Thursday, September 16, 2021

Apocalyptic? #31: Armageddon III--The Plague of Famine: Jesus, John, Josephus


The Plague of Famine Transformed into War Terminology

When Jesus opened the first four Seals in Chapter 6 of Revelation, he outlined the development of the Battle of Armageddon as four men riding horses.  As I commented in an earlier post, conquest, war, and death are easily seen as war terminology, but “famine” could easily be taken as a “natural disaster.”  I promised, in that earlier post, to eventually demonstrate, by citing from Josephus, how “famine” became one of the greatest killers of Jews in the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 A.D.

1.      The first horseman was conquest, as the second horseman, war between the Romans and the Jews, was touched off by Jews wanting to conquer Rome at Masada.  Josephus writes: “[S]ome . . . [that wanted to] go to war, made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada . . . and slew the Romans that were there.  . . .  And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans” (Wars II.XVI.2).

2.      The third horseman, famine, followed shortly after the war began, and the fourth horseman was “Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth [land], to kill with sword, with hunger, with deathand by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8 NKJV).

The Prediction by Jesus
:  In the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:7 (NKJV):

And Jesus . . . said to them: ‘. . . For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.’”


The Prediction by John:  In Revelation 6:5-6 (NKJV), John describes:

He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.” 


Defining Famine
: In Matthew 20:2, a denarius was a day’s wage for a farm worker and in John 12:5, three hundred denarii equals a year’s wage.  Working all day long for just a quart of wheat indicates famine.

Famines in Various Places: Even before the siege of Jerusalem, Jews in Judea were dying as a result of famine.  The sieges of the Romans on the various cities of Judea had the effect of producing famine.  For example, Josephus writes of the famine in Jotapata (Wars III.VII.11).  The Romans had destroyed the crops as they invaded the land of Israel. Josephus writes further: “[T]he people of Gamala . . . the more infirm perished by famine” (Wars IV.I.9), so it happened as Jesus had said: “there will be famines . . . in various places.”  But none of the prior famines compared to the famine in Jerusalem during the Battle of Armageddon.

The Prediction by Niger:  When the zealots managed to kill (one of the ten kings) Niger—in the civil war in Jerusalem—Josephus comments: “Now when they were slaying him, he made this imprecation upon them, that they might undergo both famine and pestilence in this war, and besides that they might come to the mutual slaughter of one another, all which imprecations God confirmed against these impious men, and was what came most justly upon them” (Wars IV.VI.1).  Niger’s prediction came true as the Zealots who killed Niger participated in the civil war activity that produced the famine.

Famine in the Civil War in Jerusalem:  The intemperate behavior of the various factions in the Jewish civil war in Jerusalem had the effect of producing famine.  Having arrived in Jerusalem after losing to the Romans in Gischala, John of Gischala joined in a civil war against other Jewish factions.  A bloody civil war broke out in the city between John, the zealot party, the Idumeans, and Simon son of Giora.  Josephus writes: “[T]hey were an unprofitable and a useless multitude, they spent those provisions beforehand, which might otherwise have been sufficient for the fighting men . . . they were the occasion of . . . famine therein” (Wars IV.III.3). Recall that Simon son of Giora had “enlarged many of the caves . . . as repositories for his treasures, and . . . the fruits that he had got by rapine” (Wars IV.IX.4) in his ransacking of the Acrabattene toparchy (Plague of the Locusts).  Meanwhile, the zealots had “seized upon the inner court of the temple . . . and . . . they had plenty of provisions” (Wars V.I.2).  Since “Simon had his supply of provisions” (Wars V.I.4), his adversary John of Gischala attacked Simon’s supplies:

[T]ill he set on fire those houses that were full of corn and of all other provisions.  The same thing was done by Simon . . . as if they had on purpose done it to serve the Romans, by destroying what the city had laid up against the siege . . . all the places . . . about the temple were burnt down, and . . . almost all the corn was burnt which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years.  So they were taken by means of the famine (Wars V.I.4).


Meanwhile, Josephus was using the famine to try to persuade inhabitants of Jerusalem to surrender: “For the Romans are not unacquainted with that famine which is in the city, whereby the people are already consumed” (Wars V.IX.3).

