Saturday, July 24, 2021

Apocalyptic? #25: The “Water Turned to Blood” Plague: Josephus


The Plagues of Egypt Transformed into War Terminology              

In my previous blogpost, Apocalyptic? #23, I observed that the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven plagues repeat each other (frequently, echoing the Exodus Plagues):

a.       Egyptian Plague 1—Water turned to blood (Exodus 7:14-25, Revelation Trumpet 2, Trumpet 3, Bowl 2, Bowl 3, See also Revelation 11:6—in a break between the 6th and 7th trumpet—a reference to Moses and the Plagues, especially turning water to blood)

b.      Egyptian Plague 2—Frogs (Exodus 8:1-15, Revelation Bowl 6)

c.       No Revelation parallels to Exodus Plagues 3 (gnats) or 4 (flies)

d.      Egyptian Plague 5—Pestilence (Exodus 9:1-3, Revelation Seal 3)

e.       Egyptian Plague 6—Boils/Sores (Exodus 9:10, Revelation Bowl 1, Bowl 5)

f.        Egyptian Plague 7—Hail and Fire (Exodus 9:22-24, Revelation Trumpet 1, Bowl 7)

g.      Egyptian Plague 8—Locusts (Exodus 10:4-5, Revelation Trumpet 5)

h.      Egyptian Plague 9—Darkness (Exodus 10:21, Revelation Seal 6, Trumpet 4, Bowl 5)

i.        Egyptian Plague 10—Death (Exodus 11:4-5, Revelation Seal 4)

While that fact is interesting, it is also interesting that virtually every one of those Exodus plagues have been transformed by John from some sort of natural disaster (as was the case with the Exodus plagues) into WAR TERMINOLOGY—indicating that the fulfillment of these Exodus plagues in Revelation pertains to a specific “war.”  Before we leap too quickly to discussions of the “Battle of Armageddon,” we should reflect on how the same war terminology was present in the mini-Apocalypse of Jesus, as described in the gospels.  Matthew 24:1-31 (NKJV) records a thorough account.  (See also Mark 13.)  I have highlighted the pertinent “war” portions:

24 Then Jesus went out and . . . His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Now . . . the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

And Jesus . . . said to them: “. . . you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . . For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.”

. . .

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

15 Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

. . .

27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”


Luke 21 (NKJV) spells out which specific “war” Jesus was talking about; he is referring to the Roman siege of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) and the war pertaining to the land of Israel (66-73 A.D.):

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 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. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 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 people24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.


So, how does John in Revelation transform the Exodus Plagues into war terminology?


   He begins the seven seals with the first four--the FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE: conquest, war, famine, and death.  In my blogpost Apocalyptic? #6, I discuss the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, and cite Josephus as recording the history of what these four seals (horsemen) meant to John’s audience in 69 A.D.  Clearly, conquest, war, and death are easily seen as war terminology, but “famine” could easily be taken as a “natural disaster.”  I will demonstrate in a future post, however, by citing from Josephus, how “famine” became one of the greatest killers of Jews in the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 A.D.  Remember, these plagues were sent upon non-Christian Jews.  Jesus had warned those who trusted his words to flee from Jerusalem and Judea (Matthew 24:16-18):  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.” Again, Jesus warns Christians in Revelation 18:4 (NKJV): “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.


   Secondly, whereas the first Egyptian Plague—WATER TURNED TO BLOOD (Exodus 7:14-25) refers to a change of nature in the Nile River, Revelation’s Trumpet 2, Trumpet 3, Bowl 2, and Bowl 3 refer to events in the Jewish-Roman War.  Revelation 16:1 says that the bowls (of the seven last plagues) will be poured out upon the “earth/land” (see my previous post).  After the sea and the rivers were turned to blood (in 16:3-4—Bowls 2 and 3), an angel proclaims, "Since they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, You gave them blood to drink" (16.6).  Revelation 17:6 identifies Babylon as being "drunk from the blood of the saints and from the witnesses [martus] of Jesus."  Revelation 18:24 claims that "in her was found the blood of the prophets and of the saints, and of all those having been slain on the earth/land."  The only specific city accused elsewhere in the New Testament of "killing the prophets" is Jerusalem (Matt. 23:29-39; Lk. 11:47-51; 13:33-34).  Charles (Commentary, 1:lxvi.) claims that John is certainly familiar with Matthew and probably familiar with Luke.  Therefore, John knows about this accusation by Jesus of Jerusalem killing the prophets and saints.  In the Old Testament, Ezekiel 22:2ff. calls Jerusalem the "city of bloodshed" who "brings on herself doom by shedding blood." 


