The Jewish nation was one prone to repeating its mistakes over and over again. After the Babylonian Exile, the people returned to their homeland with a renewed devotion to God, but it wasn’t long before their characteristic hard-heartedness and stubborn nature led them down the road to trouble again. Of course, by the time Christ came on the scene, relatively few were ready to accept him as the Promised Messiah. Looking more for a man who would lead them in victory against the Romans and give them their freedom, they rejected Jesus and demanded that he be put to death. Capping a long history of transgressions, this corporate sin of Israel was just about the last straw, and it more or less guaranteed that the people would once again receive a great punishment from God as they had 600 years earlier when they were led into captivity.
Jesus who could well foretell the future knew that like the Amorites of old, the cup of Israel’s iniquity was almost full, and so he told his disciples that destruction was coming. When he was with them in Jerusalem, he pointed out the magnificent temple arrayed in gold and silver and asked, “Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Shortly before his death, he looked over the Holy City and wept saying, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build and embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” And again, as he was being led out to be crucified, he met the women of Jerusalem who were mourning for him, and he told them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’”
Merely thirty years after the crucifixion, in the early 60s A.D., the wheels were irreversibly set in motion to ensure that divine justice came upon the Chosen People once again in a devastatingly terrible way. And what may be surprising is that retribution came upon the Jews more or less by their own hand, a sort of self-destruction driven in part by the people’s thirst for independence. Through Providence, the yoke of Roman rule became too much to bear for many of the citizens of Palestine, and so they foolishly revolted against the superpower to which they were subjected to their own demise.
The seeds of such rebellion had existed for nearly a century since the time the Romans were influential in the region, and there were any number of small insurrections during the life of Christ and afterward that were effectively put down before they got out of hand. Primarily the zealots with their desire for liberty and to live under their own laws were the driving force behind the uprisings. Many seditionists were crucified over the years of Roman occupation as sign to deter the masses from any foolish thoughts of revolting, and one occasion a couple thousand Jews were mercilessly nailed to crosses by their overlords.
In general, the Romans were decent rulers and dealt with their subjects with a fair hand. However, as the hand of God would have it, the Jews would be subjected to a series of negative experiences when their overlords behaved in a less than upright way or imposed things on them that they did not like. One such source of agitation for the people occurred when Caligula insisted that statues of himself be placed in the temple (for the Emperor entertained himself as a god.) Naturally, this created great consternation, so that the Jews protested that they would die before such a thing would occur in violation of the laws of their ancestors. Fortunately Caligula died before the confrontation could escalate, and his successor Claudius didn’t dare to provoke the situation again.
Incitements such as this remained in the collective memory, and so when other Roman provocations happened, they were met by violent responses. On one occasion, a soldier pulled back his garment and in an indecent manner exposed his rear to the Jews (what we would call “mooning”) and spoke some uncharitable words while in that posture. At this the multitude of the people gathered there were indignant and ran as it were in a stampede so that ten thousand were crushed or trampled under foot while pressing to get out of the city.
While these particular events left an unsavory taste in the mouths of the Jews, it must be said that it was abusive rule on the part of the procurators of Judea that was the immediate cause of the war that led to great Jewish suffering. In the early 60s, Festus was in charge, and he had a fairly clean record of wisdom and honesty. But his successors were unquestionably evil men that mistreated the residents of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee for their own gain.
The Jewish historian Josephus describes Festus’ replacement Albinus in a less than charitable way. He writes, “But then Albinus, who succeeded Festus, did not execute his office as the other had done; nor was there any sort of wickedness that could be named but he had a hand in it. Accordingly, he did not only, in his political capacity, steal and plunder every one's substance, nor did he only burden the whole nation with taxes, but he permitted the relations of such as were in prison for robbery, and had been laid there, either by the senate of every city, or by the former procurators, to redeem them for money; and no body remained in the prisons as a malefactor but he who gave him nothing.”
