These were the purported words of an ancient Jewish fighter, Eleazar ben Ya’ir. He led the Sicarii rebels to the massive mountain-top fortress of Masada in the Judean Desert. The Romans built a winding siege block along the narrow road up to the fortress. Eventually, they breached the gates, but what they found was shocking.
But where did these Jewish rebel fighters come from? The Roman siege of Jerusalem of 70 CE resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple. Jewish rebels were scattered and Eleazar ben Ya’ir led them away to the ancient fortress built by Herod The Great.
Herod built the fortress of Masada with two fears in mind: that the Jewish people would revolt and depose him, and that Cleopatra in Egypt could move against him. The fortress, built on a mountain tabletop was said to be impregnable. It’s believed David sought refuge in Masada from his uncle Saul. (1 Samuel 22:4-5)
Flavius Josephus is the sole source for the story of mass suicide by the Jewish fighters inside the mountain city of Masada, Israel. Josephus recorded that during the siege of Masada in 73 CE, during the First Jewish-Roman War, 960 Sicarii fighters killed themselves and their families rather than become Roman slaves.
When the Romans breached the walls of Masada, what they found shocked them. Some contend that the Romans would never allow the fighters inside Masada to commit mass suicide. Instead, they say, the Romans massacred them.
Jesus Predicted The Temple’s Destruction
Looking down on Jerusalem from atop the Mount of Olives Jesus told the disciples that the Second Temple would be destroyed so badly that it would be hard to tell it ever existed there.
“Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said,6“As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another;every one of them will be thrown down.”
Jesus’s prediction about the Second Temple’s destruction was a shock to his disciples who were admiring its beauty.
His prediction was fulfilled after the Jewish revolt in AD 66 at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War. A Roman force led by future emperor Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple.
Both Jews and Christians believe a Third Temple will be built in the future, replacing the destroyed Second Temple.
Christian eschatology about the apocalypse predicts that in the Third Temple the Antichrist will declare himself God and this event will mark the second half of the Tribulation period.
The Siege Of Masada
Masada means “fortress” in Hebrew. This ancient fortress is still important, in fact, the Israeli Defense Forces take their initiation oath there within the fort today. The Sicarri were zealots who resisted the Roman occupation of Jerusalem.
In order to take the fortress of Masada, the Romans built a circumvallation wall to prevent entry or exit. Then they constructed a siege ramp. They constructed a siege tower with a battering ram, which they rolled up their siege ramp. They broke down the gates of the ancient fortress, but Josephus says they only found dead bodies and a conspicuously unburnt food storehouse.
Josephus the captured Jewish historian recorded that several women survived the siege of Masada by the Romans and remembered his speech to the men before they committed mass suicide.
“Since we long ago resolved never to be servants to the Romans, nor to any other than to God Himself, Who alone is the true and just Lord of mankind, the time is now come that obliges us to make that resolution true in practice… We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them; and I cannot but esteem it as a favor that God has granted us, that it is still in our power to die bravely, and in a state of freedom.”
Eleazar ben Ya’ir
Since suicide is not allowed in Judaism, it is believed that the Jewish rebels at Masada drew straws to select 10 men to kill all the others. These 10 even went on to kill their own families as well. Of the last 10 men, 9 were killed by one man after it was decided that way.
Their leader Eleazar ben Ya’ir ordered everything burned too, except for the storehouse. This was to demonstrate to the Romans they were not the starving victims of a mighty Roman siege, but free men who were surviving on their own.
“Elazar Ben Yair Speech at Masada – Jewish Virtual Library”. Retrieved17 December2014.
By Andrew Shiva/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25671212
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