Home>Matthew 24:16 Study Archive

Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.


New Testament Greek:
Matthew 24:16


Flavius Josephus (A.D. 75)
“It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world.” (Wars, II, XIX, 6,7)


“HAVING spoken of the ills that were to overtake the city, and of the trials of the apostles, and that they should remain unsubdued, and should overrun the whole world, He mentions again the Jews’ calamities, showing that when the one should be glorious, having taught the whole world, the others should be in calamity.

“And see how He relates the war, by the things that seem to be small setting forth how intolerable it was to be. For, “Then,”saith He, “let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.” Then, When? When these things should be, “when the abomination of desolation should stand in the holy place.” Whence He seems to me to be speaking of the armies.”

“Seest thou that His discourse is addressed to the Jews, and that He is speaking of the ills that should overtake them? For the apostles surely were not to keep the Sabbath day, neither to be there, when Vespasian did those things. For indeed the most part of them were already departed this life. And if any was left, he was dwelling then in other parts of the world.”

“And let not any man suppose this to have been spoken hyperbolically; but let him study the writings of Josephus, and learn the truth of the sayings. For neither can any one say, that the man being a believer, in order to establish Christ’s words, hath exaggerated the tragical history. For indeed He was both a Jew, and a determined Jew, and very zealous, and among them that lived after Christ’s coming.”

What then saith this man? That those terrors surpassed all tragedy, and that no such had ever overtaken the nation. For so great was the famine, that the very mothers fought about the devouring of their children, and that there were wars about this; and he saith that many when they were dead had their bellies ripped up.

I should therefore be glad to inquire of the Jews. Whence came there thus upon them wrath from God intolerable, and more sore than all that had befallen aforetime, not in Judaea only, but in any part of the world? Is it not quite clear, that it was for the deed of the cross, and for this rejection? All would say it, and with all and before all the truth of the facts itself.” (Homily 76)


Albert Barnes (1832)
“It is said that there is reason to believe that not one Christian perished in the destruction of that city, God having in various ways secured their escape, so that they fled to Pella, where they dwelt when the city was destroyed.” (in loc.)

William Whiston (1737)
“There may another very important, and very providential, reason be here assigned for this strange and foolish retreat of Cestius; which, if Josephus had been now a Christian, he might probably have taken notice of also; and that is, the affording the Jewish Christians in the city an opportunity of calling to mind the prediction and caution given them by Christ about thirty-three years and a half before, that “when they should see the abomination of desolation” [the idolatrous Roman armies, with the images of their idols in their ensigns, ready to lay Jerusalem desolate] “stand where it ought not;” or, “in the holy place;” or, “when they should see Jerusalem any one instance of a more unpolitic, but more providential, compassed with armies;” they should then “flee to the mound conduct than this retreat of Cestius visible during this whole rains.” By complying with which those Jewish Christians fled the siege of Jerusalem; which yet was providentially such a “great to the mountains of Perea, and escaped this destruction. See tribulation, as had not been from the beginning of the world to that time; no, Lit. Accompl. of Proph. p. 69, 70. Nor was there, perhaps, nor ever should be.”–Ibid. p. 70, 71.” (Wars, II, XIX, 6,7)


Adam Clarke (1837)
“Verse 16. Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains— This counsel was remembered and wisely followed by the Christians afterwards. Eusebius and Epiphanius say, that at this juncture, after Cestius Gallus had raised the siege, and Vespasian was approaching with his army, all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem and fled to Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan; and so they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their country: not one of them perished. See on Matthew 24:13.” (Commentary On Matthew 24)

Gary DeMar (1996)
“The tribulation period cannot be global because all one has to do to escape is flee to the mountains.  Notice that Jesus says “let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt 24:16).  Judea is not the world; it’s not even the nation of Israel!” (ibid., p. 121)

Henry Hammond (1659)
“How exactly the several passages of story in Josephus agree with these predictions will easily be discerned by comparing them, particularly that which belongs to this place of their flying to the mountains, &c. For when Gallus besieged Jerusalem, and without any visible cause, on a sudden raised the siege, what an act of God’s special providence was this, thus to order it, that the believers of Christian Jews being warned by this siege, and let loose (set at liberty again) might fly to the mountains, that is, get out of Judea to some other place! Which that they did accordingly appears by this, that when Titus came some months after and besieged the city, there was not one Christian remaining in it” (H. Hammond, vol. 3, p. 160).

