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the followers of Christ took refuge in the mountainous regions beyond Jordan, thus obeying the prophetic warning of their Lord; so that there is nowhere any mention of a single Christian having perished in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem.* But as the Saviour forewarned them, what they were to do they had to do quickly. For as soon as Jerusalem was again encompassed with armies, it was surrounded entirely with a wall, so that, in the words of the historian, "all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews."t
Who the enemy would be, and what the power and fury and universal spread of his desolations, the Saviour foretold by the use of this proverbial expression, "Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together." Prophecy often speaks a great deal in a few words. The carcass was the Jewish nation, given over, as thoroughly corrupt and forsaken of God, to be devoured as by birds of prey. An army is distinguished by its banners. They constitute its characteristic insignia. The banners of the Roman army were surmounted by eagles, emblems of strength, of swiftness, and ferocity. By these the Saviour described it as that which would desolate Jerusalem. Literally, wherever the carcass was, these eagles were gathered. Josephus testifies that all parts of the land participated in the desolations of Jerusalem. The legions of Rome, like flocks
* Lardner, vol. 3, p. 507; Newton, ch. 2, p. 266.
† Wars, b. 5, ch. 12, sec. 2, 3.
Matt. 24: 28.
§ Wars, b. 4, ch. 8, sec. 1.
of birds of prey, flew from city to city, spreading devastation and slaughter wherever they planted their standards. With eagle-swiftness they descended upon the unprepared population; with eagle-strength they triumphed over every opposition; with eaglefierceness they devoured and tore in pieces, sparing neither age nor sex, sending into hopeless slavery the few who escaped the sword. The melancholy record of Jotapata relates that all its population were slain, but infants and women. These were carried into bondage. The rest, forty thousand, were slaughtered. Joppa was demolished; the neighboring villages were destroyed; the whole region was laid waste. Of all the population of Gamala, two women alone escaped. Here, not even infants were spared the sword. Such was the extreme awfulness of the slaughter, that many Jews in preference threw their children, their wives, and themselves, from the hill on which the citadel was built, into the deep abyss below. The number that perished thus was computed at five thousand. These are but a few cases out of the many which illustrate the perfect accomplishment of the prediction before us.*
9. But our Lord foretold not only the enemy by whom Jerusalem would be destroyed, but the means
How minutely were the enemy and his desolations described by Moses as much as one thousand five hundred years before the war. "The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favor to the young: and he shall eat the fruit of thy
by which it would be taken. "The days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side." A trench and a wall or embankment always go together in military operations. Both were certainly intended here. But it was exceedingly improbable that such a measure would be resorted to in the siege of Jerusalem. The nature of the ground, and the great extent of the city, rendered it extremely difficult. It had never been attempted in the previous sieges of the same place. It was not necessary, because, had the Roman general been content to wait a little, the famine and the contending factions within the city would soon have delivered it into his possession. After all, it was contrary to the advice of his chief men, and was adopted only because a more protracted siege would have been less glorious. The higher cause however was, that he was God's instrument unwittingly to fulfil the words of Christ. Titus must confirm the prophetic character of Jesus. By building a wall about Jerusalem, he was to build up the defence of the gospel. The city was therefore literally compassed round, and its inhabitants were kept in on every side by a wall and cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee. And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land; and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land which the Lord thy God hath given thee." Deut. 28: 49-52.
Luke 19: 43.
trench put up by the troops of Titus, and measuring about five miles in circumference. Josephus is very particular in stating precisely the direction of the wall in its whole circuit.*
, 10. "These be the days of vengeance," said the Lord; "for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be." Days of vengeance indeed they were, when all that was written and threatened in Moses and the prophets was fulfilled. As if Josephus had written with the very words of the Saviour in view, he bears record that in his opinion "no other city ever suffered such miseries; nor was there ever a generation more fruitful in wickedness, from the beginning of the world." 66 It appears to me that the misfortunes of all men from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to these of the Jews, are not so considerable." "For in reality it was God who condemned the whole nation, and turned every course that was taken for their preservation to their destruction." It is impossible to describe the truth in this case. "The multitude of those who perished," says our historian, "exceeded all the destructions that man or God ever brought on the world." At the commencement of the siege, immense multitudes having come up from all parts of the country to the feast of the passover, the nation,
+ Wars, etc., b. 5, ch. 10, sec. 5; Preface to Wars, sec. 4; Wars, b. 6, ch. 13, sec. 4; b. 6, ch. 9, sec. 4.
literally, was crowded into Jerusalem; so that the city was supposed to have in it upwards of two million seven hundred thousand souls. The miseries endured by this imprisoned multitude are minutely detailed in the history of the siege. Famine commenced, and numbered its thousands of unburied and loathsome victims. The destroyer raged so widely that the people devoured their shoes and girdles, the soldiers the leather on their shields. Wisps of old straw were turned into food. That which before they could not endure to see, they now consented to eat. United to these desolations were the remorseless cruelties of contending factions. The city was filled with robbers, who divided its population into parties more destructive than all the soldiery of the besiegers. Filled with rage and instigated by hunger, they alike refused to be at peace with each other, or to capitulate to the common enemy. They robbed the temple, slew the priests at the altar, and defiled the sanctuary with a sea of blood. To keep each other from food, they fired storehouses containing provisions for a siege of many years. Whenever any corn appeared, bands of robbers instantly seized it. They searched every house in which they suspected there was food. Parents snatched it from their children, children from the mouths of their parents. There was a lady of high birth and much wealth, who had come from the country, and was kept in Jerusalem by the siege. All her effects, and all the food she had saved for herself and children, had been taken by the prowling bands that continually ranged