John Jahn – History of the Hebrew Commonwealth

John Jahn – History of the Hebrew Commonwealth

Lectures on the The History of the Hebrew Commonwealth from the earliest times to the destruction of Jerusalem A.D. 72, with a continuation to the time of Adrian
Translated from the German

John Jahn


“When Festus became procurator of Judea [A. D. 60] he found it full of robbers who devastated the country with fire and sword.” [Jahn, page 447.]

From this time until the breaking out of the Jewish war in A. D. 66. civil commotions were constantly occurring; scenes of blood filled the whole country with alarm. In Syria and in Galilee—points sufficiently remote from Jerusalem to account for the precise fact—”ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars,” these conflicts of armies were fearful. On one day “almost all the Jews of Cesarea were murdered: their countrymen were highly exasperated; they collected in great numbers, plundered and devastated the villages and cities of the Syrians. Philadelphia, Sebonitis, Gerasa, Pella, and Scythopolis suffered the most severely; Gadara, Hippo, Gaulanitis, Kedosa of the Tyrians, Ptolemais, Gaza, and Cesarea were attacked; Sebaste, Askelon, Anthedon, and Gaza were burnt.” “On this account the Syrians fell upon the Jews who dwelt in their cities; and the whole country presented a scene of confusion and blood. In every city there were hostile armies, and there was no safety for any one but in the strength of the party to which he belonged. At Askelon, Ptolemais, Tyre, Hippo and Gadara, the Jews were involved in one general massacre,” etc. [Jahn 457, and Josephus’ Jewish Wars, Book II, chap. 19.]


When the Romans searched the subterranean vaults, they found more than two thousand dead bodies of those who had slain themselves or died of hunger. They also found many prisoners whom the chiefs had placed there in custody. John, who was suffering with hunger in the vaults, begged mercy of the Romans and was pardoned ; but he was ever after kept in chains. The Romans now set fire to the remaining part of the city and demolished the walls 2 .

Thus was Jerusalem destroyed with its temple in the second year of Vespasian, A. D. 71, according to the common reckoning, but according to Silberschlag, in the year 74. Josephus expressly says, that the ground was levelled, as though no building had ever stood upon it, according to the prediction of our Saviour in Matt. xxiv. 2. Only the western part of the wall, and three of the highest towers, namely, Phasael, Hippicus, and Mariamne, were preserved as a memorial to future generations of the former magnificence of the city, and to serve as a resi- dence for the Roman garrison. The tenth legion was left as a garrison, and the other soldiers were dismissed to their stations, excepting two legions, whom Titus took with him to Ceesarea, whither he conducted his prisoners and booty, because winter was approaching, and it was consequently unsafe to send them away by sea 3 .

The cause of the obstinate resistance of the Jews, was partly an expectation of aid from the oriental or Babylonian Jews to whom they had sent, and partly their reliance on an ancient prophecy, according to which a universal conqueror was to arise in their country about this time. This prophecy, as we have already remarked, was known to the heathen, and is mentioned by Suetonius

and Tacitus. In all probability it originated in a misunderstanding of the passages in Dan. ii. 35. 44, 45; which Josephus (Antiq. X. x. 4. and xi, 7.) intimates that he does not venture to explain, though he partly applies it to Vespasian. From his expression it would seem, that he had some expectations to which he dared not give utterance, for fear of offending the Romans 4 .

The number of captives taken during the whole war was ninety-seven thousand ; but those who perished in the siege and conquest of Jerusalem alone, amounted to one million. This will not appear incredible when it is recollected that Jerusalem was besieged at the feast of the Passover, while the city was filled with pilgrims from all parts of Judaea 6 .

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