God’s Message goes to All Nations

Unit 8

The Wars Of The *Jews

Enemies Destroy The *Temple

An EasyEnglish Study Unit (2800 word vocabulary) on the New Testament from Acts to Revelation


G. Barrie Wetherill and M. P. H. Stear

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

This commentary has yet to go through Advanced Theological Checking.


1. *Jewish History – The Words of the *Prophets Come True

Moses was going to die. Joshua would be the next leader of the *Jews. He would lead the *Jews into the land that God had promised to them. In Deuteronomy chapters 28-30, we can read something that Moses said. Moses knew what *Jewish history would be in future years. God had a special *covenant with the *Jews. He had promised them many good things if they obeyed him. He would *curse them if they did not obey him.

This is what would happen if the *Jews did not obey God’s *covenant. Other nations would control them. If they continued not to obey, other nations would take them away. They would put them in prison (Deuteronomy 28:36, 37). If the *Jews were sorry, they would have to tell God. Then God would be good to them again (Deuteronomy 30:1-5). If the *Jews still did not obey God, God would scatter them to many countries (Deuteronomy 28:64-67).

Judges, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles are the books in the Bible that tell us the history of the *Jews. The things that Moses said came true. We can read about it in these books. Again and again, the *Jews did not obey God. Then enemies came and ruled over them. At last, the *Jews were sorry. They promised to obey the *Lord again. Then God was good to them again.

The *prophets warned the *Jews about their behaviour. The *Jews did not always listen to the *prophets. At last, in 606 *BC and 586 *BC, the things that the *Lord had promised happened. Armies from the country called Babylon marched in. They destroyed Jerusalem city. They destroyed the *Temple, which Solomon had built. (Everyone in the world at that time thought that the *Temple was very wonderful.) Enemies took the *Jews away as slaves.

Jeremiah was a *prophet. He said that the *Jews would come back after 70 years. This happened in 536 *BC and 516 *BC. Not all the *Jews came back then. Many stayed on in the lands where their enemies had taken them. *Prophets had said that the *Jews would build the *Temple again. They did build it. Haggai was another *prophet and he said this:

Haggai 2:3-9 There may be some people who saw this house before. There may be some people who can remember what a wonderful *Temple it was. You do not think that it is wonderful now! It looks like nothing. But now, ‘Be strong, Zerubbabel’, declares the *LORD. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the *high priest. Be strong, all you people in the land’, declares the *LORD. ‘You must work. I am with you’, declares the *LORD *Almighty. ‘When you came out of Egypt I made a *covenant with you. This is the *covenant. My Spirit remains among you. Do not be afraid.’ This is what the *LORD *Almighty says: ‘Soon I will again shake the sky and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations. People from all nations will come. I will make this house wonderful again’, says the *LORD *Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine’, declares the *LORD *Almighty. ‘This new house will be more wonderful than the former house’, says the *LORD *Almighty. ‘And in this place I will give peace’, declares the *LORD *Almighty.

Part of what Haggai said came true later. Herod the Great had a plan to make many buildings. He wanted to please the people whom he ruled. In 20 *BC, he started these new buildings. This was a very big task. He ordered men to make the *Temple area much bigger. They filled in part of a valley to do this. They made the *Temple bigger and more beautiful. It was one of the most beautiful buildings that men ever built. They did the work fairly quickly. Work continued until about the year AD 64. This was only a few years before the *Roman *general Titus completely destroyed the *Temple. (Men had already been doing this work for about 50 years when Jesus began to teach. See John 2:20.)

One further *prophecy is very important. Daniel spoke about the *Jews in Daniel 9:25-27. He also spoke about Jerusalem and about the *Temple. People discuss this *prophecy very much. Some parts of it are easy to understand. Daniel says that men will build the *Temple again. Then other people will destroy it. They will set up something that is false. At last men will destroy the *Temple and the city. A king of Syria, who was called Antiochus Epiphanes, made this come true. In 167 *BC, the *Jews did not obey his rules. Then he forbade *circumcision, *sacrifices, and other parts of the law of Moses. He set up a *pagan *altar in the *Temple, and offered a pig on it. This made the *Jews very angry. A very brave family called the Maccabees became their leaders. There were many more enemies than there were *Jews, but the *Jews won. They repaired the *Temple and made it a holy place again. They ruled themselves for a time, until at last the Romans marched in. (Then, in AD 70, the Romans destroyed the new *Temple.)

