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Masada
      Masada - An Ancient Tragedy
Excavated Remains of Masada

What horrifying tragedy happened to the Jews at Masada? Decades after Jesusí death, Zealots engineered a revolt against Rome. The uprising was brutally stamped out and ended with Jerusalemís destruction in 70 AD. Survivors fled to Masada, a fortress built by Herod near the Dead Sea. Today, the excavated remains of Masada have become a national symbol for all Israelis.

Here 900 Zealots held out until the year 73. Then, the inevitable day came when 15,000 Roman troops breached its walls. Since it was late in the day, the Romans delayed the final attack until dawn. That night the survivors met and voted for suicide, rather than for capture.

"A steep narrow trail called the Snake's Path winds its way to the top. When you reach the barred summit and look Out in the burning bright sunlight, you are overwhelmed by the loneliness of the place. It is a formidable site cut off on all sides by steep valleys. Here 2000 years ago Herod the Great built a powerful fortress and a luxurious palace as a refuge from his enemies. The wall surrounding the mountain top had 37 defense towers. After Herod's death Masada was occupied for 70 years by a Roman garrison. Then in 66 AD came the Great Revolt of the Jewish Zealots. A party of them captured Masada and to this remote place gathered multitudes of refugees, men, women, and children."  - Masada YIGAEL YADIN 

The Unimaginable

Decades after Jesusí death, Zealots engineered a revolt against Rome. The uprising was brutally stamped out and ended with Jerusalemís destruction in 70 AD. Survivors fled to Masada, a fortress built by Herod near the Dead Sea. Today, the excavated remains of Masada have become a national symbol for all Israelis.

Here 900 Zealots held out until the year 73. Then, the inevitable day came when 15,000 Roman troops breached its walls. Since it was late in the day, the Romans delayed the final attack until dawn. That night the survivors met and voted for suicide, rather than for capture.

Summarizing the Horrifying Incident

The survivors drew lots and chose 10 men to slay all the rest. Each man lay down on the ground with his wife and children and embraced them. Together, they awaited the blow from the men chosen to deliver it. When the 10 executioners had, unflinchingly, completed their task, they drew lots again to see who would kill the other 9, and then, take his own life.

At dawn, the Romans poured through the breached walls. Fires burned quietly everywhere. A ghostly stillness hung over the air. Finally, 2 old women and 3 small children came out of hiding to tell the story. The contemporary Jewish historian Josephus concludes his report of Masada with these striking words:

"When the Romans saw the mass of slain, they were unable to take pleasure in the sight, even though the people were their enemies." -Jewish Wars FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS

MASADA1.jpg (4743 bytes)

More Images of Masada

Map of Masada     Aerial Photo     Overlooking the Sea


The Account of Josephus

The Wars of the Jews, Book 7

1. (389) Now as Eleazar was proceeding on in his exhortations, they all cut him off short, and made haste to do the work, as full of an unconquerable ardor of mind, and moved with a demoniacal fury. So they went their ways, as one still endeavoring to be before another, and as thinking that this eagerness would be a demonstration of their courage and good conduct, if they could avoid appearing in the last class; so great was the zeal they were in to slay their wives and children, and themselves also! (390) Nor, indeed, when they came to the work itself, did their courage fail them, as one might imagine it would have done, but they then held fast the same resolution, without wavering, which they had upon the hearing of Eleazar's speech, while yet every one of them still retained the natural passion of love to themselves and their families, because the reasoning they went upon appeared to them to be very just, even with regard to those that were dearest to them; (391) for the husbands tenderly embraced their wives, and took their children into their arms, and gave the longest parting kisses to them, with tears in their eyes.

(392) Yet at the same time did they complete what they had resolved on, as if they had been executed by the hands of strangers, and they had nothing else for their comfort but the necessity they were in of doing this execution to avoid that prospect they had of the miseries they were to suffer from their enemies. (393) Nor was there at length any one of these men found that scrupled to act their part in this terrible execution, but every one of them dispatched his dearest relations. Miserable men indeed were they, whose distress forced them to slay their own wives and children with their own hands, as the lightest of those evils that were before them. (394) So they being not able to bear the grief they were under for what they had done any longer, and esteeming it an injury to those they had slain to live even the shortest space of time after them,-they presently laid all they had in a heap, and set fire to it. (395)

They then chose ten men by lot out of them, to slay all the rest; every one of whom laid himself down by his wife and children on the ground, and threw his arms about them, and they offered their necks to the stroke of those who by lot executed that melancholy office; (396) and when these ten had, without fear, slain them all, they made the same rule for casting lots for themselves, that he whose lot it was should first kill the other nine, and after all, should kill himself. Accordingly, all these had courage sufficient to be no way behind one another in doing or suffering; (397) so, for a conclusion, the nine offered their necks to the executioner, and he who was the last of all took a view of all the other bodies, lest perchance some or other among so many that were slain should want his assistance to be quite dispatched; and when he perceived that they were all slain, he set fire to the palace, and with the great force of his hands ran his sword entirely through himself, and fell down dead near to his own relations. (398) So these people died with this intention, that they would leave not so much as one soul among them all alive to be subject to the Romans.

