The Hasmonean dynasty was made up of priests, descended from Aaron, but at first they did not declare themselves “kings” but “nasi” meaning prince. But in time this will change and the Hasmoneans were seen as false shepherds and ruthless. What happened was like in the book “Animal Farm” where the animals rebelled against their overseers because they were “cruel” and then took over, eventually becoming worse than the ones they rebelled against.
This will bring us up to the Roman Period. Crassus, Pompey and Julius Caesar formed a triumvirate, which basically divided the power in Rome into three parts. Pompey will be of particular importance because of how he deals with Israel. In Dan 11, Judea called on Rome for help against Antiochus. Once Antiochus was defeated, the Romans never went away, and asking for Roman help was a terrible mistake in the long run.
Spiritually, when in a battle, we need to be careful about who we enlist to help us because it could be a terrible mistake in the long run for you. They will never go away, know too much about the situation, and will use it to their advantage in other dealings with you. With Rome, if you give them an inch, they would take a mile. If you gave them a mile, they would take your whole country. Pompey takes over the Seleucid empire (Damascus) and comes to Jerusalem, goes into the Temple and the Holy of Holies. He did not desecrate the holy vessels. Caesarea is the headquarters of the Roman presence in Israel. It had the 3rd largest seaport in the world, built by Herod, who is known by several other names, like “the Great”; “the builder”; the “murderer” and “the fox.” There is a saying about Herod at the time that says “Herod became king like a fox, ruled like a tiger and died like a dog.”
There is a puppet government in Judea, with Rome pulling the strings by controlling the Temple. They kept the garments of the High Priest at Caesarea, and they sold the high priesthood. So, as you can see, enlisting Roman help will cost the Jews. The last Hasmonean prince/kings have forced the Idumeans to be proselyte Jews. Herod’s father is Idumean, so he is a Jew by conversion. When Herod takes power, be builds all over, including Jerusalem. He has a palace on the west side. The traditional site of the Holy Sepulchre is right next to it, which rules out its authenticity. No execution would have happened right next to the kings palace. Another one is in Jericho, over the Wadi Kelt, and that is where Herod murdered his brother because he was jealous over his popularity. Herodium was built on a mountain. They believe Herod is buried there and it was built to commemorate Rome’s victory over the Parthians.
Herod had another fortress on the east side of the Jordan called Machereus, and it is believed to be the place where John the Baptist was killed. So, he had Caesarea, Jerusalem, Jericho, Herodium and Machereus as major fortifications. He rebuilds the fortress Antonia, which was originally Hasmonean. There will be several religious parties at this time: the Pharisees; Boethusians; Essenes; Theraputae; Sadducees; Zealots; Chasdim; Hellenists; Babylonian; Alexandrian and Asia Minor Jews. The Roman Strategy in warfare always included keeping the enemy and their “groups” contending with each other, keeping them off balance and using anything that they could to keep these groups from being united against them. They would infiltrate these religious groups with “spies” because it was easy to become a Jew by conversion.
Roman peace (Pax Romana) was accomplished through good rulers, except in Judea. The Romans placed corrupt leaders there, and they tried to get what they could. The common denominator with all these groups was the Temple. Control the Temple, you control the people. Romans like to intimidate, and the high priesthood was bought and sold, and you could make money from the highest bidder. The high priest’s vestments were kept at the Roman headquarters in Caesarea and only used at the festivals. These were not merely a “costume” but something the Lord gave to the high priest and they were very important.
The Romans would stand guard on the roof and porticos during the festivals, watching for trouble, and sometimes even causing trouble. So, let’s say you are a priest. You would take from the people what you could so you could purchase the high priesthood for a family member, gaining power and influence. The family of Annas (Chanan) had many family members as high priest, even a son-in-law named Caiaphas. He was a very corrupt man and taught his family how to hold on to power. He and his family were the ones Yeshua called “robbers.”
The Romans would tax the people and rip them off because they had little respect for the Jews. There were some things that led to the first Jewish revolt. At Passover in 48 AD, a soldier showed his private parts to the crowd gathered in the Temple. The people threw rocks back at him, reinforcements were sent in and thousands died. A Roman soldier lost his temper and buried a scroll, and the soldier was executed, but the people didn’t forget. The first Jewish war began in 66 AD, so there was 18 years of abuse before the war began. However, the Romans weren’t totally ruthless.
