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20. The dispersion of the captive Jews through all nations. 21. The continuance of the desolation.
22. A shortening of the days of vengeance, for the sake of the elect.
All which things came to pass. To bring about this great event, and to certify posterity of its truth, God raised up an illustrious and worthy prince to accomplish it, and an illustrious historian to record it, to record the things of which he was an eye-witness, and in which he had borne a considerable share.
Vespasian was lifted up from obscurity to the empire ; he
hearken unto the words of the Lord, the description of the calamities
, with which he threatens them, answers so exactly in the most material parts to the final destruction of that people by the Romans, that this seems to have been chiefly and principally in the intention of the prophet; and there the destroying army is spoken of under this very em. blem of an eagle: 'The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle fieth ; a nation.whose language thou shalt not understand.'
T'he sense of the proverb then is this : Wheresoever the wicked Jews are, there will the Roman eagles, the destroying armies, follow them ; and whithersoever they fly, ruin and desolation will overtake them.
Chr had been foretelling to his disciples the destruction of the Jew. ish nation, and the vengeance which he was to take upon them for their obstinate refusal of him and his doctrine. This he expressed by the coming of the Son of man; and he told them many particulars of what was to happen before and at that great day of visitation. Among others he acquainted them that there would be some impostors, who should set up themselves for the Christ or Messiah of the Jews: "Where; fore,' says he, if they shall say unto you, Behold he is in the desert
, go not forth: Behold he is in the secret chambers, believe it noi.-.e. none but false Christs will be found there. The true coming of Christ will be of another nature; not with observation,' Luke xvii. 20. not with a display of his person, but of his power, in the vengeance which he is to take upon the Jews; not restrained to the desert or the chambers, not confined to holes and corners, nor to any one part of Judea, but extended through every province of it; ' for as the lightning,' says he, cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be,' i. e. as extensive and universal over the land, as the lightning shines, the comparison being brought in to show not so much its swiftness, as its wide extent and compass : for
wheresoever the carcase,' &c. In St. Luke, when our Lord had been describing this calamity which was to befall the Jews, his disciples asked him, 'Where, Lord ?' where shall this happen? To which he replied
, • Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.' If then his words contain any direct answer to the question, they must be understood as pointing out the place and extent of the calamity,
was strangely spared and promoted and employed by Nero who hated him. If he had not put an end to the civil wars, and to the great calamities of the empire, Jerusalem would not have been destroyed at the time foretold by Christ. · Lucem caliganti reddidit mundo,' says Q. Curtius, speaking most probably of Vespasian, x. 9.
Josephus assured Vespasian that he and his son Tiius should be emperors, after Nero, and some others, who should reign only a short time. B. J. iii. 8. “Unus ex nobilibus captivis Josephus, cum conjiceretur in vincula, constantissime asseveravit fore ut ab eodem brevi solveretur, verum jam imperatore.' Sueton. Tit. 5.
This prophecy was pronounced by our Saviour near forty years, and recorded by St. Matthew near thirty years, before the event was to take place. And, for the literal accomplishment of it, we have the authority of Josephus. He was a general on the side of the Jews in the beginning of that war, and a prisoner at large in the Roman army during the rest of it: he was a party concerned in much of the calamity of his countrymen, and an eye-witness to almost all of it. And besides this it is to be considered, that if he ever had heard of this prophecy, which it is probable he had not; yet as he was a Jew by religion, and a Jewish priest too, he is therefore a witness not to be suspected of partiality in this case, and was every way qualified to give us an exact history of those times; which he has accordingly done, by describing very punctually all the particulars of that terrible destruction:
From his account it may be observed, that the Roman army entered into Judæa on the east side of it, and carried on their conquests westward, as if not only the extensiveness of the ruin, but the very route which the army would take, was intended in the comparison of the lightning coming out of the east and shining even unto the west.
In the course of his history he gives us a very particular account of the prodigious numbers of such as were slain in Judæa properly so called, in Samaria, the two Galilees, and the region beyond Jordan : and he cone firms the prophecy of Christ by making a remarkable observation to this purpose, that there was not any the least part of Judæa, which did not partake of the calamities of the capital city.'-B.J.v. 3. There, at Jerusalem, the last and finishing stroke was given to the ruin of the church and state; for after a long and sharp siege, in which famine killed as many as the sword, in which the judgments of heaven appeared as visibly as the fury of man, in which intestine factions helped on the desolation which the foreign armies completed, Jerusalem was at last taken, not then a city, but a confused mass of ruins, affording a sadder scene of calamity than the world. had ever seen, and exactly fulfilling the words of Christ, Matt. xxiv. 21. "'Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world unto this time, no nor ever shall be.' To which Josephus bears express testimony, and says, that 'the calamities of all nations from the beginning of the world were
made this declaration there was no appearance of such an event. He says that he had received the knowledge of these things in a dream ; which was accounted by the Jews to be a lower degree of prophecy, and to have been some. times granted to them after the prophetic afflatus had ceased at the death of Malachi. Josephus says that Hyrcanus had been favoured with such kind of revelations. Ant. xiii. 12. Bell. Jud. i. 2. He records a prophetic dream of his own, in his Life, S 42. He mentions also strange deliverances vouchsafed to himself from seemingly unavoidable destruction, B. J. iii. 8. He had taken shelter in a cave with
exceeded by those which befel his countrymen on this occasion.'B. J. i. 1.
Christ foretold, that Jerusalem should be ' encompassed with are inies,' Luke xxi. 20. And accordingly it was besieged and taken by the Romans: a circumstance which had no necessary connection with the revolt and conquest of Judæa. For, at the time when Christ spake this, the Roman governor resided in that city, and had troops there sufficient to keep it in obedience; whence it was more probable, that Jerusalem would have continued in a quiet subjection to the Romans, whatever troubles might be raised in other parts of the Jewish dominions.
