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mination of desolation, means the Roman army; and is so explained by Luke, xxi. 20. 'Spoken of by Daniel the prophet.' Dan. ix. 26, 27; xi. 31; xii. 11. Standing in the holy place.' Mark says, standing where it ought not, meaning the same thing. All Jerusalem was esteemed holy, Matt. iv. 5. The meaning of this is, when you see the Roman armies standing in the holy city, or encamped around the temple, or the Roman ensigns or standards in the temple. Josephus further relates, that when the city was taken, the Romans brought their idols into the temple, and placed them over the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there. Whoso readeth,' &c. This seems to be a remark made by the evangelist, to direct the attention of the reader particularly to the meaning of the prophecy by Daniel; but Doddridge thinks it the observation of Christ.
16 Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains:
Then christians may know that the end is come, and should seek a place of safety. Destruction would not only visit the city, but would extend to the surrounding part of Judea. The mountains. The mountains of Palestine abound in caves, a safe retreat for those pursued. In all ages these caves were the favourite places of robbers; and were also resorted to by those in danger, 1 Sam. xiii. 6; xxii. 1. 2 Sam. xxiii. 13. Josh. x. 16. In those mountains they would be safe.
17 Let him which is on the house-top not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
The roofs of the houses in eastern countries were made flat, so that they were convenient places for walking and retirement, and most commonly the stairs were so placed that persons could descend from the house-tops to the streets, without going into the house. See note, Matt. ix. 1-8. The meaning here is, that he who should be on the house-top when this calamity came upon the city, should flee without delay; he should not even take time to secure any article of apparel from his house. 'Clothes' here means the outer garment, commonly laid aside when men worked or ran. See note, Matt. v. 40. These directions were followed. It is said that the christians, warned by these predictions, fled from the city to Pella, and other places beyond Jordan; so that there is not evidence that a single christian perished in Jerusalem.
19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter neither on the sabbath day:
The destruction was certainly coming. It could not be prevented. Yet it was right to pray for a mitigation of the circumstances; that it might be as mild as possible. In the winter.' On account of the cold, storms, &c. To be turned then from home, and compelled to take up an abode in caverns, would be a double calamity. Neither on the sabbath-day.' Journies were prohibited by the law on the sabbath, Ex. xvi. 29. The law of Moses did not mention the distance to which persons might go on the sabbath; but most of the Jews maintained that it should not be more than two thousand cubits, or nearly a mile. This distance was allowed, in order that they might go to their places of worship. Jesus teaches them to pray that it might not be on the sabbath, because if they should not go further than a sabbath day's journey, they would not be beyond the reach of danger; and if they did, they would be exposed to the charge of violating the law. It should be added, that it was almost impracticable to travel in Judea on that day, as the gates of the cities were usually closed, Nch. xiii. 19–22.
21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
The word' tribulation' means calamity, or suffering. Luke, xxi. 24, has specified in what this tribulation should consist. They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations, and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.' That is, until the time allotted for the Gentiles to do it shall be fully ac complished.
The first thing mentioned by Luke is, that they should fall by the edge of the sword. That is, should be slain in war, as the sword was then principally used in war. This was most strikingly fulfilled. Josephus uses almost the very words of our Saviour. 'All the calamities,' says he, which had befallen any nation from the beginning of the world, were but small in comparison with those of the Jews.'
He has given the following account of one part of the massacre when the city was taken. And now rushing into the city, they slew whomsoever they found, without distinction, and burnt the houses and all the people who had fled into them. The whole city ran with blood, insomuch that many things which were burning were extinguished by the blood.' He adds, that in the siege of Jerusalem, not fewer than eleven hundred thousand perished. In the adjacent provinces no fewer than two hundred and fifty thousand are reckoned to have been slain; making in all, the almost incredible number of one million three hundred and fifty thousand, who were put to death. These were not indeed
all slain with the sword. Many were crucified. Many hundreds,' says he, 'were first whipped, then tormented with various kinds of tortures, and finally crucified; until at length the multitude became so great, that room was wanted for crosses, and crosses for the bodies.' So terribly was their imprecation fulfilled-His blood be on us and on our children,' Matt. xxvii. 25. If it be asked how it was possible for so many people to be slain in a single city, it is answered, that the siege of Jerusalem commenced during the time of the passover, when all the males of the Jews were required to be there, and when it is estimated that more than three millions were usually assembled.
A horrible instance of the distress of Jerusalem is related by Josephus. A woman of distinguished rank, having been plundered by the soldiers, in hunger, rage, and despair, killed and roasted her babe, and had eaten one half of him before the deed was discovered. (Jewish Wars, b. vi. ch. 3, sec. 3, 4.) This cruel and dreadful act was also a fulfilment of prophecy, Deut. xxviii. 53, 56, 57.
