Goodnews Christian Ministry

The Destruction of Herod's Temple in 70 A.D.
As Foreseen by the Prophet Ezekiel

"...I knew you to be obstinate...
And so I revealed things beforehand,
before they happened I announced them to you,
so that you could not say, 'My idol was the one that performed them"

Is.48:3-5

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In 70 A.D., just 40 years after Jesus was crucified, the Roman army burned down Herod's Temple in Jerusalem. It was a stunning loss. It happened on the 10th day of Loos in the Hebrew calendar (August 29th in 70 A.D.), the exact same day the Babylonians had burned down Solomon's temple 657 years earlier. Like bookends, the identical dates spoke loudly of divine correlation. The Bible's ancient prophecies agreed.

The destruction of Herod's temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Titus and Vespasian was foretold in astonishing detail by passages in the Book of Ezekiel. Seemingly written to bear witness to the destruction of Solomon's temple by the Babylonians, the wording of Ezekiel's predictions pointed, instead, to a similar catastrophe farther in the future. The correlating dates for both events coupled with Ezekiel's almost verbatim account of the loss of the second temple tie both destructions to the same prophecy ­ the dispersion to Babylon forseen by Moses.

Ezekiel wrote: "The word of God was addressed to me as follows, 'Son of Man, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come along, making both of them begin from the same country." (Ez.21:18-19).

Interpreting the prophecy, the 'sword' means warfare against Judea, and the 'two roads' mean two different generals. They point to two separate campaigns ­ both originating from the same country. This 'same country' (Babylon) stands for Rome. The two generals were father and son, Vespasian and Titus. What the prophecy foresaw was that the 'king of Babylon' ­ the emperor of Rome ­ would one day launch a military campaign against Judea which would involve two different generals.

This was fulfilled when the Roman general Vespasian started the military campaign against Judea in 66 A.D., invading and capturing Galilee and then proceeding south, town by town to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. He was called back to Rome to become the new Caesar and was replaced by his son Titus who completed the seige and later became the emperor of Rome as well. Two generals, and both became Caesars, "kings of Babylon".

Ezekiel's prophecy continues, "Put up a signpost where they begin, showing the way to a city, showing the sword the way to...Judah, to the fortress of Jerusalem." (Ez.21:20). The 'signpost', of course, is the prophecy itself. Written 600 years before the event, it "pointed" the way. "For the king of Babylon has halted at the fork where these two roads diverge, to take the omens. He has shaken the arrows, questioned the teraphim, inspected the liver." (Ez.21:21).

After conquering Galilee and the northern provinces, Vespasian halted outside Jerusalem. He set up his camp atop the Mount of Olives, where he could look down on the walled city and ponder the best approach to breach the wall. While he was doing this, Nero suddenly died, and Vespasian was called back to Rome to become emperor in Nero's place.

This is the point where the two roads diverged, because it was here that Vespasian's son Titus assumed command of the Roman forces in place of his father. "Into his right hand the lot for Jerusalem falls..." In the prophecies of scripture, God's 'right hand' always refers to His Son, Jesus. Therefore, Vespasian's 'right hand' must be interpreted as his own son, Titus.

"...there he must set up battering rams, give the word for slaughter, raise the war cry, level battering-rams against the gates, cast up earthworks, build entrenchments." (Ez.21:22).

Entering the walled city of Jerusalem was a major task. The Roman historian, Tacitus, writing in his 'Histories' in 109 A.D. said:

"...Jerusalem, standing upon an eminence, naturally difficult to approach, was rendered still more impregnable by redoubts and bulwarks by which even places on a level plain would have been competently fortified. Two hills that rose to a prodigious height were enclosed by walls constructed so as in some places to project in angles and in others to curve inwards. Consequently, the flanks of the Romans were exposed to the Jewish weapons. The extremities of the rock were abrupt and craggy; and the towers were built, upon the mountain, sixty feet high ­ and in the low ground, one hundred and twenty feet high. These works presented a spectacle altogether astonishing. To the distant eye they seemed to be of equal elevation. Within the city there were other fortifications enclosing the palace of the kings, including the tower of Antonia, with its conspicuous pinnacles...The temple itself was in the nature of a citadel, enclosed in walls of its own, and more elaborate and massy than the rest. Even the porticoes that surrounded it were a capital defense. A perennial spring supplied the place with water. Subterranean caverns were scooped out in the mountains, and there were basins and tanks as reservoirs for rain-water."

This is why Vespasian had to camp outside the city even though he had an invincible Roman army with him. Taking this city required all the equipment that the prophecy envisioned.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who was personally present during the Roman seige of Jerusalem described the event in great detail. The Romans built entrenchments against the arrows and missles of the Jewish defenders, and they constructed a gigantic earthwork leading up to the top of the walls so that a large number of Roman soldiers could pour into the city right over the top of the wall. Jerusalem's walls were so high that this massive earthwork had to reach to the height of a ten story building.