John Gill (1949)
“…it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made, and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over to Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city . . ” (John Gill, on Matthew 24:16).

George Peter Holford
“And it is with reason supposed, that on this occasion many of the Christians, or converted Jews, who dwelt there, recollecting the warnings or their divine Master, retired to Pella, a place beyond Jordan, situated in a mountainous country, whither (according to Eusebius, who resided near the spot) they came from Jerusalem, and settled, before the war (under Vespasian) began. Other providential opportunities for escaping afterwards occured, of which, it is probable, those who were now left behind availed themselves ; for it is a striking act, and such as cannot be contemplated by the pious mind without sentiments of devout admiration, that history does not record that even one CHRISTIAN perished in the siege of Jerusalem.” (The Destruction of Jerusalem)

Marcellus Kik
 “Many commentators cannot see how this was fulfilled before the year 70 A. D. Yet the New Testament itself reveals that this prophecy was fulfilled, and for those who regard the New Testament as authoritative, this should be convincing enough.” (ibid.,p. 99)

Nathaniel Lardner (1764)
“But the faithful followers of Jesus, were steadie to their profession, and attended to his predictions concerning coming calamities, and observed the signs of their near approach, escaped, and obtained safety, with only the lesser difficulties of a flight, which was necessarie in the time of a general calamitie.” (Truth of Christian Religion, p. 76).

Ernest Renan (1873)
‘And the serpent cast out of his mouth after the woman (the Church of Jerusalem) water as a river, that he might cause her to be carried away by the stream. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the river which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman: (Revelation 12:15-17).

“Perhaps the Zelotes tried to drive the holy band into the Jordan, and the latter succeeded in crossing the river at a place where the water was shallow; it may be that the troop sent in pursuit went astray, and thus lost the traces of those whom it was chasing.

“The place selected by the heads of the community to serve as the principal asylum for the fugitive Church was Pella, one of the towns of Decapolis, situated near the left bank of the Jordan in an admirable position, overlooking on one side the whole plain of Ghor, and having on the other precipitous cliffs, at the foot of which runs a torrent. No wiser choice could have been made. Judaea, Idumaea, Peraea, and Galilee were in insurrection; Samaria and the coast were in a very unsettled state owing to the war. Thus Scythopolis and Pella were the nearest neutral cities to Jerusalem. Pella, by its position beyond the Jordan, must have offered much more tranquillity than Scythopolis, which had become one of the Roman strongholds. Pella was a free city like the other towns of Decapolis, but apparently it had given allegiance to Agrippa 11. To take refuge there was openly to avow horror of the revolt. The importance of the town dated from the Macedonian conquest. A colony of Alexander’s veterans had taken up their quarters there, and changed the Semitic name of the place into another, which recalled their native land to the old soldiers. Pella was captured by Alexander Jannaeus, and the Greek inhabitants, who refused to be circumcised, suffered much from Jewish fanaticism. The pagan population doubtless took new root, for, in the massacres of 66, Pella was considered a Syrian town, and was once more sacked by the Jews. It was in this anti-Jewish town that the Church of Jerusalem found refuge during the horrors of the seige. Here it was at ease, and looked on its tranquil abode as a sure place, a desert prepared by God, where, far from man’s tumultuous strife, the hour of the coming of Jesus might be awaited in peace. The community lived on their savings; it was believed that God himself took it upon him to feed them, and many saw in such a lot, so different from that of the Jews, a miracle predicted by the prophets. No doubt the Galilean Christians had for their part betaken themselves to the east of the Jordan and the lake into Batanaea and Gaulonitis. The territories of Agrippa 11, thus formed an adoptive country for the JudeoChristians of Palestine.” (Renan, pp. 150-152).