With regard to Trumpets 2 and 3, Revelation 8:8-9 (Trumpet 2) records that “a third part of the sea became blood” due to a “great mountain burning with fire” being “cast into the sea” and resulting in a third of the creatures alive in the sea dying and a third of the ships being destroyed.  These “ships” being destroyed, plus “part of the [understand:  Mediterranean] sea [becoming] blood” sounds very much like the battle between the Romans (Vespasian) and the Jews over the seacoast city Joppa in July, 67 A.D., before John completed writing Revelation but one year after the Jewish-Roman War began.  Adjacent to Tel Aviv today, Joppa was Jerusalem’s main seaport--the major natural harbor on the Mediterranean Sea for Israel. King Solomon had arranged to have cedar wood for the construction of the Temple shipped to this port, just 35 miles from Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 2:1-16). Jonah (1:3) had sailed from this seaport in his attempt to avoid prophesying to Nineveh (before being swallowed by the fish).  It held a very early Christian population, since Peter (as recorded in Acts 9:36-43) brought Tabitha (her Hebrew name), aka Dorcas (her Greek name), back to life, there.  Wikipedia reports: “Ancient Jaffa [Joppa] was built on a 40 metres (130 ft) high ridge, with a broad view of the coastline, giving it a strategic importance in military history.”  


This high ridge could well be the “mountain burning with fire” in Revelation 8:8. The fire on this ridge may have been the visual signs at night of the Roman “troops over[running] the country, as they were ordered to do, and la[ying] desolate the whole region” (Wars III.IX.4).  Or, perhaps, the reference to fire refers to the 1-year earlier Roman conquest of Joppa at the first of the war as Cestius “sent part of his army to Joppa . . . [and] took the city with ease . . . slew them all, with their families, and then plundered and burnt the city.  The number of the slain was eight thousand four hundred” (Wars III.X.10). As Josephus describes the 67 A.D. battle (Wars III.IX), Jews from Galilee, where Vespasian had defeated (one of the ten kings of Revelation) Josephus at Jotapata, came to Joppa, rebuilt some of its fortifications (from the time Cestius had destroyed it, a year earlier) and built pirate “ships and turned pirates upon the seas near to Syria, and Phoenicia, and Egypt.”  Vespasian came and attacked the city, but the Jews quickly abandoned the city and “fled to their ships and lay at sea all night out of the reach of [the Romans’] darts” (Wars III.IX.2).  Josephus describes the “rough shore . . . where there are deep precipices, and great stones that jut out into the sea.”  Josephus continues: “[T]he north wind opposes and beats upon the shore and dashes mighty waves against the rocks” making the sea more dangerous than the land the Jews of Joppa had just deserted.  


Writes Josephus:

Now as those people of Joppa were floating about in this sea, in the morning there fell a violent wind upon them . . .  “the black north wind,” and there dashed their ships one against another, and dashed some against the rocks, and carried many of them by force . . . into the main sea; for the shore . . . had so many of the enemy [Romans] upon it, that they were afraid to come to land; nay, the waves rose so very high, that they drowned them; nor was there any place whither they could fly, nor any way to save themselves; while they were thrust out of the sea, by the violence of the wind, if they stayed where they were, and out of the city by the violence of the Romans; and much lamentation there was when the ships were dashed one against another, and a terrible noise when they were broken to pieces; and some of the multitude that were in them were covered with the waves, and so perished, and a great many were embarrassed with shipwrecks; but some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned! although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that THE SEA WAS BLOODY a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was FOUR THOUSAND AND TWO HUNDRED (Wars III.IX.3).


