Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple
Fr. Scott A. Haynes
At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, If you had known, in this your day, even you, the things that are for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a rampart about you, and surround you and shut you in on every side, and will dash you to the ground and your children within you, and will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you have not known the time of your visitation. And He entered the temple, and began to cast out those who were selling and buying in it, saying to them, It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves. And He was teaching daily in the temple. (Luke 19:41-47)
In St. Luke’s Gospel our Lord prophesies that Jerusalem will come to ruin because of their refusal to repent and turn toward the Lord. This prophecy came true in the most terrible manner. The people of Jerusalem, oppressed by the Romans their cruel masters, revolted, killed many of their enemies, and drove them out of Jerusalem.
The Emperor Nero sent a powerful army and laid siege to the city. Factions formed among the people of Jerusalem. They fought in the streets day after day, each struggling for control. The streets were red with blood.
Meanwhile, Nero’s army encircled Jerusalem. The Emperor Nero committed suicide after the Roman Senate declared him a public enemy; his successor Galba soon died, and the soldiers placed their beloved commander Vespasian upon the imperial throne.
He then left Jerusalem with his army, but within the year, he sent his son Titus with a new army to Judea, with orders to capture the city at any price, and to punish its inhabitants. The supply of food in the Holy City was soon exhausted. Famine and pestilence came upon the city. The leader of a faction of savage revolutionists, a man named John of Gischala, caused the houses to be searched, and the remaining food to be torn from the starving.
When the Roman army under Titus captured them with his cavalry, anyone who was armed was crucified. Nearly 500 men, and sometimes more, were daily crucified in sight of the city, so that there could not be found enough of crosses and places of execution.
Even this terrible sight did not move the people of Jerusalem to submission. Incited by their leaders to frenzy, they obstinately resisted, and Titus finding it impossible to take the city by storm, concluded to surround it by walls in order to starve the inhabitants.
In three days, his soldiers built a wall of about ten miles in circumference, and thus Jesus’ prediction was fulfilled:
“Thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side.”