The Jews also committed murders and caused trouble. And of course, all this was prophesied by Yeshua and was the result of their rejection of him as the Messiah. The war would end in 73 AD with the fall of Masada. Romans have their armies divided into legions, comprised of 6000 equipped men, ten cohorts of 600 men, and each cohort had 6 centurions over 100 men. Auxiliary forces were not as equipped as the legions, but very good. They were more “barbaric” and in the east were made up of Idumeans, Syrians (worst) and Nabateans.
The Romans learned from the Assyrians that you needed combat engineers and they were important. They made roads to move their legions very quickly, and their sea power was unequalled. The Romans will establish the “procurator” to manage the provinces. Herod does not rule over Judea, and there was a conflict between Herod’s family and the Romans. Herod Antipas will be ruler at the time of Yeshua’s trial. Herod Agrippa II will be ruler at the time of the revolt.
There was a major geographical rift between Galilee and Judea. They didn’t like each other very much. The Galileans were rough and tough and the Judeans felt they were crude, and their Hebrew “coarse” (Matt 26.73). Cestius Gallus was Roman governor and was not a good leader. He provoked the Jews everyday. Passover comes and the city is flooded with worshippers. The Zealots are telling the people to throw off the Roman yoke, and this would bring the Messiah.
This teaching is still around today. Many believe that Christians should be “taking dominion” over the earth, the governments and every aspect of life so that the Messiah will come. This includes getting their “gospel” out to the world.
There was a lot of “expectancy” for the Messiah at this time. Gallus goes out of the city because of the turmoil and goes to Caesarea over the Beit Horon descent, already talked about previously in this warfare study. This is a favorite ambush spot. It is near the Valley of Aijlon and the entrance to the Shephelah Valley. Joshua stationed men at the top and behind a fleeing army who tried to escape this way. Antiochus lost an army there, and it is used in modern warfare. A bus today goes up the ascent so slow that you can walk along with the bus.
Well, the Jews caught Gallus there. He left behind his rear guard with supplies. They were overrun and the Jews captured catapults, ballistas and other supplies. In Caesarea, auxiliary legions bragged about looting the Temple, and the Jews protested. They fell upon them and slaughtered them. Then they fell upon Gallus. They realize that they have just declared war on the Romans, and begin to make preparations. There will be a young priest selected as a commander in the north. His name was Flavius Josephus.
In the south, Masada was taken by the Judeans. Fortresses in the north included Gamla, Mt Tabor, Arbel and Jotapata. The Roman General Vespasian is sent to take care of this. He is a veteran and well liked by his men, a good soldier. He lands at Caesarea and marches to Tiberius and headquarters there, thus isolating the fortress on Tabor. The forts begin to fall in the north, with Jotapata first. Josephus was in command there, and he escapes and goes over to the Romans. Gamla is next, and it is built on a slope. The Romans come up and surround the fort with 60,000 men.
After a 2 month siege, Vespasian finally breaches the walls and they fight from house to house, all uphill. Buildings collapse and the Romans were losing. Vespasian got separated and was nearly killed, fighting his way out. Now things were different. Yes, Gallus was ambushed and Jotapata fell, but to have your commander nearly killed was embarrassing, so they felt very ashamed and fought harder from that point on.
The religion of the Roman army was called Mithraism. It is a sun divinity (Fortune) and related to the moon divinity (“Meni” meaning the “numbered” and the “fates”) and it is mentioned in Isa 65.11. These were the main gods of the Roman army. To the Roman soldier, they didn’t care much about the other gods (Juno, Jupiter, Mars, Minerva, etc), but they did care about Fortune and Fate. They sacrificed to them and burned incense because they did not want to die in battle.
Mithraism was the primary Roman religion for over 200 years. Many Mithraic concepts were absorbed into what would be known as Christianity. There was a major Mithraic temple at Caesarea, which makes sense because it was the headquarters for the Roman army. At Gamla, Vespasian commends his men for their zeal and calls on the gods, changing the course of the war. He brings in King Agrippa II to plead with the people, but they hurled a stone at Agrippa. Josephus pleads with them and knows their defenses, but they won’t listen.