Certainly, Albinus agitated the people for his extortion, but by comparison to his successor Florus, he was as tame as a kitten. While Albinus did his misdeeds under cover of darkness, Florus did his in broad daylight to become a stench in the Jews’ nostrils. Josephus writes, “He did his unjust actions to the harm of the nation after a pompons manner; and as though he had been sent as an executioner to punish condemned malefactors, he omitted no sort of rapine, or of vexation; where the case was really pitiable, he was most barbarous, and in things of the greatest turpitude he was most impudent. He indeed thought it but a petty offense to get money out of single persons; so he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once, and did almost publicly proclaim it all the country over, that they had liberty given them to turn robbers, upon this condition, that he might go shares with them in the spoils they got. Accordingly, this his greediness of gain was the occasion that entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces.”
We could cite many examples of Florus’ wickedness, but to mention one in the immediate advent of the war, we have a case where the procurator failed to act for the defense of the Jews, even when he was paid handsomely to do so. When the Greeks in Caesarea were causing trouble for the local Jews by obstructing their worship in the synagogue, the leaders of the people brought 8 talents to Florus petitioning him to deal handily with their adversaries. But Florus did nothing, and when the Jews complained of his inaction especially when he was paid to do so, the governor put them in prison which greatly angered the people of Jerusalem. They proceeded to run to the temple and cried out aloud begging that Caesar would free them from this evil man. But hearing how the people reproached him publicly, he killed 3600 civilians (including children) in a bloodbath in Jerusalem.
By this time, Florus realized that his crimes could probably not go undetected by his superiors for much longer. It would only be a matter of time before complaints reached Rome and he was investigated for abuse. So rather than attempting to keep the Roman peace, Florus became intent on starting a war. He made his objective stirring up strife among the Jews, and when the skirmishes he incited settled down, he was quick to continue trying to foment trouble again. Of course his motivation was to distract his superiors from his crimes by creating a wholesale Jewish War. If he could blame the Jews as the cause of unrest, perhaps he could sweep his barbarism and love of money under the rug. On one occasion, Florus arranged for the eminent Jews to go out and salute the Roman soldiers returning from Caesarea as a friendly gesture, but unbeknownst to the Jews, he secretly instructed the soldiers not to reciprocate. This provoked some of the Jews who complained aloud and were subsequently beaten down by the soldiers who were instructed to do so if the people verbalized their offense.
At this point, the people were up in arms and ready to fight back, but King Agrippa pleaded with them to avoid war until Caesar could depose Florus and appoint a better man, but it was too late and war spread like fire throughout the whole country. In many of the towns and villages Greek took up sword against Jew whom they perceived as trouble makers and a bloodbath ensued. The Romans intent on nipping this war in the bud before it got too out of hand mobilized, and it seemed that early on a general named Cestius could have taken Jerusalem, the capital of the nation and epicenter of the revolt, but he retreated from the city right when success was at hand. After besieging the city for several days, the people despaired, and perhaps unaware that the Roman sympathizers had subdued the seditious within the walls and were about to open the gates of the city, he decided to abandon the effort. In the words of Josephus, “but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day.” The historian understood that the city had already been condemned by God, and so this twist of fate only allowed for the Jewish insurrection to gain steam again. But it was also God’s sign to the Judeo-Christians that it was time to leave the city and flee to the mountains. Indeed remembering Christ’s warning about the enemy encircling the city, most of the Jewish Christians went to Pella until the war was over.
Though it might have been part of God’s plan for this Roman general to withdraw from his opportunity to take the Holy City, it was ultimately a bad decision. As he retreated from Jerusalem going north, the Jews of the countryside gathered in great numbers and almost wiped out Cestius’ entire legion. He promptly wrote to Nero asking for the full power of the Romans to come to put down this war. And so Vespasian was dispatched. Meanwhile Jerusalem which was so near to surrendering to the Romans became the headquarters of the Jewish war machine, and generals were appointed to wage the battle. They set to work at fortifying the walls of all the cities to make ready for the certain onslaught of the Romans.
