Your Kingdom Come! - 17

Last time we saw how the kingdom of David was afterwards ruled by his descendants from Jerusalem for the next 383 years. This was when the last king, Zedekiah, was deposed by the Babylonians who overthrew the kingdom of Israel. Not long before this occurred, God sent the following message by the prophet to Zedekiah,

“Now to you, O profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose iniquity shall end, 26 thus says the Lord God: 'Remove the turban’ - the high priest’s headdress, ‘and take off the crown’ - the king’s headdress; ‘nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the lowly, and abase the exalted. 27 Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him - Ezekiel 21:25-27.

The Babylonians then burned the magnificent temple which Solomon had built, also the king's palace, with all the houses of the prominent men, and then broke down the walls of Jerusalem. Of the people who had not been killed, some were deported to Babylonia and some of the poorer folk left to cultivate the vineyards and fields - 2 Kings 25.

Immediately upon conquering the Babylonians, in 538 BC, Cyrus king of Persia issued a decree for the return of the deportees to Judea and rebuilding the Temple. In 457 BC the Persian emperor Artaxerxes issued his decree for Jerusalem to be restored as separate Jewish polity under the law of Moses - in the first fulfilment of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy in Daniel 9:24.

From that time on Judea was administered by a religious legislative body, later called the Sanhedrin, with certain political and judicial functions under the law of Moses, but always subject to the current empire - first of Medo-Persia, then of the Greeks and finally of the Romans.

Jesus made his appearance to Israel at a time when there was a general expectation that Messiah (Christ) would come to deliver the nation from their subjugation under the Romans - Luke 3:15. When Jesus was crucified, which the Jews could not accept would happen to the Messiah, many continued to await the appearance of the of the Messiah which they were hoping for.

In AD 65 an organized rebellion had broken out in Judea against the Romans, and a civil war in which the Zealots, gaining the upper hand, seized control of the city and temple. The Zealots kept up the Messianic expectations of the people who had rejected Jesus of Nazareth. Sightings of comets, meteors, and other awe-inspiring events were interpreted as signs of the coming of the Messiah. While Jesus had refused to be made king by the people - John 6:15, the Messiah that the Zealots were confidently expecting would soon cast off the Roman yoke, and they anticipated Messiah’s early ascent to the throne of David over a triumphant Israel.

In April AD 70 the Romans besieged Jerusalem. Repeated efforts by Titus, with the appeals of a Jewish priest Josephus for a peaceful surrender, were met with attacks costing the lives of many Roman soldiers. Josephus records that Titus intended to save the temple. But that his own soldiers, enraged by the stubborn resistance of the Zealots, set the structure on fire.

Even as the fire spread, the defenders still clung to their messianic hope, placing all confidence in a false prophet - Matthew 24:11, 24 - who said that the fire would bring the final rescue of Israel from the Romans. But it ended in the destruction of the temple on August 10, AD 70, the death of 1⅓ million Jews and more than 100,000 taken as prisoners of war.