(399) Yet there was an ancient woman, and another who was of kin to Eleazar, and superior to most women in prudence and learning, with five children, who had concealed themselves in caverns under ground, and had carried water thither for their drink, and were hidden there when the rest were intent upon the slaughter of one another. (400) Those others were nine hundred and sixty in number, the women and children being withal included in that computation. (401) This calamitous slaughter was made on the fifteenth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan].

2. (402) Now for the Romans, they expected that they should be fought in the morning, when accordingly they put on their armor, and laid bridges of planks upon their ladders from their banks, to make an assault upon the fortress, which they did, (403) but saw nobody as an enemy, but a terrible solitude on every side, with a fire within the place as well as a perfect silence So they were at a loss to guess at what had happened. At length they made a shout, as if it had been at a blow given by the battering-ram, to try whether they could bring anyone out that was within; (404) the women heard this noise, and came out of their underground cavern, and informed the Romans what had been done, as it was done, and the second of them clearly described all both what was said and what was done, and the manner of it: (405) yet they did not easily give their attention to such a desperate undertaking, and did not believe it could be as they said; they also attempted to put the fire out, and quickly cutting themselves a way through it, they came within the palace, (406) and so met with the multitude of the slain, but could take no pleasure in the fact, though it were done to their enemies. Nor could they do other than wonder at the courage of their resolution and the immovable contempt of death, which so great a number of them had shown, when they went through with such an action as that was.

From The Works of Josephus,
translated by William Whiston
Hendrickson Publishers, 1987

The Words of Jesus

Jesus made some interesting comments to His disciples concerning the desolation that would befall Jerusalem and her glorious temple.

Matt 24:1-2 "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

The tragedy at Masada and the destruction of Jerusalem was the inevitable outcome that the Jewish leaders and their followers would face for the tragedy of all tragedies when they forced the hand of Pilate to order the crucifixion of their Messiah.

Luke 13:34-35 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! Behold! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' "

This was all foreseen by God, who predetermined that the tragedy of the death of His own Son would result in the glorious triumph in His resurrection and the salvation of mankind. As a result the Church (out-called ones) was born on the feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus' death (Passover). The Church consisting of both Jews and Gentiles would take the place temporarily as God's chosen people until the day comes when the Jewish leaders (nation) would cry out to their Redeemer whom they pierced, and weep over Him and what they had done.

The ancient Jewish prophet Zechariah gave a marvelous prediction of the salvation of the nation of Israel in the last days:

Zech 12:10-11 And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem.."

Masada in Wikipedia

Masada (Hebrew מצדה, pronounced Metzada, from מצודה, metzuda, "fortress") is the name for a site of ancient palaces and fortifications in the South District of Israel on top of an isolated rock plateau, or large mesa, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. After the First Jewish-Roman War (also known as the Great Jewish Revolt) a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of Jewish rebels, who preferred death to surrender. Full Article

The Bible Mentions the Destruction of the Temple and the City of Jerusalem

Matt 24:1-2 "Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

The tragedy at Masada and the destruction of Jerusalem was the inevitable outcome that the Jewish leaders and their followers would face for the tragedy of all tragedies when they forced the hand of Pilate to order the crucifixion of their Messiah.

Luke 13:34-35 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! Behold! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' "

This was all foreseen by God, who predetermined that the tragedy of the death of His own Son would result in the glorious triumph in His resurrection and the salvation of mankind. As a result the Church (out-called ones) was born on the feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus' death (Passover). The Church consisting of both Jews and Gentiles would take the place temporarily as God's chosen people until the day comes when the Jewish leaders (nation) would cry out to their Redeemer whom they pierced*, and weep over Him and what they had done.

* The ancient Jewish prophet Zechariah (520 BC) gave an amazing depiction of Israel in the last days, they are mourning over the death of their firstborn (Messiah) when they see that he was actually their God who was pierced by his own people... Israel:

Zech 12:10-11 And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem.."
 

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