s army in the mountains of Galilee and carried on a successful guerrilla war against the Romans and Syrians, while awaiting the opportunity for a general uprising against Rome. The pious men of the country looked upon him as the avenger of their honor and liberty. Antipater, the governor of the country, and his sons, however, who were Rome’s agents in Palestine, viewed this patriotic band differently. In order to curry favor with the Romans, Herod, unauthorized by the king Hyrcanus, advanced against Hezekiah, took him prisoner, and beheaded him, without the formality of a trial; and he also slew many of his followers. This deed excited the indignation of all the patriots. Hezekiah and his band were enrolled among the martyrs of the nation.”

Because many of the Jews were angry with Herod, an effort was made by the Sanhedrin to bring him to trial over what he had done to Hezekiah.

Judas the Galilean (Hezekiah’s son) and Zadok

Over the next half century, more robbers followed in Hezekiah’s trail throughout Galilee and Judea, but it was his son, Judas the Galilean, who took the movement to the next level. Kaufmann Kohler said this about the period after which Herod the Great repeatedly crushed the rebellions of Hezekiah and those who rose up after him:

“The spirit of this Zealot movement, however, was not crushed. No sooner had Herod died (4 C.E.) then the people cried out for revenge (“Ant.” xvii. 9, § 1) and gave Archelaus no peace. Judea was full of robber bands, says Josephus (l.c. 10, § 8), the leaders of which each desired to be a king. It was then that Judas, the son of Hezekiah, the above-mentioned robber-captain, organized his forces for revolt, first, it seems, against the Herodian dynasty, and then, when Quirinus introduced the census, against submission to the rule of Rome and its taxation.”

According to Josephus, “the Fourth Philosophy” was founded by Judas of Galilee. Martin Hengel, however, didn’t believe that Josephus provided evidence that Judas, rather than his father, was the founder. He pointed out that Josephus merely noted a “great increase” of robbers because of the exploits and teachings of Judas: “[All] that [Josephus] says of the founding of the fourth sect of philosophy by Judas the Galilean is that it led to a great increase in the scourge of robbers” (Hengel, p. 41).

Like the “robbers” before him, Judas seemed to concentrate his activities around Sepphoris (Antiquities 14.15.4 and Antiquities 17.10.5), the capital of Galilee which was not far from Nazareth. Here’s how Josephus described “the Fourth Philosophy” of the Zealots, and how Judas of Galilee laid the groundwork for this movement near the time of Jesus’ birth (Antiquities 18.1.1-6):

“1. NOW Cyrenius, a Roman senator… came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’s money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it, by the persuasion of Joazar, who was the son of Beethus, and high priest; so they, being over-persuaded by Joazar’s words, gave an account of their estates, without any dispute about it. Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc [Zadok], a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty;

…so men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height. All sorts of misfortunes also sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; one violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends which used to alleviate our pains; there were also very great robberies and murder of our principal men. This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people, (by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left,) and sometimes on their enemies; a famine also coming upon us, reduced us to the last degree of despair, as did also the taking and demolishing of cities; nay, the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies’ fire.

Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction, which these men occasioned by their thus conspiring together; for Judas and Sadduc, who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us, and had a great many followers therein, filled our civil government with tumults at present, and laid the foundations of our future miseries, by this system of philosophy, which we were before unacquainted withal, concerning which I will discourse a little, and this the rather because the infection which spread thence among the younger sort, who were zealous for it, brought the public to destruction.

2. The Jews had for a great while had three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees; of which sects, although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I a little touch upon them now…

6. But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord… And it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans” (See also Wars 2.8.1).

The Jewish Virtual Library adds this about Judas:

“He had put himself at the head of a band of rebels near Sepphoris and had seized control of the armory in Herod’s palace in the city. According to Josephus, he had even aspired to the throne (Ant., 17:271–2; Wars, 2:56). Though the rebels were defeated, Judah apparently succeeded in escaping (Jos., Ant., 17:289ff).”

Judas is mentioned in Acts 5 by Gamaliel when he addressed the council of the high priests and elders concerning Peter and the other apostles:

And he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed…’” (Acts 5:35-37; see Antiquities 20.5.1 for the account of Theudas, the magician).

Robert Travers Herford (1860-1950), a British scholar of rabbinical literature, made an interesting comparison between Mattathias of the Maccabean revolt (167 BC) and Judas of Galilee nearly 175 years later:

“There is no certain trace of the Zealots as a party until the end of the reign of Herod; but even at the beginning of his reign there were those whose actions were of a kind precisely like the deeds of the somewhat later Zealots. Hezekiah, whom Josephus called a robber-chieftain, was put to death by Herod at the beginning of his reign. His son was that Judas of Galilee who was the real founder of the Zealot party; but Hezekiah only did much what Judas did, and the so-called robber-chieftain, though he failed, sounded the first note of the rebellion, which became the great war of A.D. 66-70.

It is no doubt true that the Zealot party took definite shape as an organised body under Judas, about the year A.D. 6, when the census was taken by of Quirinius; but their origin can be traced to an earlier date, with considerable probability. The Maccabean revolt had begun, in 167 B.C., by the sudden call of the priest Mattathias to resist the agents of the tyrant who would compel the Jews to disown their religion and disobey their God. Mattathias cried, ‘Whoso is zealous for the Torah…let him follow me’ (I Macc. ii. 27).

The word translated ‘zealous’ is (in Greek as well as in English) practically the same as the word ‘zealot.’ Moreover the Hebrew name ‘Kannaim,’ which was the name of the party as organised by Judas of Galilee, is used in a law which dates from the Maccabean times. It would seem probable that Judas, when he organised the Zealots into a party, made it his object to repeat the exploits of the first Maccabeans, by violent measures against all who were disaffected in their adherence to the Torah and ready to submit to the heathen king. The rebellion begun by Judas Maccabaeus had led to the liberation of the people from the foreign yoke and the establishment of an independent kingdom. That kingdom had only passed out of Maccabean hands when Herod acquired the throne; and the fact that every later attempt to recover it by his descendants found support amongst the people, shows that the memory of what the Maccabeans had done was still able to fire the popular mind in the time of Judas of Galilee.

(Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period [London: The Lindsey Press, 1928], pp. 66-67)

Less information seems to be known about Zadok, the Pharisee, who worked with Judas in heading “a large number of Zealots.”

Jacob, Simon, and Jair (sons of Judas)

Judas the Galilean had three sons: Jacob (also called James), Simon (also called Simeon), and Jair (or Jairus or Yair). While Tiberius Alexander was the Roman procurator of Judea (AD 46-48), he had Jacob and Simon crucifed because of the rebellions they led:

“…the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified” (Antiquities 20.5.2).

It’s difficult to find information on Jair, but (as we will see) his son, Eleazar, was a prominent leader during the Jewish-Roman War who led the final rebel holdout at Masada until AD 73.

Zealots in Jesus’ Lifetime

One of the 12 disciples whom Jesus chose was a Zealot. Luke mentions “Simon called the Zealot” when he names the disciples (Luke 6:15), and “Simon the Zealot” is again included in his list of those who stayed in an upper room after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:13).

Barabbas was another Zealot. He was the “notorious prisoner” (Matthew 27:16) who was released by Pilate instead of Jesus (Matthew 27:16). Barabbas and “his fellow insurrectionists” had recently “committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15:7) which took place in Jerusalem (Luke 23:19).

Some scholars believe that the two thieves who were crucified on either side of Jesus were also Zealots. Mark 15:27 refers to them as “two robbers,” using the same term that Josephus often used to describe the Zealots. It’s also the same term that John used to describe Barabbas: “Now Barabbas was a robber” (John 18:40).

Herford believed that Judas Iscariot was also a Zealot. He pointed out that “the headquarters of the Zealots were in Galilee,” where Jesus spent a lot of His time and where He chose His first disciples: “Of all the types of Judaism…the Zealots are the only ones with whom Jesus would have much opportunity of coming in contact” when He was in Galilee (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period, p. 71). Gary J. Goldberg, editor of “The Flavius Josephus Home Page,” shares a similar idea: “Judas Iscariot is thought by some to have derived his name from the Sicarii, the terrorists prior to the war” (Goldberg, Causes of War).

Martin Hengel (p. 340) says that when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, He apparently asked why He was being arrested as if He were a Zealot. “Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?’” (Mark 14:48).

Eleazar ben Ananias (AD 66)

Eleazar ben Ananias was not in the family dynasty of Hezekiah and Judas the Galilean, but he was the son of Ananias the high priest. When the Jewish-Roman War began, he was the governor of the temple, (Antiquities 20.9.3Wars 2.17.2), the second highest position in the temple other than high priest. It’s suggested that he obtained this position in 62 AD. This position was known as “segan” (Aramaic) or “sagan” (Hebrew). According to Rabbi Hanina Segan ha-Kohanim (40-80 AD), “In case the high-priest became unfit for service, the ‘Segan’ [Deputy] should enter at once to do the service” (Talmud, Tractate Sota 42a).

Eleazar’s father, Ananius ben Nedebaios, was the high priest from roughly 46-52 AD. He’s the one who commanded Paul to be struck on the mouth during his appearance before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:2), prompting Paul to prophesy that Ananias would also be struck (verse 3). Ananius also gave evidence against Paul to the governor Felix at Caesarea (Acts 24:1). Ananias was pro-Roman, unlike his son, Eleazar.

When Albinus was the Roman Procurator of Judea (AD 62-64), Eleazar was kidnapped by the Sicarii and was eventually let go when their demand was met:

“But now the Sicarii went into the city by night, just before the festival, which was now at hand, and took the scribe belonging to the governor of the temple, whose name was Eleazar, who was the son of Ananus [Ananias] the high priest, and bound him, and carried him away with them; after which they sent to Ananias, and said that they would send the scribe to him, if he would persuade Albinus to release ten of those prisoners which he had caught of their party; so Ananias was plainly forced to persuade Albinus, and gained his request of him. This was the beginning of greater calamities; for the robbers perpetually contrived to catch some of Ananias’s servants” (Antiquities 20.9.3).

In the book, Final Decade before the End (p. 219), Ed Stevens says that Eleazar ben Ananias led a challenge against Roman troops in May AD 66. “When the Roman Procurator Gessius Florus brought his soldiers to Jerusalem to confiscate all the gold from the Temple,” Yosippon recorded the following:

“[Eleazar b. Ananius]… being a youth and very stout of heart, saw the evil that Florus did among the people. He sounded the shofar, and a band of youths and bandits, men of war, gathered around him, and he initiated a battle, challenging Florus and the Roman troops [Sepher Yosippon, ch. 59].”

In August AD 66 Eleazar made a decision which Josephus said marked “the true beginning” of the Jewish-Roman War. He put a stop to all the sacrifices and offerings of the Gentiles, something which had never been done since the days of Moses and Aaron:

“At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. These relied much upon their multitude, for the most flourishing part of the innovators assisted them; but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple” (Wars 2.17.2).

At that time, as this quote reveals, Eleazar was considered to be the chief leader of the temple guard and those in the temple complex who wanted to revolt against Rome. Josephus also mentioned that Eleazar and his colleagues hadbrought up novel rules of a strange Divine worship” (Wars 2.17.3).

He was mentioned again in Wars 2.17.5 as being among “the seditious” (the Zealots) who “had the lower city [of Jerusalem] and the temple in their power,” while “the men of power, with the high priests, as also all the part of the multitude that were desirous of peace, took courage, and seized upon the upper city [Mount Sion].” Under Eleazar, the seditious “joined to themselves many of the sicarii,” burned the palaces of Agrippa and Bernice as well as the house of Ananias the high priest, burned the contracts of creditors (“in order to gain the multitude of those who had been debtors”), drove the moderate leaders out of the upper city, and slaughtered the Roman garrison at the Fortress of Antonia (Wars 2.17.6-7).

Soon after this, Eleazar’s father, Ananius was killed by “Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean” (Wars 2.17.8-9). Menahem “became the leader of the sedition” in September AD 66, according to Josephus, but only for about a month. “Eleazar and his party” avenged his father’s death and killed Menahem. In December AD 66, Eleazar was named as one of the 10 generals for war against Rome, and he was assigned to Idumea, a region south of Judea (Wars 2.20.4). It appears that, after this, Josephus never mentioned him again.

Eleazar ben Jair (AD 66–73)

A different Eleazar also played a key role in the Zealot cause near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War. Eleazar ben Jair (or Jairus) was a grandson of Judas the Galilean, and part of Hezekiah’s family dynasty. Josephus mentioned him for the first time in Wars 2.17.9 as one of the people who tried to defend Menahem (his relative) after he had killed Ananias:

“A few there were of them who privately escaped to Masada, among whom was Eleazar, the son of Jairus, who was of kin to Manahem, and acted the part of a tyrant at Masada afterward.”

However, Josephus later provided information which shows that Eleazar played a key role in the Zealot cause before Menahem rose to prominence. This is what Josephus said when he introduced the topic of Masada’s overthrow in AD 73:

“This fortress was called Masada. It was one Eleazar, a potent man, and the commander of these Sicarii, that had seized upon it. He was a descendant from that Judas who had persuaded abundance of the Jews, as we have formerly related, not to submit to the taxation when Cyrenius was sent into Judea to make one” (Wars 7.8.1).

Here’s how Josephus described the Sicarii’s successful assault upon Masada in August AD 66, which resulted in the deaths of the Romans who had been stationed there. By inference, this is where Josephus first spoke of Eleazar ben Jairus:

“And at this time it was that some of those that principally excited the people to go to war made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada. They took it by treachery, and slew the Romans that were there, and put others of their own party to keep it” (Wars 2.17.2).

Fortress of Masada, Built by Herod I (Source: National Geographic)

So when Menahem stole arms from king Herod’s armory at Masada to use in Jerusalem [Wars 2.17.8.433-434], Eleazar had already captured Masada, which was located about 60 miles southeast of Jerusalem. After trying to defend Menahem in Jerusalem in September AD 66, and fleeing to Masada when their operation failed, Eleazar apparently remained there until he led hundreds of others in a mass suicide in AD 73.

The Jewish Encyclopedia says that Eleazar succeeded Menahem “as master of Masada” and that he “took up the war of rebellion against Rome and carried it to the very end.” Masada was the final holdout in the Jewish-Roman War. Josephus said that the time came when “all the rest of the country was subdued” and “there was but one only stronghold that was still in rebellion,” i.e. Masada (Wars 7.8.1).

Eleazar built a wall around the entire fortress, and placed guards in various places (and later hastily built a second wall when the Romans were about to breach the first one). It was painful and difficult for Eleazar and his followers to obtain food and water (Wars 7.8.2), but they were determined not to surrender. However, the Roman commander, Silva, burnt down the second wall and Eleazar determined that all of them had to kill themselves rather than be captured, tortured, and killed by the Romans. His speeches to his followers are rather revealing, and can be seen in Wars 7.8.6-7, and the rather graphic details of how they committed mass suicide can be seen in Wars 7.9.1. Only a group of women, who had managed to hide themselves in an underground cavern, lived to tell the story of what happened at Masada (Wars 7.9.2).

Menahem (AD 66; grandson of Judas)

As we’ve already seen, Menahem was a relative (likely a cousin) of Eleazar ben Jairus. He was also a grandson* of Judas the Galilean and a part of Hezekiah’s family dynasty. (*Josephus referred to him as “the son of Judas,” but scholars believe he was actually Judas’ grandson.) Menahem was first mentioned by Josephus in Wars 2.17.8, where it’s said that he raided Herod’s armory at Masada, “returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem” and became the leader of the Zealot revolt. This was in late August AD 66:

“In the meantime, one Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, (who was a very cunning sophister, and had formerly reproached the Jews under Cyrenius, that after God they were subject to the Romans) took some of the men of note with him, and retired to Masada, where he broke open king Herod’s armory, and gave arms not only to his own people, but to other robbers also. These he made use of for a guard, and returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem; he became the leader of the sedition, and gave orders for continuing the siege.”

“The siege” was a reference to the Zealot/Sicarii assault on the Antonia Fortress, which began on the 15th of Ab (August) AD 66, resulting in the massacre of the Roman garrison that had been stationed there (Wars 2.17.7). Eleazar ben Ananias led the seditious in that attack, and they had also moved on to attack the very well-fortified palace and Agrippa’s soldiers.

Menahem, having taken over as leader, caught and killed many of Agrippa’s soldiers and set fire to their camp (Wars 2.17.8). He also overthrew “the places of strength” and killed the high priest, Ananias, and his brother. This puffed him up and made him “barbarously cruel,” so that “he thought he had no antagonists to dispute the management of affairs with him.”

Martin Hengel said that the revolution was greatly successful under Menahem and the Sicarii who followed him:

“The battle for Jerusalem was not decided until the Sicarii, who were tested in battle and were Menahem’s elite troops, had intervened. The entry of their lord into the city followed their initial successes. This was the sign that the revolution had really succeeded. The Zealots had worked for two generations towards and had now achieved their aim. Almost the entire population had joined in the Holy War against Rome” (The Zealots, p. 363).

