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Italy, the senators and citizens came out to meet him some miles from the city, with every expression of joy : and to all classes his reign was a delightful respite from the tumults and calamities they had long endured. Vespasian did not attempt to reform the manners of his subjects without giving them an attractive example of moderation and moral virtue in his own person. The alteration in his rank made no difference in his outward appearance or behaviour ; he preserved his former simplicity, retained his old friends, and so much delighted in showing mercy that he condemned the greatest criminals with regret. He was courteous to all, except those whom he thought right to rebuke on account of their evil or luxurious habits; and it is related that, on one occasion, when a certain officer, richly perfumed with scented oils, came to thank him for an appointment, the emperor sternly exclaimed, it would have been better if he had smelled of garlic, and recalled the commission he had given him. Some historians have accused Vespasian of avarice; but others say that he only exercised the necessary economy, as the public treasury was very low, owing to the excessive selfindulgence of his predecessor. Heathen Rome was perhaps, morally speaking, in its best estate when Jerusalem was given up to its destructive dominion, on account of the accumulated sins of her children against the law of the Lord, and their rejection of every manifestation of His grace. While Vespasian was ruling over the peaceable empire wherein his authority was acknowledged, Titus became God's instrument in executing the long-threatened wrath upon the rebellious city of Jerusalem and its blood-stained inhabitants.
CHAP. XIV. PRESAGES OF EVIL IN JERUSALEM.-STATE OF JERUSALEM.JOHN, ELEAZAR, AND SIMON.-COMMENCEMENT OF THE SIEGE.
FORTIFICATIONS OF JERUSALEM. It is related (Luke xxiii. 28), that when a great company of Jewish people and of women followed the Lord Jesus on his way to Calvary, bewailing and lamenting him, he turned to them and said, “ Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
And truly, if there were ever cause for weeping over the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the human heart, it was now, when some of the bitterest effects and deadliest consequences of sin were being exhibited in Jerusalem. As there is some variance in the interpretation of the Lord's prophecies concerning Jerusalem, I shall only refer to some of his words, which seem literally to refer to the present period ; observing the simple rule before given, that, as his words can never pass away, any parts of them not yet fulfilled, will certainly have their accomplishment in due season.
The prophecy recorded (Luke xxi. 1—24), seems to refer more particularly to this period of calamity; but the most partial observer must confess that the Lord's infinite mind goes far beyond this particular season, and embraces events still before us, only ending with his own appearing. Josephus, who was most probably ignorant of the Lord's prophecy, gives some account of “ fearful sights and great signs from heaven," preceding the ruin of the city. He relates that, for a whole year, a comet, having the appearance of a sword, was seen in the sky immediately over Jerusalem. During the passover a bright light shone suddenly at midnight, and the inner gate of the Temple, which was of solid brass, and so heavy that twenty men were needed to close it, suddenly flew open after it had been fastened with the strong iron bolts that let into the stone door-posts. A few days after the passover, many eye-witnesses declared that the sky, just before sunset, appeared to be filled with chariots and armies in rapid motion. On the feast of Pentecost, the priests who served by night declared that they heard a rushing noise, and a great voice saying, “Let us depart hence !” Josephus also affirms, that when the city was in peace and apparent prosperity, a peasant called Jesus, son of Ananus, cried aloud in the Temple, “ A voice from the East ! a voice from the West! a voice from the four winds! a voice against Jerusalem and against the Temple ! a voice against the the bridegrooms and the brides ! a voice against the whole people !” As he continued to repeat these words day and night through the streets and lanes of the city, he was seized and brought before the cruel Albinus, who ordered him to be scourged in his presence till his bones were seen. But he uttered no expression of pain, no cry for mercy; and, as if regardless of personal suffering, he continued to exclaim at
every stripe, “ Woe, woe to Jerusalem !” As he would neither tell who he was, nor whence he came, Albinus at length dismissed him, supposing he was mad. During the four years preceding the war, he continued to repeat his sad cry at intervals; but more frequently, and in a deeper tone, at the time of the festivals. He took no notice of any one: he did not curse those who struck him, nor thank those who gave him food ; but only exclaimed, “ Woe, woe to the city and the Temple !" His last words were, “ Woe, woe to myself !” He was killed by a stone from one of the Roman engines during the siege.
