First Jewish Revolt, (ad 66–70), Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in Judaea. The First Jewish Revolt was the result of a long series of clashes in which small groups of Jews offered sporadic resistance to the Romans, who in turn responded with severe countermeasures.
In the fall of ad 66 the Jews combined in revolt, expelled the Romans from Jerusalem, and overwhelmed in the pass of Beth-Horon a Roman punitive force under Gallus, the imperial legate in Syria. A revolutionary government was then set up and extended its influence throughout the whole country. Vespasian was dispatched by the Roman emperor Nero to crush the rebellion.
He was joined by Titus, and together the Roman armies entered Galilee, where the historian Josephus headed the Jewish forces. Josephus’ army was confronted by that of Vespasian and fled. After the fall of the fortress of Jatapata, Josephus gave himself up, and the Roman forces swept the country.
On the 9th of the month of Av (August 29) in ad 70, Jerusalem fell; the Temple was burned, and the Jewish state collapsed, although the fortress of Masada was not conquered by the Roman general Flavius Silva until April 73.
The Zealots and Sicarii overran the Roman military garrison from Jerusalem. This was a heartening victory for the Jewish people as support for the Zealots in the city grew. This sense of Jewish dominance over the Romans was short lived.
By the year 67 CE, the Romans under Vespasian and Titus had taken back all of Judea and killed the Jewish rebels that were left. The Jewish strongholds of Jodapatha, after a 47 day siege, was now under Roman control. The Romans were on the march to Jerusalem.
The perspective of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, mainly Sadducee Jerusalemites, had shifted dramatically from elation to panic. They knew that the revolt would not be a success for long, and they implored the Zealots to surrender peacefully in order to save as many Jewish lives as possible. The Zealots refused.
They anticipated the insurrection that would have doubtless come if the more moderate Jewish leaders were listened to by the common person. As a result, the Zealots and the fanatical Sicarii publicly executed them and hung their dead bodies so that everyone could see the repercussions of preaching insurgent messages of peace.
The moderate leaders in Jerusalem at the start of the revolution in 66 CE had all been killed by 68 CE, and not one by the hands of the Roman aggressors.The Zealots and the Sicarii retreated to the Temple.
The Roman legion, after several attempts at breaching the walls, set fire to the Holy Temple. The site that once gave thousands of Jewish people hope was destroyed. God, it seemed, was no longer in the city.
This was the most devastating Roman blow to Judaea. The rest of the city was plundered and burned to the ground soon after the Temple fell. The Romans crushed the remaining, beleaguered Jewish resistance. Jerusalem was under complete control of the Romans by September 70 CE.
Related Study: The Great Tribulation of Matthew 24