However, Eleazar, the son of Ananias, plotted together with his party against Menahem. Part of Eleazar’s motivation was likely to avenge his father’s death, though Josephus gives other reasons (Martin Hengel also provides a good analysis on pp. 364-365 of “The Zealots”; a PDF of this book can be read or downloaded here). Eleazar and his men attacked Menahem while he was pompously worshipping in the temple, even though they knew their actions could cause the entire revolt to fail:

“They made an assault upon [Menahem] in the temple; for he went up thither to worship in a pompous manner, and adorned with royal garments, and had his followers with him in their armor. But Eleazar and his party fell violently upon him, as did also the rest of the people; and taking up stones to attack him withal, they threw them at the sophister, and thought, that if he were once ruined, the entire sedition would fall to the ground” (Wars 2.17.9).

Menahem and his men tried to resist, but they eventually fled and some were caught while others hid. Menahem was caught, taken alive and tortured, and then killed along with all of his captains. Many of the Sicarii were also caught and killed at this time, and other Sicarii fled to Masada where they were led by Eleazar ben Jairus. According to the Israeli historian, Menahem Stern,

“From this time on the Sicarii ceased to be the guiding factor in the events in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, they continued to exist and it was they who were destined to be the last to hold aloft the standard of rebellion… In addition, the considerable number of the warriors who fought under Simeon bar Giora at the time of the siege is easily explained on the assumption that many Sicarii were included in his army, since they felt themselves more in sympathy with him than with the other leaders in besieged Jerusalem. Their extreme social views bridged the gap between them and Simeon.”

Martin Hengel, author of “The Zealots” (p. 295), pointed out that Menahem’s “temporary stay as a leader in Jerusalem lasted barely four weeks,” from 15 Ab to 17 Elul in AD 66 (late August to late September). Indeed, Menahem’s quick rise to prominence and his death are recorded in just two consecutive small sections in Wars of the Jews (Wars 2.17.8-9). I believe that Menahem was the seventh king who had “not yet come” when John wrote Revelation, and who would only “continue a short time” (Revelation 17:10).

Seven Kings of Revelation 17:10 (Family Dynasty of “Hezekiah the Zealot”)

 

There are also seven kings. Five have fallen 1. Hezekiah (47 BC)
  2. Judas of Galilee (led rebellion from AD 6-8)
  3. Jacob (son of Judas; crucified around AD 47)
  4. Simon (son of Judas; crucified around AD 47)
  5. Jair (son of Judas; father of Eleazar)
one is 6. Eleazar ben Jair (rebel leader from AD 66-73)
and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (Rev. 17:10). 7. Menahem (rebel leader for only a month in AD 66)

Martin Hengel said that it was evident Menahem “had both special authority and a position of power.” He added:

“He was probably not only the leader of one of the many ‘robber bands’ that were in control of the open country, but also the head of the Zealot movement in the whole of the country. His authority was based on his descent from the founder of the sect, Judas, on his own military power, which he had increased by his successful attack against Masada, and, last but not least, on his personal experience in battle and his own forceful personality” (The Zealots, p. 362).

Numerous sources say that Menahem was a Messiah figure, and even that he claimed to be the Messiah. Martin Hengel points out that, in the rabbinic Haggadah, Menahem was regarded as “the Messiah” (The Zealots, p. 295). This source also relates a legend in which a peasant heard Menahem’s mother say, “His omen is disastrous, because the Temple was destroyed on the day that he was born.” The peasant then answered, “We believe that, just as it (the Temple) was destroyed because of him, so too will it be rebuilt because of him.” Hengel interprets this legend as meaning that, to the Zealots who followed Menahem, the death of such a Messiah-figure in the temple was like sealing the doom of the temple itself.

According to the Dutch historian, Jona Lendering (at Livius),

“There is no need to doubt whether Menahem claimed to be the Messiah. He was a warrior, entered Jerusalem dressed as a king, quarreled with the high priest (who may have entertained some doubts about Menahem’s claim), and worshipped God in the Temple. We can be positive that Menahem wanted to be the sole ruler of a restored Israel.”

Kaufmann Kohler, Ph.D, a Rabbi and theologian, adds:

Rabbinical tradition alludes to Menahem’s Messiahship when stating that the Messiah’s name is Menahem the son of Hezekiah (Sanh. 98b); and according to Geiger (“Zeitschrift,” vii. 176-178), he is the one who went up with eighty couples of disciples of the Law equipped with golden armor and crying out: “Write upon the horn of the ox, ‘Ye [yielding Pharisees] have no share in the God of Israel!'” (Yer. Ḥag. ii. 77b).

In the immediate aftermath of Menahem’s death, the remaining Zealots “hoped to prosecute [the war] with less danger, now they had slain Menahem,” and the common people “earnestly desired” that they would stop attacking the Roman soldiers. Eleazar ben Ananias and his men made oaths to the soldiers that they would be spared, but it was a trick. After the soldiers laid down their swords and shields, the Zealots “attacked them after a violent manner, and encompassed them around, and slew them” (Wars 2.17.10).

Josephus adds that “men made public lamentation” when they saw this, and “the city was filled with sadness, and every one of the moderate men in it were under great disturbance.” At this time tragedies also came upon the Jews in Caesarea, Syria, Alexandria, and other places as cities and regions rose up against them. Soon, Cestius Gallus swept through Galilee in partnership with Agrippa and with thousands of soldiers, planning to capture Jerusalem and put down the rebellion. This plan was a terrible failure for Cestius Gallus, though, as we will see in the next post.

Was Menahem the wounded head of Revelation 13:3, 12? This question will be discussed at the end of this post.

Eleazar ben Simon (AD 66-70)

Eleazar ben Simon came from a priestly family (Wars 4.4.1.225), and was not part of the family dynasty of Hezekiah. He was the nephew of Simon Bar Giora (Wars 6.4.1), who will be discussed below. Eleazar was first introduced by Josephus in Wars 2.20.3 as a war hero in the victory over Cestius Gallus in November AD 66. According to Josephus, he “had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures.”

Soon after this victory, the rebels appointed 10 “generals for the war” (Wars 2.20.3-4). Josephus speaks of Eleazar ben Simon as a natural choice for one of those positions due to his bravery and success in the battle against Cestius Gallus. Instead he was kept out of that office because of his terrible temper and the extreme loyalty of his followers, but he managed to become the main leader of the Zealots anyway:

“They did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office… because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper; and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar’s money, and the tricks by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs” (Wars 2.20.3).

This was still true almost 1.5 years later, in early AD 68. Josephus said that among the Zealot leaders, he was “the most plausible man, both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon” (Wars 4.4.1). John Levi of Gischala, who will be discussed next, joined forces with Eleazar ben Simon at this time, and, after killing Ananus ben Ananus and other high priests in February-March AD 68 AD, together they seized control of the entire city of Jerusalem (Wars 4.4.1 – 4.6.3).

Eleazar made the temple his headquarters for nearly 3.5 years, from late AD 66 until his death in mid-April AD 70. Josephus said that it was “Eleazar, the son of Simon, who made the first separation of the zealots from the people, and made them retire into the temple” (Wars 5.1.2). Around December AD 67, Eleazar and the other Zealots made the sanctuary of the temple “a shop of tyranny” by casting lots to select a fake high priest named Phannias. He was chosen against his will from a village in the countryside, fitted with “a counterfeit face” and the sacred garments, and “upon every occasion [they] instructed him what he was to do” (Wars 4.3.6-8).

In the spring of AD 69, Eleazar “was desirous of gaining the entire power and dominion to himself” and he “revolted from John [Levi].” He and his followers “seized upon the inner court of the temple” and made use of the sacred things in there (Wars 5.1.2). At this time, he led one of three Zealot factions, with the other factions being led by John Levi and Simon Bar Giora (Wars 5.1.1, 4; Revelation 16:19).

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (June 9, 2015)

Eleazar ben Simon was killed by John Levi’s forces on April 14, AD 70, just as the Roman general Titus began his siege. This happened at the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Eleazar opened the gates to the inner court of the temple

“and admitted such of the people as were desirous to worship God into it. But John made use of this festival as a cloak for his treacherous designs, and armed the most inconsiderable of his own party, the greater part of whom were not purified, with weapons concealed under their garments, and sent them with great zeal into the temple, in order to seize upon it; which armed men, when they were gotten in, threw their garments away, and presently appeared in their armor… These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon. And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two” (Wars 5.3.1).

John Levi of Gischala (AD 66-70)

John Levi was from Gischala in Galilee, and was not part of Hezekiah’s family dynasty. Josephus wrote extensively about him in his book, “The Life of Flavius Josephus.” John was not a Zealot from the beginning. At one point, when the people of Gischala wanted to revolt against the Romans, John tried to restrain them and he urged them to “keep their allegiance to [the Romans]. However, Gischala was then attacked, set on fire, and demolished by non-Jews from neighboring regions. At that point, John became enraged, “armed all his men,” joined the battle, but also rebuilt Gischala “after a better manner than before, and fortified it with walls for its future security” (Life 10.43-45).

In Wars of the Jews, John was first mentioned in Wars 2.21.1 as “a treacherous person,” a “hypocritical pretender to humanity,” and as one who “spared not the shedding of blood” and “had a peculiar knack of thieving.” According to Josephus, John gathered together a band of four hundred men mostly from Tyre, who were greatly skilled “in martial affairs,” and they “laid waste all Galilee.” These things took place while Josephus was “engaged in the administration of the affairs of Galilee,” beginning around December AD 66, since he had been appointed as a general for the war (Wars 2.20.3-4).

Josephus said that John Levi became wealthy through an oil scheme, and he also wanted to “overthrow Josephus” and “obtain the government of Galilee” for himself. He had a number of “robbers” under his command. He spread a rumor that Josephus was planning to give Galilee to the Romans and engaged in other plots against him (Wars 2.21.2), including a murder attempt that Josephus barely escaped (Wars. 2.21.6).

The Encyclopedia Judaica summarizes John’s last unsuccessful plot against Josephus (Wars 2.21.6-8) and his failed attempt almost a year later to save Gischala from the Romans (Wars 4.2.1-5):

“John dispatched a delegation to Jerusalem, demanding that Josephus be dismissed from his position for failing to fulfill his tasks loyally. This request was acceded to, according to Josephus, as a result of John’s bribery and exploitation of his friendship with Simeon b. Gamaliel. Emissaries were sent to dismiss Josephus from his command and advise the citizens of Galilee to support John. Josephus ignored all this and went so far as to threaten John’s supporters…

John’s efforts to organize Galilee for war were unsuccessful and, with the exception of his native city, the whole province fell to the Romans. In the winter of 67, when Titus was at the gates of Giscala and offered terms of surrender, John seized on the intervening Sabbath as a pretext for delaying negotiations and escaped to Jerusalem.

John of Giscala.” Encyclopaedia JudaicaEncyclopedia.com. 3 Mar. 2017.

John escaped to Jerusalem in November AD 67, a year and three months after the Jewish-Roman War began. He and his followers immediately told tall tales about their fight with the Romans at Gischala:

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 when they related to them the taking of Gischala, and their decent departure, as they pretended, from that place, many of the people understood it to be no better than a flight; and especially when the people were told of those that were made captives, they were in great confusion, and guessed those things to be plain indications that they should be taken also. 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; but as to the more prudent part, and those in years, there was not a man of them but foresaw what was coming, and made lamentation on that account, as if the city was already undone; and in this confusion were the people…” (Wars 4.3.1-2).

Soon after this, Phannias, was chosen by lots and installed as a fake high priest and a puppet of the Zealots (Wars 4.3.6-8). Ananus ben Ananus and the other priests shed tears as they watched this mockery take place. Ananus gathered a multitude of the people and gave a speech rebuking them for allowing the Zealots to fill the temple with abominations, plunder houses, shed the blood of innocent people, etc. Ananus said that nothing they could undergo from the Romans would be harder to bear than what the Zealots had already brought upon them. He urged them to rise up together against the Zealots, and said that he was willing to die leading them in that effort (Wars 4.3.10).

Ananus and his followers attacked the Zealots and tried to trap many of them in the temple complex (Wars 4.3.12). John Levi pretended to share their opinion and “at a distance was the adviser in these actions.” He consulted with Ananus and other moderate leaders every day and “cultivated the greatest friendship possible with Ananus, but “he divulged their secrets to the zealots.” His deceit became so great that “Ananus and his party believed his oath” to them, and “sent him as their ambassador into the temple to the zealots, with proposals of accommodation” (Wars 4.3.13).

John betrayed Ananus and falsely claimed that he 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, and the Idumeans quickly prepared an army of 20,000 directed by four commanders (Wars 4.4.2). The day they arrived (in late February AD 68) they were prevented from entering the city, but the next day they managed to hunt down and kill Ananus and Jesus (Wars 4.5.2). Their deaths 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 left Jerusalem (Wars 4.5.5). The Zealots, no longer hindered by the high priests or even the Idumeans, then increased their wickedness (Wars 4.6.1). John Levi began to tyrannize, didn’t want anyone to be his equal, and he gradually put together “a party of the most wicked” of all the Zealots and started his own faction (Wars 4.7.1).

By the time that there were “three treacherous factions in the city” (Wars 5.1.4), John had the second largest contingent of Zealot fighters (Wars 5.6.1):

[1] Simon Bar Giora: 10,000 men and 50 commanders; 5000 Idumeans and eight commanders
[2] John Levi: 6,000 men and 20 commanders
[3] Eleazar ben Simon: 2,400 men

As we’ve already seen, John’s forces tricked and killed Eleazar ben Simon in mid-April AD 70 (Wars 5.3.1), just as Titus was laying siege to Jerusalem. He then had access to the inner court of the temple and didn’t hesitate to commit sacrilegious acts during the siege (fulfilling Revelation 6:6):

“But as for John, when he could no longer plunder the people, he betook himself to sacrilege, and melted down many of the sacred utensils, which had been given to the temple; as also many of those vessels which were necessary for such as ministered about holy things, the caldrons, the dishes, and the tables; nay, he did not abstain from those pouring vessels that were sent them by Augustus and his wife; for the Roman emperors did ever both honor and adorn this temple; whereas this man, who was a Jew, seized upon what were the donations of foreigners, and said to those that were with him, that it was proper for them to use Divine things, while they were fighting for the Divinity, without fear, and that such whose warfare is for the temple should live of the temple; on which account he emptied the vessels of that sacred wine and oil, which the priests kept to be poured on the burnt-offerings, and which lay in the inner court of the temple, and distributed it among the multitude, who, in their anointing themselves and drinking, used [each of them] above an hin of them” (Wars 5.13.6).

Toward the end of the siege, as Jerusalem was on fire, John joined “the tyrants and that crew of robbers” whose last hope was to hide “in the caves and caverns underground” (Wars 6.7.3; Revelation 6:15-17). Due to great hunger, he surrendered to the Romans, was taken captive, and was “condemned to perpetual imprisonment” (Wars 6.9.4). Among the captives who were carried off to Italy for a triumphal parade, John was considered to be their second leader, after Simon Bar Giora, “the general of the enemy” (Wars 7.5.3, Wars 7.5.6).

Simon Bar Giora (AD 66-70)

Simon Bar Giora was not a member of Hezekiah’s family dynasty, but it seems that he fit in with them better than the other Zealot leaders around the time of the war who were not part of this dynasty. Simon was the uncle of Eleazar ben Simon. In Wars 6.4.1 Josephus refers to Eleazar ben Simon as “the brother’s son of Simon the tyrant.” He was originally from Gerasa (Wars 4.9.3). Martin Hengel remarks:

“As his name indicates, Simon Bar Giora was the son of a proselyte. He came originally not from the Jewish motherland, but from Gerasa in the Hellenistic Decapolis. This was a town which had dealt with its Jewish inhabitants not by killing them, but by simply expelling them from its territory. We do not know when Simon left his home town” (The Zealots, p. 374).

Cecil Roth, a Jewish historian from Britain (Oxford), said this in a 1960 article about Simon’s name:

“The form of the name “bar Giora” derives not from Josephus but from Tacitus, who in his brief account of the war refers to him under this name, although confusing him with his rival John of Gischala (‘Ioannes, quern et Bargioram vocabant’) . Josephus speaks of him always as “son of Giora” or the like. ‘Bar Giora’ is of course the form in the Aramaic language, already at this time current in Palestine. Giora is never met with as a proper name, but in Aramaic it means ‘proselyte,’ equivalent to the Hebrew Ger.”

Simon Bar Giora was first mentioned by Josephus in Wars 2.19.2, where he was credited with ambushing the rear of Cestius Gallus’ army in November AD 66 as they retreated from a surprise attack by the Jews: “Simon, the son of Giora, fell upon the backs of the Romans, as they were ascending up Bethoron, and put the hindmost of the army into disorder, and carried off many of the beasts that carded the weapons of war, and led Shem into the city.”

Then in Wars 2.22.2 Josephus says that Simon Bar Giora ravaged the Accrabene Toparchy (at the border of Judea and Samaria), harassing the houses of rich men, tormenting their bodies, and “affecting tyranny in his government” (early AD 67). When an army was sent against him by Ananus ben Ananus (see Wars 4.9.3), he joined “the robbers” (the Sicarii) at Masada “and plundered the country of Idumea with them, till both Ananus and his other adversaries were slain.”