The grand question of peace or war had divided every city and almost every family in Judea, and gave rise to such fierce domestic quarrels, that the peaceful had no increased distress to fear from the success of the Romans. The bands of des. perate robbers, who had spread misery through the country, committing murder, burning and plundering, under pretence of punishing the traitors who would not join in the struggle for freedom, these ruffians had been received into Jerusalem by the war party, who gladly welcomed any who were ready to sacrifice their lives in the defence of the city. These men proved the most dreadful scourges, and John of Gischala was a fit leader for such a company. We shall class them under the general name of Zealots, or those whose false zeal for their religion led them to the most outrageous acts of violence. Robbery, house-breaking, and assassination became daily and nightly evils in Jerusalem; and some of the highest rank were put to death, under pretence that they were about to betray the city to the Romans. At length the Zealots took upon them the appointment of the members of the Sanhedrin, and declared that the high-priest should be chosen by lot, and not on account of his descent from Aaron. But as their violent doings met with great resistance from the opposite party, the Zealots took refuge in the Temple, and used it as a garrison, from whence they came out to fight. John of Gischala proposed to call in the aid of the Idumeans, well known for their love of war; and these fierce soldiers, headed by Simon, son of Cathla, quickly obeyed his invitation, and appeared before the gates of Jerusalem. But Ananus, the chief priest, the leader of the peace party, refused to let them enter: and, notwithstanding a furious tempest of thunder and lightning, which seemed to shake the earth, they were obliged to encamp outside the walls.
At midnight, however, some of the most daring Zealots stole out of the Temple, and, concealed by the storm and darkness, passed the unwatchful guards posted by Ananus, and opened a gate for their allies. Their first work was to destroy a body of 6000 soldiers, who were stationed in the cloisters to prevent the Zealots from coming into the city; and that terrible night, amidst the raging of the storm, the court of the Temple was deluged with blood, and in the morning 8500 dead bodies were counted. Nor did the slaughter end there ; for the next dav the Idumeans rushed into the city, pillaging wherever they went. The chief priests were put to death, and their bodies left to the birds of prev. Ananus fell among the rest: and Josephus says, that the ruin of Jerusalem may be dated from this terrible night. Twelve thousand of the noblest of the peace party perished by the sword of the Idumeans ; many were cruelly scourged and tortured, and the dead bodies remained unburied in the streets. At length, to the surprise of both parties, most of the Idumeans withdrew from the city, as if tired of their bloody work; but the insatiable Zealots went on in the same course of lawless iniquity. Death was their punishment for every offence, whether real or imaginary ; and their victims were commonly the rich and noble. But another domestic enemy soon completed the misery of the condemned city. Simon, son of Gioras, who had led the party that overtook Cestius, had since that period gathered a strong body of armed men, and encouraged them in wasting the country. He was at first driven away from Jerusalem by the Zealots, and sought revenge by turning into Idumea, where his army of 40,000 men did such a work of destruction, that it was said, like the locusts, they left no sign of vegetation behind them.
In the spring of A.D. 69, Simon laid siege to Jerusaiem, and the Roman cavalry were ordered to keep back, that the Jews might be weakened by civil war. The citizens appeared now to stand between two fires ; Simon without, and John in possession of the Temple within. But at length the followers of the latter were divided, as the Idumeans who still remained with him became jealous of his kingly power, and agreed with the opposite party to admit Simon, in order to humble his pride.
Matthias, the high priest, a man of weak judgment, went in person to invite the fierce chief to come in ; and, amidst the joyful shouts of the populace, Simon took possession of the upper city.
Jerusalem was now divided into three distinct garrisons of soldiers, most fierce in their enmity against each other, and Eleazar, John, and Simon were the three rival chiefs.
Eleazar, who was the first to proclaim war with Rome, by refusing the imperial offerings, occupied the inner court of the Temple. A party of Zealots, in number 2400, were attached to his interest ; and the flour, wine, oil, &c., stored up in the Temple for sacred uses, were freely used for their support. Sometimes, in the excitement of intoxication, they would venture forth to fight with John's soldiers who occupied the outer court. Stones and arrows were constantly discharged by both parties, and the pavement of the courts was strewn with dead bodies. The arms of the Zealots, stained with the blood of their brethren, rested in the holiest; and many of them, wounded by those without, died beside the altar. Simon attacked John's party on the other side ; but his assaults were easily repelled, as the high position of the Temple commanded the upper city. John had many destructive engines in his possession; and in using them against his enemies, above and below, many were slain who persevered in coming up to offer the customary sacrifices in the appointed place. Strangers were permitted to come in to. worship without examination; but the citizens were searched, for fear of concealed weapons. And although the stone or the arrow often laid the worshippers dead in the midst of their services, the devout Jews still continued to ask permission to visit this dangerous place. Whenever John perceived that Eleazar's men were overcome by sleep or intemperance, he sallied forth against Simon, and plundered the city ; and it was in order to disappoint him in these expeditions, that Simon caused the large granaries to be burned, which might have supplied the citizens for years. The troops of Simon consisted of 10,000 Jews, aided by 5000 Idumeans; and John, who had only 6000, usually kept close to his stronghold in the Temple. The three fierce leaders only agreed in persecuting the citizens, and in punishing every one whom they suspected of wishing well to the Roman army. The people were obliged to suffer in silence; for every complaint was interpreted as an expression of desire for the speedy arrival of the Romans. In these dreadful circumstances, hardness of heart marked all classes: the nearest relations seemed to have no feeling for each other; and even the dead were left unburied. Religious superstition alone survived,