2. The *Prophecy Of Jesus

Now some of the *Jews had returned to their land. They had built the *Temple again. It was time for the *Messiah to come. Jesus was the *Messiah. Jesus showed that he had come as the *Jewish *Messiah. All the things that the *prophets had said about the *Messiah came true with Jesus. However, the *Jews did not believe that Jesus was the *Messiah. They *crucified him. God would certainly *judge them for this. Jesus himself speaks about this on several occasions. On the way to the *cross, he told the women of Jerusalem that they should weep. They should weep for themselves and for Jerusalem, (Luke 23:28). Luke 19 tells us how men destroyed the city and the *Temple.

Luke 19:41-44 Jesus came closer to the city. When he could see it, he wept. He said, ‘Today your people do not know what will bring them peace. Now you cannot see it! The time will come when your enemies will build up an earth wall to attack you. Armies will surround you completely. Your people will not be able to go in or out of the city. The armies will completely destroy you. They will kill all your people. They will not leave even one stone in its place. You did not realise that God had come to *save you. That is why all this will happen.’

Luke 21 says this also.

Luke 21:21-24 Then those people who are in Judea must escape to the hills. The people who are in the city of Jerusalem must leave. The people who are out in the country must not return to the city. Because those are days of punishment. Then all that the *Scriptures say will come true. How terrible it will be in those days for women who are expecting babies and for mothers with little children! Terrible suffering will come upon this land, and God will punish these people. Some *Jews will die in the battle. Other *Jews will go to prison in all countries. The *Gentiles will rule Jerusalem until their time is over.

Jesus says in these passages that enemies would surround Jerusalem. They would take it and destroy it. They would destroy the Second *Temple so completely that no stone would stand on another. However, Jesus did not only say that enemies would destroy the *Temple and Jerusalem. He also said that Daniel’s *prophecy would come true. Men would set up something that is false in the *Temple (Matthew 24:15). The Romans made some of these words come true. They destroyed the *Temple in AD 70. (We should notice that many *commentators believe that more will come true just before the *Second Coming of Christ.)

3. The *Prophecies Come True – What Actually Happened

In AD 37 the *emperor Tiberius died. The next two *emperors were Gaius in AD 37, and Claudius in AD 41. They had plans that were not favourable to the *Jews. Relations between the *Jews and the Romans became worse and worse. They were at war with one another from AD 66-70.

Agrippa was the grandson of Herod the Great. He spent his childhood in Rome with Gaius. In AD 37, 39 and 41, he became king of the *Jews. He was careful to make all the *sacrifices and obey all the traditions of the *Jews. The *Jews were very proud of their nation, and Agrippa supported this. However, when king Agrippa died, procurators ruled. Procurators were *Roman officials. They had to obey the *emperor. When they had a king, the *Jews thought that they had some freedom from Rome. When they had a procurator, they could not think that. Agrippa’s son became king of Galilee only. The procurators were:

Tiberius Alexander

AD 46-48


AD 49-52


AD 52-59

There was not enough food in Israel during the AD 40’s. Groups of desperate men wandered about the country. They had to steal food to stay alive. Men seized many of these people and *crucified them. Cumanus was a poor procurator. The *emperor ordered him to return to Rome. Felix was foolish. He was very fierce, but not wise. The *Roman *historian Tacitus says, ‘Felix practised every kind of cruel act.’ We have evidence of this. Felix hoped that Paul would pay money to be free from prison (Acts 24:26).

In AD 59, Festus became king after Felix. When Festus died there was a period with no king. At that time, the *High Priest ordered men to kill James. (This was not legal.) James had been very popular. Men protested about this to the next procurator, who was Albinus. However, Josephus, who was a *Jewish *historian, says that Albinus was evil. The next procurator, Florus (AD 64-66), was also evil. They both frightened and cheated people. They used soldiers to control people.