Famine Worsens: “Those that went out into the valleys to gather food,” as described by Josephus, did so because “the severity of the famine made them bold in thus going out; so nothing remained but that . . . they should be taken by the enemy” (Wars V.XI.1). Josephus describes the worsening state of the famine:

[T]heir famine . . . inflamed more and more . . . no corn . . . appeared publicly . . .but the robbers came running into . . . private houses . . . they saw that they would very soon die of themselves for want of food.  Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat, if they were the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer.  When these had so done, they shut themselves up in the inmost rooms of their houses, and ate the corn they had gotten . . . they snatched the bread out of the fire, half baked, and ate it very hastily . . . children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating, out of their very mouths . . . so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing . . . they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives . . . the old men, who held their food fast, were beaten . . . the women[‘s] . . . hair was torn . . . they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels . . . and shook them down upon the floor (Wars V.X.2-3).


Eating Old Cow Dung
: Josephus describes the thousands who died in the famine: “Manneus . . . [told] Titus . . . that no fewer than one hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies” were carried out of Jerusalem through a single gate he was guarding in just a few days.  Manneus had been tasked with keeping an accurate count.  After that:

[M]any of the eminent citizens . . . told [Titus] that no fewer than six hundred thousand were thrown out at the gates . . . and . . . that when they were no longer able to carry out the dead bodies of the poor, they laid their corpses on heaps in very large houses, and shut them up therein; and also that a medimnus of wheat [=1 ½ bushels] was sold for a talent [=100 lbs. of either gold or silver] . . . some persons were driven to . . . the common sewers and old dung-hills of cattle and to eat the dung which they got there . . . now used for food (Wars V.XIII.7).


Eating Anything Chewable: When food was virtually gone, “those that perished by the famine . . . their hunger was so intolerable, that it obliged them to chew everything . . . girdles and shoes; and . . . the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed . . . wisps of old hay” (Wars VI.III.3).

Eating Their Own Babies
: In what Josephus called “horrible” (Wars VI.III.3):

[T]here was a certain woman [whose] name was Mary [who had fled to Jerusalem when her town Bethezub was attacked but now] it was . . . impossible for her . . . to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow . . . .  She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said, “Oh thou miserable infant! For whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine . . . be thou my food . . . she slew her son and then roasted him, and ate the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed” (Wars VI.III.4).

Burning the Victims of Famine
: After burning down the temple, Titus “gave orders to the soldiers, both to burn . . . the city . . . also . . . burnt down . . . were . . . those houses that were full of the dead bodies of such as were destroyed by famine(Wars VI.VI.3).  Josephus concludes:

Accordingly, as the people were now slain, many . . . deserters were caught . . . and were all slain; for these were too weak, by reason of their want of food, to fly away from them; so their dead bodies were thrown to the dogs [note the "beasts of the earth” reference in Revelation 6:8].  Now every sort of death was thought more tolerable than the famine . . . .  Nor was there any place in the city that had no dead bodies in it, but what was entirely covered with either those that were killed by the famine or the rebellion; and all was full of the dead bodies of such as had perished, either by that sedition or by that famine (Wars VI.VII.2).


“[W]hen [the Romans] were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is of such as died by the famine” (Wars VI.VIII.5).  The Four Horsemen had arrived:  Conquest, War, Famine, and Death.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Apocalyptic? #30: Armageddon II—Vengeance on the Villains


Vengeance is mine: I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 ESV)

Seal #5:  The Martyrs’ Prayer for Vengeance (Revelation 6:9-11 NKJV):

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth [Land]?” 11 Then . . . it was said to them . . . rest a little while longer, until . . . the number of . . . their brethren, who would be killed . . . was completed.

Vengeance Realized—Once Babylon the Great HAS FALLEN:


Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!(Revelation 18:9-11 NKJV)



Who is/are the major Jewish villain/s in the New Testament?  At least four of the Ten Kings of the Land were members of the High Priestly family.


A Refresher on the High Priests’ Role in Armageddon:
The High Priestly Family is referred to by John in several ways:  Harlot, Babylon, the second beast, the beast from the land, those who make war with the Lamb, the false prophet, two horns like a lamb, the mark of the beast, and the image of the beast.  A review is in order concerning this family and how they came to be the (illegitimate) high priestly family in Jerusalem.