Many of the towns of Galilee were mountainous with deep valleys surrounding them and were not easily to be conquered especially with the walls that closed them in. One such stronghold was Jotapata which remained impenetrable to the Romans for 47 days. This was in no small way attributable to the Jewish general Josephus whose ingenuity held the Romans at bay, for when they erected banks against the walls, he built the walls higher to block their entrance into the city. Setting fire to their seigeworks as much as possible they frustrated the Romans, until at last Vespasian began to use the battering ram to break down the wall. But even as the wall was crumbling, the tenacity of the Jews was strong and they put a hurting on the Romans by pouring scalding hot oil upon them from the top of the walls. When ultimately the wall was breached, Josephus was captured and became the prisoner of the Romans.
While the Jews in their zeal offered a good fight, they were ultimately no match for the power of the Roman army, and one by one the cities and towns of Galilee and Judah were conquered by Vespasian and his sons who accompanied him. And as each one gave way, the most seditious of the people, the scum of society fled to Jerusalem the last holdout of the war where they became a great source of misery and ultimately the cause of the city’s entire destruction.
Titus (Vespasian’s son) was sorely displeased that he couldn’t apprehend one John who escaped from the town of Gischala and entered the Holy City, but according to Josephus, it was God’s doing that this happened so that Jerusalem would be ripe for destruction. And in fact we can see that he was right, for this man led an unwavering sedition in the city until the day it was completely ruined. The historian tells us, “His character was that of a very cunning and very knavish person, beyond the ordinary rate of the other men of eminence there, and for wicked practices he had not his fellow any where. Poor he was at first, and for a long time his wants were a hindrance to him in his wicked designs. He was a ready liar, and yet very sharp in gaining credit to his fictions: he thought it a point of virtue to delude people, and would delude even such as were the dearest to him. He was a hypocritical pretender to humanity, but where he had hopes of gain, he spared not the shedding of blood: his desires were ever carried to great things, and he encouraged his hopes from those mean wicked tricks which he was the author of.”
This unsavory fellow along with many other scoundrels entered into Jerusalem shifting the balance toward unrestrained evil. John corrupted many of the young men to his side, for the ready liar that he was convinced them that the Romans were much weaker than every one thought and that they could the win the war against them. He also puffed himself up to make them believe that he was much more powerful than he really was.
All sorts of robbers came out of the countryside and entered Jerusalem at this time for rapine, plunder, and murder even in daylight. They took over the temple polluting it with many abominations that sickened the faithful of the city to even think of it. The multitudes having enough of this barbarism in their own city finally sought to put a stop to it under one Ananus, a very old and prudent high priest. With a rousing speech, he riled the masses to put an end to the terrorism of the zealots, for he had to overcome their fear of fighting this ruthless bunch renegades. And fortunately he succeeded not by skill in swordsmanship but by sheer numbers, the zealots were forced into the confines of the temple where Ananus assigned a guard of 6000 men to keep the prisoners.
But that wily snake John was not counted among the zealots at this time but had flattered Ananus pretending to be on the side of the people. So he was trusted by him and acted as his right hand man. But of course secretly John was one of the worst sorts of seditionists and was clandestinely conversing with the zealots where they were holed up in the temple. Looking for a way to get the city out of the control of this good man, he convinced the zealots that Ananus was planning to turn the city over to the Romans which greatly infuriated them. So messengers were secretly sent to the Idumeans to come and liberate the city from the “evil” plans of Ananus.
But Ananus had closed the gates to them to prevent them from coming to the assistance of the zealots. However, Providence was not with this good priest, for a very fierce storm came upon the city that night so much so that Ananus foolishly let the guards go to sleep and omit their watch during the night. With the thunder and strong wind, no one heard the zealots sawing away the gates that barred them in the temple, and so they opened the city to the Idumeans.
The barbarism of the Idumeans along with the zealots was horrific and 8500 civilians perished that day alone. The most venerable of men were slain including Ananus while the throats of many were slit and their bodies left in the street without any courtesy of burial. But when the Idumeans realized that the zealots had deceived them and were in fact the real evil band within the city, they retreated back into their own country leaving the zealots in full control. With what few good men left in the city cut off by the rabble-rousers, the city was firmly in the hands of a wicked group of people. Not surprisingly, many attempted to desert the city at this time, but the zealots guarded the exits and slit the throats of those that tried to leave (except for the rich who could buy their way out.)
