A lesson from the First Jewish Revolt

The Danger in Division

A lesson from the First Jewish Revolt


Many know the history of the First Jewish-Roman War (C.E. 66–73). In it, Roman forces destroyed towns and cities across Judea, killed and displaced thousands of Jews, and devastated Jerusalem, including the temple.

Less well-known, however, are the conditions in Judea before the war. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian who witnessed this tragedy, wrote that the Jews "turned their hands one against another." Divided families, towns and communities were in conflict. Civil wars broke out in towns and villages from Galilee to Jerusalem to Idumea.

What was the main source of this division? Rome. After more than 60 years of being ruled by the Romans, a strong contingent of Jews began pushing for independence, by armed rebellion if necessary. But many others, especially in Jerusalem, wanted to remain subservient. Josephus wrote that disagreement over this issue became so sharp it split apart families. "There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous for peace. At the first this quarrelsome temper caught hold of private families, who could not agree among themselves; after which those people that were the dearest to one another brake through all restraints with regard to each other …." (The Wars of the Jews, 4.3.2.)


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