Perhaps, John’s comment “every mountain and island were moved out of their places” in Seal 6 (Rev. 6:14) is a reference to this battle, as well, as the Jews had no land to which they could flee in the tumult at sea. When Bowl 2 (Rev. 16:3) records that “the second angel poured out his bowl upon the sea, and it became as the blood of a dead man; and every living soul died in the sea,” it is reminiscent of the Joppa battle where even those souls who made it safely to dry land were “destroyed” by the Romans, so that every living soul in the sea died.  A similar destruction on the “sea” occurred on the “Sea of Galilee,” shortly thereafter.  However, the “sea” of Galilee is actually a fresh water lake, called also by the names Lake Tiberius and Lake Gennesaret, where Jesus walked on water, calmed the sea, and performed the miracle of the great number of fish.  Jesus’ first four disciples—Peter, Andrew, James, and John—made a living fishing on this lake prior to their call.  Since it is called the “Seaof Galilee, John (who, even though he is probably not the Apostle John, certainly had discipleship ties to the Apostle John) may have classified the following event with the “sea turned to blood” prophecy.  On the other hand, since it is a freshwater lake, effectively a part of the Jordan River (Josephus, Wars III.X.7), John may have classified the Sea of Galilee destructive event with Bowl 3 (Rev. 16:4-6):  “And the third angel poured out his bowl upon the rivers and fountains of water; and they became blood . . . thou hast given them blood to drink.”  People do not drink salt water, but they do drink freshwater.  Josephus describes the drinking water from Lake Gennesaret: “Its waters are sweet, and very agreeable for drinking . . . and of a more gentle nature than river or fountain water” (Wars III.X.7).  John is surely well-aware that many ships were constructed on the shores of Galilee, since his mentor, the Apostle John, had sailed in such ships, while fishing.  In the military conflict at the Sea of Galilee, Jews took to those ships to sail away from the Roman intruders.  

Josephus writes: 


Taricheae [a city on the Sea of Galilee]  . . . had . . . a great number of ships gotten ready upon the lake, that in case they were beaten at land, they might retire to them; and they were so fitted up that they might undertake a sea fight also.  . . . [T]he Romans pursued them, and drove them into their ships, where they launched out as far as might give them an opportunity of reaching the Romans with what they threw at them . . . and brought their ships close, as in a line of battle, and thence fought the enemy from the sea (Wars III.X.1).


Titus [Vespasian’s Son] then conducted war against the city and took it.  Josephus informs:


Titus rode apace down to the lake . . . .  Hereupon, those that were upon the walls were seized with terror . . . so they left guarding the city [of Taricheae] . . . and fled over the country while others of them ran down to the lake, and met the enemy . . . and some were slain as they were getting up into ships. . . . There was also a great slaughter made in the city . . .but for those that had fled to the lake, upon seeing the city taken, they sailed as far as they possibly could from the enemy (Wars III.X.5).


Nevertheless, since there were so many ship-builders and materials for building ships on the shores of the lake, Titus ordered that ships be built and fitted to pursue those who had escaped in the ships (Wars III.X.6).  The Jewish ships were “too weak to fight with Vespasian’s vessels” (Wars III.X.9).  Josephus describes:


Roman darts could reach the Jews . . . they became sufferers . . . and were drowned . . . the Romans ran many of them through with their long poles . . . .  Sometimes, the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them . . . .  And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by the darts, or . . . the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands, and . . . [many] were forced to get upon the land . . .  and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land:  one might then see the lake ALL BLOODY, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped.  And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was . . . for the shores . . . were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled and the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun and putrified, they corrupted the air.  . . . This was the upshot of the sea-fight.  The number of the slain, including those that were killed in the city before, was six thousand and five hundred (Wars III.X.9).