At this time, there were two seditious factions in power within the city that regularly fought with each other including one that was led by John of Gischala. Both bands routinely made war on one another while they indiscriminately plundered the populace. But a third party was about to enter the city under the leadership of one Simon of Gioras who had rallied many people of the countryside behind him and was at the gates of Jerusalem.
The people of the city wishing to be liberated from John decided to let Simon in after which he drove John and the zealots into the temple and seized power in the city. But this was a terrible miscalculation, for Simon was just as much a tyrant as the others. Simon and John engaged in regular conflict along with a faction led by one Eleazar. The temple was always in the midst of the fighting and those who came to offer sacrifices were routinely in the middle of the cross-fire and died sprinkling the altar with their own blood.
If the city had ever hoped to successfully hold off the Romans, those expectations were dashed through the continual war that raged in the city. In the fighting, the storehouses of corn were burnt up which could have fed Jerusalem for many years in the event of a siege. Of course this was part of God’s plan for destruction, for when the enemy finally came to the gates of the city, there were only limited supplies left.
When Jerusalem first slipped into civil war with the entrance of so many malefactors into the city earlier on, the Roman army greatly desired to come and take the capital while all was in disarray. But Vespasian wisely resisted this course of action considering that it would be easier for him to conquer after the citizens had first weakened themselves by the infighting.
And naturally, this infighting was such a distress to the people that they wished the Romans would come, for an external war could only be better than the civil war that was destroying the city. Finally in early 70 A.D., Titus, the son of Vespasian did come to take Jerusalem and end the war. When the three factions of the seditious took notice of the common enemy camped outside of the gates, the temporarily united against the Roman foe and began to make sallies out the gate. Characteristic of Jewish zeal, they ran like madmen at the Romans and catching them off guard they hurt more than a few.
“Coincidentally,” at the time that Titus arrived it was the Passover and the city began to swell with worshippers who came from abroad to celebrate the feast. Of course this was no accident for the anger of God was corporately against the whole Jewish race for their collective sins, and the slaughter that he intended was to affect the people of Israel in the maximum way possible. Josephus tells us that at the time of the Passover, it was normal for this city of around a few hundred thousand to increase upwards of a couple million. And so in God’s timing, divine punishment would catch an order of magnitude more people in the city than would otherwise have been the case. Many of these were well intentioned worshippers who came from afar, and yet suffered barbarously. The historian tells us that those who unwittingly entered the city in the midst of the civil war “stood trembling at the altar, and about the holy house, were rolled on heaps together, and trampled upon, and were beaten both with wooden and with iron weapons without mercy.” As the war between the seditious factions went on, they continued to plunder the regular citizens and the multitude of visitors to the city as their prey.
With a great host of people trapped within the city walls, Titus began his siege of Jerusalem. Cutting down all the trees around the Holy City for 10 miles in every direction, he raised banks against the walls of the city and built siege works around the perimeter. What were once beautiful suburbs were transformed into a horrid wasteland especially as he set fire to the towns. The Romans used their engines of war to catapult massive stones into the city terrorizing the inhabitants, but the seditious could only unite themselves together for a short time against them, for evil does not cooperate with evil because it is inherently selfish. Even a common enemy wasn’t quite enough for the wicked factions within the city to work well together.
Titus used the battering ram and eventually breached the outer wall on the north of the city which caused the Jews to retreat to an inner wall, and so the Roman army entered the newer part of the city while the Jews withdrew further inward. But once they penetrated the inner wall they were met by fierce resistance by the Jews who had command of the very narrow streets, so the Romans were forced to stay out of that part of the city. In the meanwhile the people who sincerely wanted peace and to surrender to the Romans were terrified to do so because the seditious threatened to cut their throats even to talk about it.