From this point, there will be no mercy. They decide to hunt down every pocket of resistance, even if it takes years. Israel will be wiped out. Two sappers sneak up to a tower at Gamla and cause it to fall. The Romans enter into the city in a few days with full force. The Jews are killed, with 5000 jumping off a cliff. Gamla will become known as the “Masada” of the north. The next major battle is the Sea of Galilee. Surviving Jews take to fishing boats. The Romans put artillery and grappling hooks on rafts, and the lake turns to blood. The survivors fled to Arbel and its steep mountain caves. The Romans go to the top of Arbel, put men in baskets and put them down the side with grappling hooks. They throw the hooks into the caves and drag the people out and throw them off the side. The Romans aren’t playing. They will burn, enslave and crucify. From there, Galilee is secure so they turn to the south and Jerusalem. Vespasian is the general and he arrives two days before Passover in 70 AD, the 12th of Nisan.
This will happen again in the Birth-pains (Rev 11.2). They surround the city, trapping those inside. The Zealots won’t let anyone outside the gates and kill anyone who tries. There were several Zealot factions inside the city trying to gain power. In addition to the Zealots, there were Essenes, Boethusians, Sadducees, Pharisees, Alexandrian Jews, Babylonian Jews, the Am Ha Eretz, Galileans, Judeans, Asia Minor Jews and Traditional, orthodox Jews all there to keep the festival of Passover. They were not united in their fight against the Romans, and many wanted to ask for terms against them. Luke 19.41-44, Luke 21, Matt 24 and Mark 13 describe the fall of Jerusalem and how this will happen again during the Birth-pains.
In Luke 21.5-24, Yeshua gives a prophecy on the 12th of Nisan, the exact day 40 years later that Vespasian will surround the city. Vespasian captures the people who came to Jerusalem after the north fell. He waited in Caesarea, then did a forced march and caught them in the city for Passover. The city had enough fighters, but too many people for the food and water that was stored there.
Yeshua will parallel the Roman conquest of Jerusalem with his second coming. He set it up that way. It is the only way to teach it, because we have said before the ancient battles reveal the future ones. In Luke 21.23-33, we have the parable of the fig tree. The fig tree is Israel, the “other trees” are the nations. The fig tree is cursed in Mark 11, and it would never grow again. But then he says learn the parable of the fig tree in Matt 24.32. When Yeshua came to the fig tree he expected to find fruit. There were one million believers in Yeshua in the first century, but that was only 1/6th of the population. But they were called corporately as a nation to believe in Yeshua because they had the Scriptures, the prophets and should have known, but they didn’t. As a result, they were cursed. This may sound unfair, but to whom much is given, much is required. Where does that leave the USA when judgment comes?
Inside the city, the different factions were killing each other instead of focusing on the threat outside. Confusion sets in, people choose sides and then the killing starts. They were in turmoil and you turn on the closest people to you, and not the real enemy. That is a mistake we make in our own spiritual warfare. The Romans liked what was happening in the city, they liked the division. In our spiritual warfare, you will fight “a Roman” sooner or later. We have talked about a Philistine warrior (like to fight close) as opposed to a Hittite (liked to undermine), We have discussed an Assyrian warrior, who uses psychological warfare and brute power to crush you, and if God doesn’t intervene, you are finished. A Roman uses all of these, will not stop and likes to divide you and cause the various factions to fight each other.
If you defeat him, he will come back again with more power. If you defeat them again, he will come back again and again. That’s how you know you are in a Roman battle.
The Jews captured battle equipment from the Romans, but didn’t know how to use them. Spiritually, we may have a Bible and have heard of the Jewish festivals and so on, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to use them in battle for the truth or against false teaching. You must know your weapons and how to use them for yourself. The Romans would paint stones black and shoot them over the walls at night. They never stopped.
You might observe the Sabbath, but the Romans didn’t. Even in the midst of the siege, Temple worship continued. For five months the siege goes on. The city is rampant with hunger, thirst and disease. A famous scholar named Yochanon Ben Zakkai faked his own death and because he was a scholar, wanted to be “buried” outside the city. He had to fool the Zealots who would not let anyone leave the city. He was the Av Beit Din, or vice president of the Sanhedrin. He knows Jerusalem will fall.