Babylon:  Jewish historian Solomon Zeitlin reports that when Herod the Great was king of Judea, Herod himself wanted to succeed Antigonus as high priest, but he couldn’t because he was not of a priestly family.  He felt it to be politically dangerous to appoint a member of the [legitimate] Hasmonean family to a position of such great prominence . . . therefore, . . . he appointed Ananel (Hananel), a priest from the Babylonian Diaspora." This "Babylonian" priestly family was the one who ruled Judea and the Temple Cult throughout the New Testament period until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  This high priestly family engineered the crucifixion of Jesus, declaring in John 19:15: “We have no king except Caesar!'" 

Image of the Beast:
  This high priestly family should be understood to be the talking "image" of the beast who compelled people to “worship” Rome.  Zeitlin observes that the Jerusalem Jews “chose as head of the government the High Priest Ananus . . . who inherently was for peace . . . [secretly attempting] to make peace with Rome.”  With the two major high priests Ananus and Jesus effectively “worshiping the beast,” by John’s definition, (and even telling the other Jews to similarly worship the beast) there was no need for a non-talking Caligula-like stone image to be placed in the temple—the living, breathing, talking “image” of the beast was already firmly ensconced in the temple—the High Priest.

Those Who Make War with the Lamb: 
The high priestly family is identified throughout the New Testament as the Jewish entity most responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus (in league with the “kings of the earth/land”—"Roman" rulers, Pontius Pilate and Herod)—as well as the persecution of the church throughout the book of Acts.  In Acts 4:6, “Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest” imprisoned Peter and John and interrogated them for preaching about Jesus.  Again, in Acts 5:17-18, “the high priest” put the apostles in prison.  In Acts 7:1, the deacon Stephen was tried by “the high priest,” and became the first Christian martyr. His death-by-stoning was approved by Saul of Tarsus, who then proceeded to persecute the church with the written permission of “the high priest” (Acts 9:1).  Furthermore, the antagonism of the high priestly family toward Christians continued even to the time John wrote Revelation.  Just before John wrote Revelation, James, the brother of Jesus and some others were martyred by the authority of Ananus the high priest.  Ananus ordered this execution by stoning.  In a very real sense, due to his role in the martyrdom of Jesus’ brother, this Ananus can stand as a singular identity of the “second beast/false prophet,” just as Nero can stand as a singular identity of “the beast/number 666.” The fact that the names of James and Jesus were extremely well-known in Jerusalem in 62 A.D. is attested to by the archaeological discovery of the James Ossuary:

[The James Ossuary was] made known to the public in October, 2002. Ossuaries were used by Israel from about the second century BC until the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Over ten thousand such ossuaries have been discovered but only about one hundred contain inscriptions. Of these, only two have an identification similar to the one etched in the now famous . . . “James Ossuary.” The entire Aramaic inscription reads, “Jacob (James), son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” (Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua). [source:  Calvary Chapel | The James Ossuary: The Earliest Witness to Jesus and…]


I had the privilege of viewing the ossuary when it was exhibited to the public in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in 2002, in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in that city.  There were early claims that this ossuary’s inscription was forged, but those claims have now been almost completely put to rest.  Since it was extremely rare that a “brother” would be mentioned in the inscription of an ossuary (only a very well-known brother would have been thus mentioned), this “Jesus” must have been a very well-known brother, indeed.  His brother James was also well-known. According to Josephus (Antiquities XX.IX.1): “Ananus . . . assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or some of his companions] . . . he delivered them to be stoned.”


Wicked Priest:
 John in Revelation never referred to the Jewish priesthood as “priest,” possibly because John’s nomenclature refused to allow honorable terms (such as priest) to be given to the non-Christian Jews.  Instead, John reserves the title “priests” for identifying Christians.  In Revelation 1:6 and 5:10, Christians are called kings and priests.  By contrast, the Jerusalem high priestly family was considered the “wicked priest” by John the Baptist’s former community in Qumran (in the Dead Sea Scrolls).  Still, John gave “priestly” hints regarding them: 

