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40,"Which devour widows' houses."-On this we copy Lightfoot's remark. "Under the pretence of mighty devotion, but especially under the goodly show of long prayers, they so drew over the minds of devout persons to them, especially of women, and, among them, of the richer widows,-that, by subtle attractives, they either drew out or wrested away, their goods and estates. Nor did they want nets of counterfeit authority, when, from the chair, they pronounced according to their pleasures, of the dowry or estate befalling to a widow, and assumed to themselves the power of determining concerning these things." To something of this kind we may perhaps also attribute the particular anxiety which was manifested to make proselytes of women, and particularly women of wealth and rank. See some examples in the note to the parallel text, Matt. xxiii. 14. Another occurred during the troubles which we stated at the end of the note on Matt. xxiv.; and which will presently again occupy our attention. When the citizens of Damascus heard of the first and unsuccessful campaign of the Romans against the revolted Jews, they determined to destroy all of that nation in the city; but were restrained by fear of their wives, who had all embraced the Jewish rehgion. They therefore kept their design secret, until they found an opportunity of surprising the Jews unarmed and defenceless, when they were slain, to the number of ten thousand.
41. "The treasury."-This does not mean the treasure chamber, where the wealth of the Temple was deposited; but the place where certain chests were set to receive offerings and contributions. There were eleven of these chests standing constantly in the Temple; besides others which also stood there while the "tribute" was collecting, and which were afterwards removed. Each chest had written on it the class of offerings which it was destined to receive, so that every one knew where to cast in what he had to offer. The money was not for alms, as some imagine, but for the various services of the temple. The chests stood in one of the cloistered courts, before the pillars of the cloister, as if, to use Lightfoot's comparison (Prospect of the Temple,' c. xix.), such chests should be set in the quadrangle, before the pillars which bear up the cloister walks in the Royal Exchange, London. The same writer shows that these chests were in the Court of the Women, and placed there that the women might have access to them as well as the men, which could not have been managed had they been placed elsewhere. Jesus appears then to have been sitting in the cloister of this Court (and no one was allowed to sit in the Court of Israel) when his attention was drawn to the people casting their gifts into the treasury.
42. "Two mites, which make a farthing."-The word rendered "farthing" in this place, is different from that so rendered in Matt. x. 29; Luke xii. 6. That is arrúgy, or the Latin as; the present is xedeúvrns, the Latin quadrans, so called from being the fourth part of the preceding, even as our farthing (fourthing) is so called from being the fourth part of a penny. Consequently the present farthing is one-fourth less than that which occurs in the texts referred to above. The value of the as was estimated with reference to the denarius (see the note on Matt. xx. 2), and that of the quadrans with reference to the as, the denarius containing ten asses, and the as four quadrantes. Thus as the denarius, in the time of our Saviour, was equal to sevenpence-halfpenny, the as (or "farthing" of Matt. x. and Luke xxii.) was consequently equivalent to three farthings; and the quadrans (or "farthing" of the present text), being one-fourth thereof, was not equal to our farthing, but answered to about two-fifths of a halfpenny. It should be observed that the os originally weighed a Roman pound (of brass), but its weight gradually declined till it became, apparently, about one ounce and a half in the time of Christ; although it may be rather difficult to determine the precise weight of the os at a particular time. The as, as a pound, was divided into twelve ounces (uncia), and the coin representing the unce as well as all the other coins related to the as-diminished, of course, in the same proportion, although the old denominations were retained. Thus all the brass coins below the as were marked with pellets or globules, to denote the number of (ultimately nominal) unciæ which they contained. Then the uncia itself bore one such globule, the times. Sometimes an open hand, with a strigil, occurs on both sides; while in other examples the obverse bears a star, of Rome, a head of the two faced Janus on one side, and on the other the prow of a ship. The specimens of this, and
that of the quadrans, which we insert, are older and heavier than those which circulated in the time of Christ, but are similar in other respects.
