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Hadrian’s Plow

Hadrian’s Plow
By: Wendy Wippel

We all know the Great Diaspora happened in 70 AD, when the Jews fled Roman destruction of both the city of Jerusalem and its Temple. That was pretty much the end of Israel, right? Nope. It actually lasted about another 65 years. And those years gave us one pretty astounding fulfillment of prophecy.

Most of the nation fled in 70 AD.

We can actually trace that flight genetically, a feat that can only be accomplished if the group being tracked was moving rapidly and only in one direction. One large group headed across northern Africa and up into Spain and Portugal. (This group, over time, becoming known as the Sephardim, i.e., Mediterranean Jews); the other group moved up through Turkey and into Eastern Europe (becoming the Ashkenazim, i.e., European Jews), each with their own “denominational” flavor of Judaism.

But not all the Jews left. Some stuck around. And those that did continued to stick in the Roman’s Empire’s craw. Jewish uprisings continued, including one that ultimately resulted in 73 AD at the tragedy at Masada, when almost a thousand members of the Jewish resistance took their own lives.

Archaeologists actually found the potshards (with the soldier’s names still on them), that the doomed but brave band of warriors used to draw lots. The “winner”, actually, being the man that, after all the other men had put their own families to death, took on the responsibility of executing all the others before taking his own life.

But the resistance didn’t die with those soldiers. The tragic standoff at Masada was followed by the Bar Kochba revolt.

And that revolt can be blamed on a Roman emperor named Hadrian. The Roman General Titus had presided over the destruction of Jerusalem and ultimately vanquished Masada. And then became emperor.

Domitian followed Titus. A fervent follower of traditional Roman pantheistic paganism, he revived the practice of the imperial cult, which demanded worship of the Emperor.

Translation: a lot of Jews (and Christians) died under his rule.

Then, in 98 AD, came Hadrian. Actually, Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, who apparently (and mistakenly) believed the Empire’s Jews to be sufficiently cowed by the destruction of Jerusalem and the tragedy at Masada. In a gesture of imperial magnanimity, Hadrian promised his remaining Jewish citizens that he would rebuilt the temple.

So far, so good. The problem started when it was discovered that what Hadrian meant is that he would build a temple in the same spot. But not The Temple. Nope. What Hadrian intended to build was a Roman temple.

A temple built to honor the Roman God Jupiter, in fact. On top of the ruins of the second temple in Jerusalem.

Hadrian dispatched construction teams to the site of the temple, and his crews plowed it under. They then started construction of a new Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, planned to include temples dedicated to multiple Roman Gods.

And then he outlawed circumcision.

That was the last straw. The leader of the Sanhedrin, Rabbi Akiva, appointed a promising young warrior named Simon Bar Kosiba as the Hope of Israel, He renamed Kosiba Bar Kokhba (son of a star) for effect. Bar Kokhba led an attack on Roman forces, and the Roman Jews enjoyed one final victory. They cut off the Roman garrison in Jerusalem and managed to hold their territory for nearly three years, restoring a sovereign version of Israel and minting their own victory coins (albeit striking them on top of the existing Roman ones.)

The Jewish rebellion, however, caused many casualties among the Roman forces, which didn’t sit well with Rome. Hadrian decided to put Israel’s reign of terror (from the perspective of their Roman would-be rulers) to an end.

He was mad, and he was serious.

He called in reinforcements, and in the summer of 135 Bar Kokhba’s revolt was brutally crushed at the fortress of Betar, in the Judean highlands. Roman forces laid siege to the fortress, and the ensuing battle went on until, according to the Jerusalem Talmud, the Roman’s horses “were submerged in blood to their nostrils”.

Hadrian, fed up with his Jewish problem, then tried to eradicate the faith altogether. He prohibited the Law and the Hebrew calendar and burned a Torah scroll on the temple mount. He executed most of the Sanhedrin (including Rabbi Akiva), and the Torah scholars.

He wiped Israel off the map, renaming it Syria Palestina. And he banned Jews from entering Jerusalem.

Which, having been plowed under three years before, had now become the Roman city, Aelia Capitolina.

The thing that makes this really interesting is that, like much of the rest of Israel’s history, God revealed the event to His chosen people, in detail. And in advance.

Through the prophet Micah.

Micah records that, because of Israel’s transgression.

“Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.”

(Transgression, as you will note, is singular.)

And it was. Just like God promised.

And Hadrian, incredibly enough, was so proud of himself that he had his own coin struck. One that depicts him, Emperor of Rome, behind a plow. Finally, once and for all, eradicating the Jewish homeland.

But God had the last laugh. Israel lives again.

And He’ll also have the final one:

“Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in piecesAnd cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:1-7 NKJV)

Nations and their rulers can do what they will, but the end will not change. (Daniel 11: 27)

God’s plans will not be thwarted.

God laughs, and Messiah still takes the throne in Zion.

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