Second Beast/Beast from the “Land”/Two Horns like a Lamb/False Prophet/Fire from Heaven:
 Revelation 13:1-17 introduces a second beast (not identical to, but similar to the Beast (of Rome).  While the first beast (Rome) arises out of the (Mediterranean) “sea,” this second beast arises out of the “land” (of Israel).  While the first beast has ten horns, the second beast has “two horns like a lamb.”  The “priests” were those who sacrificed the “lambs” at the temple.  Compare these two horns of a lamb with the seven horns of the Lamb (Jesus: our “perfect” sacrifice) in Revelation 5:6. The “lamb” reference has been seen by Revelation scholars as indicating that this beast is performing a primarily religious (for that matter, a sacrificial) function.  The beast from the land is also identical to the “false prophet” (16:13, 19:20, and 20:10), another religious office epithet. While it is true that one prophet—Elijah—called down “fire from Heaven” (II Kings 1:10-12) upon his enemies, later, in II Kings 18:38, he asked God to send fire to consume a sacrifice (the much more common situation of fire coming down from heaven).  This phenomenon of fire from heaven consuming sacrifices is recorded in I Chronicles 21:26, II Chronicles 7:1, Judges 13:20, and is implied in the “strange fire” of Nadab and Abihu incident in Leviticus 8-10.  In Jewish folklore, the way God demonstrated that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable, but Cain’s was not is that he sent fire from heaven to consume Abel’s but did not do so for Cain’s (Ginzberg I:107 and V:137).  From a Jewish perspective, sacrifices should only be offered on fire that came down from heaven, so Josephus (in the common assumption among Jews that the existing fire on the altar had been sent from heaven) comments that the fire on the altar at the temple was kept constantly burning: “[T]he custom was for every one to bring wood for the altar, (that there might never be a want of fuel for that fire which was unquenchable and always burning)” (Wars II.XVII.6).  Who was in charge of this fire?  The high priests.  Therefore, when Revelation 13:13 says that the second beast “performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,” John is identifying the high priest as the second beast.

The Mark of the Beast: 
When Revelation 13:16 refers to the mark of the Beast on the right hand and forehead, the allusion is to the Jewish practice of wearing phylacteries on their hand and forehead, based upon Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18, and Exodus 13:9 and 16.  The chief enforcer of such Jewish practices (including sacrifice) was the High Priest. 

:  John repeatedly cites Psalm 2, describing, the Jewish leaders (whom Acts 4 identifies as the chief priests) and the Gentiles (whom Acts 4 identifies as Pilate and Herod) plotting together against the Messiah.  This alliance between the High Priestly party of Judaism with the Gentile leader Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus amounted to ultimate harlotry/porneia.  She had conspired with pagan governmental authorities (Pilate and Herod) to crucify Jesus.  She had committed adultery/PORNEIA with the Beast/Rome!  The Old Testament harlot, Israel/Zion, is guilty of harlotry only to the extent she seduces and enters into alliances with her heathen neighbors.  On page 30 of my book Revelation:  The Human Drama, I point out:


J. Massyngberde Ford points out, "The harlot . . . is . . . a Jewish OT theme depicting Jerusalem . . . Babylon is . . . presented as a prostitute . . ., as is the faithless Jerusalem." Reflecting on the teachings of Qumran, Ford concludes, "These texts together with the OT ones indicate that the harlot in Rev 17 is Jerusalem, not Rome.  . . . [T]he harlot depicts particularly the condition of the high priesthood."


The high priestly family, especially Ananus, now again attempts to give Jerusalem to the Romans.             


Great City Divided into Three Parts:  John writes in Revelation 16:19 (NKJV): “Now the great city [Jerusalem] was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon [i.e., Jerusalem] was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.”  Josephus writes concerning Jerusalem: “The city was fortified with three walls” (Wars V.IV.1).  When Titus prepared to attack:

[He] thought it best to make his assault upon the monument of John the high priest, for there . . . the first fortification was lower, and the second was not joined to it . . . here also was an easy passage to the third wall through which to take the upper city, and through the tower of Antonia, the temple itself (Wars V.VI.2). 


