Diggings Recent Discoveries in Bible lands -- By: Anonymous
BSP 11:1 (Winter 1998) p. 21
Diggings Recent Discoveries in Bible lands
Josephus on Yodfat — Right or Wrong? Archaeologists Uncover First Century Jewish Warriors
Dramatic evidence of a fierce battle between Jewish warriors and the Roman legions during the First Jewish Revolt was uncovered this past summer at Yodfat, near Nazareth. The Battle of Yodfat in AD 67 was Rome’s first great victory and initiated their final march toward Jerusalem.
Remains of an estimated 30 individuals, possibly Jewish warriors, were found in the bottom of a cistern on the site. Not complete skeletons but disarticulated bones, they were apparently collected by fellow countrymen years after the battle and buried in the cistern, converting it into a mass grave.
The ruins of a luxurious mansion were also excavated. Finely decorated, the central room of this wealthy home had frescoes painted on the walls and the floor. The wall frescoes were similar to those found in Jerusalem and Masada from the same period, but the painted floor was unusual. Excavators believe the occupants walked in that room barefoot. On the floor excavators recovered the remains of a victim, presumably an occupant of the house, surrounded by Roman arrowheads.
Yodfat was the first sizable Israelite city captured by the Romans. It served as headquarters to Joseph ben Mattias, the military commander in the region. The only surviving account of the battle tells of a 47 day Roman siege, including numerous days of fierce fighting. When the Roman army did break through, most of the city’s Jewish inhabitants were slaughtered.
Ben Mattias, the Jewish leader, along with 40 other survivors, hid in a cave. When discovered by the Romans, Ben Mattias wanted to surrender, but the others refused to allow it. Fearing for his safety among his own countrymen more than among the Romans, ben Mattias organized them into a suicide pact. In a scene similar to the well-known story from Masada, they drew lots. According to the account, the warrior who drew killed the one before him. He, in turn, was killed by the one who followed. When only two were left, not surprising,
BSP 11:1 (Winter 1998) p. 22
ben Mattias was still standing. Convincing the other to trust him, both surrendered.
The account of the battle of Yodfat (called Jopapta in most English translations) was written by ben Mattias, himself, who joined the Romans after surrendering to them. He even prophesied to Vespasain, the Roman commander, that he would soon become the new emperor. When Vespasian did become emperor, he made ben Mattias a Roman citizen. Joseph ben Mattias took his Roman name from his benefactor, the emperor, and became Flavius Josephus. The account of the battle of Yodfat is recorded in...
Click here to subscribe