The Destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D.

From the time that Pompey the Great conquered Jerusalem in 63 B.C., the Jews had endured Roman procurators, governors and puppet-kings. In 66 A.D. an incident occurred that would change Israel's history for nearly two thousand years. The last of the Roman procurators, Gessius Florus, seized a large sum of money from the Jewish Temple treasury. Shortly thereafter, the Jewish masses rioted in protest against this action and defeated the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem. The Romans responded by sending a large army from Syria to quell the rebellion. This force swept down through northern Israel in the region of Galilee. There they captured or killed thousands of Jews. Eventually the Roman troops made their way south to the outskirts of Jerusalem. After several days of trying to breach the city's walls, the Roman forces pulled back. At this point, the Roman emperor, Nero, placed General Vespasian in charge of the Roman army.

Although the Jewish forces had some successes early on in the revolt there was severe infighting among the many factions of their people. This weakened their position before the Romans and eventually led to disaster for them. Vespasian sought to take advantage of this situation by immediately laying siege to Jerusalem. However, the political situation in Rome changed with the death of the emperor Nero and caused a delay in his efforts to conquer Jerusalem. Vespasian went to Rome to become the new emperor and left Jerusalem in the hands of his son Titus. Finally, in the spring of 70 A.D., Titus began the army's assault on Jerusalem. By summer they had penetrated the city walls and prepared to attack the Jewish rebels who were defending the Temple. The Romans tried to break through the inner massive walls that surrounded the Temple complex but were unsuccessful. Eventually they achieved their objective by burning the gates that led into the Temple area. The Roman soldiers entered the complex, slaughtered the Jewish defenders, and set fire to the Temple. As Jesus had prophesied forty years earlier, the destruction of the Jewish Temple was complete. Though the Roman Empire had dealt the Jews an ignominious defeat and reduced the Jewish presence in Jerusalem through death and exile, the nation of Israel continued to exist for another sixty-five years.

However, because of the Jewish Revolt the Jews no longer had an organized religious system by which they could worship God. There would be no more Temple sacrifices and the Jewish religious leadership was in disarray. Out of this uncertainty the Pharisees became the uncontested leaders of the Jewish nation. They redefined the Jewish system of worship and set about developing it for the next several generations. The synagogue replaced the Temple as a place for Jews to worship. The rabbis replaced the Temple priests as the religious leaders of Judaism. Lastly, the study of Jewish religious writings, prayer services, and the performing of good deeds replaced the system of Temple sacrifices.

Although the Jews continued to dwell in Jerusalem and Israel, they did so without any Jewish civil authority. That all changed in 132 A.D. when a second Jewish revolt against Rome occurred. This time it led to the downfall of ancient Israel and to the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world for the next eighteen hundred years.

Jesus prophesied of this destruction forty years earlier:

"34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! 35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Luke 13"34-35)

The Jews as a nation will not accept Jesus as Messiah until He comes again. Before that though, the next Temple will be built during the Tribulation Period.


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