Beware the Ninth of Av! The most ominous date on the Jewish calendar, the date that marks the destruction of the First and Second Temple, is coming up this weekend.
If you drop by my blog often, you’ll know that I frequently draw themes from the Hebrew calendar. God’s faithfulness to keep His “appointed times” (מוֹעֲדִים, moadim) to the day fascinates me. Who’s in ultimate control? God’s calendar shows us. Nothing is an accident with Him!
The Jewish fast day of Tish’ah B’Av (תשעה באב) will be observed this weekend. This is the most solemn of the seven fast days on the Jewish calendar. It concludes the Three Weeks of Sorrow which began with the Fast of Tammuz.
“…these three weeks are marked by a renewed call for teshuvah (repentance), and the weekly readings from the prophets all warn the people about imminent judgment from heaven…. Tish’ah B’Av is generally regarded as the saddest day of the Jewish year (even sadder than Yom Kippur) since it was on this date that both the First and Second Temples were destroyed and the Jewish people were forced into exile.”
– John J. Parsons at Hebrew4Christians.com
Not only were both Temples destroyed on the Ninth of Av, but the following tragedies also occurred:
Coincidence? I don’t think so. God continues to use His calendar as a “sign” (Gen 1:14) that He’s in control of human events. That history is His story.
As Jewish people observe the Three Weeks of Sorrow, Shabbat readings feature mournful passages: Jeremiah 1:1-3:4 and Isaiah 1. On the fast day itself, the entire Book of Lamentations is read. Reviewing these passages, I’m reminded what care the Lord took to warn His people prior to the destruction of the First Temple. The abundant notice He provided of exactly how Israel had transgressed and what the consequences would be. How he begged His people to return to Him!
Tragically, the nation failed to heed God’s prophets and repent. Judgment fell in the form of the Babylonian conquest and captivity.
It’s a sad and cautionary tale. But for me, all the focus on the prophetic warnings about the First Temple begs a question.
“Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
Yet prior to the destruction of the Second Temple, you have to go all the way back to Malachi to find a word of reproof and warning from the Lord in the Hebrew scriptures. An awful lot happened between ~400 BC, when Malachi brought God’s message, and the destruction of the Second Temple. E.g., the Maccabees and the entire Hasmonean Kingdom. So it wouldn’t seem like God’s word to Malachi would still apply in 70 A.D.
Where was the prophetic warning concerning destruction of the Second Temple? And the horrific Roman siege that preceded it?
The answer is clear.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Heb 1:1-2
In around 33 A.D., Yeshua stunned his disciples by telling them that Herod’s towering Temple would be destroyed so that not one stone would be left upon another. Our Savior also accurately predicted the horror and ferocity of the Roman siege and conquest. (Matt 24, Luke 19)
When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44
History confirms these prophecies were literally (and horribly 🙁 ) fulfilled.
The Romans brutally slaughtered an estimated 600,000 people in Jerusalem including many of the Passover visitors who had been trapped there for the 143 days during the Roman siege. Many of the people who were not killed by Roman soldiers were shipped off to the gladiatorial games, Roman mines, and otherwise exiled from Judea and scattered throughout the Roman empire and other nations. By the year 73 A.D., all traces of a self-ruling Jewish nation had completely disappeared.
Josephus records that the Romans put the city and the Temple to the torch and that these fires were still burning a month later… The magnificent Temple that Herod had built was completely destroyed as the fires raged inside and out. These fires were so hot that the gold fittings, and the gold gilding inside and on its outside walls melted and ran into the cracks between and in the stones. During the pillaging of the Temple these stones were broken up to get at the gold. Therefore, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that no stone would be left on another—the destruction was total, just as Jesus foretold.
We’re all familiar with the miraculous signs that accompanied our Savior’s death and resurrection according to the New Testament. The temple veil rent, resurrected saints walking around, a tremendous earthquake, etc.