Simon wasn’t spoken of in any detail again until Wars 4.9.3 (early AD 69), with one small exception. In the spring of AD 68, the Idumeans liberated about 2000 people from the prisons in Jerusalem before themselves leaving the city. Interestingly, those prisoners “fled away immediately to Simon” (Wars 4.6.1). This indicates the extent of his fame and influence even when he wasn’t in Jerusalem.

Josephus says that when Simon first came to Masada, the Sicarii were suspicious of him, but they began to trust him when they saw that “his manner so well agreed with theirs.” So “he went out with them, and ravaged and destroyed the country with them about Masada.” Simon was “fond of greatness.”

When he heard the report that Ananus had been killed (late February AD 68), he went into the mountainous part of Judea and “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). The Jewish historian, Cecil Roth, said that it was as if Simon tried to apply Isaiah 61:1-2 to himself the way that Jesus did in Luke 4:16-21, except that for Simon “the Day of Vengeance for the Lord” had already arrived. In any case, it’s interesting that Simon, located at Masada, cast off restraint upon the death of Ananus just like the Zealots in Jerusalem did (Wars 4.6.1).

Simon, with “a strong body of men,” overran villages and became a threat “to the cities.” He had men of power, slaves and robbers, and “a great many of the populace” who “were obedient to him as their king.” According to Josephus, it was no secret that he was “making preparations for the assault of Jerusalem” (Wars 4.9.4). The Zealots were afraid that he would attack them and so they attacked him first, but unsuccessfully. Simon had 20,000 armed men. Before heading to Jerusalem, he “resolved first to subdue Idumea” (Wars 4.9.5).

When Simon marched into Idumea, he began by capturing the city of Hebron. Then he made “progress over all Idumea, and did not only ravage the cities and villages, but laid waste the whole country.” At that point, he had 40,000 followers besides his 20,000 armed men. As a result, “Idumea was greatly depopulated; and as one may see all the woods behind despoiled of their leaves by locusts, after they have been there, so was there nothing left behind Simon’s army but a desert” (Wars 4.9.7).

The Zealots made the mistake of kidnapping his wife, thinking that he would lay down his arms, but Simon “vented his spleen upon all persons that he met with,” shed a lot of blood, and got his wife back (Wars 4.9.8-10). Then he returned to Idumea and “driving the nation all before him from all quarters, he compelled a great number of them to retire to Jerusalem; he followed them himself also to the city” (Wars 4.9.10).

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem there was an uprising against John Levi “out of their envy at his power and hatred of his cruelty.” So, surprisingly, “in order to overthrow John, they determined to admit Simon, and earnestly to desire the introduction of a second tyrant into the city.” Simon, “in an arrogant manner, granted them his lordly protection… The people also made joyful acclamations to him, as their savior and their preserver” (Wars 4.9.11). According to Josephus, Simon “got possession of Jerusalem” around April AD 69 (Wars 4.9.12). Before long, he had “in his power the upper city, and a great part of the lower” (Wars 5.1.3). As we’ve already seen, he had more commanders and armed men with him than John Levi and Eleazar ben Simon had combined (Wars 5.6.1).

In the book, “Simon Son of Man,” published in 1917, the authors (John I. Riegel and John H. Jordan) pointed out the great influence that Simon Bar Giora had during the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66-73), even from its beginning. Although Josephus says that Simon only took control of Jerusalem in AD 69, it was his name that was printed on most of the coins issued by the Zealots beginning in 66 AD (pp. 256 – 259):

The study of Jewish numismatics throws much light upon the personality of Simon Bar Gi’ora and his relations with Eleazar and John during the siege of the Holy City… Of the 36 coins of the period of the great revolt illustrated in Madden’s History of Jewish Coinage, 29 bear the name of Simon. In so great a veneration was he held by his compatriots, even in their defeat, that during the reigns of Titus, Domitian, Trajan and Hadrian his fellow countrymen continued to strike coins bearing his emblems and his venerated name…

The prevailing form is the figure of a seven-branched date tree, with the name ‘Simon’ struck on the obverse, and a three-bunch cluster of grapes, or a similarly shaped tripartite vine leaf on the reverse, with the words ‘First’, ‘Second’ or ‘Third Year of the Deliverance of Israel.’ According to Josephus, Simon Bar Gi’ora did not enter Jerusalem until the third year of the war, yet we possess coins issued by Simon which bear the inscriptions, ‘Second,’ and even ‘First year of the Deliverance of Israel’

Josephus declares there was a bitter enmity existing between Simon Bar Gi’ora, Eleazar Son of Simon, and John, the three princes of the Jews during the siege. Yet, we have one silver coin bearing the name of Eleazar on the obverse and that of Simon on the reverse. This can only prove that Simon and Eleazar acted conjointly even to the extent of minting coins in common…

The coining of money is always the prerogative of the sovereign power in a state. The extant coinage issued in Jerusalem during the siege, struck from almost identical dies, shows how the sovereign power within was divided and mutually recognized. Of course, the number of extant coins bearing the name of Simon far outnumber those of his coadjutors in power, Eleazar and John, and in proportion as they do so they show the relative influence of each on the government of the state and how the sovereign power eventually became vested in the greatest of the three.”

Source: Simon Son of Man, Riegel and Jordan, p. 257

As the Roman siege began, John Levi was afraid of Simon Bar Giora (Wars 5.6.3). Sometime later, though, the two factions led by Simon and John decided to lay aside their differences and work together (with the result being that several times they “became too hard for the Romans” and Titus was even nearly killed):

“Both sorts, seeing the common danger they were in, contrived to make a like defense. So those of different factions cried out one to another, that they acted entirely as in concert with their enemies; whereas they ought however, notwithstanding God did not grant them a lasting concord, in their present circumstances, to lay aside their enmities one against another, and to unite together against the Romans. Accordingly, Simon gave those that came from the temple leave, by proclamation, to go upon the wall; John also himself, though he could not believe Simon was in earnest, gave them the same leave. So on both sides they laid aside their hatred and their peculiar quarrels, and formed themselves into one body” (Wars 5.6.4).

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).

Yet the Jews had the highest regard for, and fear of, Simon. They were also very ready to take their own lives, if he would have given such a command: “Above all, they had a great veneration and dread of Simon; and to that degree was he regarded by every one of those that were under him, that at his command they were very ready to kill themselves with their own hands” (Wars 5.7.3).

Toward the end of the Roman siege of Jerusalem, John Levi and many others had already been captured by the Romans, but Simon was still underground and hoping to escape. Josephus recorded his bizarre behavior when he finally emerged dressed like a king, hoping to trick the Romans, but was captured and kept for the eventual celebration in Rome. Interestingly, he chose to come up out of the ground exactly where the temple had been:

“This Simon, during the siege of Jerusalem, was in the upper city; but when the Roman army was gotten within the walls, and were laying the city waste, he then took the most faithful of his friends with him, and among them some that were stone-cutters, with those iron tools which belonged to their occupation, and as great a quantity of provisions as would suffice them for a long time, and let himself and all them down into a certain subterraneous cavern that was not visible above ground. Now, so far as had been digged of old, they went onward along it without disturbance; but where they met with solid earth, they dug a mine underground, and this in hopes that they should be able to proceed so far as to rise from underground in a safe place, and by that means escape. But when they came to make the experiment, they were disappointed of their hope; for the miners could make but small progress, and that with difficulty also; insomuch that their provisions, though they distributed them by measure, began to fail them.

And now Simon, thinking he might be able to astonish and elude the Romans, put on a white frock, and buttoned upon him a purple cloak, and appeared out of the ground in the place where the temple had formerly been. At the first, indeed, those that saw him were greatly astonished, and stood still where they were; but afterward they came nearer to him, and asked him who he was. Now Simon would not tell them, but bid them call for their captain; and when they ran to call him, Terentius Rufus who was left to command the army there, came to Simon, and learned of him the whole truth, and kept him in bonds, and let Caesar know that he was taken. Thus did God bring this man to be punished for what bitter and savage tyranny he had exercised against his countrymen by those who were his worst enemies; and this while he was not subdued by violence, but voluntarily delivered himself up to them to be punished, and that on the very same account that he had laid false accusations against many Jews, as if they were falling away to the Romans, and had barbarously slain them for wicked actions do not escape the Divine anger, nor is justice too weak to punish offenders, but in time overtakes those that transgress its laws, and inflicts its punishments upon the wicked in a manner, so much more severe, as they expected to escape it on account of their not being punished immediately. Simon was made sensible of this by falling under the indignation of the Romans. This rise of his out of the ground did also occasion the discovery of a great number of others of the seditious at that time, who had hidden themselves under ground. But for Simon, he was brought to Caesar in bonds, when he was come back to that Cesarea which was on the seaside, who gave orders that he should be kept against that triumph which he was to celebrate at Rome upon this occasion” (Wars 7.2.2).

Among the leaders of the captives taken from Jerusalem, Simon was listed first by Josephus (Wars 7.5.3). The Israeli historian Menahem Stern pointed out that the Roman historian, Tacitus, also listed him first:

“Both Simeon and John are mentioned side by side with Eleazar b. Simeon as the commanders in Jerusalem, not only by Josephus but by the Roman historian Tacitus, who enumerates Simeon first and Eleazar last. Titus also regarded Simeon bar Giora as the leading commander and it was he who was chosen by the Romans to exemplify an enemy commander and lead the triumphal procession in Rome.”

This triumphal procession is described in Wars 7.5.1-7. Simon was called “the general of the enemy” and his execution was in “the last part of this pompous show…at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.” A rope was put around his head and he was tormented as he was dragged along. All the people shouted for joy when it was announced that he had been killed (Wars 7.5.6). A Jewish Encyclopedia article written in 1906 by Richard Gottheil (Professor of Semitic Languages, Columbia University) and Samuel Krauss (Professor in Budapest, Hungary) states that he was hurled to his death from the Tarpeian Rock. However, Cecil Roth, the Oxford Jewish historian, stated in a 1960 article that Simon was “was dragged to the Mamertine Prison, where he was strangled in the subterranean chamber.”

A 2007 article in Encyclopaedia Judaica says the following about Simon and his likely “king messiah” role:

“From extant information it would appear that Simeon b. Giora was the leader of a clear eschatological trend in the movement of rebellion against Rome, and possibly filled the role of ‘king messiah’ within the complex of eschatological beliefs held by his followers. His exceptional bravery and daring, mentioned by Josephus, undoubtedly attracted many to him, and won him preeminence among the rebel leaders. In contrast to the bitter hostility that existed between him and John of Giscala, there was a measure of understanding between him and the Sicarii at Masada.”

Bar Giora, Simeon.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Encyclopedia.com. 3 Mar. 2017.

Martin Hengel, in The Zealots (pp. 290-298), agreed that Simon “made claims to Messianic dignity” (p. 297). According to Hengel, [1] Judas of Galilee [2] Menahem, and [3] Simon Bar Giora were all Messianic pretenders. He cited close similarities between Menahem and Simon Bar Giora in that they both marched into Jerusalem like kings, were both regarded by their followers as kings, and both dressed in royal garments when they were captured by their enemies.

Wounded Head

After this long overview of the Zealot movement and its various leaders, we come back to the question: “Who was the wounded head of Revelation 13:3?” Here, again, is what this verse states:

And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”

Several translations, by the way, including Young’s Literal Translation, say “all the earth marveled…” rather than “all the world marveled…” The Greek word for “the earth” (“ge”) can be translated as “the land.” That is, it was the land of Israel that marveled after the beast on account of its deadly wound being healed.

Almost 120 years after the uprising of Hezekiah, and 60 years after the uprising of Judas of Galilee, another head of the Zealot movement was crushed, which jeopardized the plans of the movement and destroyed its unity and momentum. That head was Menahem, who achieved victories at Masada, came into Jerusalem as a king, and became the leader of the Zealots, only to be killed about one month later. Martin Hengel says this about the ramifications of Menahem’s sudden death, which was especially untimely because it took place only about a month after the Jewish-Roman War officially began:

“This whole sequence of events led to a division in the ranks of the Zealot movement precisely at the moment when a consolidation of all its forces under a single leadership was required. It is probable that Menahem, the son of Judas, the founder of the sect, was the only man possessing the necessary authority and experience to organize a lasting resistance to the Romans based on the Zealot movement throughout the whole country

Menahem’s most faithful followers and especially the tribe of the Galilean Judas withdrew to Masada and took no further part in the subsequent course of the war… These men believed that the Temple had been desecrated by this bloody act [Menahem’s murder] and was therefore doomed to destruction. They remained faithful to their earlier views, however, and continued to follow Eleazar b. Ari (Jair), a grandson of Judas, as their leader until their mass suicide…in April 73 A.D. The groups of Zealots in the various parts of the territories settled by the Jews lost their common leader and therefore the bond that held them together. They consequently operated without any sensible plan and were deeply distrustful of the authorities in Jerusalem…

Menahem’s death had weakened the Zealots. Their weakness inevitably resulted in a strengthening in Jerusalem of the moderate forces inclined towards a compromise with Rome. There was therefore bound to be a renewed, intensified confrontation with the radical wing, which had been reinforced by the refugees from the frontier territories. The radicals, however, lacked leaders with universally recognized authority, with the result that there were struggles for power. These undermined the strength of the Jewish resistance.

The consideration of the Zealots as a solidly united party ends therefore with the murder of Menahem. It is true that Zealot ideas still persisted until the destruction of the city and even later, until the revolt of Bar Koseba. The ultimate aim of the sect, the ‘eschatological’ struggle of the entire people against Rome which had begun so promisingly, was, however, condemned to failure from the very beginning. The division of the movement into different groups at war with each other enabled Rome to achieve a victory even before the Holy War itself had properly commenced” (The Zealots, pp. 365-366).

The beast’s wound quickly began to heal when the Zealots achieved a surprise victory against Cestius Gallus about two months later in November AD 66 (Wars 2.19.1-9). The Zealots captured the military engines and other supplies from the Romans and “came back running and singing to their metropolis; while they had themselves lost a few only, but had slain of the Romans five thousand and three hundred footmen, and three hundred and eighty horsemen” (Wars 2.19.9). Eleazar ben Simon and Simon Bar Giora, nephew and uncle to one another, emerged as war heroes and played key roles in leading the revolt over the next 3.5 years. Martin Hengel remarks:

“Even though it would be wrong to place too high a value on the purely military success achieved against Syrian legions, which were notorious for their lack of discipline, the Jewish victory was nonetheless of decisive importance for the continuation of the fight for freedom. It led to even moderate groups of Jews either going over to the side of the war party or else leaving the city [Wars 2.20.1]. The radicals saw in this victory God’s confirmation of their cause and the beginning of the Holy War of annihilation against Rome. Typically enough, two of the new leaders who were, with their groups, to determine the fate of Jerusalem in the years ahead emerged for the first time during these battles before Jerusalem. The leader of a band, Simon Bar Giora, seized hold of the Roman baggage-train on the ascent of Beth-Horon and took it to Jerusalem, while a certain Eleazar b. Simon appeared as the leader of the radical and probably predominantly priestly ‘Zealots.’ To judge from the latter’s large share in the booty, he had played a leading part in the battle itself” (The Zealots, p. 369).

The Israeli historian, Menahem Stern, also emphasized the importance of Simon Bar Giora’s uprising for the Zealot movement after the sudden loss of Menahem and Eleazar ben Jair’s permanent flight to Masada. He saw Simon’s rise to the challenge as a satisfactory resolution after the Sicarii, the party of Hezekiah’s family dynasty, suddenly lacked “a recognized Sicarii leader in Jerusalem”:

“With the murder of Menahem and the departure of Eleazar b. Jair to [Masada, the Sicarii] had lost their traditional leadership. It is a fact that no less than 10,000 out of the 23,400 fighters who defended besieged Jerusalem were directly under the command of Simeon, and to them are to be added 5,000 Idumean soldiers who were associated with them, as against only 6,000 men under the direct command of John of Giscala and 2,400 Zealots who accepted the leadership of Eleazar b. Simeon (War 5:248–50). It thus emerges that under Simeon there were about two-thirds of the total of the defenders of Jerusalem, and the Romans were naturally justified in regarding him as the commander of the enemy forces.”

many of the Sicarii found it difficult to recognize the leadership of someone who did not belong to the family of Judah the Galilean. Nevertheless the differences were straightened out to some extent as a result of the absence of a recognized Sicarii leader in Jerusalem after the death of Menahem.”

Menahem was regarded as a king and a capable leader, but his sudden death came at a bad time for the Zealot movement and left a big hole in its leadership. The surprising victory over Cestius Gallus two months later brought healing to the movement. Before long, Simon Bar Giora brought further healing to the movement as he cozied up to the Sicarii, adopted their way of thinking, and had “men of power”, “slaves and robbers,” and “a great many of the populace” showing obedience to him “as their king” (Wars 4.9.4).
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In the next post we will look at Revelation 13:4, and why these questions were asked: “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”

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

 

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

Photo Source

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

Photo Source

[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.

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.

The Gentiles Trampled Jerusalem for 42 Months (Revelation 11:1-2)


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 numerous details that Daniel was given about the fourth beast. This included the various roles of the “little horn” that rose up among the 10 horns of the fourth beast.