Perhaps, this contamination of the Sea of Galilee, PLUS THE JORDAN RIVER PLUS THE DEAD SEA, resulting from such battles is the Wormwood spoken of in Revelation 8:10-11: “10The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water- 11the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.”  The Greek word translated “Wormwood” is APSINTHOS (יΑψινθος).   Easton’s Bible Dictionary states: “The name by which the Greeks designated it, absinthion, means ‘undrinkable.’” Were the waters of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River made “undrinkable” by this metaphorical “Wormwood” contamination of the waters resulting from the battle at Taricheae (and later by a slaughter at the Jordan River itself that Josephus describes)?  Josephus states (Wars IV.VII.6): “[The] Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it., but also because the lake Asphaltitis [another name for the Dead Sea] was also full of dead bodies that were carried down into it by the river.” Furthermore, after Vespasian’s general Placidus filled the Jordan and Dead Sea with the bodies of those who had fled from Gadara, “He then put his soldiers on board the ships and slew such as had fled to the lake [i.e., the Dead Sea]” (Wars IV.VII.6).

If that were not enough references to bloody waters, Josephus describes the Jewish Civil War (between Jewish insurrectionist Simon and Jewish insurrectionist John) as being so fierce around the temple area that even pilgrims from “the ends of the Earth” who had come to celebrate a Jewish festival became victims along with the priests:


D]arts . . . were thrown by the [catapults] . . . went over all the buildings, and the temple itself, and fell upon the priests . . . insomuch that many persons who came thither with great zeal from the ends of the earth, to offer sacrifices at this celebrated place . . . 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 those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of the priests, and the blood of all sorts of dead carcases stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves (Wars V.I.3).


While the enslaved Jews in Egypt at the time of Moses may have cheered the First Plague (Turning the Waters of the Nile into Blood), because they could begin to glimpse the End of their Slavery, John mentions this Plague of Turning Waters into Blood more than he does any other plague, because those who survive the destruction and desolation which the Romans will bring on the Land of Israel will themselves, once again, be sold back into slavery. In the Battle of Taricheae on the Sea of Galilee, thirty thousand four hundred Jews were sold as slaves.  At the end of the Battle of Jerusalem, according to Josephus: 


[S]ince his soldiers were already quite tired with killing men, and yet there appeared to be a vast multitude still remaining alive, Caesar [meaning Titus] gave orders that they should kill none but those that were in arms and opposed them.  But . . . they slew the aged and the infirm; but for those that were in their flourishing age, and who might be useful to them, they drove them together into the temple, and shut them up . . . .  Fronto slew all those that had been seditious . . . but of the young men, he chose out the tallest and the most beautiful, and reserved them for the triumph[al procession into Rome]; and as for the rest of the multitude that were above seventeen years old, he put them into bonds, and sent them to the Egyptian mines [thus, returning them as SLAVES TO EGYPT—See also Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 28:68].  Titus also sent a great number of them into the provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theatres, by the sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves . . . .  Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand . . . the number that perished during the whole siege [of Jerusalem], eleven hundred thousand [one million one hundred thousand] (Wars VI.IX.2-3).


Once again, these plagues did not affect the Christian Jews who had heeded Jesus’ warning to flee from Jerusalem and Judea—only those “inhabitants of the land” who did not trust Jesus’ warning.  More plagues upon the “inhabitants of the land” of Israel in the next blogpost.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Apocalyptic? #24: The “Land” of “Ten Kings”: Josephus

The Two-Letter Greek Word That “Blinds” the Interpreters                     

Jesus was fond of quoting Isaiah (6:9-10) concerning the “blind guide” interpreters of his day, just as I suggest that many modern-day interpreters are “blind” to what is clearly in front of their eyes:

"In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:  'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'" (Matthew 13:14-15 NIV.  Cf., also Mark 4:12 and 8:18, Luke 8:10, John 9:39, and Acts 8:26). 


Jesus even repeats this “blindness/deafness” concept as an admonition to each of the seven churches of Revelation: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Novice students of Revelation sometimes conclude that, since there are so many different takes on Revelation, the book is impossible to understand.  On the contrary, if one reads the various interpretations carefully, one sees that Revelation interpreters agree pretty much across-the-board concerning the interpretation of Revelation 1-5 (the Letters to the Seven Churches and the picture of God and the Lamb in Heaven) and 21-22 (the New Heavens and New Earth).  The many different interpretations are generated concerning what is going on in the seals and trumpets and plagues.  Why is this so?  Most of the differences in interpretation can be boiled down to something the interpreters, for some unexplained reason, cannot “see”:  a misinterpretation of a tiny little two-letter Greek word:  GĒ.  Although virtually ALL of the interpreters know that the interpretation advocated here is very possible, the vast majority of them choose not to “see” the best translation of this little word.  In my blogpost Apocalyptic? #11, I explain: 

