Historian Flavius Josephus relates: “Cestius [Gallus], aware of neither the despair of the besieged nor the feelings of the people, suddenly called off his men, abandoned hope though he had suffered no reverse, and flying in the face of all reason retired from the City.” (The Jewish War, II, 540 [xix, 7]) Why did Gallus retreat? Whatever the reason, his retreat allowed Christians to obey Jesus’ command and flee to the mountains and to safety.
8 Obedience was lifesaving. Before long the Romans moved to crush the revolt. The campaign under General Titus climaxed in a siege of Jerusalem from April to August 70 C.E. It chills one’s blood to read Josephus’ description of how the Jews suffered. Besides those killed fighting the Romans, other Jews were slaughtered by rival bands of Jews, and starvation led to cannibalism. By the time of the Roman victory, 1,100,000 Jews had died. Of the 97,000 survivors, some were promptly executed; others were enslaved. Josephus says: “Those over seventeen were put in irons and sent to hard labour in Egypt, while great numbers were presented by Titus to the provinces to perish in the theatres by the sword or by wild beasts.” Even as this sorting out took place, 11,000 prisoners starved to death.