In Revelation 11:7, the fourth beast of Daniel 7 is introduced for the first time simply as “the beast.” It’s translated this way in all 25 versions at Bible Hub. It’s a very sudden introduction, so this should provoke the reader to look back to Daniel 7 to understand this entity’s background.

The reason for this is a grammatical rule known as “the rule of first mention.” This rule dictates that a writer should only use the article “the” when it’s clear to the reader what is being referred to. When introducing a subject for the first time, “a” is the proper article to use. Here’s an example:

An armed robbery took place this morning at J & M’s Pet Store. About an hour ago the police found a gun in a trashcan near the store. They believe it’s the gun that was used in the robbery.”

John expected his original audience to know the writings of Daniel, who prophesied about the fourth beast whose kingdom would be replaced by the kingdom of God. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary (1882) came to the same conclusion:

“This beast was not mentioned before, yet he is introduced as “the beast,” because he had already been described by Daniel (Da 7:3, 11), and he is fully so in the subsequent part of the Apocalypse, namely, Rev 13:1; 17:8. Thus, John at once appropriates the Old Testament prophecies; and also, viewing his whole subject at a glance, mentions as familiar things (though not yet so to the reader) objects to be described hereafter by himself. It is a proof of the unity that pervades all Scripture.”

In the next post, we will look at Revelation 11:7 in context, but first I’d like to examine Revelation 11:1-2 which speaks of the holy city, Jerusalem, being trampled by “the Gentiles” for 42 months. Just like the beast, this description is often thought to be about the Romans, but that idea doesn’t line up with history.

Gentiles in Revelation 11:1-2

In Revelation 11:1-2 John was told about a 3.5 year period of tragedy that was about to come upon:

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.’”

The Greek word used here for “Gentiles” is “ethnos,” the counterpart of the Hebrew word “goy” in the Old Testament. In the past, I simply assumed that this must be a reference to the Romans who helped destroy Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. I marked out 3.5 years from the time that Nero dispatched Vespasian as his war general (early 67 AD) until Vespasian’s son, Titus, oversaw the burning of the temple in August 70 AD.

However, the Romans did not trample the city of Jerusalem for 42 months. They only trampled Jerusalem during the 5-month siege of Titus in 70 AD. The Jews successfully kicked the Romans out of Jerusalem in August 66 AD, and they only managed to return to Jerusalem for a few days in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus unsuccessfully attacked the city. For the next 3.5 years the Romans did not enter Jerusalem.

During the 42 months before the Romans came, Jerusalem was indeed trampled, but it was by a different group of people. In early 68 AD Jesus ben Gamala, one of the former high priests, gave a speech in which he described what was happening to Jerusalem because of the Zealots:

“And this place, which is adored by the habitable world, and honored by such as only know it by report, as far as the ends of the earth, is trampled upon by these wild beasts born among ourselves” (Wars 4.4.3).

So, according to this testimony, it was the Zealots who trampled Jerusalem, and they had a reputation for behaving like wild beasts. In what sense were they “Gentiles,” though? Consider what [1] The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia and [2] The Jewish Encyclopedia say about the use of the word “goy” in Scripture: 

  1. “The Hebrew word goy (plural goyim) means ‘nation.’ In Biblical usage it is applied also to Israel: ‘Ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation’ (goy kadosh; Ex. 19:6).”

Source: “Gentiles,” The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, NY: The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, Inc., 1941); Volume 4, p. 533.

  1. “In the Hebrew of the Bible ‘goi’ and its plural ‘goyyim’ originally meant ‘nation,’ and were applied both to Israelites and to non-Israelites (Gen. xii. 2, xvii. 20; Ex. xiii. 3, xxxii. 10; Deut. iv. 7; viii. 9, 14; Num. xiv. 12; Isa. i. 4, ix. 22; Jer. vii. 28).”

Source: “Gentile,” The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, NY: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1905); Volume 5, p. 615.

There were indeed multiple nations that trampled Jerusalem from the fall of 66 AD until the spring of 70 AD when the Romans were not in the city. Wikipedia gives this summary of those who fought the hardest against the Romans:

“During the Great Rebellion (66-70 CE) the Galileans and Idumeans were the most adamant fighters against Rome; they fought the Romans to the death when many Judeans were ready to accept peace terms.”

Galilee

Galilee was home to many Jews, but it was also associated with “the Gentiles.” When Jesus departed to Galilee after John the Baptist was put in prison, Matthew said that this prophecy from Isaiah was fulfilled:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:15-16).

The three main Zealot leaders (Eleazar ben Simon, John Levi, and Simon Bar Giora) who orchestrated so much bloodshed in Jerusalem were not from Judea. John was from Gischala (Galilee) and Simon was from Gerasa (Wars 4.9.3), which at the time was one of the cities of the Roman Decapolis and today is in Jordan. By the time that Simon “got possession of Jerusalem” in April 69 AD (Wars 4.9.12), he had an army of more than 40,000 people, including Idumeans, who he had gathered from the countryside.

Eleazar took possession of Jerusalem even earlier, in late 66 AD. According to Wikipedia, he was likely from Galilee:

“Historical evidence of Eleazar arises in 66 CE, when he crushed Cestius Gallus’ Legio XII Fulminata at Beit-Horon. Yet prior to this encounter, little is known about his early life and rise to power. It can be inferred, however, from the geopolitical scene of ancient Israel in the first century CE. that he grew up in Galilee, the center of Zealotry. Zealots were shunned by the High Priesthood in Jerusalem prior to the revolt. This disunity with other sects of Judaism confined Zealotry to its birthplace in Galilee. Yet when the revolt broke out in 66 CE, the Galilean zealots fled the Roman massacres and sought refuge in the last major Jewish stronghold: Jerusalem. Since Eleazar was placed in command of a large army of Jews in the battle against Cestius’ Legio, he had already risen to a position of power in the priesthood prior to his military success.”

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. Josephus said that “the multitude that came out of the country were at discord before the Jerusalem sedition began” (see Revelation 6:4). He added:

There were besides disorders and civil wars in every city; and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous for peace…

[T]he captains of these troops of robbers, being satiated with rapines in the country, got all together from all parts, and became a band of wickedness, and all together crept into Jerusalem… these very men, besides the seditions they raised, were otherwise the direct cause of the city’s destruction also… Moreover, besides the bringing on of the war, they were the occasions of sedition and famine therein. There were besides these other robbers that came out of the country, and came into the city, and joining to them those that were worse than themselves …”

In Wars 4.9.10 Josephus says that John Levi of Gischala corrupted “the body of the Galileans” in Jerusalem, who had given him his authority. Josephus went on to say of these Galileans that “their inclination to plunder was insatiable, as was their zeal in searching the houses of the rich; and for the murdering of the men, and abusing of the women, it was sport to them…”

The negative views that many Judeans had toward Galileans can be seen in the following Scripture verses: Matthew 26:73; Mark 14:70; John 1:46, 7:52.

Idumea

The Idumeans were known as Edomites who descended from Esau. In early 68 AD, the Idumeans were invited by the Zealots to come up to Jerusalem. An army of 20,000 led by four generals responded. Upon their arrival they slaughtered thousands of people within the gates of Jerusalem (Wars 4.5). Josephus referred to their actions as “foreign assistance” to the Zealot cause (Wars 4.4). According to Ezekiel, Amos, and Obadiah, the Edomites did the same thing during past calamities of Israel and Judah:

Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end…” (Ezekiel 35:5).

For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword, and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever” (Amos 1:11).

For your violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem – even you were as one of them… You should not have stood at the crossroads to cut off those among them who escaped; nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained in the day of distress” (Obadiah 10-14).

See this article at the Bible History site for more information on the Edomites and Idumeans.

“Foreigners Appeared to Have Begun the War.”

About a year into the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD), the Roman general Vespasian stated his strong suspicion that “foreigners” had begun the war. Josephus then identified those foreigners and where they came from. It happened 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

Photo Source

Josephus said that those “foreigners” were fugitives, which means they were on the run. Who and where were they running from? I don’t know. Did some of them also converge on Jerusalem as Galilee, Perea, and other territories were captured by the Romans?

Pagans and Sons of Hell

There’s another sense in which even the Jews could be described as “the Gentiles.” Among the given meanings for the Greek word “ethnos” are the words “heathens” and “pagans.” In the book of Revelation John certainly describes a great deal of pagan activity happening in Jerusalem. Anyone who reads the descriptions of the Zealots given by Josephus will quickly see that their behavior was lawless, savage, and pagan, to say the least. Several decades earlier, Jesus had denounced the scribes and Pharisees for traveling “land and sea” to win disciples only to make them “twice as much a son of hell” as themselves (Matthew 23:15). Apparently, some of these “sons of hell” made Jerusalem and the temple into their own “shop of tyranny” (Wars 4.3.7).

In summary, it was not the Romans who trampled on Jerusalem for 42 months in 66-70 AD. Instead, Jerusalem was trampled by the Zealots, Galileans, Idumeans, etc. They were the Gentiles spoken of in Revelation 11:1-2. We will see more evidence of their trampling as we progress in this study.

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The next post will examine Revelation 11:3-13 and the two witnesses who were killed by the beast.

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

Did All of the Judean Christians Flee to Pella?


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 Little Horn Persecuted the Saints (Daniel 7:21, 25),” we continued to examine the roles that Daniel 7 says the little horn of the beast was to play. That post highlighted the persecution and murders carried out by the Zealots against anyone who advocated for peace instead of war, and against anyone they even suspected of wanting to defect to the Romans. During the height of that persecution (66 AD – 70 AD), were Christians in Judea and Jerusalem, and did they get caught up in the midst of it? Or did they all flee to Pella in late 66 AD?

Were Christians in Jerusalem During the Jewish-Roman War?

According to Daniel 7:21-22, 25 the little horn would make war against the saints, persecute them, and prevail against them until “the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” The saints would be in his hand for 3.5 years.

Revelation 13 gives some clues as to where these 3.5 years of persecution (Rev. 13:5-7) would take place. It would be directed toward those “who dwell in the land” (of Israel) who wouldn’t worship the beast (Rev. 13:8, 12). This requirement to worship the beast would be enforced by the beast that came “up out of the land” (a.k.a. “the false prophet”; Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). He would deceive “those who dwell in the land,” and he would work in the presence of the beast (Rev. 13:11-15). So Israel would be the geographical center of this persecution.

It should be safe to assume that the Christians didn’t support the war, and therefore they were at high risk of being killed if they were in Judea and Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. However, neither Josephus nor Tacitus specifically said that Christians were killed there during that time. As far as I’m aware, Josephus never singled out Christians, or distinguished between Jews and Christians, in any of his writings. He did not specifically say that Christians were killed along with Jews in Judea and Jerusalem prior to and during the first half of the Jewish-Roman War (66-70 AD).

The claim has been made that no Christians were killed when Jerusalem was destroyed, because they had all escaped to Pella (in modern Jordan). Who first made that claim, and what information was it based on? Assuming it’s true, does it simply mean that no Christians were killed during the siege of April-August 70 AD? Or does it mean, more broadly, that no Christians were killed in Jerusalem after the war began in 66 AD?

pella

Source: Wikipedia (Pella, Jordan)

Since Daniel 7:21, 25 says that the little horn persecuted and prevailed against the Christians for 3.5 years, and since Revelation 13 shows that Christians living in Israel were targets of this persecution, then these are important questions to consider. This is especially true if one is open to the idea that this persecution was carried out by the Zealots.

For a while, the Zealots persecuted and killed their opponents in Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Idumea, and perhaps elsewhere as well, but eventually they were isolated to Jerusalem as the Romans gradually captured those territories. Once the Zealots were isolated to Jerusalem, Josephus is clear that they continued to oppose and kill their opponents there as well (see the previous post). Were Christians among them?

Here are the words of Jesus warning His followers of a time when they would need to flee:

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For then there will be great tribulation…” (Matthew 24:15-16, 21).

But when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For in those days there will be tribulation…” (Mark 13:14, 19).

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her… For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:20-21, 23).

So Luke equates the abomination of desolation with Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. When this happened, Christians were instructed to leave not only Jerusalem, but all of Judea, and not to go back in. The following are the earliest testimonies I’m aware of concerning Christians heeding this warning and fleeing to Pella and elsewhere (source: Preterist Archive):

Eusebius (263 – 339 AD)

[1] “But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come there from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men” (Ecclesiastical History 3.5.3, 290’s AD).

[2] “After all those who believed in Christ had generally come to live in Perea, in a city called Pella of the Decapolis of which it is written in the Gospel and which is situated in the neighborhood of the region of Batanaea and Basanitis, Ebion’s preaching originated here after they had moved to this place and had lived there” (Panarion 30:2).

[3] “For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis” (de Mens. et Pond., 15).

[4] “Now this sect of Nazarenes exists in Beroea in Coele-Syria, and in Decapolis in the district of Pella, and in Kochaba of Basanitis– called Kohoraba in Hebrew. For thence it originated after the migration from Jerusalem of all the disciples who resided at Pella, Christ having instructed them to leave Jerusalem and retire from it on account of the impending siege. It was owing to this counsel that they went away, as I have said, to reside for a while at Pella” (Haer 29:7).

Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (315 – 403 AD)

“The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea near Coele Syria, in the Decapolis near the region of Pella, and in Bashan in the place called Cocaba, which in Hebrew is called Chochabe. That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged” (Panarion 29:7:7-8).

“Their sect began after the capture of Jerusalem. For when all those who believed in Christ settled at that time for the most part in Peraea, in a city called Pella belonging to the Decapolis mentioned in the gospel, which is next to Batanaea and the land of Bashan, then they moved there and stayed” (Panarion 30:2:7).

Remigius, Bishop of Reims (437 – 533 AD)

[1] “[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time; but Agrippa himself, with the Jews whom he governed, was subjected to the dominion of the Romans” [Thomas Aquinas (1841). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels; Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 799-816)].

So the earliest known testimony about the Christians fleeing to Pella seems to belong to Eusebius, who wrote approximately 230 years after the flight took place. Some speculate that his reports were based on the writings of Hegesippus (110-180 AD), whose writings are now mostly lost. Here are a few things to note from these testimonies:

1. Eusebius said that the church in Jerusalem was warned to flee “before the war,” which Josephus said began in August 66 AD (Wars 2.17.2).
2. Eusebius said that the believers “generally” came to live in Pella of Perea. Epiphanius likewise said that they settled in Pella “for the most part.” This indicates that some believers escaped to other locations and/or that not all of the believers escaped.
3. When Remigius said “as ecclesiastical history tells us,” he appears to have been relying on the accounts of Eusebius.
4. Remigius revealed that Agrippa, who protected the Christians at Pella, was under the dominion of the Romans, and that the Jews he watched over were also under the dominion of the Romans.

Josephus does record a mass exodus out of Judea, but it’s difficult to tell exactly when it happened. It took place while Gessius Florus was the Procurator of Judea (64-66 AD). He behaved wickedly toward the Jews, causing the Zealots to gain the upper hand in Judea. According to Josephus, “he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once… entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces” (Wars 2.14.2).

The earliest major attack of Jerusalem by the Romans took place in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led an army toward Jerusalem to try to put down the rebellion there (Wars 2.19.2-9). The Jews who were gathered there for one of the feasts “saw the war approaching to their metropolis” (Wars 2.19.2). Cestius and his army approached from the northeast of Jerusalem, first observing the city from Mount Scopus, one of the seven mountains of Jerusalem (Wars 2.19.4). It appears that Cestius approached Jerusalem and entered it from one direction, rather than surrounding the city. This also took place several months after the war had begun. (According to Eusebius, the believers were warned to flee before the war began.)

In order to reconcile the account of Eusebius with the words of Jesus, Jerusalem needed to be surrounded by armies prior to the war, which began in August 66 AD, according to Josephus. Was there an earlier instance of Jerusalem being surrounded, which prompted the believers to flee? Consider this account by Josephus, which took place in April – May 66 AD:

“A few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities” (Wars 6.5.3).

Did Christians flee Jerusalem and Judea at that time? By the time Cestius Gallus arrived in November 66 AD, Josephus says this about the people in Jerusalem: “Now for the people, they were kept under by the seditious” (Wars 2.19.4), meaning that they were under the control of the Zealots. This would have been a dangerous environment for any remaining Christians. In other words, the Zealots were a danger and a threat to the people of Jerusalem well before the Romans were. It was also at this time that Josephus said that many of the Zealots “retired from the suburbs, and retreated into the inner part of the city, and into the temple.” They did this because they were “affrighted at the good order of the Romans.”

Many of the Zealots did briefly leave Jerusalem when Cestius Gallus approached the city, but only for a matter of days. They were seized by fear, ran out of Jerusalem, and some of the people opened the gates and invited Cestius Gallus in “as their benefactor.” However, Cestius was unaware that the Zealots had fled and he surprisingly passed on this opportunity to capture Jerusalem. Instead, the Zealots resumed their courage and began to attack the armies of Cestius Gallus, soon achieving a resounding victory. Presumably, Christians in Jerusalem also had an opportunity to flee Jerusalem during those several days when Cestius Gallus was retreating from Jerusalem and most of the Zealots were pursuing his forces. Here’s how Josephus summarized that chain of events:

“A horrible fear seized upon the seditious, insomuch that many of them ran out of the city, as though it were to be taken immediately; but the people upon this took courage, and where the wicked part of the city gave ground, thither did they come, in order to set open the gates, and to admit Cestius as their benefactor, who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day.