The Cities of the Nations Fell: 
From the Jewish perspective (which was also John’s perspective—see Apocalyptic?  #9:  Revelation 1:1-3 Commentary), the “cities of the nations” are the cities located among the Gentiles in which Jews lived.  The word (ἒθνοι) translated “nations” is the same word that is translated “gentiles” and the same word that is transliterated “heathen.”  According to Josephus, Agrippa had warned the Jews:

“[W]hen the Romans have got you under their power, they will . . . burn your holy city, and . . . the danger concerns not those Jews that dwell here only, but those of them who dwell in other cities also; for there is no people upon the habitable earth which have not some portion of you among them, whom your enemies will slay, in case you go to war . . . and so every city that hath Jews in it will be filled with slaughter” (Wars II.XVI.4).


By the time John wrote (in 69 A.D.), Agrippa’s warning had already been fulfilled.  The Jewish population of several “cities of the nations” HAD ALREADY FALLEN!  The city of Cesarea, in allegiance to Florus, promptly massacred 20,000 Jews “and all Cesarea was emptied of its Jewish inhabitants” (Wars II.XVIII.1).  Likewise, Scythopolis killed 13,000 (Wars II.XVIII.3), “Askelon slew two thousand five hundred [2500] . . . Ptolymais two thousand [2000] . . . Tyre also put a great number to death . . . those of Hippos and . . . Gadara did the like . . . as did the rest of the cities of Syria” (Wars II.XVIII.5).  Even the city of Alexandria (in Egypt), which had long been a safe haven for Jews in the Roman Empire, attacked (with two Roman legions) and killed 50,000 Jews (Wars II.XVIII.8).

The Plague of Hail Transformed into War Terminology: 
In Exodus 9:13-35, the plague of hail referred to an occurrence in nature.  Not so, for John.  John’s reference is to a war phenomenon.  John writes in Revelation 16:21 (NKJV): “And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.”  According to Wikipedia, “The Roman talent consisted of 100 . . . (pounds) . . . The gold talent is reported as weighing roughly the same as a person, and so perhaps . . . 110 lb.”  (This gives new meaning to the phrase “worth your weight in gold!”)  In a description remarkably similar to Revelation 16, Josephus explains:

The engines that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived . . . and those that threw stones, were more forcible and larger than the rest . . . .  Now, the stones that were cast, were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs (1/4th of a mile) and further . . . .  [T]he Jews . . . at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was . . . white . . . and . . . could be seen before it came . . . the watchmen . . . cried out “THE STONE COMETH.”  . . . But the Romans . . . by blackening the stone . . . destroyed many of them at one blow (Wars V.VI.3).


The largest of such Roman engines, the Jews nicknamed “Nico” (Wars V.VII.2), the word that forms the first part of the

name “Nicolaitans” in the letters to the seven churches.  It means “conqueror” and when you add the concept of “laity,” you produce the term “Nicolaitan,” meaning “Conqueror of the People,” which John probably saw as the equivalent of the Hebrew term “Balaam = bala am = he has consumed the people.”  The plague of (hail) stones falling out of the sky from the Romans did indeed help them “conquer” the Jews, while the “porneia”—the adultery between Jewish Christians such as the Nicolaitans and Balaamites and the Beast/Rome—had the effect of “conquering/killing/consuming” the “people” of God (Christians).

In my next blogpost, we will turn from the Roman prosecution of the Battle of Armageddon to the Jewish prosecution of the Battle of Armageddon AGAINST EACH OTHER, in the Civil War that was going on that produced the Plague of Famine in Jerusalem.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Apocalyptic? #29: Armageddon I—Killing the Kings

Bill O’Reilly has made a fortune on his very successful series of “Killing” books—Killing Kennedy, Killing Lincoln, Killing Jesus, Killing Reagan, Killing Crazy Horse, etc.  Perhaps, if he wrote a book on the Battle of Armageddon, he would call it Killing the Kings.  From its origin, the term Armageddon has always referred to a Battle in which Kings were Killed.

The Background and Meaning of the term “Armageddon”:  John is totally consistent throughout Revelation.  He always avoids calling the non-Christian Jews, non-Christian Judea, and non-Christian Jerusalem by any of those names—Jews, Judea, or Jerusalem.  Neither will he call Judea or Jews “Israel,” nor will he call Jerusalem “Mount Zion.” He reserves such honorable names for the Christian Jews and the New Jerusalem. 