Another thing added by Luke, ch. xxi. 24, was, that they should be led captive into all nations. Josephus informs us that the captives taken during the whole war amounted to ninetyseven thousand. The tall and handsome young men Titus reserved for his triumph; of the rest, many were distributed through the Roman provinces, to be destroyed by wild beasts in theatres, many were sent to the works in Egypt; many, especially those under seventeen years of age, were sold for slaves.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
If the calamities of the siege should be lengthened out. If famine and war should be suffered to rage. No flesh be saved.' None of the nation would be preserved alive. All the inhabitants of Judea would perish. The war, famine, and pestilence would entirely destroy them. But for the elect's sake.' The 'elect' here doubtless means christians. See 1 Pet. i. 2. Rom. i. 7. Eph. i. 4. 1 Thess. i. 4. It is probable that in Jerusalem and the adjacent parts of Judea, there were many who were true followers of Christ. On their account; to preserve them alive, and to make them the instruments of spreading the gospel, he said those days should not be lengthened out, and suffered to produce their destruction. It is related by Josephus, that Titus at first resolved to reduce the city by famine. He therefore built a wall around it, to keep any provisions from being carried in, and any of the people from going out. The Jews, however, drew up their army near the walls, engaged in battle, and the Romans pursued them, provoked by their attempts, and broke into the city; so that,
contrary to his original intention, he pressed the siege, and took the city by storm, thus shortening the time that would have been occupied in reducing it by famine. This was for the benefit of the elect. See Isa. x. 7. Gen 1. 20.
23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
Lo here is Christ.' The Messiah. The Jews expected the Messiah to deliver them from Roman oppression. In the time of these great calamities they would anxiously look for him. Many would claim to be the Messiah. Many would follow them. 'Believe it not. You have evidence that the Messiah has come, and you are not to be deceived by the plausible pretensions of others.
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
"False Christs.' Persons claiming to be the Messiah. 'False prophets. Persons claiming to be the prophet spoken of by Moses, Deut. xviii. 15; or pretending to declare the way of deliverance from the Romans, and calling the people to follow them. See ver. 5. 'Shall show great signs and wonders.' That is, shall pretend to work miracles. Josephus represents the false Christs and prophets that appeared as magicians and sorcerers. He says, they led the people out into the deserts, and promised to work miracles to deliver them. If possible would deceive,' &c. So nearly would their pretended miracles resemble true miracles, as to render it difficult to detect the imposition; and as, if possible, to persuade even true christians that they were the Messiah. But that was not possible. They would be too firmly established in the belief that Jesus was the Messiah, to be wholly led away by others.
25 Behold, I have told you before.
Mark adds, ch. xiii. 23, Take ye heed. The reason why he told them before, was that they might be on their guard, and be prepared for these calamities.
26 Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
'Behold, he is in the desert.' The Jews had formed the expectation that the Messiah would appear suddenly, from some unexpected quarter. Accordingly, most of the impostors and pretended prophets led their people into the deserts. Go not forth.' Do not follow them. They will only deceive you. 'In secret
chambers.' Concealed in some house, or some retired part of the city.
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Many would be looking for him in the desert; many in secret places. But it would be useless to be looking in that manner. It was useless to look to any particular part of the heavens, to know where the lightning would next flash. In a moment it would blaze in an unexpected part of the heavens, and shine at once to the other part. So rapidly, so unexpectedly, in so unlooked for a quarter would be his coming. See Luke x. 18. Zech. ix. 14. 'The coming of the Son of man.' It has been doubted whether this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, or to the coming at the day of judgment. Those two events are the principal scenes in which our Lord said he would come, either in person or in judgment. They in many respects greatly resemble each other. They will bear, therefore, to be described in the same language. These words may have a primary reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, but also such an amplitude of meaning as to express his coming to judgment.
28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
The words in this verse are proverbial. Vultures, which seem here referred to, easily ascertain where dead bodies are, and come to devour them. So with the Roman army. Jerusalem is like a dead and putrid corpse. Its life is gone, and it is ready to be devoured. The Roman armies will find it out. Jesus would come by means of them, as certainly, as suddenly, and as unexpectedly, as whole flocks of vultures, though unseen before, suddenly find their prey, and quickly gather in multitudes around it." So would the Roman armies discover Jerusalem, a putrid carcase, and hasten to destroy it.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken :
These images are often used by the sacred writers to denote any great calamities. Any great catastrophe, any overturning of kingdoms or cities, or dethroning of kings and princes, is represented by the darkening of the sun and moon, and by some terrible convulsion in the elements. Thus the destruction of Babylon is foretold in similar terms, Isa. xiii. 10; of Tyre, Isa. xxiv. 23. The slaughter in Bozrah and Idumea is predicted in the same language, Isa, xxxiv. 4. See also Isa. 1. 3;