It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen…” (Wars 2.19.6-7).

Immediately after this defeat of Cestius Gallus, Josephus speaks of more Jews fleeing from Jerusalem: “After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink” (Wars 2.20.1).

Aside from the armies in the clouds which were seen surrounding cities in April – May 66 AD, there were also armies of Zealots roaming throughout Judea and Jerusalem. It’s possible that they surrounded Jerusalem prior to gaining such power that in November 66 AD they were able to “keep the people under” (Wars 2.19.4).

Concerning “abominations,” note that Josephus said that Jerusalem was full of them by September 66 AD, two months before the Romans arrived. This is when the Zealot leader Manahem and his followers were slain in the temple and other parts of the city:

The city was all over polluted with such abominations, from which it was but reasonable to expect some vengeance, even though they should escape revenge from the Romans…as likely themselves to undergo punishment for the wickedness of the seditious; for indeed it so happened that this murder was perpetrated on the sabbath day, on which day the Jews have a respite from their works on account of Divine worship” (Wars 2.17.10).

What about the fate of Christians during this time when Jerusalem was in the grip of the Zealots? It’s the later commentaries which say that not a single Christian died in Jerusalem’s destruction. The same compilation of quotes at Preterist Archives reveals that this claim was made by Henry Hammond (1659), Thomas Newton (1754), George Peter Holford (1805), John Gill (1809), Albert Barnes (1832), Adam Clarke (1837), and Charles Finney (1852).

Whether this claim is true or not, it seems to refer only to the siege of Titus beginning in mid-April 70 AD. In other words, they claimed that Jerusalem was empty of Christians by spring 70 AD, but they did not seem to claim that Jerusalem was empty of Christians by fall 66 AD. Henry Hammond (1659), for example, says that “when Titus came some months after and besieged the city, there was not one Christian remaining in it.” Of course, it’s good to ask how Hammond or anyone else living many centuries later could have known that to be the case.

According to these commentaries, not all of the Christians went to Pella. Thomas Newton (1754) and Adam Clarke (1837) both said that they also settled “in other places beyond the River Jordan.”

Thomas Newton was likely referring to the writings of Josephus when he said, “We do not read anywhere that so much as one of them [Christians] perished in the destruction of Jerusalem.” That’s true. Again, Josephus, who wrote in more detail about the Jewish-Roman War than anyone else, didn’t specifically mention Christians being killed in Jerusalem. He also didn’t say anything about Christians escaping to safety in Pella. The lack of such information from Josephus doesn’t necessarily mean that it didn’t happen. It just means that he didn’t discuss the status of Christians at all.

The language of Daniel 7:21, 25 indicates that there were still Christians in the grip of the Zealots during the period of 66-70 AD. Based on the descriptions given by Josephus, it was difficult, but not impossible, for local people to enter and exit Jerusalem during that time. For example, After the Idumeans joined the Zealots in slaughtering thousands in February – March 68 AD, Josephus said this:

“But because the city had to struggle with three of the greatest misfortunes, war, and tyranny, and sedition, it appeared, upon the comparison, that the war was the least troublesome to the populace of them all. Accordingly they ran away from their own houses to foreigners, and obtained that preservation from the Romans, which they despaired to obtain among their own people” (Wars 4.7.1).

Despite the Zealots watching “all the passages out of the city,” others also managed to conceal themselves and flee directly to Vespasian, the Roman general:

“Vespasian did, indeed, already pity the calamities these men were in, and arose, in appearance, as though he was going to besiege Jerusalem, – but in reality to deliver them from a [worse] siege they were already under” (Wars 4.7.3).

Even in the midst of the Roman siege (April – September 70 AD), there were Jews who found safety when they escaped to the Romans, as “Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased” (Wars 5.10.1). Later in the siege Josephus said this:

“Many also of the other nobility went over to the Romans, together with the high priests. Now Caesar not only received these men very kindly in other respects, but, knowing they would not willingly live after the customs of other nations, he sent them to Gophna, and desired them to remain there for the present, and told them, that when he was gotten clear of this war, he would restore each of them to their possessions again; so they cheerfully retired to that small city which was allotted them, without fear of any danger” (Wars 6.2.2).

Although many Christians apparently left Jerusalem before the war began, it’s possible that some didn’t heed Jesus’ warning to flee (Matthew 24:15-20, Mark 13:14-18, Luke 21:20-23) and perished. It’s also possible that others stayed, endured great difficulties, and managed to flee later.

Outsiders continued to travel to Jerusalem from far and wide for the annual festivals all the way up to April 70 AD, and many of these pilgrims were killed because of the fighting between the Zealot factions (Wars 5.1.3). It’s possible that Christians from other regions outside of Judea came to Jerusalem to participate in the festivals, failing to heed the warning of Revelation 18:4, and paid the price with their lives.

In summary, I don’t believe that the testimonies of Eusebius, Remigius, Hammond, Newton, etc. in any way dismiss the idea that it was the Zealots, especially under the leadership of Eleazar Ben Simon, who prevailed over the saints in Israel and Jerusalem for 3.5 years. On the other hand, the testimony of Remigius actually dismisses the idea that Nero fulfilled Revelation 13:5-7 by persecuting Christians in all parts of the Roman Empire for a period of 3.5 years (from 64 AD until his death in 68 AD).

Nero’s Government Helped Protect the Christians in Pella

Remigius stated that the Christians in Pella were under the protection of King Agrippa, “but Agrippa himself, with the Jews whom he governed, was subjected to the dominion of the Romans.” The fact that Christians escaped from Jerusalem to Pella in 66 AD indicates that Nero was not enforcing an empire-wide persecution of Christians at that time. It means that Nero’s government actually helped protect these Christians from the wrath of the Zealots. In fact, all of Perea, where Pella was located, was conquered by the Romans during the last six months of Nero’s life, but the Christians in Pella remained safe during that time.

The Roman general Vespasian’s victory over “Gadara, the metropolis of Perea” is recorded in Wars 4.7.3. Other parts of Perea were also conquered and Josephus says that “all Perea had either surrendered themselves, or were taken by the Romans” (Wars 4.7.6). This took place in the first half of 68 AD while Nero was still alive. If Nero was intent on killing Christians throughout the Roman Empire, then why did the Christians remain protected in Pella during this time when the Romans specifically targeted Perea and captured all of it? The far greater threat to their safety came from the Zealots who controlled Judea until most of that country was captured by the Romans, and who controlled Jerusalem for the entire first half of the Jewish-Roman War.

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The next post will begin to examine Revelation 11:1-13, where the beast is introduced for the first time in the book of Revelation.

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

The Little Horn Persecuted the Saints (Daniel 7:21, 25)


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 Little Horn Changed Times and Law (Daniel 7:25),” we continued to examine the roles that Daniel 7 says the little horn of the beast was to play. As a review, Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 states that the little horn would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] subdue and pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

The two previous post looked at points A, B, C, E, and F). This post will look at points D and G – how the little horn made war against the saints and prevailed against them for 3.5 years, until it was time for the saints to possess the kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27; Matthew 21:43-44).

The Saints Given Into the Hand of the Little Horn (Daniel 7:21, 25)

In Daniel 7:21-22, Daniel watched the little horn “making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” In Daniel 7:25, Daniel learned that this horn would “persecute the saints of the Most High… Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.”

So the picture here is of the saints being persecuted by the little horn who had them in his grip for a 3.5 year period leading up to Christ’s coming in judgment and in His kingdom (see Matthew 16:27-28 and II Timothy 4:1). Who were the saints? We must conclude that they were the followers of Christ, the ones who would inherit God’s kingdom (Matthew 8:11-12, 21:43, 25:34; Luke 12:32; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 3:29, 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5).

When I used to believe that the fourth beast of Daniel, and the beast of Revelation, was Rome/Nero, I never attempted to identify the 11th horn because I didn’t know who it could be. I knew it wasn’t Nero, because he was allegedly the sixth head of the beast (Revelation 17:10), and because the horns were allegedly the Senatorial provinces of Rome. Yet Nero was the only Roman authority who was known to have persecuted Christians around the time of the Jewish-Roman War.

Josephus never touched the topic of persecution against Christians, but Tacitus, the Roman historian, did. He described Nero persecuting Christians in the city of Rome, but not anywhere near Jerusalem, and he didn’t say how long it lasted. Tacitus also listed the cause for that persecution as Nero’s desire to scapegoat the Christians for the arson that he himself was believed to have committed (Tacitus, Annals 15). The motive for that persecution, according to Tacitus, had nothing to do with a refusal to worship him, as should have been the case (see Revelation 13:15) if Nero was the beast (see Revelation 13:15). We’ll discuss this in much more detail when we look at Revelation 13.

So far Jerusalem has been the primary location where the little horn has played the various roles described in Daniel 7. Did this persecution of the saints also take place in Jerusalem? Did it take place during the 3.5 years leading up to mid-April 70 AD when Titus arrived in Jerusalem? If we look ahead to Revelation 13, we do see that the beast from the land, later called the false prophet (Rev. 16:13, 19:20), was active in the land of Israel. There in the land of Israel he worked in the presence of the beast, causing those who lived there to worship the beast, and killing anyone who wouldn’t worship his image (Rev. 13:11-15). So the persecution carried out by the beast (cf. Rev. 13:5-8) was indeed focused on the land of Israel.

Although Josephus never wrote about the persecution of Christians in particular, he did write about the Zealots and the false prophets working together to persecute and kill anyone who didn’t support their war efforts. This bloody persecution appears to have begun in the countryside.

The Persecutions of the Zealots

During the reign of Antonius Felix as Procurator of Judea (52-58 AD), Josephus says that the people of Judea were put to death if they didn’t agree to rebel against Rome:

“[A] company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from such their desired inclinations; for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war” (Wars 2.13.6).

In Antiquities 20.8.6 Josephus described the same thing happening during the reigns of Felix (52-58 AD) and Festus (59-62 AD):

These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city [Jerusalem] with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God… And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans, and said they ought not to obey them at all; and when any persons would not comply with them, they set fire to their villages, and plundered them.

Near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War in 66 AD, bands of Zealots made their way to Scythopolis (in modern Jordan and Syria). There in one night they “cut the throats” of more than 13,000 Jews who preferred their own safety over relating to the Zealots (Wars 2.18.3).

In February 68 AD, the former high priest Jesus ben Gamala gave a speech in which he said that the Zealots had been using their swords as “the arbitrators of right and wrong” (Wars 4.4.3). After the Zealots and Idumeans had succeeded in killing the high priests (Wars 4.5.2), they then turned and slaughtered many of the common people by the sword, but delayed slaughtering others in hopes that they would join the war effort:

“[The] zealots and the multitude of the Idumeans fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats; and for the ordinary sort, they were destroyed in what place soever they caught them. But for the noblemen and the youth, they first caught them and bound them, and shut them up in prison, and put off their slaughter, in hopes that some of them would turn over to their party; but not one of them would comply with their desires, but all of them preferred death before being enrolled among such wicked wretches as acted against their own country. But this refusal of theirs brought upon them terrible torments; for they were so scourged and tortured, that their bodies were not able to sustain their torments, till at length, and with difficulty, they had the favor to be slain.” (Wars 4.5.3).

After the Idumeans left Jerusalem, the Zealots aimed to kill anyone who tried to flee from their control, blocking their escape from Jerusalem and assuming that anyone who tried to escape was in support of Rome. The Zealots also killed those who tried to bury these victims. As we saw before, Eleazar ben Simon was the leader of the Zealots in Jerusalem at this time, although John Levi of Gischala also worked with him from about mid-68 AD until early 70 AD:

“And indeed many there were of the Jews that deserted every day, and fled away from the zealots, although their flight was very difficult, since they had guarded every passage out of the city, and slew every one that was caught at them, as taking it for granted they were going over to the Romans; yet did he who gave them money get clear off, while he only that gave them none was voted a traitor. So the upshot was this, that the rich purchased their flight by money, while none but the poor were slain. Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps, and even many of those that were so zealous in deserting at length chose rather to perish within the city; for the hopes of burial made death in their own city appear of the two less terrible to them. But these zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity, as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city, or on those that lay along the roads; but as if they had made an agreement to cancel both the laws of their country and the laws of nature, and, at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions, they would pollute the Divinity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun; and the same punishment was allotted to such as buried any as to those that deserted, which was no other than death” (Wars 4.6.3).

Some did manage to conceal themselves and flee to the Romans, and this brought them greater safety:

“Vespasian did, indeed, already pity the calamities these men were in, and arose, in appearance, as though he was going to besiege Jerusalem, – but in reality to deliver them from a [worse] siege they were already under” (Wars 4.7.3).

From 69 AD to early 70 AD, when three factions (led by Eleazar Ben Simon, John Levi, and Simon Bar Giora) were fighting against each other (Wars 5.1.4), those who came to Jerusalem for the various festivals were often killed inadvertently:

“For notwithstanding these men [the Zealots] were mad with all sorts of impiety, yet did they still admit those that desired to offer their sacrifices, although they took care to search the people of their own country beforehand, and both suspected and watched them; while they were not so much afraid of strangers, who, although they had gotten leave of them, how cruel soever they were, to come into that court, were yet often destroyed by this sedition; for those darts that were thrown by the engines came with that force, that they went over all the buildings, and reached as far as the altar, and the temple itself, and fell upon the priests, and those that were about the sacred offices; insomuch that many persons who came thither with great zeal from the ends of the earth, to offer sacrifices at this celebrated place, which was esteemed holy by all mankind, fell down before their own sacrifices themselves, and sprinkled that altar which was venerable among all men, both Greeks and Barbarians, with their own blood; till the dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of the priests, and the blood of all sorts of dead carcasses stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves” (Wars 5.1.3).

This gives added significance to the words recorded in Revelation 18:4, urging the people of God to come out of Babylon, the old covenant system: “Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues.” During this time, if there were Christians in Galatia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, etc. who were persuaded by the teachings of the Judaizers, they may have traveled up to Jerusalem for the feasts and been struck down by the “darts, and javelins, and stones” thrown by the “engines of war” of the Zealot factions (Wars 5.1.3).

Although the Zealot factions were fighting and killing each other, they still united on one thing – killing those who wanted peace with the Romans:

“And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to their delivery from their domestical miseriesnor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious one against another in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies. They agreed in nothing but this, to kill those that were innocent” (Wars 5.1.5).

Even during the Roman siege of April – August 70 AD the Zealots “threatened death to the people, if they should any one of them say a word about a surrender. They moreover cut the throats of such as talked of a peace” (Wars 5.8.1). Also John Levi and Simon Bar Giora, “with their factions, did more carefully watch” for people to escape Jerusalem “than they did the coming in of the Romans; and if any one did but afford the least shadow of suspicion of such an intention, his throat was cut immediately.” Still, some did escape to the Romans and “Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased” (Wars 5.10.1).  Josephus adds that there were “a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants [Zealots] to impose on the people…to keep them from deserting” (Wars 6.5.2).

In this summary of persecution carried out by the Zealots against those who wished for peace or tried to abandon them, one thing that stands out is how many times Josephus said that the Zealots “cut the throats” of their enemies. This calls to mind Revelation 20:4, which indicates that “those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God” were those “who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” Since the Zealots used swords, rather than mere knives, it’s also not difficult to imagine that their throat-cutting could have meant that they beheaded their enemies. From the summary above, note that the persecution and throat-cutting of the Zealots spanned the entire 3.5 years leading up to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

DATE SITUATION REFERENCE
Fall 66 AD More than 13,000 Jews in Scythopolis had their throats cut because they preferred their own safety over relating to the Zealots. Wars 2.18.3
February 68 AD Jesus ben Gamala says in a speech that the Zealots had been using their swords as “the arbitrators of right and wrong.” Wars 4.4.3
Feb/March 68 AD The Zealots and Idumeans fell upon the common people of Jerusalem and cut their throats. Wars 4.5.3
Spring 68 AD The Zealots killed poor people who tried to leave Jerusalem, and also killed anyone who tried to bury those they killed. Wars 4.6.3
December 69 AD The leaders of the three Zealot factions agreed on “killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies.” Wars 5.1.5
Spring 70 AD The Zealots cut the throats of anyone who talked about peace. Wars 5.8.1
Summer 70 AD The Zealots cut the throats of anyone suspected of wanting to escape Jerusalem. Wars 5.10.1

In the next post, which will conclude our study of Daniel 7, we will evaluate the historical accounts concerning the Judean Christians who fled to Pella. We’ll consider whether or not some Christians may have remained in Jerusalem/Judea. We will even see that Nero’s government protected the Christians who fled to Pella.

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

The Little Horn Changed Times and Law (Daniel 7:25)


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here.

The previous post, “Daniel 7: The Fourth Beast, 10 Horns, Three Horns, and a Little Horn,” began to examine Daniel 7, as well as “the little horn” and the various roles that he was to play. As a review, Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 states that the little horn would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] subdue and pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

The previous post looked at several roles of the little horn (A, B, C, and E), and the majority of this post will look at how he intended to change times and law (F).