Titus held off the siege a bit to see if the city would come to its senses, but after a few days Josephus, Jewish general and prisoner of war was sent to stand on the wall and attempt to convince the people to surrender. Reminding them how they were starving and how powerful the Romans were and how many times in the past their ancestors had been conquered or enslaved, he tried to persuade them that God was not with them in this foolhardy effort.
But the seditious were so hard-hearted they would not listen to Josephus’ appeal, but the people did and the lucky ones deserted without being noticed by those who were a part of the insurrection. Selling whatever they had, they redeemed their belongings for gold and then swallowed it before leaving the city. So they recovered it in their stool and had plenty to live on in the countryside where Titus let them go free, for he pledged the right hand of security to those who deserted. But besides threatening to slaughter their countrymen if any tried to escape, the seditious scared the people suggesting that Titus planned to punish any who deserted, and many believing it stayed within the city to suffer at the hands of the rebels.
At this time many of those who successfully deserted met with a worse fate than had they stayed in the city. For being famished, they suddenly gorged themselves on the abundance of the Romans, and their bodies exploded from overfilling their empty stomachs. Only those who knew to increase their food intake gradually survived. But other deserters met with an equally grisly fate, for some of the mercenary soldiers realized that the Jews had been swallowing gold, and so they took to dissecting them (2000 of them) searching for the precious metal and this infuriated Titus when he learned of it. The general threatened to put to death any soldier who would stoop so low to this wicked practice.
Meanwhile, the fugitives who were coming to Titus informed him of how the sedition and famine had taken the lives of no fewer than 600,000 at that point in the siege. Totally unequipped to handle such carnage, the living threw the bodies of the dead outside of the gates or stacked them from floor to ceiling in the houses within the city so that the stench of decaying flesh was unbearable for all. (By the end of the war 1,100,000 people within the city had perished.)
Because the storehouses of grain had been largely burnt up in the civil war, there were little resources left to eat for the multitudes, but the situation was somewhat mitigated by those who routinely went in and out of the city through the many secret passageways to forage for food and bring it into the famished city. However, to stop this problem as well as the continuing sallies of the Jews upon the Romans outside of the city gates, Titus built a wooden wall all around the city so that none could come and go unnoticed.
This action completely dried up the little food that was secretly coming into Jerusalem and so the famine went from bad to worse. We are told by Josephus, that starvation was so rampant in the city that the people gnawed at everything they could get their hands on including shoes and leather garments. Some resorted to the most horrid measures for food, for a woman despairing of the conditions within the city slew her own infant child and roasted him on the fire. She then proceeded to eat half and concealed the rest for later. When the insurrectionists broke into her house to search for food as they were accustomed to doing, even such evil men were taken aback by what she had done and left her home trembling revolted at the thought of eating the rest of her child.
That the citizens of Jerusalem were taken to cannibalism should not shock us, for it was foreseen long ago when Moses warned the people about the penalty for disobedience to Yahweh. Just before they entered the Promised Land, the great prophet laid out the blessings they would receive for following the commands of God, and subsequently enumerated the many sanctions that would come against them for failing to heed his laws.
With uncanny accuracy his words rang true some 1500 years later in this great siege of the Holy City. The prophet predicted, “Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. The most gentle and sensitive woman among you – so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot – will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For she intends to eat them secretly during the siege and in the distress that the enemy will inflict on you in your cities.”
While famine and sedition continued to take their toll on the people of Jerusalem, the Romans nevertheless continued their attacks and penetrating further into the city made their run on the temple which was being held by John of Gischala, for it was the epicenter of the Jewish resistance. As they got closer, they again put Josephus on the wall to address the people after which many again deserted out of the hands of the seditious.
When Titus had gained access to the outer walls of the temple, he ordered the battering rams to begin pummeling the perimeter of the edifice, but the engines of war were unable to break down them down for the stones were very large and well connected. So he decided another tactic and instructed that the cloisters around the temple be burned. While it was not his intention to burn the Holy House itself, one of his soldiers set fire to the inner temple and though Titus attempted to extinguish it, it got out of control and the whole building burnt down.
