Ancient Coins Testify to Prophetic Truth
THE coins that jingle in your pocket or purse may carry little message other than that you can afford to purchase some small item. But certain coins carry a much weightier message.
Shortly before his death, Jesus prophesied that a terrible destruction was coming upon Jerusalem, capital of the unfaithful nation of Israel. (Matthew 23:37–24:2) Jesus said: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains . . . because these are days for meting out justice, that all the things written may be fulfilled.”—Luke 21:20-22.
At that time, the Jews were under the rigid control of mighty Rome. How, then, could Jesus’ prophecy come true? Well, the Jews revolted in 66 C.E. Cestius Gallus led powerful Roman forces against them and even surrounded Jerusalem, as Jesus had foretold. Then, for no apparent reason, the Romans hurriedly withdrew. The rebels rejoiced in a victory that seemed to spell freedom at last. They even struck coins, such as the one seen here. (Numbers 1, 2)
But Christ’s disciples were not deceived. Heeding his warning to ‘flee to the mountains,’ they abandoned their homes in Judea. They fled down to and across the Jordan River, then north to settle in Pella. But was that necessary, since a few years passed and the Jews in Jerusalem remained free? Though those Jews had their own coins, they would soon find no food to buy with them. Why?
Look at the coin illustrated by numbers 3 and 4. You see the head of Roman general Vespasian, who was appointed to take over from Cestius Gallus. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, Vespasian was “to conduct the war in Judaea, which was threatening general commotion throughout the East, owing to a widely spread notion in those parts that from Judaea were to come the future rulers of the world. Vespasian, who had a strong vein of superstition, was made to believe that he was himself to fulfil this expectation.” The historian Josephus vividly recounts the resulting battles. After Vespasian became emperor in 69 C.E., his son Titus carried on the war, even besieging Jerusalem. Starvation and terror plagued those trapped inside. When the city fell, its walls were torn down and its temple destroyed.
What was the human cost to those who had ignored Jesus’ warning? “For half-starved men they defended their stronghold with amazing tenacity, losing over a hundred thousand of their members in the process. Nearly as many again, having been compelled to witness the agonizing sight of the burning, looting, and total destruction of their sacred temple, were taken in slavery, many of them being forced . . . to serve as doomed gladiators or as helpless quarries for wild beasts in the spectacular ‘sports’ which the triumphant Titus staged.”—Coins of Bible Days.
This book explains that in 71 C.E., Vespasian and Titus marched triumphantly through Rome to celebrate this victory. But “more enduring than any parades or festivals were the numerous ‘victory’ coins.” One was this gold coin (Number 5) struck by Vespasian to commemorate the Roman conquest of Judea.
Although many Jews might have scoffed at Jesus’ prophetic statement about the end of the Jewish system, his words came true, as these coins testify. Jesus’ prophecy has a major fulfillment today, pointing to an approaching calamity for the present worldwide system of things. You owe it to yourself to learn what this present-day message is and how you can avoid being a victim of this approaching calamity.
[Box/Pictures on page 31]
1. Obverse: Bronze prutah (or perutah) struck after the First Revolt (66-70 C.E.), showing an amphora (a two-handled vessel). The Hebrew lettering says “Year two,” meaning 67 C.E., the second year of the Jews’ autonomy
2. Reverse: A vine leaf surrounded by the words “Freedom of Zion” or “Deliverance of Zion”
3. Obverse: A bronze sestertius struck by Emperor Vespasian to commemorate the conquest of Judea. The Latin abbreviations around his portrait are IMP[erator] (Emperor) CAES[ar] VESPASIAN[us] AVG[ustus] P[ontifex] M[aximus] (high priest) TR[ibunicia] P[otestate] (holder of the tribune’s power) P[ater] P[atriae] (father of the fatherland) CO[n]S[ul] III (in his third consulship), which dates the coin to 71 C.E.
4. Reverse: On the left is the exultant Emperor Vespasian (or General Titus) in armor, holding a spear and a dagger, his foot resting on a helmet. To the right is a Jewess seated on a breastplate under a date palm; she is in mourning and weeping. The words IVDAEA CAPTA mean “Captive Judea.” This coin was minted S[enatus] C[onsulto], “with the consent of the Senate”
5. Reverse: An aureus (gold coin) by Vespasian depicting Judea in mourning
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.