The Body of the Fourth Beast Destroyed and Burned (Daniel 7:11)

In Daniel 7:9-10, Daniel saw a throne scene in which “thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” and a court was also seated and books were opened. Verse 11 then comes back to the little horn and the fourth beast, saying,

I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.”

In this series I am making the case that the fourth beast/kingdom of Daniel and “the beast” of the book of Revelation was Zealot-led Israel. The language used here in this verse certainly fits, considering that Israel was destroyed in the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73, and considering that Jerusalem and the temple were burned with fire (fulfilling Matthew 22:7; II Peter 3:7, 10, 12; Revelation 17:16; 18:8-9, 18; 19:20).

This does not fit Rome, which many say was the fourth beast of Daniel and “the beast” of the book of Revelation. Rome was not slain, destroyed, or burned during the Jewish-Roman War, when the kingdom of God was set up (Daniel 2:35, 44; Matthew 16:27-28, 21:43; Revelation 11:15). In fact, the Roman Empire achieved even greater heights during the second century AD.

The Lives of the Other Beasts Were Prolonged (Daniel 7:12)

In Daniel 7:12, Daniel noted a sharp contrast between the downfall of the fourth beast and the downfall of the previous three beasts:

As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”

Whereas the fourth beast was slain, destroyed, and burned (Daniel 7:11), the other three beasts lost their dominion but lived on “for a season and a time.” When Babylon was conquered by Medo-Persia in 539 BC, Babylon lost its dominion, but remained as a colony of Medo-Persia. When Persia was conquered by Greece in 330 BC, Persia lost its dominion, but remained as a province of the Seleucid Empire ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s four generals. Greece likewise lived on after the Maccabee victories of 164-142 BC. The principal cities of Babylon, Persia, and Greece were not burned and leveled, their religious systems didn’t collapse, etc.

When Israel and Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, however, there was great physical and religious devastation. Israel, the fourth beast, was slain, destroyed, burned. Although Israel briefly rose up again about 65 years later in the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 AD), its sacrificial system was buried and laid to rest. Its priesthood was gone. According to Josephus, Israel was not merely “taken” as it had been five times previously, but this was its second “desolation” (see Revelation 18:19):

“And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul]. It had been taken five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation; for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these, the king of Babylon conquered it, and made it desolate, one thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was built” (Wars 6.10.1).

Jerusalem, aside from its towers and a wall, was also leveled to the ground, just as Jesus predicted:

For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build and embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43-44).

“Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency…and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side… but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind” (Wars 7.1.1).

The Romans had also cut down everything in an 11.25 mile radius around the city, so that to visitors Judea and the former suburbs of the city appeared as a desert wasteland:

“And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one and twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. And truly the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change: for the war had laid all the signs of beauty quite waste: nor if any one that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding” (Wars 6.1.1).

The contrast in Daniel 7:11-12 makes a lot of sense when Israel is viewed as the fourth beast, but would make no sense if Rome was the fourth beast. Let’s try it, though, just for argument’s sake:

“…I watched till the Roman Empire was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time” (Daniel 7:11-12; Rome as the fourth beast).

It doesn’t work. When the kingdom of God was set up and given into the hands of the saints in the first century (Daniel 2:35, 44; Daniel 7:18, 22, 27; Matthew 16:27-28, 21:43; Revelation 11:15), Rome did not have its dominion taken away at that time. Rome was not burned, slain, or destroyed. The Roman Empire came out of the Jewish-Roman War stronger than it was before the war. That time of kingdom transition was great devastation for Israel, not Rome.

The Kingdom Given to the Saints (Daniel 7:17-18, 21-22, 26-27)

The transition from the fourth kingdom to the everlasting kingdom of the saints was already seen in Daniel 2:35, 44. This transition is repeated three times in Daniel 7:

Those great beasts, which are four, are four kingdoms which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (Daniel 7:17-18).

I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (Daniel 7:21-22).

But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:26-27).

In all of this, it’s clear that the downfall of the fourth beast and the 11th horn coincides with the saints inheriting the kingdom of God. As I noted in the introduction to this series, we also see this transition in Matthew 21:42-44.

Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone…?” Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder’” (Matthew 21:42-44).

Israel and Jerusalem suffered defeat and destruction during the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). They were ground to powder by the falling stone of Daniel 2:34-35, 45. Yet out of that tragedy has come the awesome, redemptive, and enduring news that this stone is a great mountain, the kingdom of God. It’s a kingdom that has no end (Luke 1:33).

The 11th Horn Would Change Times and Law (Daniel 7:25)

Coming back to the little horn, we see a statement in Daniel 7:25 that the 11th horn would “intend to change times and law.” I welcome any ideas from readers on this point, but I would like to propose that two key actions taken during the Jewish-Roman War seem to fit this description. Neither action had ever taken place since the days of Moses and Aaron:

[1] the decision to no longer receive gifts or sacrifices for foreigners
[2] choosing an unqualified and fake high priest who was not of Aaron’s bloodline.

The following description by Josephus is quite revealing about what transpired during the Jewish-Roman War due to “the fourth philosophy” of the Zealots. Josephus said that their philosophy spread like an infection as the Jewish revolt blew up into a flame in 66 AD (Wars 2.13.6, Wars 2.14.6). It resulted in the type of great changes described in Daniel 7:25.

“[T]he sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies’ fire. Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction, which these men occasioned by their thus conspiring together” (Antiquities 18.1.1).

Eleazar ben Simon had a big hand in altering the customs of the Jews, but the first big move was made in Jerusalem by a different Eleazar just a few months before he was reassigned to Idumea and his role as leader of the Zealots shifted to Eleazar ben Simon (we will discuss this shift below). It was Eleazar ben Ananias who made the first big move in August 66 AD when he put a stop to all the sacrifices and offerings of the Gentiles, something which had never been done since the days of Moses and Aaron:

“At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. These relied much upon their multitude, for the most flourishing part of the innovators assisted them; but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple.

Hereupon the men of power got together, and conferred with the high priests, as did also the principal of the Pharisees; and thinking all was at stake, and that their calamities were becoming incurable, took counsel what was to be done. Accordingly, they determined to try what they could do with the seditious by words, and assembled the people before the brazen gate, which was that gate of the inner temple [court of the priests] which looked toward the sun-rising. And, in the first place, they showed the great indignation they had at this attempt for a revolt, and for their bringing so great a war upon their country; after which they confuted their pretense as unjustifiable, and told them that their forefathers had adorned their temple in great part with donations bestowed on them by foreigners, and had always received what had been presented to them from foreign nations; and that they had been so far from rejecting any person’s sacrifice (which would be the highest instance of impiety,) that they had themselves placed those donation about the temple which were still visible, and had remained there so long a time; that they did now irritate the Romans to take arms against them, and invited them to make war upon them, and brought up novel rules of a strange Divine worship, and determined to run the hazard of having their city condemned for impiety, while they would not allow any foreigner, but Jews only, either to sacrifice or to worship therein. And if such a law should be introduced in the case of a single private person only, he would have indignation at it, as an instance of inhumanity determined against him; while they have no regard to the Romans or to Caesar, and forbid even their oblations to be received also; that however they cannot but fear, lest, by thus rejecting their sacrifices, they shall not be allowed to offer their own; and that this city will lose its principality, unless they grow wiser quickly, and restore the sacrifices as formerly, and indeed amend the injury [they have offered foreigners] before the report of it comes to the ears of those that have been injured.

And as they said these things, they produced those priests that were skillful in the customs of their country, who made the report that all their forefathers had received the sacrifices from foreign nations. But still not one of the innovators would hearken to what was said; nay, those that ministered about the temple would not attend their Divine service, but were preparing matters for beginning the war…” (Wars 2.17.2-4)

To be clear, Eleazar ben Ananias was not the same person as Eleazar ben Simon, who was one of the three main Zealot leaders during the first half of the Jewish-Roman War, along with John Levi of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora. Various sources seem to confuse these two Eleazars, and as a result they have attributed certain roles and actions to the wrong person.

For example, the Encyclopedia Judaica says that Eleazar ben Ananias was Captain of the Temple “and continued to hold that position until the destruction of the Temple.” This is not true, however, according to Josephus. Around December of 66 AD, Eleazar ben Ananias was named as one of the 10 generals for war against Rome, and he was assigned to Idumea, a region south of Judea (Wars 2.20.4). At this same time, Eleazar ben Simon, the war hero credited with defeating Cestius Gallus, was quickly gaining power in Jerusalem and the people “submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs” (Wars 2.20.3). Eleazar ben Simon gained and kept control of the inner court of the temple until he was killed at the beginning of the Roman siege in April 70 AD (Wars 5.3.1).

Likewise, on page 219 of Final Decade Before the End (a great resource), Ed Stevens cites Hegesippus (110-180 AD) and Yosippon (10th century AD), who say that after “blocking Roman access to the temple,” Eleazar ben Ananias “then seized control of the temple and used it as his fortress…from that point forward” (Heg. 2:10, 5:1; Yos. 61). Hegesippus even claimed that this same Eleazar “was on Masada after the temple was burned” (Heg. 5:53). Here he apparently confuses Eleazar ben Ananias with a third Eleazar – Eleazar ben Jairus, who fled to Masada in September 66 AD (Wars 2.17.9) and later committed suicide there with around 700 others in 73 AD (Wars 7.8.1).

The confusion over Eleazar ben Ananias and Eleazar ben Simon is the seventh problem covered by Tal Ilan and Jonathan J. Price in their article, “Seven Onomastic Problems in Josephus’ “Bellum Judaicum” [Wars of the Jews]. They write about the strange disappearance of “Eleazar ben Ananias,” who played such a large role at the beginning of the Jewish Revolt, but is never mentioned again by Josephus. They also write about the sudden appearance of Eleazar ben Simon at this same point in Wars of the Jews.

Indeed, both Eleazars are mentioned in Wars 2.20.3-4, one for the last time and the other for the first time. I would like to suggest that the baton of Zealot leadership in Jerusalem was handed off at this time (around December 66 AD) from Eleazar ben Ananias to Eleazar ben Simon.

Eleazar ben Ananias Eleazar ben Simon
August 66 AD In Jerusalem

“…but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple” (Wars 2.17.2)

Location not Certain

(Not yet mentioned by Josephus)

December 66 AD Left Jerusalem

Appointed as a general for Idumea (Wars 2.20.4)

Stayed in Jerusalem

“…the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs” (Wars 2.20.3)

February 68 AD Presumably in Idumea

(No longer mentioned by Josephus)

In Jerusalem

“leaders of the Zealots… These leaders were Eleazar, the son of Simon, who seemed the most plausible man of them all, both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon…” (Wars 4.4.1)


Although Eleazar ben Ananias initiated the cessation of sacrifices for Gentiles, Eleazar ben Simon was the one who enforced this new rule as he made his headquarters in the temple for the next 3.5 years until his death in April 70 AD. The following, for the sake of clarity, is an overview of the lives of Eleazar ben Ananius and Eleazar ben Simon (all of the primary Zealot leaders will be discussed when we come to Revelation 13):

Eleazar ben Ananius

Eleazar ben Ananius was the governor of the temple, (Antiquities 20.9.3, Wars 2.17.2), the second highest position in the temple other than high priest. It’s suggested that he obtained this position in 62 AD. This position was known as “segan” (Aramaic) or “sagan” (Hebrew). According to Rabbi Hanina Segan ha-Kohanim (40-80 AD), “In case the high-priest became unfit for service, the ‘Segan’ [Deputy] should enter at once to do the service” (Talmud, Tractate Sota 42a).

Eleazar’s father, Ananius ben Nedebaios, was the high priest from roughly 46-52 AD. He’s the one who commanded Paul to be struck on the mouth during his appearance before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:2), prompting Paul to prophesy that Ananias would also be struck (verse 3). Ananius also gave evidence against Paul to the governor Felix at Caesarea (Acts 24:1). The Pulpit Commentary says that he “was a violent, haughty, gluttonous, and rapacious man, and yet looked up to by the Jews.” When Eleazar was the commander of the temple, he was anti-Roman, but his father, Ananias was pro-Roman (one of the complaints of the Zealots was that the Herodian dynasty appointed high priests who were sympathetic to Rome).

In Final Decade before the End (p. 219), Ed Stevens says that Eleazar ben Ananias led a challenge against Roman troops in May 66 AD. “When the Roman Procurator Gessius Florus brought his soldiers to Jerusalem to confiscate all the gold from the Temple (May AD 66),” Yosippon recorded the following:

[Eleazar b. Ananius]… being a youth and very stout of heart, saw the evil that Florus did among the people. He sounded the shofar, and a band of youths and bandits, men of war, gathered around him, and he initiated a battle, challenging Florus and the Roman troops [Sepher Yosippon, ch. 59].

In The Wars of the Jews by Josephus, Eleazar ben Ananias was first mentioned in Wars 2.17.2, as we have already seen, in connection with the events of August 66 AD, which Josephus said were the true beginning of the Jewish-Roman War. He was mentioned again in Wars 2.17.5 as being among “the seditious” (the Zealots) who “had the lower city [of Jerusalem] and the temple in their power,” while “the men of power, with the high priests, as also all the part of the multitude that were desirous of peace, took courage, and seized upon the upper city [Mount Sion].”

Soon after this, Eleazar’s father Ananius was killed by “Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean” (Wars 2.17.8-9). Manahem had gone to Masada, broken open king Herod’s armory, stolen arms for his own people and “other robbers,” and “returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem.” Josephus says that Manahem “became the leader of the sedition” (the Zealot movement), but this only lasted for about a month. After Manahem killed Ananias, “Eleazar and his party” avenged his father’s death and killed Manahem.

The last time that Eleazar ben Ananias was mentioned by Josephus was in Wars 2.20.4. There it was said that he was appointed as one of the 10 generals of war. He was one of three commanders assigned to Idumea, south of Judea. This was around December 66 AD, soon after the surprising Jewish victory over Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. Presumably Eleazar ben Ananias left Jerusalem at this point and took up residence in Idumea. Josephus never mentioned him again.

Eleazar ben Simon

Eleazar ben Simon was first introduced by Josephus in Wars 2.20.3 (just before Josephus mentioned Eleazar ben Ananias for the last time). Eleazar ben Simon was the nephew of Simon Bar Giora, one of the three main Zealot leaders. In Wars 6.4.1, Josephus referred to him as “the brother’s son of Simon the tyrant.”

In Wars 4.4.1 Josephus said that Eleazar ben Simon was the main leader of the Zealots at this point. This was in early 68 AD, shortly after John Levi of Gischala, the other main Zealot leader, had fled his hometown and come up to Jerusalem. Josephus said regarding Eleazar ben Simon that he was “the most plausible man” of the Zealot leaders, “both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon.” Josephus also said that it was “Eleazar, the son of Simon, who made the first separation of the zealots from the people, and made them retire into the temple” (Wars 5.1.2).

John Levi joined forces with Eleazar and, after killing Ananus ben Ananus and the other high priests in February-March 68 AD, together they seized control of the entire city of Jerusalem. In spring or summer 69 AD Simon Bar Giora seized control of the upper city of Jerusalem and parts of the lower city. John Levi maintained control of part of the lower city and the outer court of the temple, and Eleazar ben Simon controlled the inner court of the temple.

three-main-zealot-leaders

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (June 9, 2015)

Then a short time before the Roman siege began on April 14, 70 AD, Eleazar ben Simon turned against John because, according to Josephus, “he could not bear to submit to a tyrant [John] who set up after him” (Wars 5.1.2). There were then “three treacherous factions in the city” (Wars 5.1.4; Revelation 16:19). This was the breakdown of the three armies (Wars 5.6.1):

[1] Simon Bar Giora: 10,000 men and 50 commanders; 5000 Idumeans and eight commanders
[2] John Levi: 6,000 men and 20 commanders
[3] Eleazar ben Simon: 2,400 men

Eleazar ben Simon was killed by John Levi’s forces on April 14, 70 AD, just as the Roman general Titus began his siege. This happened at the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Eleazar opened the gates to the inner court of the temple

“and admitted such of the people as were desirous to worship God into it. But John made use of this festival as a cloak for his treacherous designs, and armed the most inconsiderable of his own party, the greater part of whom were not purified, with weapons concealed under their garments, and sent them with great zeal into the temple, in order to seize upon it; which armed men, when they were gotten in, threw their garments away, and presently appeared in their armor… These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon. And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two” (Wars 5.3.1).

During the first half of the Jewish-Roman War (Fall 66 AD – Spring 70 AD), Eleazar ben Simon was the Zealot leader who controlled the inner court of the temple. His location and position allowed him to oversee and regulate the activities which took place there.