The *Jews already had a bad opinion of the *Gentiles because the *Gentiles did not have the *Law. Paul writes about the *Gentiles in Romans chapter 1. Other writers agree with what Paul says. The *Jewish people had a very hard time. Because of this, they loved their nation even more. They also hated the *Gentiles more. Some of the *Jews had very strong feelings about all these things. But other *Jews were more sensible. Those with strong feelings could easily excite the people.

The situation was now dangerous. In AD 66, Florus demanded 17 *talents from the *Temple. The *Jews were extremely angry, and they attacked the Romans. They defeated the *Roman soldiers. They no longer offered daily *sacrifices to the *emperor. The wars of the *Jews had started. Jerusalem was attacking the strong *Roman *Empire.

4. Progress of the War

At first, the *Jews had some important successes. Gallus was a procurator (a *Roman official) in Syria. He marched in with a *legion of soldiers, but the *Jews killed many of them. Gallus had to go back. Nero was now the *emperor. He sent Vespasian with his son, who was called Titus. He told him to defeat the *Jews. By October AD 67, they had defeated the *Jews in Galilee. They took 6000 men to be slaves, and sent them off to build the canal at *Corinth. One of the slaves was a *commander called Josephus. He later wrote a history of the *Jews.

Then the *emperor Nero killed himself. There were three more *emperors who were not important. They ruled for a very short time, The Romans chose Vespasian to be *emperor. He left his son, Titus, to finish off the war in Jerusalem. Titus attacked Jerusalem in the spring of AD 70 with an enormous army. It was the time of *Passover. There were crowds of *Jews who came from many places in the city. Sadly, the *Jews fought one another. They could not agree about what to do. They ended their quarrel only after the Romans attacked them. However, groups of people continued to argue.

The Romans ordered the *Jews to give up. The *Jews paid no attention to this. They laughed at the Romans. Titus then attacked the north part of the city – which was the weakest point. There were three walls there. Titus soon broke down two of them. He had large machines to this. Titus then marched his soldiers outside the walls of the city. He hoped that the city would accept defeat. They did not do this. Josephus was the *commander whom the Romans had caught. They then sent him to talk to the *Jews. He could not persuade them to give in.

The battle now began again. The Romans had a lot of trouble with the *Jews. Every night, the *Jews came out of passages that were under the ground. They damaged anything that the Romans were building. Titus ordered his men to catch the *Jews. They had to kill them. The Romans *crucified about 500 *Jews every day. This only stopped when they had no more wood.

Titus did more. He built a wall of earth right round the city. No one could go in or out. There had not been very much food in Jerusalem. People had been bringing a little food into the city, in secret. The wall of earth stopped this. There was nothing to eat, and people starved. This made them desperate for food. Terrible things happened. People even ate leather belts. At one time, they killed children. They cooked them and ate them. Moses had said that this would happen (Deuteronomy 28:53). Friends attacked each other for little bits of food.

Some *Jews had tried to eat valuable things in order to hide them. As a result, *Roman soldiers took *Jews and cut them up. They wanted to see what they could find inside them. Titus told them to stop this.

The battle was now at the *Temple. Titus wanted to save it. People from all over the world knew about the *Temple. However, when he called to the *Jews to stop fighting, they refused. They fought on with determination. Someone started a fire, to destroy the *Temple gates. Then Titus ordered men to put out the fire. He really did want to save the *Temple.

The *Jews had suffered very much, but so had the *Roman soldiers. In the rush of battle, one soldier threw a burning torch into the *Temple buildings. A fire started. Titus ordered men to put out the fire, but it was not possible. They saved and carried away some things from the *Temple. They took the special gold *candlestick which could hold seven candles. They took the table which held the special *offering of bread. Later, they showed these things to people in Rome. We can see a picture of them on a *monument in Rome. This gave honour to Titus for his defeat of the *Jews. But the *Temple itself burned down. Fire melted the gold which had covered the *Temple. The gold was over the stones. Men separated the stones to reach the gold. The Romans then put up their flags over where the *Temple had been. They *sacrificed in front of the flags.