In my book The Logic of Christianity (pp. 160-161), I comment:


During the years immediately preceding the destruction of the temple, John refers to Jerusalem as "Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified" (Revelation 11:8).  In this period, John writes of "the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan" (2:9).  At this time, John calls Jerusalem "the harlot Babylon" (as J. M. Ford interprets) and exults in her gory destruction.  Since John cannot refer to the Battle of “Jerusalem,” he gives the battle a new name:  Armageddon.  The word Armageddon is translated into the Greek from the Hebrew HAR MƏGIDDÔ (הר מגידו).  The word HAR is translated into English as “mountain.”  The word MƏGIDDÔ  is spelled  in the Greek  translation (LXX) of  II Chronicles  exactly  as  it  is spelled in Revelation.  Here is the account of the Battle of Megiddo [in which KING Josiah was KILLED] from II Chronicles 35:20-25:


After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him. But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, "What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you." However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo. The archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, "Take me away, for I am badly wounded." So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in the second chariot which he had, and brought him to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers.


Note, however, that Megiddo is not a mountain—but a plain.  The only mountain associated with the Battle of Megiddo is Mount Zion (or Jerusalem) where Josiah died.  John is continuing to refuse to refer to Jerusalem as Jerusalem or Mount Zion (a term he uses to refer to the 144,000 Christians).  So, he refers to Mount Zion as Mount Megiddo.  The Battle of Armageddon took place from 66 to 73 A.D.  Jerusalem was annihilated (just as Josiah was killed and his kingdom was destroyed in 609 B.C.). 

Why did John opt for calling the battle the Battle of Armageddon (with allusion to Mount Zion), rather than the Battle of Babylon or Egypt or Sodom (other negative names John had given to Jerusalem, itself) since II Chronicles simply states that Josiah died in Jerusalem?  Because Mount Zion is the “kingly” reference for that portion of (older) Jerusalem where the “king” lived.  Jerusalem, later, had Mount Moriah, where Solomon’s temple was situated, but not at the time of David.  In David’s time, Mount Zion, was on a different hill than Mount Moriah.  It was called Zion, the City of David (II Samuel 5:7, II Chronicles 5:2), the city of the Great King (Psalm 48:2).  David built his palace on Mount Zion.  God Himself, in John’s favorite Psalm in Revelation (Psalm 2:6-7 NKJV) proclaims: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.”  I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.”  The “kingship” related to Zion is both the kingship of David and of Jesus.  Therefore, John CANNOT refer to Jerusalem as “Mount Zion” when he describes the Battle of Armageddon.    The previous picture is the "plain of Megiddo."  The following picture is Mount Zion, today.


Worshipping the Beast:  Who can War with the Beast?  Just as King Neco had warned Josiah and Jerusalem not to make war against himself in the Plain of Megiddo, several individuals argued that the Jews could not possibly “war with the Beast (Rome).”  Revelation 13:4-7 (NKJV) states:

So they worshiped . . . the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?  And he was given . . . authority to continue for forty-two months. . . . It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Less than a decade after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Roman Emperor Caligula had commanded that his own statue/image be erected in the temple in Jerusalem.  The Jews were appalled at the thought of a “graven image” in their own temple.  Many Christians thought that this event, if enacted, might be the “abomination of desolation” of which Jesus (and Daniel) prophesied, but Caligula died before his command could be carried out.  The Jews had dodged a bullet.  Nevertheless, the Caligula scandal was a foreshadowing of what John in Revelation 13:14-15 would describe (by literary allusion) as “an image to the beast . . . granted power 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.” (This “image of the beast” will be explained momentarily.)  Nevertheless, in that decade following the resurrection of Christ, when the Jews objected violently to Caligula’s statue being erected, Petronius asked the Jews (at that time), “Will you then make war against Caesar?” (Wars II.X.4).

Before the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 started, Agrippa attempted to dissuade the Jews from being provoked into war by Florus:

“[W]ho are you that must go to war, and who are they against whom you must fight?  . . . You are the only people who think it is a disgrace to be servants to those to whom the whole world hath submitted.  What sort of an army do you rely on?  What are the arms you depend on?  Where is your fleet that may seize upon the Roman seas?  . . . Will you not carefully reflect upon the Roman empire?  Will you not estimate your own weakness?” (Wars II.XVI.4).


