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  The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia and  The Jewish Encyclopedia say about the use of the word “goy” in Scripture:
- “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.
- “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 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.
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).
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.
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.