The Romans had no coin, of which, like the "mite" of the text, two were equal to the quadrans; although they had one (the uncia) worth a third of that coin. The "mite" (v) must therefore have been a native coin: and we suppose the reason that the widow did not give the quadrans itself, but two mites that made a quadrans, was, because it was not considered lawful to take such heathen coins to the temple treasury, although they were admitted into the general circulation,
1 Christ foretelleth the destruction of the temple: 9 the persecutions for the Gospel: 10 that the Gospel must be preached to all nations: 14 that great calamities shall happen to the Jews 24 and the manner of his coming to judgment. 32 the hour whereof being known to none, every man is to watch and pray, that we be not found unprovided, when he cometh to each one particularly by
and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
9 But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten and for my sake, for a testimony against them. ye shall be brought before rulers and kings
10 And the Gospel must first be published among all nations.
11 'But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premedi tate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.
12 Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.
13 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
14 But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judæa flee to the mountains:
15 And let him that is on the housetop not go down into the house, neither enter therein, to take any thing out of his house:
1 Matt. 24. 1. 8 Matt. 24. 3. The word in the original importeth the pains of a woman in travail. ♦ Matt, 10. 19.
16 And let him that is in the field not turn back again for to take up his garment.
17 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 18 And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter.
19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.
20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect's sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.
21 And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not:
22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 23 But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things.
24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.
28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:
29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.
30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.
31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
32 But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
33 Take ye heed, watch and pray for ye know not when the time is.
34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
8 Matt. 24 42.
Verse 14. "Ye shall see the abomination of desolation...standing where it ought not.”-We are here to resume the illustrative account, which, under Matth. xxiv., we brought down to the general revolt of the Jewish nation.
When Cestius, the prefect of Syria, was apprised of this revolt, and of the sanguinary commotions which distracted the country, he marched to restore order, having under his command one legion of Roman soldiers, with a number of auxiliaries from the neighbouring kings, attended by king Agrippa. After having, with great bloodshed, restored comparative quiet in the provinces, he advanced upon Jerusalem, at the time when the city was full of people who had arrived to celebrate the feast of tabernacles. Confiding in their numbers, they seized their weapons and rushed out to meet the hostile army when they heard of its approach. So overpowering were their numbers, and so impetuous their assault, that the Romans were obliged to give way, with the loss of 515 men, whereas the Jews lost only twenty-one. This was on the sabbath. After this Agrippa, at the instance of the prefect, sent ambassadors, exhorting the revolters to lay down their arms, and promising forgiveness for what had passed. But, elated by their recent success, they rejected the overture with scorn, and, falling upon the ambassadors, slew one of them and wounded the other. Let it be observed, that all these transactions were strongly in opposition to the wish of the more respectable citizens, who desired nothing more earnestly than peace; for whatever might be their desire for the glory and independence of their nation, they felt assured that, without the special interposition of God, they could not possibly withstand the power of imperial Rome, and that the very attempt was calculated to bring down unheard of calamities upon them. These formed, at the present time, a very powerful body; but the seditious were far more powerful; augmented, as their numbers were at this time, by the concourse from those provinces which had hitherto been far more disturbed than Jerusalem itself.
26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
27 And then shall he send his angels,
Matt. 24. 23.
7 Matt. 24. 29.
Cestius returned to the assault of the city, animated by a desire to wipe out the disgrace which the Roman arms had incurred. He took the two northern quarters of the town, driving the rebels into the inner city and the Temple. The Romans then advanced against the upper town, and spent five days in vainly attempting to gain the walls; nor was their success better, when on the sixth day they assaulted the Temple itself on the north side. Their next step was to form a testudo (see the note on Judges v. 8), under cover of which they undermined the wall, and advanced to set the gates on fire. On this the rebels were seized with a panic, and fled from the city; and the peaceable people joyfully prepared to open their gates to the Romans; when Cestius, being as little aware of the terror of the one party as he was of the friendly disposition of the other, suddenly gave up his undertaking in despair, and withdrew his forces from the city. The spirit of the discouraged revolters revived at his retreat; and they pressed upon him with so much vigour, that the retreat became a flight, attended with great loss. The Romans, constantly harassed in their march, and waylaid in the defiles, sought to facilitate their retreat by burning all their dispensable baggage, and destroying their baggage-cattle, excepting such as were necessary to convey their arms and military engines. In the end they were obliged to abandon even the latter, which were carefully collected by the Jews for future occasions. The Romans lost in this disastrous flight not less than 5300 foot and 380 horse.