Phannias, the Fake High Priest of the Zealots

The second major custom to be altered had to do with the high priesthood. In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus gave an account of the high priests from Aaron until his own time, taking note of the strict rule that every high priest had to be a blood descendant of Aaron. This rule was broken by the Zealots (“the seditious”) during the Jewish-Roman War:

“AND now I think it proper and agreeable to this history to give an account of our high priests; how they began, who those are which are capable of that dignity, and how many of them there had been at the end of the war. In the first place, therefore, history informs us that Aaron, the brother of Moses, officiated to God as a high priest, and that, after his death, his sons succeeded him immediately; and that this dignity hath been continued down from them all to their posterity. Whence it is a custom of our country, that no one should take the high priesthood of God but he who is of the blood of Aaron, while every one that is of another stock, though he were a king, can never obtain that high priesthood. Accordingly, the number of all the high priests from Aaron, of whom we have spoken already, as of the first of them, until Phanas, who was made high priest during the war by the seditious, was eighty- three” (Antiquities 20.10.1).

In Wars 4.3.6-8, Josephus provided the details of how the Zealots committed this treachery. This took place around December 67 AD. Keep in mind that Eleazar ben Simon was the main leader of the Zealots at this time (Wars 4.4.1), controlling the inner court of the temple:

Now the people were come to that degree of meanness and fear, and these robbers to that degree of madness, that these last took upon them to appoint high priests. So when they had disannulled the succession, according to those families out of which the high priests used to be made, they ordained certain unknown and ignoble persons for that office, that they might have their assistance in their wicked undertakings; for such as obtained this highest of all honors, without any desert, were forced to comply with those that bestowed it on them

These men made the temple of God a strong hold for them, and a place whither they might resort, in order to avoid the troubles they feared from the people; the sanctuary was now become a refuge, and a shop of tyranny. They also mixed jesting among the miseries they introduced, which was more intolerable than what they did; for in order to try what surprise the people would be under, and how far their own power extended, they undertook to dispose of the high priesthood by casting lots for it, whereas, as we have said already, it was to descend by succession in a family. The pretense they made for this strange attempt was an ancient practice, while they said that of old it was determined by lot; but in truth, it was no better than a dissolution of an undeniable law, and a cunning contrivance to seize upon the government, derived from those that presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.

Hereupon they sent for one of the pontifical tribes, which is called Eniachim, and cast lots which of it should be the high priest. By fortune the lot so fell as to demonstrate their iniquity after the plainest manner, for it fell upon one whose name was Phannias, the son of Samuel, of the village Aphtha. He was a man not only unworthy of the high priesthood, but that did not well know what the high priesthood was, such a mere rustic was he! yet did they hail this man, without his own consent, out of the country, as if they were acting a play upon the stage, and adorned him with a counterfeit thee; they also put upon him the sacred garments, and upon every occasion instructed him what he was to do. This horrid piece of wickedness was sport and pastime with them, but occasioned the other priests, who at a distance saw their law made a jest of, to shed tears, and sorely lament the dissolution of such a sacred dignity.

So the times and the law of the Jews were significantly changed by these actions which Eleazar ben Simon had a major hand in carrying out. If you have any further insights into how the times and law were changed by the little horn, please feel free to share them.

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In the next post, we will look at how the little horn persecuted the saints for 3.5 years right up until the time that the kingdom was given into their hands.

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

Daniel 7: The Fourth Beast, 10 Horns, Three Horns, and a Little Horn


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here.

The previous post, “Rome Congratulated Israel on Becoming the Fourth Kingdom of Daniel 2,” concluded our study of Daniel 2. Daniel 7 features another prophetic dream, but this time it was Daniel himself who had “a dream and visions” (verse 1). Whereas Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue with four parts, Daniel saw four beasts. The meaning was the same, though, in that Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel were both shown four kingdoms. It’s the fourth beast (kingdom) which plays a significant role in the book of Revelation.

In our study of Daniel 2, a lot of space was given to the progression from the first kingdom to the fourth kingdom. Most of that information will not be repeated in this post, but we will instead focus primarily on the key details that Daniel was given about the fourth beast. Here is Daniel’s vision of the four beasts as recorded in Daniel 7:

Daniel 7:2-8, 11-12, 16-27 (Daniel’s Vision of Four Beasts)

Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.

“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’

“After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.

“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words…

11 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time…

16 I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kingdoms which arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’

19 “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; 20 and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows.

21 “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.

23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. 25 He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

26 ‘But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. 27 Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

An Overview of the Four Beasts

In Daniel 7:3-8, Daniel saw four beasts which differed in how they appeared and what they represented. Since we already identified and discussed the four kingdoms in our study of Daniel 2, we will only briefly take note of what Daniel sees here:

[1] Babylon was the first beast that was like a lion with eagle’s wings. Babylon was also compared to a lion in Jeremiah 4:7, and compared to an eagle in Ezekiel 17:3, 12. Nebuchadnezzar was specifically called a lion in Jeremiah 50:17 (“Israel is like scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away. First the king of Assyria devoured him; now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones”).

The man with the heart who stood on two feet was most likely Nebuchadnezzar, who brought the Babylonian Empire to its highest height. His heart was “changed from that of a man” to “the heart of an animal” (Daniel 4:16) until he regained his reason (verse 36) and once again had a man’s heart. The plucking of the eagle’s wings could refer to the ceasing of Babylon’s conquests and/or to the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar and his temporary loss of the kingdom (Daniel 4:31-33).

[2] Medo-Persia was the second beast that was like a bear. The fact that it was raised up on one side likely refers to Persia being more dominant than Media. The three ribs could refer to three major territories that this empire conquered: Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.

[3] Greece/Macedonia was the third beast that was like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back. The angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the male goat was the kingdom of Greece (Daniel 8:21). In Daniel 8:5-6 this goat is seen running with great speed and power (as leopards are known to do, and as Alexander the Great was also known to have done). Jerome (347-420 AD) said,

“Nothing was more swift than the conquest of Alexander, from Illyricum and the Adriatic sea, unto the Indian ocean, and the river Ganges; he rather ran through the world by victories than by battles, and in six years subdued part of Europe, all Asia even unto India” (John Gill’s Commentary on Daniel 7; 1746-1763).

This beast’s four heads represented the four generals (Cassander, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus) who oversaw four parts of the kingdom (Daniel 8:22) after the death of Alexander the Great (verse 21).

[4] Israel was the fourth beast that was exceedingly strong and had huge iron teeth and 10 horns. As we saw in the last post, in 164 BC the Maccabees secured a great victory for Israel over Antiochus Epiphanes and the Macedonian kingdom. In 142 BC Israel was granted full independence, received congratulations from Rome, and its kingdom expanded. Israel enjoyed this independence for the next 79 years, and was then semi-autonomous all the way up to the Jewish-Roman War.

This beast would use its feet to devour, break in pieces, and trample residue. It was different than the three beasts that came before it. A little horn would come up among its 10 horns, would pluck out three of the first horns by the roots, and would have a mouth speaking pompous words.

The Fourth Beast

It’s this fourth beast that we will focus on in the rest of our study of Daniel 7. After this part of Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:1-8) he goes on to learn that the fourth beast would be a fourth kingdom, and it would be slain “and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11, 23). He also learns that the little horn would make war against the saints and “intend to change times and the law” (Daniel 7:21, 24-25). The little horn would prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the Ancient of Days would come and the saints would possess the kingdom (Daniel 7:21-22, 25-27). We will examine these details one at a time.

Devouring, Breaking, and Trampling (Daniel 7:7)

The following excerpt comes from the Jewish Virtual Library regarding the strength of the Maccabees, known as “the Jewish Hammer,” in their victory over the Macedonians:

“The family of Mattathias became known as the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for ‘hammer,’ because they were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies. Jews refer to the Maccabees, but the family is more commonly known as the Hasmoneans.

Like other rulers before him, Antiochus underestimated the will and strength of his Jewish adversaries and sent a small force to put down the rebellion. When that was annihilated, he led a more powerful army into battle only to be defeated. In 164 BCE, Jerusalem was recaptured by the Maccabees and the Temple purified, an event that gave birth to the holiday of Chanukah

It took more than two decades of fighting before the Maccabees forced the Seleucids to retreat from the Land of Israel. By this time Antiochus had died and his successor agreed to the Jews’ demand for independence. In the year 142 BCE, after more than 500 years of subjugation, the Jews were again masters of their own fate…

The kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm and Jewish life flourished.”

Wikipedia says that the Maccabees “reasserted the Jewish religion, partly by forced conversion” and “expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest.” Likewise, I Maccabees 14:4-24 says that Simon Maccabee “took Joppe for a haven, and made an entrance to the isles of the sea. And he enlarged the bounds of his nation, and made himself master of the country… the fame of his glory was renowned even to the end of the earth.”

The Hasmonean kingdom of Israel apparently became oppressive to its subjects. In 63 BC Pompey the Great intervened in a Judean civil war, the Judean kingdom lost some of its land, became semi-autonomous, and some of the cities that had been under Judea became autonomous and formed the Decapolis. According to Wikipedia, “The people of the Decapolis cities welcomed Pompey as a liberator from the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom that had ruled much of the area.”

As we saw in our study of Daniel 2, by 40 BC Herod the Great, the Edomite founder of the Herodian Dynasty in Israel, was doing his own “devouring, breaking, and trampling.” We also saw how Herod divided the land of Israel into five parts, and how after his death his sons divided it further.

When we look at Revelation 13 and 17 later in this series, we will examine how the Zealots did all kinds of “devouring, breaking, and trampling” in the land, in Jerusalem, and in the temple complex.

“Different from All Other Kingdoms” (Daniel 7:7, 23)

How was Israel/Judea, as the fourth kingdom, different than the three kingdoms which preceded it? Like the other kingdoms, the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) expanded their territory by political conquest. Unlike the other kingdoms, the Hasmonean kingdom also expanded through forced religious conversions.

I would speculate, though, that the primary difference between Israel/Judea and the other kingdoms was its widespread religious authority. The high priesthood in Jerusalem held authority over Jews living in “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), some of whom would travel to Jerusalem three times a year for the major festivals (Passover, Weeks/Pentecost, and Tabernacles).

Ten Horns of the Beast (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24)

Daniel observes that the fourth beast had 10 horns (verse 7). In verse 20 Daniel asked about those 10 horns and it was revealed to him that they “are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom” (verse 24). Daniel wasn’t told anything else about those 10 horns, but in Revelation 17:12-17 John learns that they [1] would “receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast” [2] would “give their power and authority to the beast” [3] would make war with the Lamb but be overcome by the Lamb [4] would “hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire” [5] and would “give their kingdom to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled.” We’ll examine the 10 horns in more depth later in this series when we come to Revelation 17.

In a post I wrote in July 2016 I proposed that the 10 horns were the 10 Jewish generals who were given authority in December 66 AD. After the Jews defeated Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD, these generals were chosen to lead Israel in preparing for the inevitable war with Rome. In Wars 2.20.3-4 Josephus lists 10 generals and the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome:

1. Joseph, the son of Gorion (Governor of Jerusalem)
2. Ananus, the high priest (Governor of Jerusalem)
3. Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Idumaea)
4. Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest (Idumaea)
5. Niger of Perea, the then governor of Idumea (Idumaea)
6. Joseph, the son of Simon (Jericho)
7. Manasseh (Perea)
8. John, the Esscue (toparchy of Thamna; “Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus”)
9. John, the son of Matthias (toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene)
10. Josephus, the son of Matthias (both the Galilees; “Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command”)

An 11th Horn, “A Little Horn”

In the following sections we will see that Daniel was told a great deal about another character spoken of as “a little horn.” This person is not spoken of in the book of Revelation by this title, but only here in Daniel 7. According to Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 this person would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and the law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

A Little Horn Coming Up Among the 10 Horns (Daniel 7:8, 20-21, 24-26)

As Daniel was considering the 10 horns, he saw a little horn coming up among them. He had “eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words” (Daniel 7:8). Even though he was “little,” his “appearance was greater than his fellows” (Daniel 7:20). At this point, I believe this 11th horn was either Eleazar ben Simon (my top choice) or John Levi of Gischala (my second choice). Both were prominent leaders of the Zealots in Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. (We will take a closer look at the Zealots in our study of Revelation 13.)

If Eleazar was the 11th horn, how did he “come up among” the 10 horns? Josephus wrote in Wars 2.20.3 that it was surprising that Eleazar was not appointed as one of the 10 generals for the war because he was credited with leading the victory against Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. However, the reason he was not chosen with the other 10 was because of his “tyrannical temper.” Still the people in Jerusalem submitted to his authority anyway:

“…for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office [as one of the 10 generals], although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar’s money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs.”

If John of Gischala was the 11th horn, how did he “come up among” the 10 horns? Around this same time, John tried to convince the authorities in Jerusalem to remove Josephus from the position of governor of the Galileans, and to give that position to him instead. Gischala was John Levi’s native city, but it was located in Galilee, and John was displeased when he found out that Josephus had been appointed as the governor of Galilee:

“But the hatred that John, the son of Levi, bore to me, grew now more violent, while he could not bear my prosperity with patience. So he proposed to himself, by all means possible, to make away with me; and built the walls of Gischala, which was the place of his nativity. He then sent his brother Simon, and Jonathan, the son of Sisenna, and about a hundred armed men, to Jerusalem, to Simon, the son of Gamaliel, in order to persuade him to induce the commonalty of Jerusalem to take from me the government over the Galileans, and to give their suffrages for conferring that authority upon him” (Life of Flavius Josephus, 38 [189]).

Soon afterward, though, Josephus had a dream in which he was told that John’s schemes against him would not succeed and that he would live to fight the Romans (Life, 42). John Levi eventually made it to Jerusalem in November 67 AD (Wars 4.2.4), and before long he was able to seize control of part of the city.

Three Horns Plucked Out by the Roots (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24)

Daniel 7:8 states that “before” (i.e. in front of) the little horn “three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots.” Verse 20 says that they “fell,” and verse 24 says that the little horn would “subdue” them.

Josephus records the deaths of three of the 10 generals at the hands of Eleazar ben Simon and John of Gischala. Their deaths took place during the Zealot siege of Jerusalem in February/March 68 AD:

[1] Ananus ben Ananus, governor of Jerusalem and a former high priest
[2] Niger of Perea
[3] Joseph ben Gorion.

Ananus was killed in early 68 AD when the Zealot leaders tricked the Idumeans into coming up to Jerusalem. This happened after John of Gischala first pretended to befriend Ananus, who was vehemently against the Zealots and their war agenda. Ananus was the leader of “the moderates,” those who took a moderate position regarding Rome. With false pretenses, John discussed plans with Ananus and then secretly passed them along to the other Zealot leaders. He also lied to the Zealots and claimed that Ananus was plotting to invite the Roman general Vespasian to take over Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.13-14).

So John convinced Eleazar ben Simon and the other Zealots to help him send a letter to the Idumeans (south of Judea), urging them to come up to Jerusalem and defend the city (Wars 4.4.1). An army of 20,000 Idumeans, led by four commanders (see Revelation 9:13-17) then came up to Jerusalem (Wars 4.4.2). Together with the Zealots, they killed thousands of people, filling the outer court of the temple with blood (Wars 4.5.1). They then specifically hunted down the high priests and killed Ananus, among others (Wars. 4.5.2).

When the Idumeans left Jerusalem, Josephus says that the Zealots thirsted “chiefly after the blood of valiant men, and men of good families; the one sort of which they destroyed out of envy, the other out of fear; for they thought their whole security lay in leaving no potent men alive; on which account they slew Gorion*, a person eminent in dignity, and on account of his family also… Nor did Niger of Peres escape their hands… so did they slay him” (Wars 4.6.1).

* The Gorion family was wealthy and well-known, and Nicodemus (John 3) was from this family. In Wars 2.17.10 Josephus specifically mentions “Gorion the son of Nicodemus.” In Wars 2.20.3 Josephus states that “Joseph the son of Gorion” was a governor of Jerusalem and one of the 10 generals for the war against Rome. A footnote for this section says,

“From this name of Joseph the son of Gorion, or Gorion the son of Joseph, as B. IV. ch. 3. sect. 9, one of the governors of Jerusalem, who was slain at the beginning of the tumults by the zealots…”

In Wars 4.3.9 we read about “Gorion the son of Josephus” growing tired of the Zealots and opposing them. The footnote above states that this is the same person. This makes sense because Josephus had already named Nicodemus as the actual father of Gorion. According to Martin Hengel, author of “The Zealots” (p. 367), Josephus had a habit of stating names differently and changing them around in his works.

Then in Wars 4.6.1 he speaks of the death of “Gorion” at the hands of the Zealots. As the footnote states, this must be the same Gorion (or “Joseph the son of Gorion”) mentioned just a little bit earlier in Wars 4.3.9.

In the October 1993 – January 1994 edition of the Jewish Quarterly Review (University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 189-208), Tal Ilan and Jonathan J. Price published an article titled “Seven Onomastic Problems in Josephus’ “Bellum Judaicum [Wars of the Jews]. Ilan and Price highlighted this same problem (#6) and seemed to come to the same conclusion.

So far, outside of Wars 4.6.1 and the footnote for Wars 2.20.3, I have been unable to find any other record of how or when Joseph ben Gorion, the governor of Jerusalem, died. If anyone has such information, please do share it. It would be good to have an even stronger confirmation that Josephus was speaking of the same person, despite the name getting switched around.

So, from the list of 10 generals (10 horns) above, the three horns who were killed by the Zealots were #1, #2, and #5. All three were killed in Jerusalem.

