Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Destruction of Jerusalem

You have seen, all through the course of this history, how anxiously the Chosen People had been watching and praying for the coming of the promised Messiah, the prince and deliverer. When you read and understand the prophecies where his coming is foretold, you will perhaps see why the Jews and Christians have different opinions on this subject.

The Jews were and are a proud and shrewd people, and it was very galling to them to be under the rule of foreigners. As the prophecies had told of a coming prince, and had described his power and glory, the Jews expected and still expect a mighty earthly king.

The Christians, in reading the same prophecies, see that the long-promised Messiah was indeed a king, but one whose kingdom was not of the earth, and short-lived, but of heaven, and eternal. These two very different explanations of the sayings of the prophets have been the cause of many disputes.

In the days of Herod, the faithful Jews were very much excited; because, as far as they could make out, it was now about time for the promised Messiah to appear. Now, all of you who have Christian parents are familiar with the story of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, according to the Christians. You know that his coming had been foretold to his mother, Mary, by an angel, that he was born in Bethlehem, in a manger, and that an angel announced his birth to some poor shepherds, who were the first to worship him.

You have also heard how three wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, following a star, and asking: "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" This question came to the ears of Herod; and as he was afraid that the prophecies might be true, he ordered the massacre of all the innocent little children in Bethlehem.

The infant Jesus, as you know, was not killed with the rest, because Joseph, warned by an angel, had gone with him and his mother to Egypt. The story of the life of Jesus, which you will find in the New Testament, tells how he came back to Palestine when Herod died, how he grew up at Nazareth, and how he visited the temple at Jerusalem when he was only twelve years old.

Next we find there an account of the teaching and preaching of Christ, whom Christians consider the son of God, while Mussulmans think he was a prophet, and the Jews call him an impostor. The Jews were very angry that a poor man should be called the Messiah, and this is the reason why they accused Christ of blasphemy, and, with the help of the Romans, crucified him.

In the course of his teaching and preaching, Christ had foretold as had many of the prophets before him that Jerusalem would be destroyed before very long. These words had only served to make the Jews angrier still, because they loved their city, and could not bear to think that any harm would happen to it.

After Christís death, resurrection, and ascension, which are also related in the New Testament, many people believed that he was the promised Messiah, the son of God, and began to worship him. Because they did so, they were persecuted by the Jews and by the Romans; and they were finally driven out of Jerusalem, and went to live elsewhere.

The historians of this time tell us that the Jews were quarreling among themselves, that every manís hand was against his brother, and that strange signs and prodigies showed that the end was very near. A comet hung over the city, chariots and armies were seen in the sky, and all hearts were filled with a nameless fear.

The Jews, in terror, now suddenly revolted against the Romans. The latter sent large armies to Palestine, under their generals Titus and Vespasian, and captured town after town. Finally Titus came and laid siege to Jerusalem, which was in the hands of several different political parties, and surrounded by three great walls.

So many people had taken refuge in the city that there was soon a most horrible famine. Then, too, the Roman engines threw showers of stones, arrows, and burning pitch into the city. After a most heroic resistance, Jerusalem was taken, inch by inch; and, as the people fought to the very end, and would not surrender, they were nearly all killed.

The temple was taken last, and having been accidentally set on fire, this magnificent building was entirely burned. Titus only managed to save the golden vessels and candlestick, which were carried by his soldiers in his triumph on his return to Rome.

The walls of Jerusalem were razed, a Roman garrison was placed there, and all the Jews that were left were sent away, and were told that they would be put to death if they ever came back.

Thus driven out of their native country, for many years the Jews scattered all over the world; but wherever they went they carried with them the story of their race, which has been briefly told you in this little volume.