Some in Jerusalem, especially those of the family of the high priest, were persuaded and proactively argued that it was futile to conduct war against Rome.  Very early in the war, Ananus (perhaps, a member of the high priestly family, a temple governor, but this is NOT THE HIGH PRIEST ANANUS) campaigned to give the city up to Cestius, prior to Cestius’s totally unexpected retreat: “[M]any of the principal men of the city were persuaded by Ananus, the son of Jonathan, and invited Cestius into the city, and were about to open the gates for him” (Wars II.XIX.5).  Later, after the war had progressed to the point of a siege by Titus and the Romans around Jerusalem, Josephus argued to inhabitants of Jerusalem during siege: “So Josephus . . . besought them . . . That they must know that the Roman power was invincible . . . for what part of the world is there that hath escaped the Romans?” (Wars V.IX.3).  It turned out, as Josephus and others predicted, that the Jews were NOT able to successfully make war with the Beast.  (Incidentally, Jesus and his followers did successfully make war with the Beast—but not in the military sense.  Jesus and his followers are called “conquerors=those who overcome.”  Their “conquest” will be discussed in a later post.)


Killing the Ten Kings of the Land:  Even before Josephus fought (and lost to) the Romans at Jotapata, John of Gischala (one of the two rebel tyrants in the Jerusalem civil war) authored a rumor concerning Josephus (which Josephus denied, at the time): “He also spread abroad a report far and near that Josephus was delivering up the administration of affairs to the Romans” (Wars II.XXI.2).  Denial or not, it looks as though there was always something in Josephus that favored giving up to the Romans.  If “worship[ing] . . . the beast,” in Revelation 13:4, consists in “saying ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him,’” notice that (besides Petronius and Agrippa), this thought was being promoted by at least ONE OF THE TEN KINGS:  Josephus.  Therefore, by John’s definition, Josephus was “worshiping the beast.”  What about the other nine kings?  We know that (concerning John son of Matthias), Simon son of Giora (the other of the two rebel tyrants in the Jerusalem civil war) “condemned [Matthias and his sons—one of whom may have been John, one of the ten kings] to die for being on the side of the Romans” (Wars V.XIII.1).  What was the fate of the remainder of the Ten Kings?

Revelation 17:12-18 (NKJV):

The ten horns . . . are ten kings . . . of one mind . . . they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them.  . . . The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.  And the ten horns . . . will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire . . . and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman . . . is that great city which reigns over the kings of the [LAND].”


Those “ten kings who . . . will give their power and authority [and kingdom] to the beast” are:


[1] Joseph son of Gorion

[2] Ananus the High Priest 

[3] Jesus the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests

[4] Eleazar the son of Ananias, the high priest

[5] Niger

[6] Joseph the son of Simon

[7] Manasseh

[8] John, the Essene

[9] John the son of Matthias

[10] Josephus


Josephus:  Josephus, in surrendering to Vespasian, and saving his own life, became an ally to the Romans, constantly attempting to persuade the Jews in every city to surrender to Rome.  He was accused by many of the Jews of being a deserter, a traitor, and a coward (Wars III.VIII; III.IX,6).

Ananus the High Priest: Ananus [who, in 62 A.D., had ordered the execution-by-stoning of James the brother of Christ] . . . prevailed with the people to send ambassadors to Vespasian to invite him to come presently and take the city” (Wars IV.III.14).  Nevertheless, according to Josephus, Ananus was killed by the Idumeans who “sought for the high priests . . . and . . . slew them . . . [resulting in] the death of Ananus” (Wars IV.V.2).

Jesus the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests: At the same time Ananus the high priest was killed, another high priest of the ten kings was also slain.  Josephus tells us: “Accordingly Jesus [whose Hebrew name was Joshua was] the eldest of the high priests next to Ananus” (Wars IV.IV.3), and supported Ananus in his opposition to the rebels. Josephus writes: “Ananus . . . preferred peace above all things; for he was thoroughly sensible that the Romans were not to be conquered . . . .  Jesus was also joined with him . . . those that a little before had worn the sacred garments . . . were cast out naked and seen to be the food of dogs and wild beasts . . . .  And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus” (Wars IV.V.2).