For 40 years the lot for the Yom Kippur sacrifice to the Lord did not come up in the right hand (mercy) of the High Priest, the scarlet ribbon did not turn white as a sign of forgiveness on Yom Kippur, the western lamp on the Menorah did not burn all day and the doors of the Temple opened by themselves. Ben Zakkai took this as a sign that the Temple was going to be destroyed, agreeing with Yeshua. A messianic rabbi named Rabbi Tzadok fasted and prayed for 40 years (from the death of Yeshua) that the Temple should not be destroyed.
So, Ben Zakkai wanted to talk to the Romans and faked his death to get out. Ben Zakkai gets out, talks to Vespasian and the general is very impressed with him. He asks if he has any requests, and Zakkai asks for a small city (Yavneh) so that Torah study and the traditions of the Pharisees can be preserved. He grants it, and this will be the start of what will be known as Rabbinic Judaism. Zakkai, being a Pharisee, will now set up Judaism as the Pharisees saw it, not having to worry about all the other groups anymore, and that is the basis for Judaism today (made in the image of the Pharisees). Vespasian was called to Rome because he was going to be emperor, so his son Titus took over the siege. He was just as able as his father and a respected general. Every tree in the area was cut down and used for towers, crucifixion and protection.
On the 9th of Av the Temple fell and the city soon after. It was the same date that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the first Temple. Every fortress was destroyed. Over one million died and 97,000 were enslaved. The gold captured from the destruction of the Temple was used to build the Roman Coliseum and the Arch of Titus in Rome.
The last fortress to fall was Masada. It was being held by Zealots and the Romans were not about to let them get away, and the siege went on for quite some time. The Romans built a 200 foot ramp to bring up their battering ram, with a 50 foot platform and a 60 foot siege tower that went 20 feet over the walls of Masada. Suicide was the only option for the 960 people inside. The only survivors were two old women and five children who hid from the mass suicide. The date was Nisan 1, 73 AD. The mistake the defenders of Masada made was they used beams in a counter ramp that caught fire. At first the wind blew the flames towards the Roman tower but later it changed direction and the flames burned the beams in the counter ramp. The defenders were doomed. They decided to go down with Masada and not fall into the hands of the Romans, who hated the Zealots.
This mindset prevails today in Israel. They will not fall into the hands of an enemy again. The Romans summed up the “victory” as fighting in a God-forsaken land, by a dead sea, in the middle of a lifeless desert, and gained victory over dead men on a barren rock. They had nothing to show for years of siege.
This brings us up to the end of the first Jewish war. Israel was never the same. The people were dead, enslaved or dispersed. They had forgotten their foundations in the Torah and the truth contained in it for rabbinical traditions and teachings that blinded them of the truth about the Messiah, so much so, that they didn’t even recognize him when he came. That is where they lost the war and their land, given to them by the Lord.
That is where we make our mistakes in spiritual warfare. We do not build our foundations and walls on the Scriptures, but embrace paganism, false prophets and teachings that lead to the destruction of our “city” and temple. The goal of this teaching is to go back and learn the principles of spiritual warfare found in the Scriptures to help us in our battles. We do not want to make the same mistakes that Israel did spiritually, because it will end with the same result.
Many who don’t know the Torah and the Scriptures will substitute the biblical ways for man’s traditions. They are making the same mistake. They think they are fighting spiritual battles, but they really aren’t because they are already defeated. The enemy wants them to think they are making progress spiritually, but they are captured already and just wasting their time.
We need to go back and learn the ancient ways and follow the ancient paths. We need rebuild our walls with biblical truth found in the Torah and exchange our thoughts and ways for the thoughts and ways of the Lord. That is when we become a real threat to the enemy. Then we will have success in our battles and be able to have victory over the attacks of the enemy.
In Spiritual Warfare- A Review and Additional Notes, we will begin to go over all the things we have learned in this study in a review and we will put them in concise form so that you can have a review that can be easily accessed and learned.
We will go over what everything means again, what the difference is between the Philistine, Hittite, Assyrian and Roman warrior of our day. We will list axioms related to our warfare, we will talk about Adonai Tzva’ot, the commander of the armies, and what he expects. We will list wise preparations before a battle, what to do when attacking, what to do when under attack, and what to do after a victory. We will draw on all the concepts learned in this study to give you an overall battle plan for spiritual warfare.