bible-wornContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry.

Luke 21:20-24

Jesus Foretells Destruction of Jerusalem

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.


Last week’s post discussed Jesus’s foretelling of wars and persecution.

These verses which follow concern the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 AD. Our Lord foretold the destruction of the temple earlier (Luke 21:5-6):

5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And so it remains today.

In 66 AD the Jews rebelled against the Romans. This conflict culminated in 70 AD. Our Lord foresaw the city being surrounded by armies and its ultimate destruction (verse 20). The Jews fled to the mountains, and those in Jerusalem left (verse 21).

Jesus said that these events fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (verse 22). Matthew Henry tells us that this was a judgement on the Jewish people for their unbelief and that it also gives us an idea of what His Second Coming will be like for unbelievers: terrible and chaotic.

Jesus went on to say that pregnant women and nursing mothers would be particularly disadvantaged (verse 23). Henry explains:

Woe to them, not only because they are most subject to frights, and least able to shift for their own safety, but because it will be a very great torment to them to think of having borne and nursed children for the murderers.

Our Lord said that the wrath of the Romans would cause the Jews much distress. Henry says:

By the general confusion that should be all the nation over. There shall be great distress in the land, for men will not know what course to take, nor how to help themselves.

Verse 24 expresses a devastating attack on Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Of the deaths, Henry tells us:

It is computed that in those wars of the Jews there fell by the sword above eleven hundred thousand. And the siege of Jerusalem was, in effect, a military execution.

The Jews would be exiled, not just to one nation, as in the Old Testament, but to many:

which made it impossible for them to correspond with each other, much less to incorporate.

The Romans destroyed Jerusalem:

laid it quite waste, as a rebellious and bad city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and therefore hateful to them.

The Wikipedia entry on this siege cites the historian Josephus. The Emperor Titus asked Josephus to negotiate with the Zealots fighting the Romans. Those negotiations failed; after the first, the Zealots had even wounded Josephus with an arrow. After the destruction, the historian wrote:

… truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.[3]

As for the 1.1 million people were killed:

The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.[5]

Of the survivors, 97,000 were taken as slaves. The rest fled to countries around the Mediterranean.

Next time: Luke 21:32-38