Monday, October 25, 2021

Apocalyptic? #35: Where Have All the Mountains Gone?


Mountains and Islands Disappear!

Great Men Hide in Caves and Rocks of Mountains!

What a HEADLINE that would have made in First Century Judea!  And it was true!  Revelation 6:14-16 (NKJV) prophesied that, when the sixth seal was opened:

[E]very mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”


I promised in an earlier post that I would have more to say about mountains and islands” disappearing, and great men hiding “in caves and the rocks of mountains. 

:  As I have previously commented, in discussing the sea battle at Joppa at the first of the Jewish-Roman War, John’s comment about every mountain and island being moved out of their places (in Seal 6, Rev. 6:14) might be a reference to this sea battle at Joppa, since the Jews had no land masses (mountains or islands) to which they could flee in the tumult at sea.  I also commented that it is possible that John, himself, was one of the few Jews to have found a suitable “island” to which he could flee—the Isle of Patmos—as the Christian Jews followed the instructions of Jesus to leave Jerusalem and Judea.  John’s pertinent comment on the matter is found in Revelation 1:9 (NKJV): “I, John . . . your brother and companion in the tribulation . . . was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.  While this comment has been used frequently to suggest that John was in exile on Patmos, there is nothing in the statement that would preclude the interpretation that, due to the “tribulation” (the Great Tribulation, lasting from 66 to 73 A.D.), John had taken refuge on the island of Patmos, because he believed “the word of God and . . . the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Caves and Caverns
:  In the same way in which Saddam Hussein hid in a spider hole in 2003, following his loss in the first Iraq War, it was a common practice for prominent Jewish leaders to take refuge in caves and underground hiding places.  Josephus comments that, near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War: “But on the next day the high priest was caught where he had concealed himself in an aqueduct; he was slain” (Wars II.XVII.9).

In Jotapata, the first major battle between Vespasian and the Jews, underground hiding places were employed: “[O]f those that fled into the caverns, which were a great number . . . the Romans . . . searched the hiding-places and fell upon those that were under-ground, and in the caverns, and went thus through every age, excepting the infants and the women . . . gathered together as captives twelve hundred; and . . . those that were slain . . . forty thousand” (Wars III.VII.35-36).

After Jerusalem had been lost to the Romans, Josephus observes: “So now the last hope which supported the tyrants . . . was in the caves and caverns under-ground . . . [but] they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans (Wars VI.VII.3). “The Romans . . . made search . . . under ground and when they found where they were, they broke up the ground and slew all they met with.  . . . John [of Gischala] . . . in these caverns . . . begged . . . the Romans . . . Simon [son of Giora] . . . was forced to surrender” (Wars VI.IX.4).


: During the second half of Daniel’s “week of years” = 3 ½ years = 1260 days = 42 months, after the cessation of the sacrifice in Jerusalem, the remaining Jews in Judea fled to the mountains, but as John had predicted, even the most fortified of the mountains afforded no ultimate safety.

The land of Judea contained several mountain fortresses.  When Jesus, in his Olivet discourse, suggested, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 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” (Luke 21:20-21 NKJV), was he suggesting that the inhabitants of Judea flee to the several mountain fortresses IN JUDEA?  Not likely. 

If one is fleeing FROM JUDEA, why would one flee TO a mountain IN JUDEA?  Yet, that is precisely what many Jews did. When Vespasian defeated Taricheae on the Sea of Galilee, resistance moved to Gamala and Mount Tabor.  Gamala “was situated upon a rough ridge of a high mountain” (Wars IV.I.1).  It was called the Masada of the Golan Heights.  (Masada, of course, was where the war began in 66 A.D. and would end in 73 A.D.)   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” [Wars II.XVI.2]).  Vespasian’s armies “slew a great number of them” that were in Mount Tabor, with the rest of the Jewish fighters fleeing to [another mountain fortress] Jerusalem (Wars IV.X.8).  Titus returned to Gamala where the Romans slew 4000, but an additional 5000 committed suicide, so that “blood ran down over all the lower parts of the city, from the upper” (Wars IV.I.10).

