Saturday, October 2, 2021

Apocalyptic? #33: Armageddon V: False Prophets, Bridle-High Blood, and Jerusalem Burning: Josephus


Jesus’ Prediction of False Prophets  

Matthew 24:11 (NKJV) records the prediction by Jesus of False Prophets after they hear of “wars and rumors of war” (See also Mark 13): Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” 

Josephus’s Confirmation Prior to the War:  Before the Jewish-Roman War began, Josephus reports, “another body of wicked men . . . deceived and deluded the people under pretense of divine inspiration . . . prevailed with the multitude to act like mad men . . . pretending that God would” help them defeat the Romans.  An “Egyptian false prophet . . . got together thirty thousand men . . . [and] led [them] . . .  to the . . . Mount of Olives, and was ready to break into Jerusalem by force” (Wars II.XIII.4-5).

Josephus’s Confirmation During the War:  Why did the Jews not, at some point, surrender and cut their losses?  Jesus had prophesied this horrible end, but they believed, instead, the False Prophets.  After the Romans had taken the temple, during which 6000 Jews were being slaughtered and burned in Jerusalem, Josephus tells us:

A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city, that very day, that God commanded them to get up upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance.  Now, there was then a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants [Simon and John] to impose upon the people . . . that they should wait for deliverance from God . . . Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers (Wars VI.V.2-3).


Bridle-High Blood Like from a Winepress

     After describing sharp sickles that would be used by angels to “harvest” the “land” (do not translate as “earth,” rather:  as the “land” of Israel), Revelation 14:20 (NKJV) states: Then the [wine]press was trampled outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press up to the horses’ bridles for about 180 miles.”  These 180 miles would extend outside of the city (of Jerusalem).  While the state of Israel, today, is approximately 290 miles long from north to south, at the time Revelation was written, it was roughly 180 miles long from north to south; John is writing about the blood that flowed throughout all of the “land” of Israel.  By contrast, Alexandria, Egypt is roughly 300 miles from Jerusalem and Ephesus in Asia Minor (the closest of the seven churches) is at least 600 miles from Jerusalem.  We know that Jewish blood flowed exceedingly as far away as Alexandria at the first of the war and that Christians were slain in Asia Minor, as well as Rome (over 1400 miles from Jerusalem), after Nero blamed the Christians for the Roman Fire, so the extent of flowing blood was well beyond the 180 miles described by John.  The depth of the river of blood (bridle-high) is hyperbolic, but it is also described hyperbolically by Josephus when he describes places “overflowing with blood,” “bloody seas,” “bloody lakes,” “blood standing in lakes,” and burning houses being “quenched with blood.”  Certainly, houses full of dead bodies would be higher than horses’ bridles, as would thousands of bodies being dumped at the city gates and bodies floating in bloody rivers that couldn’t be crossed.


Alexandria just after the war started:
“[T]he Jews . . . were destroyed unmercifully . . . some being caught in the open field and others forced into their houses . . . which houses were . . . set on fire by the Romans; wherein no mercy was shown to the infants, and no regard had to the aged; but they went on in the slaughter of persons of every age, till all the place was overflowed with blood, and fifty thousand of them lay dead upon heaps” (Wars II.XVIII.8).

Joppa just after Vespasian entered the war:
“[T]he sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans . . . 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).

Taricheae on the Sea of Galilee vs. Vespasian: “[O]ne might then see the lake ALL BLOODY, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped.  . . . 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).


The Civil War in Jerusalem:
 In the civil war battle for the temple in which Ananus the High Priest was killed, Josephus writes: “And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood, and that day as it came on, saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there” (Wars IV.V.1).  [T]he 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).

The Roman Attack on the Temple in Jerusalem:While the [temple] was on fire . . . ten thousand of those that were caught were slain . . . any age . . . children . . . old men . . . the blood was larger in quantity than the fire . . . the ground did nowhere appear visible, for the dead bodies that lay on it . . . heaps of these bodies” (Wars VI.V.1).