Titus then ordered them to destroy the whole city and the *Temple completely. They did not leave two stones one on the other. Titus had tried very hard to save the city and especially the *Temple. However, what Christ had said came true in every word. Hundreds of thousands of *Jews died. If at any time the *Jews had accepted defeat, they would have saved the city and the *Temple. They would have saved many lives.

In AD 132, a small number of *Jews remained in the city. They tried to fight against the Romans again. The Romans were very severe and strong. The *Jews could not succeed. The Romans built a *temple of *Jupiter where the *Temple had been. They sold the *Jews as slaves. They did not allow the *Jews to stay in Israel. From that day, the *Jews wandered through the world. Often they had great fear that enemies would kill them. Moses had said that this would happen (Deuteronomy 28:64-67).

The *Jews had not accepted their *Messiah. Now God did not protect them, God *judged them. We should note this. One day God will judge every one who did terrible things at this time. God often used nations who did not know him. He used them to punish other nations. But he will *judge everyone one day, because of what they have done.

Here is one final thought. The *historians, Tacitus and Josephus, inform us about most of these things. They were writing when the Romans ruled the country. It should not surprise us that they speak well about the Romans. Certainly, after the Romans caught Josephus, he saw the war from the *Roman side. Another *historian wrote in about AD 400. He said that Titus thought that they should destroy the *Temple. Then both the *Jewish and the Christian religions would end completely. After such a long time, it is difficult to know the truth. But most of this part of the story seems to be true.

We might ask about the many Christians who were in Judea at this time. There is a strong tradition that they remembered Jesus’ words (Luke 21:20-24). He warned them about difficult times. They escaped to Pella in Peraea. This is now part of Jordan. The *Lord did protect his people at this terrible time. After this time, Christians could not enter a *synagogue. However, there was still a church in Judea after the war of AD 66-70.

5. Why God Destroyed The *Temple

To find out the reason, we should read the letter to the Hebrews. It tells us clearly the reason. To understand the answer well, we must know a little about the *Temple.

The *Temple area was an *oblong area, inside a wall. No one who was not a *Jew could enter it. Just inside was the *Altar of *Sacrifice. *Priests offered *sacrifices for *sin on the *altar, one after the other. In the area was the *Temple building. It had two rooms. The *Jews called the outer room the *Holy Place. In it was a table for *consecrated bread. There were also *lampstands. When priests were on duty, they went into this room every day.

Inside the outer room was another room. The *Jews called it the *Holy of Holies. It was the most *holy part of the *Temple. In this room was a box with gold all over it. They called this box the *Ark of the Covenant. This helped the *Jews to remember God. He had promised to be with them always. The *Ark of the Covenant meant that God was with them now. There was also an *altar of *incense in that room. Only the *High Priest went into this room. He went only once a year. First he had to offer *sacrifices for himself and for the people. This showed that the way to speak to God was not yet for everyone.

The first *covenant was good, but it was not perfect. It only prepared the people for the greater *covenant that was to follow. This new *covenant would last for ever. The blood of animals could never be a perfect *sacrifice for *sin. Hebrews 10:4 tells us this. There are similar references in the *Old Testament. The priests were human. They could understand people who did wrong things. However, they had to offer *sacrifices for their own *sins, as well as for the people. Also, the first *covenant had no power. It gave the law, but it did not give the power to obey it. The *prophets said that there would be a new *covenant. God had promised this. When Jesus died, he finished the old *covenant. His death was the only perfect *sacrifice for *sin for all time. God would accept this perfect *sacrifice for *sin. God would put his laws in our minds. When we obey Jesus, he helps us to please God.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 ‘The time is coming’, declares the *LORD, ‘when I will make a new *covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the *covenant which I made with their *forefathers. Then I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt. They broke my *covenant, although I was like a husband’, declares the *LORD. ‘This is the *covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time’, declares the *LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds. I will write it inside them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. People will not have to teach their neighbours and relatives to know the *LORD. They will all know me, everyone of them’, declares the *LORD, ‘because I will *forgive their *sins. I will not remember their *sins any more.’