A Mouth Speaking Pompous Words (Daniel 7:8, 11, 20)

According to Daniel 7:8, 11, and 20, the little horn would speak “pompous words.” This likely corresponds with Revelation 13:5, which says that the beast “was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.” Concerning Eleazar ben Simon, Josephus says that he “was of a tyrannical temper” (Wars 2.20.3), but Josephus doesn’t seem to say much else about the way Eleazar spoke. Concerning John of Gischala, Josephus does include an example of John boasting and talking big. This was when John escaped from Gischala (of Galilee) when that city was captured by the Roman general Titus 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 when they related to them the taking of Gischala, and their decent departure, as they pretended, from that place, many of the people understood it to be no better than a flight; and especially when the people were told of those that were made captives, they were in great confusion, and guessed those things to be plain indications that they should be taken also. 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; but as to the more prudent part, and those in years, there was not a man of them but foresaw what was coming, and made lamentation on that account, as if the city was already undone; and in this confusion were the people” (Wars 4.3.1-2).

On this point, there seems to be more evidence pointing toward John as the little horn. As we consider all the points collectively, each reader can look at the evidence and decide whether Eleazar, John, or even another individual best fits the descriptions that Daniel was given.

In the next post, we will continue to look at Daniel 7 and other details concerning the little horn.

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

Rome Congratulated Israel on Becoming the Fourth Kingdom of Daniel 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.

In the previous post, “Daniel 2: Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece/Macedonia,” we began to look at Daniel 2 and the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that represented four kingdoms. We saw that the first three kingdoms are clearly identified in the book of Daniel as Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. In this post we will examine the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom, which is also the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and “the beast” of Revelation.

“In the latter time” of the third kingdom, the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes rose to power, fulfilling Daniel 8:23-26. Daniel was told that he would be broken (verse 25) and this took place in 164 BC. It’s commonly taught that at this point in history, dominion over Israel passed from the hands of Greece to Rome. However, no such transfer actually took place. In fact, neither Daniel 8 nor Daniel 11 mention (or even allude to) Rome’s takeover of Greece. Why is this significant?

As we’ve seen, the transition from the first kingdom (Babylon) to the second kingdom (Medo-Persia) is described in Daniel 5:30-31. The transition from the second kingdom to the third kingdom (Greece) is described in Daniel 8:1-7. Daniel is only shown the destiny of the Greek kingdom up until the breaking of Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 8:25), and Daniel 11:32 likewise depicts an uprising against Antiochus Ephiphanes. The perfect time to predict Rome’s conquest of Greece would have been in either Daniel 8 or Daniel 11, since Macedonia was established as a province of the Roman republic in 146 BC, but Daniel didn’t do that.

If Rome was the fourth kingdom foreseen in Daniel 2:40-43 and Daniel 7:7, then the book of Daniel never described the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom as it did for the previous transitions. What if the description of the Maccabees in Daniel 11:32-35 has everything to do with the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom? Israel was about to be under no one’s dominion at all.

Kingdom #3 (Bronze / Belly and Thighs) to Kingdom #4 (Iron and Iron-Clay / Legs and Feet)

The Jewish Virtual Library continues its overview of Israel’s history by discussing Israel’s transition from dominance by the Greeks/Macedonians to full independence in 142 BC (see the previous post for the first part of this overview):

The Jews Regain Their Independence

It took more than two decades of fighting before the Maccabees forced the Seleucids to retreat from the Land of Israel. By this time Antiochus had died and his successor agreed to the Jews’ demand for independence. In the year 142 BCE, after more than 500 years of subjugation, the Jews were again masters of their own fate.

When Mattathias died, the revolt was led by his son Judas, or Judah Maccabee, as he is often called. By the end of the war, Simon was the only one of the five sons of Mattathias to survive and he ushered in an 80-year period of Jewish independence in Judea, as the Land of Israel was now called. The kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm and Jewish life flourished.

The Hasmoneans claimed not only the throne of Judah, but also the post of High Priest. This assertion of religious authority conflicted with the tradition of the priests coming from the descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron and the tribe of Levi.

Daniel 11:31-32 summarizes the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes and the victory of the Maccabees in this way:

And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”

This is clearly a reference to the monotheistic Jews and not the polytheistic Romans. In greater detail, the victory of the Maccabees was recorded in I Maccabees 13:41-42:

“In the year one hundred and seventy [of the Seleucid Empire] the yoke of the Gentiles was taken off from Israel. And the people of Israel began to write in the instruments, and public records, ‘The first year under Simon the high priest, the great captain and prince of the Jews.’”

In Wars of the Jews 1.2.2 Josephus described how Simeon (or Simon) Maccabee achieved a series of victories over Antiochus Epiphanes:

“Simeon managed the public affairs after a courageous manner, and took Gazara, and Joppa, and Jamnia, which were cities in the neighborhood. He also got the garrison under, and demolished the citadel… he also laid a great many men in ambush in many places of the mountains, and was superior in all his attacks upon them. And when he had been conqueror after so glorious a manner, he was made high priest, and also freed the Jews from the dominion of the Macedonians, after a hundred and seventy years of the empire [of Seleucus].

Wikipedia says this about the Maccabees and the dynasty they founded:

“The Maccabees were the leaders of a Jewish rebel army that took control of Judea, which at the time had been a province of the Seleucid Empire. They founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE. They reasserted the Jewish religion, partly by forced conversion, expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest and reduced the influence of Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism.”

This was the transition:

*from bronze to iron
*from the belly and thighs to the legs and feet (the final stage of the image)
*from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom

Contrary to my previous assumptions, dominion over Israel did not pass from the Greek Empire to the Roman Empire. In fact, when Israel defeated Macedonia, the Republic of Rome expressed its congratulations and an alliance was confirmed between Rome and Israel:

“And all the land of Juda was at rest all the days of Simon, and he sought the good of his nation: and his power, and his glory pleased them well all his days. And with all his glory he took Joppe for a haven, and made an entrance to the isles of the sea. And he enlarged the bounds of his nation, and made himself master of the country… the fame of his glory was renowned even to the end of the earth. He made peace in the land, and Israel rejoiced with great joy. And every man sat under his vine, and under his fig tree: and there was none to make them afraid…

And it was heard at Rome, and as far as Sparta, that Jonathan was dead: and they were very sorry. But when they heard that Simon his brother was made high priest in his place, and was possessed of all the country, and the cities therein: They wrote to him in tables of brass, to renew the friendship and alliance which they had made with Judas, and with Jonathan his brethren… And after this Simon sent Numenius to Rome, with a great shield of gold the weight of a thousand pounds, to confirm the league with them” (I Maccabees 14:4-24).

The fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream wasn’t Rome. It was Israel – “as strong as iron” (Daniel 2:33, 40) at first, and “partly strong and partly fragile” (Daniel 2:33, 41-43) later. It’s important to keep in mind that the timeline of Nebuchadnezzar’s image would only extend until the stone would crush its feet (Daniel 2:34, 44; Matthew 21:44). Greece/Macedonia was the belly and thighs of the image, and the fourth kingdom was the legs and the feet, the final part of that timeline. It was Israel, not Rome, that was later crushed by the stone.

This chart shows a list of significant events which took place during the time of Israel’s Hasmonean (Maccabean) Dynasty (164 BC – 37 BC) and the Herodian Dynasty (37 BC –>) that followed:

Year Event Timing in Relation to Israel’s Independence
164 BC

Israel, led by the Maccabees, defeats Antiochus Epiphanes

22 years prior
142 BC

Israel becomes fully independent from Macedonia/Greece

At this time
63 BC

Pompey the Great, a Roman statesman, intervenes in the Judean civil war between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, the two sons of Queen Alexandra Salome. The province of Syria was created at this time, and Judea was incorporated into the Roman republic.

Judea remained autonomous, but lost some of its land, including parts of Samaria and Idumea. Other cities that had been under Judea became autonomous as well and formed the Decapolis. One of those cities was Pella. “The people of the Decapolis cities welcomed Pompey as a liberator from the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom that had ruled much of the area” (Wikipedia).

Aristobulus was taken to Rome, but Hyrcanus was reinstated as the High Priest and Antipater the Idumean became the chief minister of Judea. Antipater was pro-Roman and even rescued Julius Caesar in Alexandria, for which he was rewarded.

79 years later
47 BC

Hyrcanus was recognized by Rome as the ethnarch (ruler) of Judea, and Antipater was recognized as the first Roman Procurator.

95 years later
40 – 37 BC

The Roman Senate appointed Herod the Great as “King of Judea” in 40 BC. However, at that time the Parthians (modern NE Iran) conquered the Levant, including the land of Israel. The Jews thought a new era of independence had come. It took Rome three years to defeat the Parthians.

102 – 105 years later
37 BC

Hasmonean rule ended when Herod the Great captured Jerusalem and unseated Antigonus II Mattathias. Antipater the Idumean was Herod’s father. Herod married a Hasmonean princess named Mariamne. The Herodian dynasty began in Judea.

105 years later
27 BC The Roman empire began. 115 years later
6 AD

The Jewish Zealot movement was founded by Judas of Galilee.

148 years later

the-hasmonean-dynasty

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University; July 28, 2016

Is the Herodian dynasty spoken of in Daniel? In a 2005 article, Bryan T. Huie explains how Daniel 11:36-45 moves on from speaking of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Hasmoneans who conquered him, and goes on to speak of Herod the Great and Octavius (Augustus Caesar):

“In this verse [Daniel 11:36], the king being spoken of changes. Starting in verse 21, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the referenced king. Verses 32 through 35 prophesy his defeat by the Maccabees (the Hasmoneans) and encompass the subsequent fall of their dynasty. But the context shows that the remaining verses in this chapter cannot apply to Antiochus IV… Both secular history and the New Testament record the acts of a king who appeared on the scene in Israel at the end of the Hasmonean period. As we shall see, this king fulfilled every prophetic description given in verses 36 through 39. That king was Herod the Great. In verse 36, the one spoken of is not identified as either the king of the North or the king of the South, but simply as ‘the king.’ Herod was seated as king on the throne of Israel when Messiah Yeshua was born. He is called ‘the king’ in the Gospels (Matt. 2:1, 3, 9; Luke 1:5)…

Bryan’s full commentary on Daniel 11:36-45, and how it was fulfilled in the lives of Herod and Octavius (later Augustus Caesar), is worth examining. It compares well with Philip Mauro’s conclusions in his 1922 book, “The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation” (Chapter 9).

Herod the Great was from Idumea, and was of Edomite lineage. Between 47 – 40 BC he served as the Governor and then the Tetrarch of Galilee. After he convinced Rome of his pro-Roman loyalty, the Roman Senate appointed him as the king of Judea in 40 BC (Josephus, Wars 1.14.4). After a three year war he wrestled the control of this position from the last Hasmonean ruler, Mattathias II Antigonus. Herod began the Herodian dynasty by ruling over Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC.

palestine-under-herod-the-great

Source: 40 Maps That Explain the Roman Empire (#24)

Mark Mountjoy remarks in New Testament Open University (August 23, 2015),

“It was at that point that Herod the Great, the son-in-law of the Hasmoneans, turned the Hasmonean Empire into the Herodean Kingdom of Edom–or the feet of iron and clay. So when the fourth kingdom changes from pure iron to iron and clay, and when the rulers of the fourth kingdom are no longer of Jewish stock but of Edomite lineage, and when the gains of the Maccabees were divided up and ruled over by the sons and grandsons (and a daughter and grandaughter) of Herod the Great, that could only mean the end of the intact statue was drawing very near. Moreover, John the Baptist and Jesus and all the first Christians were living at that stage of biblical history. This is why John the Baptist believed the Kingdom of God (the fifth kingdom of Daniel 2 and 7) was near (Matthew 3:2). And this is why Jesus our Lord believed the Kingdom of God (the same fifth kingdom of Daniel 2 and 7) was near (Matthew 4:17 and 10:7). Jesus did not believe or teach that it was coming immediately (Luke 19:11), but he did teach that it would come before all those people who lived at that time had died (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; Matthew 24:34; John 21:21-23).”

The Judean Kingdom Divided (Daniel 2:41)

Daniel 2:41 says this about the final stage of Nebuchadnezzar’s image: “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.”

Almost a decade after the invasion of Pompey the Great in 63 BC, a major division took place in 57-55 BC when the proconsul of Syria, Aulus Gabinius, divided the Hasmonean kingdom into five parts. As Josephus records in Antiquities 14.5.4, when Gabinius “had ordained five councils, he distributed the nation into the same number of parts. So these councils governed the people; the first was at Jerusalem, the second at Gadara, the third at Amathus, the fourth at Jericho, and the fifth at Sepphoris in Galilee. So the Jews were now freed from monarchic authority, and were governed by an aristocracy.”

the-judean-kingdom-divided

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University; August 13, 2015

According to Wikipedia’s entry on the Herodian Dynasty, when Herod died in 4 BC his kingdom also “was divided between his sons as a Tetrarchy, which lasted for about 10 years. Most of those kingdoms, including Judea proper, were incorporated into Judaea Province in 6 CE.” This was the same year that the Jewish Zealot movement was founded by Judas of Galilee.

They Will Not Adhere to One Another (Daniel 2:43)

Daniel 2:43 says that the iron and the clay would not mix well:

As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.”

The Jewish Virtual Library discusses how Judea was unique among the provinces of Rome because of its frequent revolts and unwillingness to integrate:

“Judea differed from the other provinces in the east of the Roman Empire in that it never resigned itself to Roman rule and did not willingly become integrated into the Imperial system. From the beginning of the Roman conquest its history was one of bitter struggle accompanied by revolts against the Imperial power. Although there were revolts in the Western parts of the Empire too (in Britain and Gaul and by the Batavi), these were not as frequent and they generally occurred in the early stages of Roman occupation and on the frontiers of the Empire. In Judea, however, a province that lay in the heart of a vital area, between Syria and Egypt, relations with the Roman authorities were in a state of almost continuous tension from the period of Pompey and Gabinius until after the Bar Kokhba War.”

the-jewish-state-from-166-bc-to-70-ad

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University; August 15, 2016

In 70 AD the Roman general Titus attested to the semi-independence of Israel during the preceding period. He addressed the Jewish Zealot leaders and gave a speech which painted a picture of the privileges, exceptions, and advantages that Israel enjoyed while under the jurisdiction of Rome from 63 BC to 66 AD (a period of 129 years):

“You have been the men that have never left off rebelling since Pompey first conquered you, and have, since that time, made open war with the Romans… It can therefore be nothing certainly but the kindness of us Romans which hath excited you against us; who, in the first place, have given you this land to possess; and, in the next place, have set over you kings of your own nation; and, in the third place, have preserved the laws of your forefathers to you, and have withal permitted you to live, either by yourselves, or among others, as it should please you: and, what is our chief favor of all we have given you leave to gather up that tribute which is paid to God with such other gifts that are dedicated to him; nor have we called those that carried these donations to account, nor prohibited them; till at length you became richer than we ourselves, even when you were our enemies; and you made preparations for war against us with our own money; nay, after all, when you were in the enjoyment of all these advantages, you turned your too great plenty against those that gave it you, and, like merciless serpents, have thrown out your poison against those that treated you kindly” (Josephus, Wars 6.6.2).

The figure below compares the conventional way of viewing Nebuchadnezzar’s dream with what Mark Mountjoy calls the Atavist view (B = Babylon, MP = Medo-Persia, G = Greece, N & S = North & South, J = Judea, and E = Edom):

jewish-salvation-history-in-nebuchadnezzars-dream

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University; September 1, 2015

four-kingdoms-of-jewish-salvation-history

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University; July 28, 2016

Kingdom #4 (Iron & Iron-Clay/Legs & Feet) to the Everlasting Kingdom (Mountain of God)

The transition from the fourth kingdom to the everlasting kingdom of the saints was predicted by Jesus in Matthew 21:42-44. In Matthew 21, we see that the kingdom was going to be taken away from the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. If Rome was the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the kingdom was in the hands of the Roman Empire, as is so often taught, then how was the kingdom going to be taken away from the leaders of Israel? Jesus uses the language of Daniel here:

Therefore I say to you, [A] the kingdom of God will be taken from you and [B] given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on [C] this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will [D] grind him to powder. Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that [E] He was speaking of them” (Matthew 21:43-45).

You watched while [C] a stone was cut out without hands, which [D] struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were [D] crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And [C] the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth… And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed … The fourth beast shall be [E] a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces… Then [A] the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be [B] given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom…” (Daniel 2:34-35, 44; 7:23, 27).

Perhaps a similar picture of this transfer is also seen in Matthew 8:10-12, in the words that Jesus spoke to the centurion:

Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Why did Jesus refer to the people of Israel as “the sons of the kingdom”? Was it merely because of the common assumption that the people of Israel were the rightful heirs of the kingdom? Or was Jesus also referring to the fact that the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision was in the hands of Israel? About 40 years later, of course, it would no longer be in their hands. It would be in the hands of the saints.

The next post will begin to examine Daniel’s own vision of four beasts in Daniel 7, in which he is given key details about the fourth beast – the beast of Revelation.

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