The more peaceable inhabitants of Jerusalem lamented this success as a calamity; and anticipating the consequences which must follow, many of them fled from the city, which they began to consider as devoted to destruction. Among these were many Christians, who having seen the "abomination of desolation (the Roman army with its ensigns) standing where it ought not," remembered the injunction of their Lord, that they should then flee to the mountains. This, in short, appears to be the period referred to in verses 14-18 of the present chapter. Those that still remained departed before the avenging army, under Titus, advanced upon Jerusalem; and thus, through our Lord's care for his church, it does not appear that a single Christian partook in that "affliction such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, neither shall be." They retired, for the most part, to Pella beyond Jordan, where they enjoyed comparative peace during all the final horrors of the war.
On their return to Jerusalem, the revolters by argument and compulsion induced the mass of the more peaceably disposed people to join in their rebellion, and proceeded to organize a civil and military government. Eleazar, the son of Simon, by whom the usurping king Mehanem had been slain in the Temple with most of his followers, and who from that time took the leading part in the rebellion, and who had greatly enriched himself from the public treasury and the spoil of the Romans, was, on account of his arbitrary disposition, passed over in the appointments made on this occasion; though he continued to possess very great influence with the people, whom he courted by large gifts, and larger professions and promises. Some of those who now took the direction of affairs were persons who had been anxious to preserve peace; but who now, seeing war inevitable, determined to take an active part in the defence of their country. The civil government of Jerusalem was given to Ananus, the high-priest, and Joseph-ben-Gorion; while five persons, some of them priests, were intrusted with military commands in as many provinces. One of these was Josephus, the renowned historian of the war, to whom was confided the command in Galilee and Gamala. All these employed every exertion to prepare for the fearful struggle which they saw to be approaching.
They had no time to lose: for when the news of the revolt of the Jews, and the defeat of Cestius, arrived at Rome, the emperor (Nero) sent Vespasian into Syria to take the conduct of the war. He arrived early in the year 67 A.D.; and having spent some time in collecting his forces, he found that he had at his disposal 60.000 men, including two legions, which his son Titus had brought from Alexandria, and auxiliary forces from the neighbouring kings.
The Roman general did not immediately march to Jerusalem. His plan was to subdue all the provinces, and the districts that covered the metropolis, reserving the city itself for the final and crowning conquest. Referring to Josephus for a full account of his operations, we proceed to observe, that having well nigh accomplished the first part of his object, the growing troubles of the Roman empire made him very anxious, at the commencement of the year 69, to bring the war to a speedy conclusion. He therefore hastened to complete the work that remained to be done, before leading his army to Jerusalem; and having secured all the region around the city, so as to cut off the communication between it and the provinces, he was about to undertake the siege, when the news of the death of Nero, and the successive intelligence of the revolutions which rapidly followed, induced him to defer his design for a while, till he should learn the ultimate result. He heard first of the accession of Galba, and soon after of his murder: a shorter interval elapsed between the news of the accession and murder of Otho, the succeeding emperor. The ensuing elevation of Vitellius, by the German legions, filled Vespasian and his army with indignation: and the latter held a council, in which they determined to invest their own general with the imperial purple. They did so. This act of the army of Palestine was received with general approbation. The year 70 was chiefly occupied by the new emperor in establishing his authority, by himself and his generals, in Syria, Egypt, and Rome. He was at Alexandria when he received the news that his cause had triumphed at Rome, and that Vitellius had been slain; on which he prepared to embark for Italy, sending his son Titus to Palestine to prosecute the long-suspended siege of Jerusalem. It was now time for those Christians and other peaceable persons who still remained in Jerusalem to escape from the devoted city; and they neglected not to avail themselves of this last opportunity which was offered.