Foy Wallace (1966)
“It is a remarkable but historical fact that Cestius Gallus, the Roman general, for some unknown reason, retired when they first marched against the city, suspended the siege, ceased the attack and withdrew his armies for an interval of time after the Romans had occupied the temple, thus giving every believing Jew the opportunity to obey the Lord’s instruction to flee the city. Josephus the eyewitness, himself an unbeliever, chronicles this fact, and admitted his inability to account for the cessation of the fighting at this time, after a siege had begun. Can we account for it? We can. The Lord was fighting against Jerusalem Zechariah 14:2: ‘For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city: The Lord was besieging that city. God was bringing these things to pass against the Jewish state and nation. Therefore, the opportunity was offered for the disciples to escape the siege, as Jesus had forewarned, and the disciples took it. So said Daniel; so said Jesus; so said Luke, so said Josephus” (The Book of Revelation, p. 352).


David W. Burcot
Most Jews living in the first century never faced the issue of participation in war because there was no national Jewish army and the Romans prohibited Jews from serving in the Roman army. So about the only occasion that most would have had to engage in war was during the Jewish revolt against the Romans, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. However, history does testify that Jewish Christians did not take part in that uprising; rather they fled from Jerusalem at their first opportunity.” (Early Christian View of War)

James Farqhuarson (1838)
“The prediction of the prophet then, in this latter part of the first verse, was fulfilled in that part of Daniel’s people who, obeying the call of the Saviour to faith in Him, and repentance and new obedience, obtained through His blood eternal redemption. Although the Jewish rulers and the greater part. of the nation would not have Him to be their King, but delivered Him up to the Gentiles, yet says Paul, ‘God hath not east away His people which He foreknew,’ but, as in the days of Elias He reserved to Himself seven thousand men who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, even so now, ‘at this present time also, there is a remnant according to the election of grace’ (#Ro 11:2-5). Within a short time after Christ’s ascension this ‘remnant’ amounted to several thousands (#Ac 2:41, 4:4); and afterwards ‘believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women’ (#Ac 5:14). These were at that time ‘delivered.’ * * * But there was added to the eternal deliverance they thus obtained a temporal deliverance also, in that ‘time of trouble,’ ‘during which their unbelieving countrymen perished by sword and famine. For He in Whom they believed had taught them the signs that should precede the approaching calamities, and had warned them to escape from them by a timely flight (#Mt 24:15, 16). Of His warnings they availed themselves. We learn from ecclesiastical histories,’ says Bishop Newton, ‘that at this juncture (the approach of the siege of Jerusalem) all who believed in Christ departed from Jerusalem, and removed to Pella and other places beyond the river Jordan; so that they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck of their countrymen; and we do not read anywhere that so much as one of them perished in the destruction of Jerusalem.’ Thus, in every sense, ‘at that time Daniel’s people were delivered, all who were found written in the book.” (Daniel’s Last Vision and Prophecy)

Hugh Smith’s History
“Under the reign of Vespasian, Rome declared war against the Jews because of their repeated revolts, and General Titus besieged the city of Jerusalem 70 A.D. It is said that eleven hundred thousand [i.e. one million, one hundred thousand] Jews perished in the six month siege, but the church there escaped the horrors of the siege by following the instruction of Christ in Matthew 24, and fleeing to the mountains beyond the Jordan. This timely retreat was made to the small town of Pella.”

C.H. Spurgeon
“The Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages, “in Judea “, availed themselves of the first opportunity for eluding the Roman armies, and fled to the mountain city of Pella, in Perea, where they were preserved from the general destruction which overthrew the Jews. There was no time to spare before the final investment of the guilty city; the man “on the house-top” could “not come down to take anything out of his house”, and the man “in the field” could not “return back, to take his clothes.” They must flee to the mountains in the greatest haste the moment that they saw “Jerusalem compassed with armies “(Luke 21:20).”

“In the fall of Jerusalem, few if any Christians perished. From the prophetic utterances of Christ, the Christians received warning, escaped from the doomed city, and found refuge at Pella,”