The issue as to whether the term "earth" [GĒ] is to be taken as generally referring to the entire world or specifically as referring to Palestine is important.  The Jews most frequently refer to the “Land of Israel” as simply the “Land.”  The Hebrew word for “Land” is the same word translated “Earth [GĒ].”  . . . If Babylon is Jerusalem, the location of her porneia would appear to be in the "land" of Israel. Certainly, either interpretation--Palestine or Earth--is possible, as Charles acknowledges (Commentary, 1:289).

The earth/land is to be the focus of the seven last plagues in 16:1, so this is a very important interpretive issue.  If John is speaking of a destruction which comes upon the land of Israel, rather than the entire earth, it is easy to find historical referents in the Jewish war of 66-73 A.D.

The sole individual who was intimately involved in (and also has written an extensive chronicle concerning) the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 A.D. is Josephus.  As I will demonstrate (from Josephus, himself) shortly, he is one of the “ten kings of the land” described in Revelation 17:12-18 (NKJV, with my correction for the incorrect translation “earth/GĒ”):

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast [i.e., ROME]. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

15 Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot [i.e., JERUSALEM] sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. 16 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. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman whom you saw is that great city [i.e., JERUSALEM] which reigns over the kings of the [LAND/].”

I expand on my explanation, in my blogpost Apocalyptic? #16:

John is continuing his rejection of the villains' nomenclature.  Thus, he renames "the holy city" (11:2) in which the "Lord was crucified" (11:8), "Sodom and Egypt."  If he refers to Jews who dwell in Judea, he calls them the "inhabitants of the land" and leaves off the words "of Israel."  . . . In his message to the church in Philadelphia, “the hour of trial” that is coming upon “the inhabitants of the earth/land” (actually, meaning Judea, throughout the seven-year war between the Jews and the Romans from 66-73 A.D.), the NIV translation incorrectly translates what should be translated as “the inhabitants of the land” as “those who dwell upon the earth.”  “The inhabitants of the land/earth” is the exact terminology used to refer to the (non-Jewish) inhabitants of the (Promised) Land (before Israel dominated it) throughout the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, I and II Samuel, and I and II Chronicles, and even later.  Genesis 34:30, 50:11, Exodus 23:31, 34:12 & 15, Leviticus 18:25, 25:10, Numbers 13:32, 14:14, 32:17, 33:52 & 55, Joshua 2:9, 7:9: 9:24, Judges 1:32 & 33, 2:2, I Samuel 27:8, II Samuel 5:6, I Chronicles 11:4, 22:18, and II Chronicles 20:7 all use the expression “the inhabitants of the land” when referring to the non-Jewish population of the (Promised) Land.  The word translated “land” in every one of these instances is the word ארץ/ARETZ, in the Hebrew, the equivalent of γῆ/GE in the Greek, which virtually all Bible versions incorrectly translate as “Earth,” in Revelation.  A tremendous amount of confusion regarding what Revelation is predicting is removed once one realizes that the prophecies directed against the so-called “earth” (and the “inhabitants of the earth” and the “kings of the earth”) in Revelation are actually only directed against the “land” (of Israel).

G. K. Beale grapples briefly with the translation of GĒ as “land” on pp. 924-925 of his Commentary, arguing that, in Matt. 23:25, GĒ “is best translated ‘earth’ instead of ‘land’ (i.e., land of Israel),” thus, indicating that Beale understands correctly that the term GĒ may be translated either way—earth or land.  To his credit, he cites Chilton who identifies “merchants of the earth” in Revelation 18:11, 23 as “only Israelite merchants” and notes: “Furthermore, the word [GĒ] is used about eighty times in Revelation . . . .  The remaining uses could be debatable, depending on one’s overall perspective on the book . . . .  Similarly, Ford proposes that the list of trade goods . . . are best understood against the background of the economic situation in Jerusalem and especially its temple.”  A major flaw in Beale’s work is that he consistently gives short schrift to views with which he disagrees, and generally concludes his discussion with an arbitrary dismissal of their value.  Here, the value of translating GĒ as “land is, at once, stunningly mind-blowing.