The pause in the operations of the Romans had worked badly for the Jews, as Vespasian had sagaciously foreseen; while the interval of rest had invigorated the Roman soldiers, and enlarged their resources for future action. The increased and murderous rage of factions had, in the meanwhile, weakened the Jews, and diminished their resources ; and such had been its operation, that at this time Jerusalem, "the holy city," had become, in the strong language of Josephus, "the nest of all uncleanness, a horrid den of robbers, and a hateful cave of murderers." The direful abominations and horrors of that place were such, in his opinion, that if the Romans had not been commissioned by God to destroy it, its overthrow might have been expected from some such direct manifestation of the Divine indignation as that which overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
To exhibit clearly the internal condition of Jerusalem, before and after the Roman host moved against it, would occupy more room than we could possibly afford to the whole subject. We may possibly touch on some parts of this instructive matter in separate notes on the parallel passage in St. Luke; being principally anxious at present to confine our notice to the leading external circumstances. We must however here make it distinctly understood that the principal horrors of this war, were produced rather by the more violent parties of the Jews, than by the Romans. Most of the staid and sober-minded men, from the beginning, had strongly condemned the war, and saw that the ruin of the country could not fail to be the result. But the troubled years which had passed, acting upon the old political principles to which we have often had occasion to advert, had united the young, the rash, and the unprincipled into a war party, whose numbers and power could not be opposed. The demoralizing effects of constant war, and an entirely disordered state of society, with the associations formed with the powerful predatory bands which ravaged the country. soon produced a body of men whose depravity, cruelty, avarice, and pride has perhaps not been paralleled in the history of the world. Whatever can be imagined most brutal, hateful, and unnatural, that they were. Yet all this they covered under the profession of zeal for the glory of God. If that zeal had been pure, there had been something that sounded noble in their graver talk; for they alleged that nothing but the dishonour done to God by the submission of his people to the heathen, could have induced them to take up their arms, which they vowed never to lay down, until they had either delivered Israel from the yoke of foreign dominion, or had perished in the attempt. Thence they got the name of "Zealots," by which they are known in the history of the war. These men collected into bands, and wandered about the country, plundering and murdering their countrymen with so much barbarity that they preferred to perish by the sword of the Romans than to fall into the hands of the Jews. Being joined by, or connecting themselves with, other robbers who had hitherto made no profession of a principle, they became the scourge of the land, which trembled at their name. Their sect diffused itself everywhere, and existed in every city and town; so that, as our Saviour had foretold, a man's greatest enemies were often those of his own household. Wherever they were the strongest, the peaceable people sustained unutterable sufferings from them. It was death to be even suspected of a disposition to submit to the Romans; and those in a family who were spared, dared not exhibit any sign of sorrow for their friends who lay slaughtered around them. The mass of these ruffians ultimately resorted to Jerusalem, where they carried on their murders and depredations in the face of day. The people were at first overawed by their violent
measures; but at last, stimulated by Ananus and other chief priests, they took arms against them. Many severe battles were fought in the city, with various success, until the Zealots, by the assistance of the Idumæans, whom they had called to their aid, were enabled to carry all before them. Ananus and the other chief priests were slain; great numbers of the people were massacred, and the principal citizens were thrown into prison by day, and murdered by night, unless they agreed to join the party of the Zealots. The bodies of the slain lay corrupting in the streets. for all were afraid to bury them, lest that act should render them suspected of treason. From that time the Zealots and robbers were the masters of the city, and did whatsoever they would.