But did you know that even Jewish sources record a number of signs which took place following Yeshua’s resurrection? Signs that would seem impossible to miss? That should have put the nation on notice that things had changed dramatically, and that the old sacrificial system was no longer in force? As the writer of Hebrews says:
…He [Yeshua] is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says,
“Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will effect a new covenant
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…
According to the Talmud (Yoma 39b), several foreboding signs started to occur forty years before the destruction of the temple—i.e., circa 30 A.D.
Sign #1: The “Scapegoat” Lots. The Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) ritual called for two goats to be presented. The priests would cast lots to determine which would become a sacrifice to the Lord and which would be the “scapegoat” that would symbolically carry the people’s sins into the wilderness.
Two stones, one black and one white, were placed in a container and shaken. The High Priest would make the selection by drawing one stone out with his right hand. For two hundred years prior to Yeshua’s atoning death, the drawn stone would sometimes come up black and sometimes white. (Source here.)
However, the Talmud attests that starting with Yom Kippur in 30 A.D., the white stone was never drawn again. For forty straight years, only the black stone was drawn. The odds against this happening by chance are two to the fortieth power, which is over a trillion to one!! (1,099,511,627,776:1, if you really want to know. Literally astronomical!)
Sign #2: The “Scapegoat” Cord. The priests would use a crimson strap to lead the scapegoat. They would also tie a portion of this strap to the temple door. Once the scapegoat was killed in the wilderness, the strap on the temple door would miraculously turn white, assuring the people of the successful atonement of Israel. Beginning around 30 A.D. this miracle ended. From that point on, the strap stayed crimson.
Sign #3: The Temple Menorah. A third sign involved the main lamp of the Temple menorah—the shamash. The priests were charged with keeping it burning continually. They’d use the shamash to relight the other lamps each day.
“Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually…. Aaron shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord continually…” Lev 24:2-3
But for the last forty years the Temple stood, the priests couldn’t keep the shamash lit. In spite of their best efforts, every night for forty years it went out.
Sign #4: The Temple Doors. The massive brass Temple doors would open on their own each night, revealing the Holy Place. Doors so heavy that twenty men were required to move them! Yochanan Ben Zakkai, one of the most notable sages of the day, accurately declared this as a sign of impending doom (Sotah 6:3).
Forty years. For forty years, the Lord warned His people of the Second Temple’s destruction. For forty years, He sent them signs, pleading with them to repent and acknowledge their failure to recognize “the time of their visitation.” Luke 19:44
In a fascinating parallel, guess how long Jeremiah preached repentance prior to the destruction of the First Temple? From the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (626 B.C.) to the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C). Almost exactly forty years!
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…. 2 Pet 3:9-10
The Greek verb “to repent” is μετάνοια (metánoia). From metá (transform) plus noús (mind). Change your way of thinking to line up with God’s view of sin.
In Hebrew, the verb is שׁוּב (shuv), a primitive root. To turn back (hence, away), not necessarily with the idea of returning to the starting point. To retreat. (Related to the word teshuvah—repentance—mentioned above.
Someone can show up on Sunday morning and pay God lip service. They can even grieve over the consequences of their sin. But until they change their mind to line up with God’s view of it (“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Rom 12:2) and turn back from the path they’re on, they haven’t reached a point of Biblical repentance.
We don’t like to be told to repent, do we? They crucified the Lord of Glory. Stoned Stephen. Martyred eleven of twelve apostles. Exposed Jeremiah in a cistern.
I guess if you and I presume to:
…we can expect some pushback too.
Brothers and sisters, we need to take courage and stand for God all the same. I’m talking to myself as much as anyone here!
Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…. Be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Pet 3:14-15, 17-18.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 20-25
If you’ve never opened God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus (Rom 3:23, 6:23), please please please be persuaded to do it now! It’s simple. Just tell God from your heart that you admit you’re a sinner that needs a Savior (“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom 3:23), that you’re done running your own life, and that you’re ready to make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom 10:9-11)
The decision that saves you is that simple!
Simple… But no one said living it out will be easy. Especially now.