The Romans also used immense battering rams against the gates. All this took a good deal of time, a commodity of which the Romans had ample supply. In fact, they could have simply waited outside until the defenders starved to death, but Tacitus wrote that Titus and his Roman army were too proud to secure the victory this way. Therefore they engaged in all the activities the prophecy predicted. Not only that, but Tacitus revealed in his writings that these very prophecies were widely known at the time and were believed by the Jews to be omens for their survival and victory, not for their defeat.

Tacitus wrote:

"The majority of the Jews were deeply convinced that it was contained in the ancient writings of the priests, that, at this very time, the east would renew its strength, and those who would go out from Judea would go forth from this small country to rule the whole world. Mysterious words, which foreshadowed Vespasian and Titus; but the Jews, according to the usual course of human fondness, interpreted this consummation of destiny as referring to themselves, and were not induced to abandon their error even by affliction."

History had proved that the rest of Ezekiel's prediction was also accurate. Ezekiel had prophesied:

"The citizens of Jerusalem believe that these omens are idle, whatever oaths have been sworn. But he is evidence of their crimes, and these will bring about their capture. As for you, prince of Israel, vile criminal on the last of whose crimes the day is about to dawn, the Lord God says this: They will take away your turban and remove your crown; everything will be changed; the low will be high and the high brought low. To ruin, and to ruin on ruin, am I going to bring it, to such ruin as was never known before this man came who is appointed to inflict the punishment which I am determined to impose on it." (Ez.21:23-27).

When Titus conquered Jerusalem he tore down the temple and the other structures there stone by stone until no evidence of any buildings remained. His demolition of the city left Jerusalem in complete ruin, and initiated the exile ­ the binding of the Jewish population into a slavery to 'Babylon' that would last almost 2000 years. It was truly ruin on ruin. The crown of the prince of Israel was removed and given to Peter to rule the Christian world.

What neither the Roman historian Tacitus nor the Jewish people realized, was that 'the east had renewed its strength' in the power of Jesus Christ, and 'those who went out from Judea to rule the world' were his disciples of peace. The renewal of the power of the east had nothing to do with a Jewish military victory, nor with a Roman victory either. Instead, it was the spiritual culmination of Isaiah's vision of God's servant from the east destined to liberate mankind from the captivity of Satan's world (Is.41:25-29; 46:11).

"I roused him from the north to come, from the rising sun I summoned him by name." (Is.41:25)

The ancient prophecies had to do with the approaching world-victory of the disciples of Jesus coming out of Palestine. The dispersion to Babylon was orchestrated by God and divinely ordained to save the world. The Jews had seen all the prophecies and correctly interpreted that they were living in the days of their fulfillment, but they had completely misinterpreted the divine application of these visions.

The Jews were able to escape from the Babylon of Ezekiel's time rather quickly, but they were never able to escape from the captivity of Rome. The Jews returned to Jerusalem just 70 years after the loss of Solomon's temple and their captivity at the banks of the Euphrates, but they had to wait almost two thousand years to recover their city after the Roman campaigns.

And despite their return just a few years ago, they still do not control of the Rock of Abraham ­ the site of Solomon and Herod's temples, the central focus of the Jewish religion. This shows that the exile continues, even now. We can see in this that Ezekiel's words were not meant to relate an historical record ­ they were not for the events of Ezekiel's own time. As Peter said, the Holy Spirit meant the words of the prophets for us and for our time. We must view Daniel's prophecies of the last days in exactly the same way. While Daniel's words are built on the pattern of Antiochus and Alexander, they actually have very little to do with those two men or with the times in which they lived. They are about the future.

We can look at the Bible's ancient prophecies today, long after all the events have been laid to rest, and recognize the accuracy of the Holy Spirit's words ­ and, at the same time, see how completely wrong all of the contemporary 'experts' had been, trying to analyze them. It is not surprsing that we can see this same pattern repeating itself in our own time with respect to the words of Daniel and John.

It is on this point that many bible scholars disagree. Scholars cannot prove that Daniel's words are about the future, but they can easily superimpose his words on the historical events surrounding his time and see that there is a close similarity.. For this reason, biblical scholars tend to deal with Daniel (and all the other prophets for that matter) mostly on the basis of the past. They preferentially see the prophets less as visionaries of the future, and more as accuracy-challenged historians. This is why they are so concerned about what the prophets were thinking when they wrote down their words.

Ezekiel and his fellow prophets did not even know what their prophecies were about because it was the Holy Spirit who authored their revelations. (1 Peter 1:10-12). Instead of recording historical realities, they and their disciples were divinely chosen people that allowed themselves to become the instruments of God's Spirit by recording what God instructed them to see and write. Since the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the words that they wrote down, and not through the intent of their thinking, there can be no imperfection in their writings.

It is written in scripture that "no prophecy ever came from man's own initiative. When men spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them." (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, although seen to be imprecise now by the scholars, the accuracy of their words, just as they were with Ezekiel's visions of Vespasian and Titus will ultimately be proved when the events that they were truly writing about actually occur.





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