The *prophets also spoke about the work of the *Holy Spirit in our lives. In the letter to the Hebrews, the Writer says that Jesus is the Son of God. He is the perfect *sacrifice for *sin because he did not do anything wrong. He is also our great *High Priest. He gave himself on the *cross. Because of that *sacrifice, all who trust in Jesus can now reach God. They can be in *heaven, with God, for ever. When Jesus died on the *cross, something wonderful happened. In the *Temple, there was a curtain which separated the outer room from the *Holy of Holies. When Jesus died, the curtain tore in two, from top to *bottom.

Hebrews 9:11-14 Christ came as *high priest of the good things that are already here. He did not enter the tent for *worship that men have made. He went directly through the more perfect tent, which no one has made. He did not enter because of the blood of animals. He entered the Most Holy Place once and only once because of his own blood. He obtained *redemption that lasts for ever. He obtained it for us. Men throw the blood of animals and the ashes of a young cow on those who have done wrong. They think that they are dirty inside. [Here, dirty means bad.] They think that this will make them clean again. [Here, clean means good.] How much more, then, will the blood of Christ make us good! He, by the *Holy Spirit, offered himself to God. He was perfect. He was the perfect *sacrifice. He can clean our lives from anything that would take us away from God. He can make us able to serve the God who is alive!

In the one *sacrifice of Christ on the *cross, we have one perfect *offering for *sin for all time. The *sacrifice was perfect. Therefore, it never needs to happen again (Hebrews 7:26-28; 9:27, 28; 10:11-13). Hebrews also tells us that after this *sacrifice, there is no longer any *sacrifice for *sin (Hebrews 10:18). The first *covenant and its *sacrifices were like shadows of what Jesus would do. Now that Jesus has made the perfect *sacrifice, the first *covenant is out of date (Hebrews 8:13).

Jesus was God, and the perfect *sacrifice for *sin. He was also human. *Temptations and tests came to him, as they do to us. For this reason, he is able to give us his *grace and help (Hebrews 4:14-16).

6. Final Thoughts

All of this is an important lesson to us all. The end of Jerusalem and the *Temple shows that God does punish *sin. The Bible warns us about this many times. We must pay attention. God delays his punishments, but in the end, it happens. The *Jews did not accept their *Messiah. They suffered for this. This should warn us. The end of Jerusalem and the *Temple warns us that God’s *judgement is real. It makes us think about his final *judgement. It will be completely fair. God cares for us. He delays his final *judgement to give people time. They need time to come to *repentance and *faith in Jesus Christ. Today God offers to forgive us completely for our *sins. Christ can take us right to God. The *Holy Spirit can give us power to live a new life. We end with some more words from Hebrews: ‘We should not think that we shall escape if we neglect so great a *salvation’ (Hebrews 2:3).

Word List

almighty ~ very, very powerful; the most powerful.

altar ~ a table, usually of stone, where the priests gave gifts to God.

altar of incense ~ a special table to burn sweet smelling things to please God.

altar of sacrifice ~ a special table for *offerings that the *Jews made to God.

Ark of the Covenant ~ a special box, which had the two large stones with God’s Law that God gave to Moses.

BC ~  a date before Jesus was born.

bottom ~ the lowest part.

candlestick ~ a candlestick can hold candles.

circumcision ~ an *Old Testament act that showed that a person agreed to keep God’s laws.

commander ~ a man in charge of a group of soldiers.

commentators ~ wise men, Bible students, who give their opinion about something.

consecrated ~ set aside as a gift to God.

Corinth ~ the capital city of Achia, the south part of modern Greece.

covenant ~ when two people make an agreement, or when God and a person or people make an agreement.

cross ~ two pieces of wood fixed together. Jesus died on a cross, and so the cross is now the sign of the church.

crucified ~ killed, on a cross. Men made a large wooden cross and fastened a person to it with nails. He had to hang there until he died.

curse ~ wish evil upon someone.

emperor ~ a very important king, who rules over many lands.

empire ~ a group of countries that are under the control of a single authority.

faith ~ belief and confidence in someone or something; trust in God and in his Bible.

forefathers ~ the people who have lived before, in a family.

forgive ~ not to remember bad things that someone has done.

forgiveness ~ when God or a person chooses not to remember bad things that someone has done.

general ~ an officer, who commands other soldiers.

Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews; people who do not know God.

grace ~ a gift of God that we do not deserve and cannot earn; his help and protection.

Heaven ~ the place where God and Christ are.

high priest ~ the most important priest in the *Jewish *temple.

historian ~ a person who studies what has happened in the past.

holy ~ perfect, completely good.

Holy Spirit ~ God’s Spirit, sent by God to help people.

incense ~ something that gives a sweet smell when it burns.

Jew ~ a person from the same big family and country as Jesus.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.

Judea ~ the part of Israel where the city of Jerusalem was.

judge ~ decide if what a person does is good or bad.

judgement ~ the decision about whether something or someone is good or bad.

Jupiter ~ the name of a *Roman god.

lampstands ~ these hold lamps.

Law ~ God’s rules for the way that he wants people to live.

legion ~ a company of *Roman soldiers, 3000 to 6000 in number.

Lord ~ the name for God or Jesus in the Bible, it means that he is above all other things; a name that we use for Jesus; we use it when we obey him; someone with authority.

LORD ~ the special name that God gave for himself to the *Jews in the *Old Testament.

Messiah ~ the name God that chose for Jesus Christ; he saves people from God’s anger and puts them right with God.

monument ~ a piece of work by an artist, usually made out of stone.

oblong ~ shaped like a square, with four sides, but with two long sides and two short sides.

offering ~ gifts for God, to show men’s love for him.

Old Testament ~ the part of the Bible that tells about the time before Jesus came.

pagan ~ someone who loves a god or gods, and not the God of the Bible.

Passover ~ a holy day for the *Jews. They remembered the time when God freed them from being slaves in Egypt at the time of Moses. They met in the *Temple at Passover, and then had a special meal together.

pregnant ~ about to have a baby.

priest ~ a man that gave gifts and burned animals as a *sacrifice.

prophecy ~ words that a prophet speaks, which tell people what God wants.

prophets ~ people who can tell other people what God wants.

redemption ~ what Christ has done for us. He gave his life so that God can forgive us for the bad things that we have done. It is like when someone pays the price for a criminal to go free; Jesus helps us to go free.

repentance ~ you are sorry that you have done wrong things; you trust God to help you.

Roman ~ Rome was the capital city of the rulers at that time. That which belonged to Rome was Roman.

sacrifice ~ give special gifts to God.

sacrifices ~ special gifts to God.

salvation ~ when God saves us from the results of our wrong beliefs and actions.

save ~ free a person from the results of wrong beliefs and actions.

Scriptures ~ another name for the Bible or the *Old Testament.

Second Coming ~ the time when Jesus Christ will come back to the world, as he has promised.

sin ~ when people do not do what God wants; wrong things that we do or say.

Spirit ~ God’s Spirit, sent by God to help people.

synagogue ~ a building where *Jews taught about God; they also sang and prayed to him there.

talent ~ a coin, worth a lot of money.

Temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews went to praise God.

temptation ~ desire to do something that we should not do.

worship ~ to praise God, to sing and pray to him.

Book List

Craig Keener ~ Bible Background *Commentary NT ~ IVP

B. M. Newman and E. A. Nida ~ A Translators Handbook on The Acts of The *Apostles ~ UBS

F. F. Bruce ~ The Book of The Acts ~ MMS

Donald Grey Barnhouse ~ Acts – An expositional commentary ~ Zondervan

In the Footsteps of Paul ~ CWR (Daily Bible Readings 1988)

I. Howard Marshall ~ Acts ~ Tyndale

Campbell Morgan ~ Acts of the *Apostles ~ Pickering and Inglis

Paul Barnett ~ ‘Bethlehem to Patmos’ ~ Biblical Classics Series ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-874-3

Werner Keller ~ ‘The Bible as History’ ~ Hodder and Stoughton

F. F. Bruce ~ ‘Israel and the Nations’ ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-762-3

Also: Personal notes and material from many other sources


© 1999-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

July 2003

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