Niger and John the Essene:  After the Jews had repulsed Cestius from Jerusalem, two of the ten kings, “Niger . . . and . . . John the Essene” (Wars III.II,1) carried the war to Ashkelon on the coast of the Mediterranean.  They lost.  “[T]en thousand of the Jews’ side lay dead, with two of their generals, John and Silas . . . Niger, their remaining general . . . fled away” (Wars III.II,2).  Niger mounted a second attack in which an additional 8000 Jews were killed but Niger again fled away and hid in “a subterraneous cave” (Wars III.II,3).  Although the Romans never captured Niger, the Jewish zealots themselves managed to kill him in the civil war in Jerusalem.  Josephus explains: “Nor did Niger of Perea escape their hands; he had been a man of great valour in their war with the Romans, but was now drawn through the middle of the city . . . out of the gates . . . so did they slay him [without permitting him to be buried]” (Wars IV.VI.1).

Joseph the son of Gorion:  Gorion, Joseph’s father, was one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem, but the Jewish zealots in the civil war had a thirst for the “blood of valiant men [such as Niger] and men of good families [such as Joseph the son of Gorion’s] . . . out of envy . . . out of fear . . . 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” (Wars IV.VI.1).  Perhaps, Joseph the son of Gorion, as a member of his family, was killed at this time.

Joseph the son of Simon:  Perhaps, this was the Joseph who was killed at the battle of Gamala, which has been called the Masada of the Golan heights.  Josephus writes: “[T]he Romans also slew many of those that ventured to oppose them, among whom was Joseph, who was slain by a dart, as he was running away” (Wars IV.I.9).

John the son of Matthias:  If the Matthias who is John’s father is the same Matthias who was high priest at the time the war began and who subsequently allowed Simon son of Giora into Jerusalem to help counteract the tyranny of John of Gischala (Wars V.I.3 and V.XIII.1), he was soon betrayed.  Perhaps, this Jewish rebel leader, Simon son of Giora, who had been “driven away from that Acrabattene toparchy, which he once had,” by Ananus, the high priest, and after Ananus died, was leading “a strong body of men about him” (Wars IV.IX.3-4), still harbored animosity against all the high priests of Jerusalem (Ananus and Matthias, included).  Josephus writes:

Accordingly Simon would not suffer Matthias, by whose means he got possession of the city, to go off without torment.  . . . [Matthias] persuaded the people to permit this Simon to come in . . . .  But when Simon was come in, and had gotten the city under his power, he esteemed [Matthias] . . . as his enemy . . . and condemned [him] to die for being on the side of the Romans, without giving him time to make his defence.  He condemned also his three sons to die with him (Wars V.XIII.1).


Eleazar the son of Ananias, the high priest:  A zealot, but also member of the high priestly family, Eleazar effectively touched off the beginning of the war with the Romans.  Josephus writes: “Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, . . . who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated . . . to receive no gift or sacrifices for any foreigner.  And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans:  for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar” (Wars II.XVI.2).  Other than his leading zealots in internal battles in Jerusalem, nothing more is known of him.  We do not know his fate, but assume that he was probably among those killed in Jerusalem


Manasseh:  Manasseh is an unknown entity.  We do not know his fate.


Thus, we have possibly accounted for the fate of eight or so of the ten kings.  The really important kings seem to be Ananus the High Priest, Jesus the son of Sapphias one of the high priests, Eleazar the son of Ananias, the high priest, Niger, and Josephus.  Of these five, Niger and Josephus actually engaged in real fights with the Romans—but Josephus (at least) eventually became pro-Roman.  Eleazar appears to be completely anti-Roman, so the two kings—Eleazar and Niger—were the two clearly anti-Roman kings.  The High Priests Ananus and Jesus, along with Josephus (and perhaps, John the Son of Matthias) represented the kings whom John could have described as “giv[ing] their power and authority [and kingdom] to the beast” and “worship[ing] the beast” if “worship[ing] . . . the beast,” in Revelation 13:4, consists in “saying ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” By John’s definition, Ananus, Jesus, and Josephus were all worshiping the beast.  Since Ananus and Jesus were of the high priestly family, we shall, in the next blogpost analyze how the High Priests became John’s major emphasis as the great villain/s in the “land”—the great enemy of the Church and the face of the Empire in Jerusalem, during the Battle of Armageddon.