The most significant attack against the credibility of the Book of Revelation has been that critical scholars believe it predicts the destruction of the EARTH [GĒ], as occurring “VERY SOON,” a prediction which, of course, did not occur.  (This problem in New Testament studies is commonly referred to as “The Delay of the Eschaton” or “The Delay of the Parousia,” which biblical problem I will discuss in a future blogpost.  Revelation 1:1 (NIV) states: “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must SOON take place.”  John is to be listened to by his audience, according to Revelation 1:3 (NIV): “because the time is NEAR.”  John repeats his consciousness of the “what must SOON take place” throughout Revelation.  John predicts that the "time" is "near" (Revelation 1:3, 22:10), that Jesus is "coming soon" (Revelation 3:11, 22:20), that the dragon’s "time is short" (Revelation 12:12), and that these things “must soon take place" (Revelation 22:6).

This entire argument against the credibility of the Book of Revelation quickly dissipates—vanishes, melts into thin air—if one understands that it predicts the destruction of the LAND (of Israel=GĒ), AS OCCURRING “VERY SOON.”  It did, in fact, happen and history records it (especially, Josephus).  If Babylon is, as Ford argues and I agree, the old Jerusalem (not Rome), the city DID FALL VERY SOON AFTER JOHN PREDICTED IT.  If the “Kings of the Land” (not the Kings of the Earth) are indicated in Revelation 17:12-18, their actions become immediately understandable and historically demonstrable.  They are being fulfilled, even as John writes the Book of Revelation.


The (Ten) Kings of the Earth (i.e., Kings of the LAND)                    

In my book Revelation:  The Human Drama (p. 84) I observe:

John mentions the "kings of the earth" in Revelation 1:5; 6:15; 17:2,18; 18:3,9; 19:19; and 21:24.  In Revelation 1:5, Jesus the Christ is called the ruler (archon) of the kings of the earth.  . . . In Revelation 6:15, the kings of the earth are among those who hide from the great day of wrath.  This may be the wrath of God directed against the kings of the earth in Psalm 2:5.  In Revelation 17:2 and in 18:3 and 9, the harlot Babylon commits porneia [i.e., harlotry] with the kings of the earth. In Revelation 17:18, the harlot Babylon is the city which has "kingship" over the kings of the earth.  In Revelation 19:19, the kings of the earth assemble for war with the Messiah, after the harlot has been destroyed, and the beast is at that point thrown into the lake of fire.  The kings of the earth (at least some of them?) appear to have survived for in Revelation 21:24 the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into the New Jerusalem, along with the glory and honor of the "nations" of those who are "saved."


Luke assists us in understanding how the phrase “Kings of the Earth/Land” is to be interpreted, in Acts 4, in his historical application of Psalm 2:

And the peoples [Gk. laoi] think vain things.  The kings of the earth and the rulers [Gk. archontês] were assembled on the same (day) against the Lord and against his Christ.  For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the heathen and the peoples [Gk. laoi] of Israel were gathered together against your holy child, Jesus, whom you anointed. (Acts 4:25-27, emphases mine)


Acts 4, thus, identifies two important terms: "rulers" and “kings.”  In Acts 4:5, the “rulers” were gathered along with the “elders and scribes.”  Specifically, verse 6 reports that this group of “rulers” included "Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of high-priestly family" (emphasis mine).  Peter addresses the group in verse 8 as "rulers [archontês] of the people [laos] and elders of Israel" (emphasis mine).  In Acts, then, an authoritative Christian historical application, this Psalm is interpreted as an alliance between the “rulers” of the people (the priestly family) and the “kings of the earth/Land” (Herod and Pontius Pilate, specifically).  The only specific "kings of the earth" who are identified in the Acts 4 passage are Herod and Pilate, both of whom ruled over only the "land" of Israel, although they received their authority from Rome.  John’s favorite Psalm is Psalm 2.  According to Nestle and Aland, he cites this Psalm eight times in the book of Revelation.  For John, this Psalm denounces an alliance between Jewish “rulers” and "the kings of the earth," as does the author of Acts.  The Psalm asks:

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.

