27. (a) Was God’s time for Jerusalem’s “great tribulation” to start postponed? (b) Who were the Jewish Christians that were then in peril and that Jehovah wanted to be in a safe place?
27 In the spring and summer of 70 C.E. the predicted “great tribulation” befell Jerusalem, causing much loss of Jewish lives. According to Jesus’ prophecy, God had a fixed time for the “great tribulation” upon Jerusalem. He did not postpone the time for it to begin. Hence he let the called-off attack of Cestius Gallus in 66 C.E. serve as notice for his endangered “chosen ones” to flee. Cestius Gallus could easily have taken Jerusalem in short order, but missed his chance. It was not God’s time. Not all of his “chosen ones” were then in the danger zone. Already there were hundreds of Christian Jews outside the province of Judea, and outside the Roman Empire as well as inside. These were in no danger because of the impending destruction of Jerusalem. Only the Christian Jews inside Judea were in peril. It was these imperiled “chosen ones” whom God purposed to have safely out of Judea and Jerusalem before his fixed time for Jerusalem’s “great tribulation” to start. Why should any of these be destroyed when he executed his vengeance upon unfaithful Jerusalem and Judea? They did not deserve to be destroyed.
28. (a) Who, then, were the Jews whose “flesh” was in danger of not being “saved”? (b) Having all his “chosen ones” safely out of the danger area, what action could Jehovah take toward Judea and Jerusalem?
28 Having by then fled from Jerusalem and Judea, the Jewish Christians were thenceforth in no danger of being hurt by Jerusalem’s “great tribulation.” It was the unbelieving Jews who got bottled up inside the city that then ran the danger of being destroyed. All the Jewish “flesh” inside Jerusalem faced the danger of losing life, if the tribulation went on too long. Such non-Christian Jews had flocked into the city in order to celebrate the Passover festival on Nisan 14, this to be followed by the week-long festival of unleavened bread. It was then that General Titus swooped down with his military “people” against the doomed city. He surrounded it, thus cooping up the rebellious Jews inside. He also had his “people” build around the city a stockade about five miles long, thus to prevent any besieged Jews from escaping. Since Jehovah God had by then had all his “chosen ones” outside the doomed area, he could be speedy in executing his vengeance upon Judea and Jerusalem, thus confining the execution to a short time of intensive destructiveness.
29. How long was the siege of Jerusalem, and what tended to shorten it?
29 The siege of Jerusalem did not last long, only from Nisan 14 to Elul 6 (September 6, Gregorian calendar), or less than six months, and not eighteen months as in the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies in 609-607 B.C.E. There were a number of things* as permitted by Jehovah God that worked together for the shortening of the siege in 70 C.E.
30. (a) Despite its shortness, how disastrous was the siege? (b) What continued to be done to Jerusalem, but to continue until when?
30 Short though the siege was, it was horrible enough, although not being the greatest tribulation that had happened to mankind until that time and could never occur again. The “disgusting thing that causes desolation” did bring about an extermination, according to God’s own decision. The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, reports that 1,100,000 Jews were killed or died. But because of ‘cutting short’ the days of that “great tribulation” upon Jerusalem, some Jewish “flesh” was saved. Josephus reports that 97,000 survived and were taken captive and dragged off into Egypt and other Roman provinces.* The city and its temple were completely destroyed, just as Jesus had foretold.
For example, the building of a wall to enclose the northern suburb of Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa I had been stopped by orders from the suspicious emperor of Rome, Claudius Caesar. After the retreat of the troops of the Roman General Cestius Gallus in 66 C.E. the Jews neglected to prepare for a long siege should the Romans return to resume the siege of Jerusalem. Added to this, when the Romans did return under General Titus, it was suddenly, taking the city’s defenders by surprise. To make matters worse, the defenders fell to fighting among themselves in a civil war. They deserted their strongholds, where, except by famine, they could not have been easily subdued.
When General Titus inspected Jerusalem’s walls after taking the city, he felt moved to attribute his success to God. He said: “We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than God who ejected the Jews out of these fortifications; for what could the hands of men, or any machines, do towards overthrowing these towers?”—Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Book 6, chapter 9, paragraph 1, as translated by William Whiston, M.A.
Josephus estimates the number of those who died in the siege at eleven hundred thousand, not counting in those who were killed at other places in Judea.—See Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Book 6, chapter 9, paragraph 3.