on Matthew 24 :7
Nation shall rise against nation - This portended the dissensions, insurrections and mutual slaughter of the Jews, and those of other nations, who dwelt in the same cities together; as particularly at Caesarea, where the Jews and Syrians contended about the right of the city, which ended there in the total expulsion of the Jews, above 20,000 of whom were slain. The whole Jewish nation being exasperated at this, flew to arms, and burnt and plundered the neighboring cities and villages of the Syrians, making an immense slaughter of the people. The Syrians, in return, destroyed not a less number of the Jews. At Scythopolis they murdered upwards of 13,000. At Ascalon they killed 2,500. At Ptolemais they slew 2000, and made many prisoners. The Tyrians also put many Jews to death, and imprisoned more: the people of Gadara did likewise; and all the other cities of Syria in proportion, as they hated or feared the Jews. As Alexandria the Jews and heathens fought, and 50,000 of the former were slain. The people of Damascus conspired against the Jews of that city, and, assaulting them unarmed, killed 10,000 of them. See Bishop Newton, and Dr. Lardner.
Kingdom against kingdom - This portended the open wars of different tetrarchies and provinces against each other.
1st. That of the Jews and Galileans against the Samaritans, for the murder of some Galileans going up to the feast of Jerusalem, while Cumanus was procurator.
2dly. That of the whole nation of the Jews against the Romans and Agrippa, and other allies of the Roman empire; which began when Gessius Florus was procurator.
3dly. That of the civil war in Italy, while Otho and Vitellius were contending for the empire.
It is worthy of remark, that the Jews themselves say, "In the time of the Messiah, wars shall be stirred up in the world; nation shall rise against nation, and city against city." Sohar Kadash. "Again, Rab. Eleasar, the son of Abina, said, When ye see kingdom rising against kingdom, then expect the immediate appearance of the Messiah." Bereshith Rabba, sect. 42.
The Third sign, pestilence and famine.
It is farther added, that There shall be famines, and pestilences - There was a famine foretold by Agabus, (Acts 11:28), which is mentioned by Suetonius, Tacitus, and Eusebius; which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar, and was so severe at Jerusalem that Josephus says (Ant. b. xx. c. 2). many died for lack of food. Pestilences are the usual attendants of famines: as the scarcity and badness of provisions generally produce epidemic disorders.
The Fourth sign, earthquakes or popular commotions.
Earthquakes, in divers places - If we take the word σεισμοι from σειω to shake, in the first sense, then it means particularly those popular commotions and insurrections which have already been noted; and this I think to be the true meaning of the word: but if we confine it to earthquakes, there were several in those times to which our Lord refers; particularly one at Crete in the reign of Claudius, one at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos. See Grotius. One at Rome, mentioned by Tacitus; and one at Laodicea in the reign of Nero, in which the city was overthrown, as were likewise Hierapolis and Colosse. See Tacit. Annal. lib. xii. and lib. xiv. One at Campania, mentioned by Seneca; and one at Rome, in the reign of Galba, mentioned by Suetonius in the life of that emperor. Add to all these, a dreadful one in Judea, mentioned by Josephus (War, b. iv. c. 4). accompanied by a dreadful tempest, violent winds, vehement showers, and continual lightnings and thunders; which led many to believe that these things portended some uncommon calamity.
The Fifth sign, fearful portents.
To these St. Luke adds that there shall be fearful sights and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:11). Josephus, in his preface to the Jewish war, enumerates these.
1st. A star hung over the city like a sword; and a comet continued a whole year.
2d. The people being assembled at the feast of unleavened bread, at the ninth hour of the night, a great light shone about the altar and the temple, and this continued for half an hour.
on Matthew 24 :7
Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom - At Caesarea the Jews and Syrians contended about the right to the city, and twenty thousand of the Jews were slain. At this blow the whole nation of the Jews was exasperated, and carried war and desolation through the Syrian cities and villages. Sedition and civil war spread throughout Judea; Italy was also thrown into civil war by the contests between Otho and Vitellius for the crown.
And there shall be famines - There was a famine foretold by Agabus Acts 11:28, which is mentioned by Tacitus, Suetonius, and Eusebius, and which was so severe in Jerusalem, Josephus says, that many people perished for want of food, Antiq. xx. 2. Four times in the reign of Claudius (41-54 a.d.) famine prevailed in Rome, Palestine, and Greece.
Pestilences - Raging epidemic diseases; the plague, sweeping off multitudes of people at once. It is commonly the attendant of famine, and often produced by it. A pestilence is recorded as raging in Babylonia, 40 a.d. (Josephus, Antiq. xviii. 9. 8); in Italy, 66 a.d. (Tacitus 16. 13). Both of these took place before the destruction of Jerusalem.
Earthquakes - In prophetic language, earthquakes sometimes mean political commotions. Literally, they are tremors or shakings of the earth, often shaking cities and towns to ruin. The earth opens, and houses and people sink indiscriminately to destruction. Many of these are mentioned as preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. Tacitus mentions one in the reign of Claudius, at Rome, and says that in the reign of Nero the cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis, and Colosse were overthrown, and the celebrated Pompeii was overwhelmed and almost destroyed by an earthquake, Annales, 15. 22. Others are mentioned as occurring at Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, and Samos. Luke adds, "And fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven," Luke 21:11. Josephus, who had probably never heard of this prophecy, and who certainly would have done nothing designedly to show its fulfillment, records the prodigies and signs which He says preceded the destruction of the city.
A star, says he, resembling a sword, stood over the city, and a comet that continued a whole year. At the feast of unleavened bread, during the night, a bright light shone round the altar and the temple, so that it seemed to be bright day, for half an hour. The eastern gate of the temple, of solid brass, fastened with strong bolts and bars, and which had been shut with difficulty by twenty men, opened in the night of its own accord. A few days after that feast, He says, "Before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities." A great noise, as of the sound of a multitude, was heard in the temple, saying, "Let us remove hence." Four years before the war began, Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, came to the feast of the tabernacles when the city was in peace and prosperity, and began to cry aloud, "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegroom and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!" He was scourged, and at every stroke of the whip He cried, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!" This cry, Josephus says, was continued every day for more than seven years, until He was killed in the siege of the city, exclaiming, "Woe, woe to myself also!" - Jewish Wars, b. 6 chapter 9, section 3.
on Matthew 24 :7