After this general statement, we can only further mention that when the Roman army appeared before Jerusalem, three factions-besides the people, who were then reduced to a nearly passive condition-were waging bitter conflicts against each other within the city. The first party was the earliest party of Zealots, whose measures we have mentioned in the preceding paragraph: they had at their head the noted John of Gischala, a brave and sagacious, but unprincipled man, who had acquired a sort of reputation by his vigorous opposition in Galilee to Josephus, on the one hand, and to the Romans on the other. Having been defeated by the latter, he fled to Jerusalem, and soon placed himself at the head of the Zealots, and became, consequently, the master of the city. At this time he was shut up, with six thousand men, in the outer part of the Temple, into which he had been driven, and in which he was kept confined by the second party, at whose head was Simon of Gerasa, a young man still more daring but less subtle than John. This person, having put himself at the head of the assassins and robbers who had taken and retained possession of the strong fortress of Massada, increased his party to a real army, by the promise of freedom to the slaves, and proportionable rewards to the free men who would come over to him. This had the desired effect, and many Jews of distinction, as well as those of inferior rank, were glad to seek protection with him from the violence and cruelties of other parties. With an army of 20,000 men, afterwards swelled to 40,000, he conquered Idumæa, which he laid waste with fire and sword; and, having given this evidence of his power, marched to Jerusalem, in the hope of obtaining the chief direction of the rebellion. After a time he was admitted by the people, who hoped that he would relieve them from the tyranny of John, which they could no longer bear. This was a fatal measure, for although Simon fought against John, and blocked him up in the Temple, the people found that they had only increased the number of their oppressors. Simon thus had possession of the city, as distinguished from the Temple, with a force of ten thousand Zealots and five thousand Idumæans: he was better supplied with arms and provisions than the other parties, but was far more disadvantageously posted for defence. The third party, the smallest and of latest origin, was that of Eleazar, the son of Simon, who has already been mentioned. This person, moved by jealousy of the power which John had acquired, but professing to be displeased at his cruel measures, won over to his interests some of the most powerful men and a part of the Zealots, and withdrew with them into the inner Temple, comprehending chiefly the court of the priests, in which the services of religion were usually performed. This party amounted to no more than 2400 men. His situation was by far the strongest, as the part of the Temple which he occupied stood on higher ground than that in which John was stationed. The latter was thus hemmed in between two powerful adversaries, having Simon in the city, below him, and Eleazar in the Temple, above; and had to carry on a two-fold war against both. Against the latter he could not bring his engines to bear with much effect; yet many priests were slain at the very altar. Eleazar himself remained on the defensive chiefly, subsisting on the stores of the Temple and on the sacrifices and offerings brought to the altar by the people, who were still admitted to the services of the Temple, although the avenues were very carefully guarded to exclude dangerous persons. Simon's party easily obtained sufficient provisions from the town; but John was obliged to maintain himself by plundering the people, which rendered necessary frequent sallies, in which he had to fight with Simon. He set the streets on fire as far as he could penetrate; and Simon, in his turn, after repelling the attacks of John, burnt the houses which stood in his way. Thus all the streets in the neighbourhood of the Temple were laid waste, and provisions were consumed which might have served the inhabitants for several years, averting the horrors of that famine which formed so frightful a circumstance of the ensuing siege.
Such were the factions by which the miserable city was rent when the Romans appeared before its walls. And while the implacable hate with which they regarded one another kept up a constant war within the city--with all the miseries which an internal war never fails to produce-the people were the common prey of all. While they were ruined on the one hand by the excursion of John, Simon ruled them with a rod of iron on the other. All the avenues of escape from this "den of robbers" were now closed: and none dared to complain of his condition, however miserable; for the men who seemed to manifest the slightest marks of discontent, were denounced as friends to the Romans, and, being put to death, their bodies were thrown out into the streets, which were filled with their unburied carcases and those of the men slain in the wolfish conflict of the factions. This condition of Jerusalem was, however, but the beginning of sorrows-but the first outpourings of that vial of Divine indignation the last dregs of which the devoted city was destined to receive.
1 A conspiracy against Christ. 3 Precious ointment
1 Matt. 26. 2.
Matt, 26. 6.
over, and of unleavened bread: and the Chief Priests and the Scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.
2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.
3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of "spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.
4 And there were some that had indigna3 Or, pure nard, or, liquid nard.