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informs us, the principal Jews earnestly entreated Vitellius, governor of Syria, when he was conducting his army through Judea against Aretas, king of the Arabians, to lead it another way;* and he greatly obliged them by complying with their request. We farther learn from Josephus, that after the city was taken, the Romans "brought their ensigns into the temple, and placed them over against the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there."+ The Roman army is therefore fitly called 'the abomination' and 'the abomination of desolation,' as it was to desolate and lay waste Jerusalem and this army's besieging Jerusalem is called 'standing where it ought not,' as it is in St. Mark, xiii. 14; or 'standing in the holy place,' as it is in St. Matthew; the city, and such a compass of ground about it, being accounted holy. When therefore the Roman army shall advance to besiege Jerusalem, then let them who are in Judea consult their own safety, and flee into the mountains. This counsel was wisely remembered, and put in practice, by the Christians afterwards. Josephus informs us, that when Cestius Gallus came with his army against Jerusalem, "many fled from the city, as if it would be taken presently :"+ and after his retreat, "many of the noble Jews departed out of the city, as out of a sinking ship:"§ and a few years afterwards, when Vespasian was drawing his forces towards Jerusalem, a great multitude fled from Jericho is rηv ópɛvnv—into the mountainous country, for their security. It is probable that there were some Christians among these, but we learn more certainly from ecclesiastical historians,¶ that at this juncture all who believed in Christ left Jerusalem, and removed to Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan: so that they all marvellously escaped the general shipwreck
• Joseph. Antiq. lib. 18, cap. 6, sect. 3, edit. Hudson.
† Κομισαντες τας σημαιας εἰς το ίερον, και θέμενοι της ἀνατολικης, πυλης άντικρυς, έθυσαν το AUTAS AUTOO. Signis in templum illatis positisque contra portam orientalem, et illis ibi sacrificarunt.-Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. 6, cap. 6, sect. 1, p. 1283, edit. Hudson. [Translated in the text.]
† Ηδη δε πολλοι διέδρασκον ἀπο της πόλεως ὡς ἁλωσομινης αὖτικα. Jamque multi ex civitate diffugiebant, ac si continuo esset expugnanda.-Joseph. de. Bell. Jud. lib. 2, cap. 19, sect. 6, p. 1103. [Translated in the text.]
6 Πολλοι των επιφανον Ιεδαίων, ὥσπερ βαπτιζομενης νεως, ἀπηνηχοντο της πολεως. Νοbilium Judæorum multi, quasi in eo esset navis ut mergeretur, e civitate veluti natando egressi sunt.-Ibid. cap. 20, sect. 1, p. 1105. [Translated in the text.]
Ibid. lib 4, cap. 8, sect. 2, p. 1193, edit. Hudson.
¶ Euseb Eccles. Hist. lib. 3, cap. 5, cum notis Valesii. Epiphanius adversus Nazaræos, lib. 1, tom. 2, sect. 7, vol. 1, edit. Petavii; idem de Mens. et Pond. sect. 15, vol. 2.
of their country, and we do not read any where that so much as one of them perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Of such signal service was this caution of our Saviour to the believers.