     "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters."

     The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill."

     I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:

     He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father.  Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.  You will rule them with an iron scepter . . .” (Psalm 2:1-9).

Since the “kings of the earth/Land” refers to kings who rule over only the “land” of Israel, we may consult Josephus to see if there was a specific historical group of “ten kings” as described in Revelation 17:12-18 (cited above) who ruled only over the Land of Israel.  Josephus knows of this group of ten kings quite well, because he was one of them.  I state in my book Revelation: The Human Drama (pp. 91-92):

The ten horns of the beast are "ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom but will receive authority as kings one hour along with the beast" (17:12).  If they are identified as the "kings of the earth/land" (meaning Palestine), they enter into the equation, in the sense that they would then be understood to have committed porneia with Babylon [Jerusalem], and therefore this would explain the parallel references to the ten horns of Revelation leaving her naked (17:16) and Ezek. 16:37 where it is Jerusalem's lovers who leave her naked.  Thus, these "kings" would have an explicit link with Rome (since they are the horns of the beast), although that link is implicit.  But these ten horns are described in language that links them philosophically with the second beast [the Jewish high priesthood].  17:17 says, "For God gave into their (the horns') hearts to do His mind and to act in one mind and to give their (plural!) kingdom (singular!) to the beast."  The independent Jewish government of 66 A.D. (headed by the High Priest Ananus) was similarly described by Zeitlin:  "This government . . . played a double role.  . . . Inwardly it was for peace.  It wanted to disarm the extremists so that it should have all power concentrated in its hands and thus be allowed to make peace with Rome."


How many rulers did this government have?  TEN.  The following list is from Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book I, Chapter XX.3-4, in William Whiston, Trans., Josephus Complete Works (Grand Rapids, MI:  Kregel Publications, 1974), 497 (emphases and numbers mine):


[T]hey . . . appointed a great many generals for the war [with Rome].  [1] Joseph also, the son of Gorion, and [2] Ananus the High priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city [of Jerusalem] . . . .  They also chose other generals for Idumea; [3] Jesus the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and [4] Eleazar the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined [5] Niger, the then governor of Idumea. . . .  Nor did they neglect the care of the other parts of the country, but [6] Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was [7] Manasseh to Perea, and [8] John, the Essene, to the toparchy of Thamma; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa and Emmaus.  But [9] John, the son of Matthias, was made the governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabastene; as was [10] Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees.


This tenth king is the same Josephus who wrote this book (Wars of the Jews) from which we are citing the history of the Jewish Roman War.  These "kings of the earth/land" are Jewish (not heathen), but then, Herod, whom Luke named in the book of Acts as being one of the “kings of the earth/land” considers himself to be Jewish, also.  And, if Solomon Zeitlin (mentioned above, the foremost Jewish authority on Josephus and the Jewish-Roman War, in the past century) is to be believed, they act in favor of the "heathen" rule of Rome.  These "kings" are specifically "kings of the land," meaning the "land" of Palestine.  Since they took office at the time the Jews declared their independence from Rome, they actually rule for a short period "along with the beast" (Revelation 17:12).  While they are (plural) kings, they share a (singular) kingdom (Revelation 17:12, 17).  And they do in fact work in league with the beast to destroy Jerusalem (Revelation 17:16-17).  Zeitlin (2:253) observes:


“This government . . . was greatly responsible for turning a revolution into a civil war."  The civil war was the instrument, perhaps more than the Roman siege, which destroyed Jerusalem.  The various parties in the war ravaged the citizenry, confiscated and wasted precious food and ammunition.  Vespasian, himself, waited for the Jewish civil strife to complete much of the work of destroying the Jewish nation before he pressed the siege.  Jewish writers of later years blame those internal struggles for the destruction of Jerusalem.


In the next blogpost, we will consider John’s (Trumpet 2, Trumpet 3, Bowl 2, and Bowl 3) prophecies concerning the Seas and Rivers turned to blood, according to Josephus’s historical evidence.