The Roman Attack on the Rest of Jerusalem: [The Romans] went in numbers into the lanes of the city with their swords drawn, they slew whom they overtook without mercy, and set fire to the houses . . . and burnt every soul in them . . . for those that were still alive . . . they ran everyone through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many of the houses was quenched with these men’s blood” (Wars VI.VIII.5).

Jerusalem Burning 

     Revelation 17:16 (NKJV) promises:And the ten horns [the ten kings of the land] which you saw on the beast [Rome], these will hate the harlot [Jerusalem], make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.  Revelation 18:8 (NKJV) confirms:Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.

     Titus began his taking of Jerusalem by giving “his soldiers leave to set the suburbs on fire, and . . . bring timber . . . and raise banks against the city . . . So the trees were now cut down immediately, and the suburbs left naked” (Wars V.VI.2). 

     When Titus had eventually reached the temple, his first inclination was to leave the temple standing, but since the Jews continued to fight from inside the temple, killing “his soldiers . . . he gave orders to set the gates on fire” (Wars VI.IV.1).  Then, due to the conductivity of silver, with which the gates were adorned, “the soldiers had already put fire to the gates, and the silver that was over them quickly carried the flames to the wood that was within it, whence it spread itself all on the sudden, and caught hold of the cloisters.”  The Jews inside made no “haste . . . to quench the fire . . . they did not grieve at the loss of what was now burning . . . .  This fire prevailed during that day and the next also” (Wars VI.IV.2).  Titus ordered his soldiers to quench the fire, but in the process, one soldier disobeyed orders.  “[He] snatched . . . out of the materials that were on fire, and . . . set fire to a golden window . . . to the rooms that were round about, on the north side” (Wars VI.IV.4).  With Titus still ordering that the fires be quenched, other soldiers approaching the temple “made as if they did not hear Caesar’s orders . . . but they encouraged those that were before them to set it on fire” (Wars VI.IV.6).  Josephus continues:

And now the Romans, judging that it was in vain to spare what was round about the holy house, burnt all those places, as also the remains of the cloisters and the gates . . . .  They also burnt down the treasury chambers . . . the cloisters that were in the outer [court of the temple] . . . whither the women and children [and others] fled . . . about six thousand . . . the soldiers . . . set the cloister on fire . . . some of these were destroyed by throwing themselves down headlong, and some were burnt in the cloisters themselves.  Nor did any one of these escape with his life (Wars VI.V.2).


After burning down the temple and its associated buildings, Titus turned his attention to the rest of the city:

[H]e gave orders to the soldiers, both to burn and to plunder the city . . . on the next day they set fire to the repository of the archives, to Acra, to the council-house, and to the place called Ophlas [Ophel]; at which time the fire proceeded as far as the palace of Queen Helena . . . the lanes also were burnt down as were also 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, the holy house was burnt down, and the city was on fire, there was nothing further left for the enemy to do.  [M]any . . . deserters were caught . . . and were all slain” (Wars VI.VII.2).  After the Romans finally caught John of Gischala and Simon son of Giora hiding in underground caverns, “the Romans set fire to the extreme parts of the city, and burnt them down, and entirely demolished its walls” (Wars VI.IX.4).

The End of the Battle of Armageddon

     With this post, I conclude my discussion of the Battle of Armageddon.  In popular parlance, many believe that the end of this battle signifies the end of the world.  Not so.  There is still the Parousia (a.k.a., the Second Coming or Rapture of the Church), the Millennium with the Binding of the Dragon for 1000 years, the Release of the Dragon from the Abyss at least 1000 years later, the Gathering of Gog and Magog from the four corners of the land, the Final Battle, the End of the old Heavens and Earth, the Creation of the New Heavens and Earth, populated by the New Jerusalem, etc.  The end of the Battle of Armageddon is not even the end of the Jewish Roman War.  It is only the end of the first half of Daniel’s final Week of Years.  It took 3 ½ years for Rome to desolate Jerusalem, but there remains another 3 ½ years before the end of the war.  John has less to say about this period, so our progress should be considerably faster.  We turn in the next post to “After Armageddon.”

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