He prosecutes the same subject in the following verses, 'Let him which is on the house-top, not come down to take any thing out of his house,'-ver. 17. The houses of the Jews, as well a those of the ancient Greeks and Romans, were flat on the top, for them to walk upon, and had usually stairs on the outside, by which they might ascend and descend without coming into the house.* In the eastern walled cities, these flat-roofed houses usually formed continued terraces from one end of the city to the other, which terraces terminated at the gates. He therefore who is walking and regaling himself upon the house-top, let him not come down to take any thing out of his house; but let him instantly pursue his course along the tops of the houses, and escape out at the citygate as fast as he possibly can. Neither let him which is in the field, return back to take his clothes,'-ver. 18. Our Saviour maketh use of these expressions to intimate, that their flight must be as sudden and hasty as Lot's was out of Sodom. And the Christians escaping just as they did was the more providential, because afterwards all egress out of the city was prevented.†
'And woe unto them that are with child, and unto them that give suck in those days,'-ver. 19. For neither will such persons be in a condition to fly, neither will they be well able to endure the distress and hardships of a siege. This woe was sufficiently fulfilled in the cruel slaughters which were made both of the women and children, and particularly in that grievous famine, which so miserably afflicted Jerusalem during the siege. For, as Josephus reports, "mothers snatched the food from their infants out of their very mouths :"+ and again, in another place, "the houses were full of women and children, who perished by famine." But Josephus still relates a more horrid story; and I make no question that our Saviour, with his spirit of prophecy, had this particular incident in view. There was one Mary, the daughter of Eleazar, illustrious
* See Grotius on the place, and the Miracles of Jesus vindicated by Bishop Pearce, part iv. p. 27, 28.
Joseph de Bell. Jud. lib. 4, cap. 9, sect. 1 et 10, edit. Hudson.
† Μητέρες νηπιων ἐξήρπαζον ἐξ αὐτων ςοματων τας τροφας. ex ipso ore rapiebant.—Ib. lib. 5, cap. 10, sect. 3, p. 1245.
Matres infantibus cibum
[Translated in the text.]
§ Και τα μεν τεγη πεπλήρωτο γυναικων και βρεφων λιλυμένων. Ac tecta quidem plena erant mulieribus et infantibus fame enectis.-Ib. cap. 12, sect. 3, p. 1252. [Translated in the text.]
for her family and riches. She having been stripped and plundered of all her substance and provisions by the soldiers, out of necessity and fury, killed her own sucking child, and, having boiled him, devoured half of him, and, covering up the rest, preserved it for another time.* The soldiers soon came, allured by the smell of victuals, and threatened to kill her immediately, if she would not produce what she had dressed. But she replied that she had reserved a good part for them, and uncovered the relics of her son. Dread and astonishment seized them, and they stood stupified at the sight. But this," said she, "is my own son, and this my work. Eat, for even I have eaten. Be not you more tender than a woman, nor more compassionate than a mother. But if you have a religious abhorrence of my victim, I truly have eaten half, and let the rest remain for me." They went away trembling, fearful to do this one thing; and hardly left this food for the mother. The whole city was struck with horror, says the historian, at this wickedness and they were pronounced blessed, who died before they had heard or seen such great evils. So true also was what our Saviour declared on another occasion, when the women were bewailing and lamenting him, as he was led to execution: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin tc say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us,'-Luke xxiii. 28, 29, 30. Proverbial expressions, to signify their desire of any shelter or refuge; and so very desirous were they of hiding themselves, that some thousands of them crept even into the common sewers, and there miserably perished, or were dragged out to slaughter.+
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath-day,'-ver. 20. Pray that these evils be not further aggravated by the concurrence of other natural and moral evils, such as the inclemencies of the seasons and your own superstitions. Pray that your flight be not in the winter; for the hardness of the season, the badness of the roads, the shortness of the days, will all be great impediments to your flight: neither on the sabbath-day;" that you may not raise the indignation of the Jews by travelling on that day, nor be hindered from doing it by your own superstition. It seemeth to be spoken a good deal in condescension to the Jewish prejudices, a sabbath-day's journey, among the Jews, being but + Ibid. lib. 6, cap. 9, sect. 4.
Ibid. lib. 6, cap. 3, sect. 4.
about a mile. In the parallel place of St. Mark, it is observable, that the evangelist saith only,' And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter,'-xiii. 18, without any mention of the sabbath-day.