After burning the cloisters, it was Titus’ plan to storm the temple the next day, early in the morning, with his whole army, and to encamp round about the holy house. “But as for that house, God had, for certain, long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages; it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Ab,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon,” comments the Jewish historian. Indeed in what could only be construed as an act of divine judgment, this magnificent edifice was destroyed on the exact same day (August 10th) as the Babylonians had annihilated its predecessor, Solomon’s temple in 586 B.C.
Not that this had taken everyone by surprise, for there were prophets in Jerusalem who foretold the city’s demise and the ruination of the glorious temple in the years leading up the climactic end in 70 A.D. One such man of God cried out day after day for years, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” and would say nothing else but this melancholy warning, even when he was beaten and abused for his words of doom. Josephus tells us that “these prophets did foretell many things concerning [the rewards of] virtue, and [punishments of] vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country; for there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots did not [quite] disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment.”
In addition to the words of the prophets, there were many omens that foretold the doom of the city which the wise understood in advance. We are informed that there was at one point a star resembling a sword which stood over the city along with a comet that continued for a whole year. On a particular occasion before sunset, eyewitnesses also perceived “chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor, running about among the clouds and surrounding the city.” Josephus recounts, “At that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us remove hence.’”
The historian also recalls for us a significant sign illustrating how God was removing the security of the temple even as those who swore he would never again reject his house persisted in stubborn denial. He tells us, “The eastern gate of the inner [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night.”
In many ways the destruction of Herod’s temple was the climax of the siege of Jerusalem, but the war was not quite over with this event. The annihilation of the Holy House forced the seditious who were holed up there to flee and while many were slain, the survivors escaped deeper into the city (the upper city which was on the south side.) Gaining the upper hand, Titus again appealed to the upper city to surrender pledging his right hand, but the response he received was so brazen that he was infuriated and vowed he would take no more deserters. So arrogant were the remaining rebels, they told Titus they had sworn never to surrender and as they could not turn themselves over to him, they audaciously requested that they might leave the city and go into the desert with their wives and children leaving the city to Titus. That they should attempt to dictate terms to the son of Caesar was the epitome of contempt, and the general would now show no mercy.
With the battering rams continuing their assault, the Romans broke into the Upper City and took it while many of the insurrectionists hid themselves in the subterranean caverns. Sticking with his promise not to give any of them liberty who now held out to the end, Titus took in total 97,000 captive. Many went to work in the Egyptian mines, while others were pegged to be slaughtered in entertainment for the provinces (e.g. to fight the wild animals in the arena,) while others were simply sold as slaves. Still others were taken to play a part in the triumph at Rome. It was Simon of Gioras, one of the tyrannical faction leaders who was to be part of the show in the Imperial City before being slaughtered. That other wicked ringleader, John of Gischala was condemned to life imprisonment.
Being sold into slavery seems to have been just another fulfillment of the covenant curses that Moses warned the children of Israel about before they entered the Promised Land. He told them, “Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand … The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.” Because they were unwilling to live in the freedom that God had offered to them, they would forfeit liberty for the bondage of Egypt that they were rescued from centuries earlier. The prophet Hosea promised the same fate saying, “He will remember their wickedness and punish their sins: They will return to Egypt.”
In the end, the ravages of war had taken nearly 100,000 as slaves which was a small number compared to those who had died. In Jerusalem, we are given a figure of 1,100,000 who succumbed either to starvation or to the sword of their own seditious countrymen. And regarding those Jews who perished outside of the Holy City in the countryside and abroad during the war, the estimate is given as 1,300,000. Ultimately the patience of God had expired and with it a chastisement of cataclysmic proportions enveloped the people he had once chosen to call his own. Not that all their corporate debts were settled in those few fateful years of war, for the next 1900 years they would continue to suffer at the hands of the nations to which he scattered them in his anger culminating in one of the greatest atrocities against the Jewish people, the genocide in Germany during World War II.
Thereafter it seems that the many sins of Israel were finally atoned for, for God began to return them to their homeland once again after an exile of nearly 2000 years. The prophet Jeremiah foresaw that they would come again to the way of the Lord once replanted in their own country. He wrote: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.