He foretold, that the Roman ensigns, called the abomination of desolation,' ver. 15, should be seen standing in the holy place' or temple : an event not to be foreseen by human skill, because very unlikely to happen. The great care which the Jews took at other times not to defile that holy place, and the small strength which it had to defend them long from the Roman arms, as they had twice experienced in the memory of man, were both circumstances which in all human appearance would have kept them from the rash experiment. And yet, against all probability, they fled to the temple, and there made a last and desperate resistance. Having thus defiled it with their own arms, they made it necessary for the Romans to follow them into the sanctuary; so that they took it by storm, and of consequence caused their military ensigns to be seen standing there.
Christ foretold, Matt. xxiv. 2. that when the temple should be taken, • there should not be left there one stone upon another that should not be thrown down.' And yet the building was so magnificent, that it was esteemed, for cost, for art, and beauty, one of the wonders of the world; whence it was natural to expect that the Romans, according to their usual custom amidst their conquests, would endeavour to preserve it safe and entire. And Josephus, B. J. vi. 2. 4. tells us, that Titus laboured with all his power to save it; but that his soldiers, as if moved damp.orių og peop, by a divine impulse, would not hearken to his positive and repeated orders, but set fire to every part of it, till it was entirely consumed : and then the ruins were removed, and the soil on which it stood was ploughed up, and not one stone left upon another. See Drusius and Calmet on Matt. xxiv. 2, and Lightfoot's Horæ Hebr, on the same text, where he
forty desperate persons, who were determined to perish rather than to yield, and who proposed to pay him the compliment of killing him first, as the most honourable man in the company.
When he could not divert them from their frantic resolution of dying, he had no other refuge than to engage them to draw lots who should be killed, the one after the other; and at last only he and another remained, whom he persuaded to surrender to the Romans. I would not willingly be imposed upon, or impose upon the reader; but I leave it to be considered whether in all this there might not be something extraordinary, as both Vespasian and Josephus were designed and reserved for extraordinary
quotes for proof of this the Taanith of Maimonides, c. 4. Josephus indeed in B. J.vii. 1. speaking of the temple, says only that it was demolished, without expressly telling us that the foundations of it were digged up. And yet it seems probable that some parts at least of those foundations were digged up, from what he says there in the following chapter concerning one Simon. He lived in Jerusalem, in the upper part of it, near to the temple : and, when the city was taken, he endeavoured to escape by letting himself down with some of his companions into a cavern; where when they had digged but a little way for themselves, he crept out from underground in that very place where the temple had bee fore stood. Therefore, either he crept out in that hollow where the foundation had stood; or, if it was in any other part of the temple, the foundations must have been removed there at least where he worked his way through the ground from the outside to the inside of the temple.
To these circumstances we may add the time. •. This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled,' ver, 34. and again, Matt. xvi. 28. ' There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom;' pointing out to his hearers, that this train of calamities was not to come upon the Jews immediately, nor yet so late but that some then living should see the accomplishment of his prophecies. The fixing of this circumstance had no connection with any thing which might serve for the foundation of human conjecture.
He also foretold, that 'the gospel of his kingdom should be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations,' ver. 14. before this end of the Jewish state should come; than which no circumstance was less likely in all human appearance to happen, if we consider the time when this prophecy was delivered; for we find that within two days afterwards, as himself foretold, Matt. xxvi. 2. and 31. 'all his disciples forsook him and fled,' upon his being apprehended. It could not be expected that they who had deserted his person when alive, would adhere to his cause after his death, and with so much steadiness and courage, as to preach a crucified Jesus in spite of all opposition, through all the nations of the then known earth. “And yet this they did with great success; so that St. Paul could say to the Colossians with truth, - that the gospel was come unto them, as it was in all the world.' i. 6.
purposes, to assist in fulfilling and justifying the prophecies of Daniel and of our Lord. The same providence which raised up and conducted Cyrus, and preserved the ° rash Macedonian conqueror from perishing, till he had overthrown the Persian empire, that the prophecies might be accomplished, might take the Roman emperor and the Jewish writer under a singular protection for reasons of no less importance. The historian was on all accounts a proper person to deliver these things to posterity, and one to whom the Pagans, the Jews, and the Christians, could have no reasonable objection; he was of a noble family, he had enjoyed the advantage of a good education, he had acted in the war as a general, he had much learning, singular abilities, a fair character, and a great love for his own country. The service which he has done to christianity was on his side plainly undesigned; he never gives even the remotest hint that the Jews suffered for rejecting the Mes
. sias. His book had the approbation of Vespasian P, and Titus, Herod, and Agrippa, and of several persons of distinction, and he wanted not adversaries who would have exposed him if he had advanced untruths ; so that though. in some other points he might have been capable of deceiving and of being deceived, yet as to the transactions of his own times, he must pass, in general, for a candid, impartial, accurate writer, and has passed for such in the opinion of the most competent judges.
But though we are indebted to him for several particulars, which surprisingly agree with the predictions of Christ; vet the destruction of the Jewish state rests not upon single authority, but upon antient history and general consent, and is a fact which never was questioned.
What Josephus says concerning the outrageous wickedness and strange infatuation of many of the Jews, must be true; the facts related by him sufficiently show it : but the reason for which he dwelt so much on a subject so disagreeable to one who loved his nation, seems to have been this : he knew not how to account otherwise for God's giving up
o I call him rash, because he exposed his own person too much ; for his enterprise, though very bold, was perhaps neither rash nor rashly conducted.
Contr. Apion, i.9.