As our Saviour cautioned his disciples to fly, when they should see Jerusalem compassed with armies; so it was very providen tially ordered, that Jerusalem should be compassed with armies, and yet that they should have such favourable opportunities of making their escape. In the twelfth year of Nero, Cestius Gallus the president of Syria, came against Jerusalem with a powerful army. "He might," as Josephus affirms, "if he would have assaulted the city, have presently taken it, and thereby have put an end to the war."* But without any just reason, and contrary to the expectation of all, he raised the siege, and departed. Vespasian was deputed in his room, to govern Syria, and to carry on the war against the Jews. This great general, having subdued all the country, prepared to besiege Jerusalem, and invested the city on every side. But the news of Nero's death, and soon afterwards of Galba's, and the disturbances which thereupon ensued in the Roman empire, and the civil wars between Otho and Vitellius, held Vespasian and Titus in suspense; and they thought it unseasonable to engage in a foreign war, while they were anxious for the safety of their own country. By these means the expedition against Jerusalem was deferred for some time; and the city was not actually besieged in form, till after Vespasian was confirmed in the empire, and Titus was sent to command the forces in Judea. These inci dental delays were very opportune for the Christians, and for those who had any thoughts of retreating and providing for their own safety. Afterwards there was hardly any possibility of escaping; for, as cur Saviour said in St. Luke's Gospel, '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,'-xix. 43. Accordingly, the Romans having begirt Jerusalem with their forces, and having made several assaults, without the desired success, Titus resolved to surround the city with a wall; and by the diligence and emulation of the soldiers, animated by the presence, and acting under the continual inspection of the general, this work,
*Josephus de Bell. Jud. lib. 2, cap. 19. Καν εἶπερ ἠθελησε κατ' αὐτην ἐκείνην της ὥραν ἐντος των τειχων βιασασθαι, παρ' αύτίκα την πολιν έσχε, και τον πόλεμον συνέβη κατά Av. Et si eadem illa hora voluisset vi muros perrumpere, e vestigio urbem cepisset, bellumque ab ipso confectum fuisse contigisset.-Sect. 4, p. 1102, edit Hudson [Treaslated in the text.]
↑ Joseph. ibid. lib. 4, cap. 9, sect. 1, 2, &c. Joseph. ibid. lib. 5, cap. 12, sect. I et 2,
which was worthy of months, was, with incredible speed, completed in three days. The wall was of the dimensions of thirty-nine furlongs, and was strengthened with thirteen forts at proper distances: so that, as the historian saith, "all hope of safety was cut off from the Jews, together with all the means of escaping out of the city." No provisions could be carried in, and no person could come out unknown to the enemy. But, to return to St. Matthew.
In the preceding verses, our Saviour had warned his disciples to fly, as soon as ever they saw Jerusalem besieged by the Romans; and now he assigns the reason of his giving them this caution: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be,'-ver. 21. St. Mark expresseth it much in the same manner: For in those lays shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created, unto this time, neither shall be,'-xiii 19. This seemeth to be a proverbial form of expression, as in Exodus, And the locusts were very grievous, before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such,'-x. 14 and again in Joel, A great people and a strong, there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations,'-ii. 2. Of the same kind is that in Daniel, There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time,'-xii. 1: and that in the first book of Maccabees, 'There was great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen amongst them,'-ix. 27. Our Saviour therefore might fitly apply the same manner of speaking upon the present occasion: but he doth not make use of proverbial expressions without a proper meaning, and this may be understood even literally. For indeed all history cannot furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews; rapine and murder, famine and pestilence within; fire and sword, and all the terrors of war without. Our Saviour wept at the foresight of these calamities, and it is almost impossible for persons of any humanity to read the relation of them in Josephus without weeping too. That historian might therefore well say, as he doth in the preface to his history, "Our city, of all those which have been subjected to the Romans, was advanced to the highest felicity, and was thrust down again to the extremest misery: for if the misfortunes of all, from the beginning
* Ινδαίοις δε μετα των ἐξόδων ἀποκοπη πασα σωτηρίας ἐλπις. Judais autem cum egrediendi facultate spes quoque omnis salutis præcisa erat.-Sect. 3, p. 1252, edit. Hudson. [Translated in the text.]