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.

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