After Jerusalem fell, there were three final mountains to which the resisters fled:[T]he Herodium, along with Machaerus and Masada were the last three fortresses held by Jewish fighters . . . during the Great Jewish Revolt” (  Josephus records two of these final attempts of the Jews to obtain safety:

Lucilius Bassus was sent . . . into Judea and there he received the army and took that citadel which was in Herodium . . . after which he . . . with the tenth legion . . . resolved to make war upon Macherus; for it was highly necessary that this citadel should be demolished . . . for the nature of the place was very capable of affording the surest hopes of safety to those who possessed it . . . walled in . . . rocky hill, elevated to a very great height . . . ditched about with . . . valleys on all sides, and to such a depth, that the eye cannot reach their bottoms . . . Macherus had the tallest top of its hill elevated above the rest . . . also . . . a great many reservoirs for the reception of water . . . a large quantity of darts and other machines of war . . . that might in any way contribute to its inhabitants’ security, under the longest siege possible.  . . . Here are also fountains of hot water . . . some bitter . . . others . . . sweet . . . also . . . cold waters (Wars VII.VI.1-3).


The “fountain that is very cold, and the other . . . one that is very hot . . . when they are mingled together,” comments Josephus, “compose a most pleasant bath; they are medicinal” (Wars VII.VI.3).  We Americans might say that aspect of Macherus is reminiscent of Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Regarding the battle, Josephus reports:

[T]he Jews that were caught in this place . . . seized upon the upper citadel, and held it . . . they made sallies every day, and fought . . . in which conflicts there were many of them slain, as they . . . slew many of the Romans . . . but the conclusion of the siege did not depend upon these bickerings, but a certain surprising accident . . . forced the Jews to surrender the citadel (Wars VII.VI.4).


A young Jewish hero, named Eleazar, from an “eminent and numerous family” in the city managed to get himself captured while attempting another heroic feat.  The Romans stripped him naked and whipped him in public and were preparing to crucify him, when he persuaded his fellow Jews to surrender to the Romans, “since all other people were now conquered by them.”  The Jews agreed to surrender, but the surrender agreement fell apart.  Some fled away “but those men that were caught . . . were slain, to the number of one thousand seven hundred, as were the women and children made slaves” (Wars VII.VI.4).  Of those that fled away, Josephus writes: “When Bassus . . . heard that a great many of those that had fled from Jerusalem and Macherus” had gotten together in the forest of Jarden, he “surrounded the whole place with his horsemen; and . . . cut down the trees,” forcing the Jews to come out to battle.  “[N]ot one of the Jews escaped . . . they were all killed,” 3000 in all (Wars VII.VI.5).

: Marking the very last battle in the Jewish-Roman War is the Battle of Masada.  Wikipedia summarizes the story of Masada:

In 66 [AD], a group of Jewish rebels, the Sicarii [probably, the political party of Judas Iscariot], overcame the Roman garrison of Masada . . . After the [Fall of Jerusalem] in 70 [AD], additional members of the Sicarii fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountaintop after slaughtering the Roman garrison . . .

In 73 [AD], the Roman governor of Iudaea, Lucius Flavius Silva . . . laid siege to Masada . . . The Roman legion surrounded Masada, built a . . . wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau . . . The ramp was complete in the spring of 73 . . . allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress . . . on April 16. The Romans employed the X Legion and a number of . . . Jewish prisoners of war . . . in crushing Jewish resistance at Masada . . . According to Josephus, when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its defenders had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other, 960 men, women, and children in total. Josephus wrote of two stirring speeches that the Sicari leader had made to convince his men to kill themselves. Only two women and five children were found alive.


Thus, in apocalyptic language, every mountain and island was, indeed, moved out of its place.  As with the plagues of water being turned to blood, hail, darkness on the throne of the Beast, frogs, and locusts, this prophecy of mountains and islands being moved out of their place is another example of physical plagues being transformed apocalyptically into war terminology.  Being “moved out of place” means simply that they are no long available for refugeWith the total elimination of caves, islands, and mountains to which they might flee, the Jewish-Roman war ended in seven years—the precise time frame predicted by Daniel, six hundred years earlier, with the midst of the week (the end of the first 3 ½ years) being marked by the cessation of sacrifice in Jerusalem and the final 3 ½ years ending (as John predicted) with the disappearance of mountain fortresses—the final one being Masada.  This all occurred within Jesus’ predicted time frame of one generation (40 years).  My skeptical university professor asked me: “Stan . . . don’t tell me that you believe in predictive prophecy?”  Yes, I think I do.


In my next post, I look at the Disappearance of the Jewish Church and the Rapture.

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