An Overview of the Zealot Movement and 12 Key Leaders (From Hezekiah to Eleazar ben Jairus) by Adam Maarschalk This study features an extensive overview of the Zealot movement and 12 key leaders of that movement from 47 BC to AD 73. I believe this information is valuable not only for understanding Jewish history around the time of Christ, but also for a better understanding of: the man of lawlessness of II Thessalonians 2 Daniel 7 and the book of Revelation. This article is adapted from “Revelation 13:3 and the Wounded Head of the Zealot Movement” at www.adammaarschalk.com. Outline A. Introduction Page 1 B. An Overview of the Zealot Movement Page 2 1. Zealots and Sicarii C. Hezekiah the Zealot and His Family Dynasty Page 4 D. 12 Key Leaders (from 47 BC to AD 73) Page 6 1. Hezekiah (47 BC) Page 7 2. Judas the Galilean (Hezekiah’s Son) and Zadok (AD 6) Page 8 3. Jacob, Simon, and Jair (Sons of Judas) Page 11 a. Zealots in Jesus’ lifetime 4. Eleazar ben Ananias (AD 66) Page 12 5. Eleazar ben Jair (AD 66 – 73) Page 14 6. Menahem (AD 66) Page 16 7. Eleazar ben Simon (AD 66 – 70) Page 19 8. John Levi of Gischala (AD 66 – 70) Page 21 9. Simon Bar Giora (AD 66 – 70) Page 24 E. The Wounded Head of the Beast Page 30 Introduction This study, for the most part, has a two-fold focus:  examining what Josephus called “the Fourth Philosophy,” which impacted Israel and the Jewish diaspora in the first century BC and the first century AD, and  highlighting 12 Zealot leaders to whom Josephus and his contemporaries seemed to pay the most attention. I believe you’ll find a lot of valuable and well-documented information here. A small part of this study will feature my proposal that seven of these leaders were the seven heads of the beast (Revelation 13:1, 17:9-10), and that one of them was the wounded head of the beast spoken of in Revelation 12:3. Please feel free to agree or disagree, but I personally believe that the seven heads .
all belonged to the family dynasty of “Hezekiah the Zealot,” a dynasty which dominated the Zealot movement for 120 years. The 12 Zealot leaders featured in this study are listed below, along with their relations to one another and their dates of activity. Members of Hezekiah’s family dynasty are in red font: 1. Hezekiah (mid-1st century BC) 2. Judas the Galilean (early 1st century AD; son of Hezekiah) 3. Zadok the Pharisee (early 1st century AD: worked with Judas) 4. Jacob (mid-1st century AD; son of Judas) 5. Simon (mid-1st century AD; son of Judas) 6. Jair (mid-1st century AD; son of Judas) 7. Eleazar ben Ananias (AD 66) 8. Eleazar ben Jair (AD 66-73; son of Jair and grandson of Judas) 9. Menahem (AD 66; son or grandson of Judas) 10. Eleazar ben Simon (AD 66-70) 11. John Levi of Gischala (AD 66-70) 12. Simon Bar Giora (AD 66-70; uncle of Eleazar ben Simon) An Overview of the Zealot Movement The Zealot movement is defined by Wikipedia as follows: “The Zealots were originally a political movement in 1st century Second Temple Judaism which sought to incite the people of Judaea Province to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land by force of arms, most notably during the First Jewish–Roman War (66-70). Zealotry was the term used by Josephus for a ‘fourth sect’ during this period.” Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (a Jewish scholar, lecturer, author, and senior associate of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership) gives the following summary of the political undercurrents which fueled the Zealots’ opposition toward Rome. This summary is adapted from his 1991 book, “Jewish Literacy,” and is archived at the Jewish Virtual Library: “No one could argue with the Jews for wanting to throw off Roman rule. Since the Romans had first occupied Israel in 63 B.C.E., their rule had grown more and more onerous. From almost the beginning of the Common Era, Judea was ruled by Roman procurators, whose chief responsibility was to collect and deliver an annual tax to the empire… Equally infuriating to the Judeans, Rome took over the appointment of the High Priest… As a result, the High Priests, who represented the Jews before God on their most sacred occasions, increasingly came from the ranks of Jews who collaborated with Rome… The Jews’ anti-Roman feelings were seriously exacerbated during the reign of the half-crazed emperor Caligula, who in the year [AD] 39 declared himself to be a deity and ordered his statue to be set up at every temple in the Roman Empire. The Jews, alone in the empire, refused the command… Only the emperor’s sudden, violent death saved the Jews from wholesale massacre… .
In the decades after Caligula’s death, Jews found their religion subject to periodic gross indignities, Roman soldiers exposing themselves in the Temple on one occasion, and burning a Torah scroll on another… In the year 66, Florus, the last Roman procurator, stole vast quantities of silver from the Temple. The outraged Jewish masses rioted and wiped out the small Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem. Cestius Gallus, the Roman ruler in neighboring Syria, sent in a larger force of soldiers. But the Jewish insurgents routed them as well. This was a heartening victory that had a terrible consequence: Many Jews suddenly became convinced that they could defeat Rome, and the Zealots’ ranks grew geometrically… When the Romans returned, they had 60,000 heavily armed and highly professional troops. They launched their first attack against the Jewish state’s most radicalized area, the Galilee in the north [in AD 67]. The Romans vanquished the Galilee, and an estimated 100,000 Jews were killed or sold into slavery… The highly embittered refugees who succeeded in escaping the Galilean massacres fled to the last major Jewish stronghold—Jerusalem. There, they killed anyone in the Jewish leadership who was not as radical as they. Thus, all the more moderate Jewish leaders who headed the Jewish government at the revolt’s beginning in 66 were dead by 68—and not one died at the hands of a Roman. All were killed by fellow Jews… The scene was now set for the revolt’s final catastrophe.” Zealots and Sicarii The Sicarii were famous for hiding their daggers in their cloaks and using them to secretly target their enemies during the festivals (Antiquities 20.8.10). Some sources make a sharp distinction between the Zealots and the Sicarii, while others do not. It seems fair to say that the Sicarii were part of the Zealot movement, but not all Zealots were Sicarii. Thus, “Zealot” was an umbrella term for the revolutionaries who rebelled against Rome. Some sources say that those who belonged to the family dynasty of Hezekiah were all Sicarii. Wikipedia designates the Sicarii as “a splinter group of the Jewish Zealots.” The Sicarii are mentioned in Acts 21:38, where Paul was asked if he was the Egyptian who had led 4000 assassins (or “dagger-bearers”) into the wilderness. According to Encyclopedia Judaica, “The name [‘Sicarii’] derived from the Latin word sica, ‘curved dagger’; in Roman usage, sicarii, i.e., those armed with such weapons, was a synonym for bandits. According to Josephus, the Jewish Sicarii used short daggers, μικρἁ Ξιφίδια (mikra ziphidia), concealed in their clothing, to murder their victims, usually at religious festivals (Wars, 2:254–5, 425; Ant., 20:186–7). The fact that Josephus employs the Latin sicarii, transliterated into Greek as σικαριοι (sikarioi) suggests that he adopted a term used by the Roman occupation forces; his own (Greek) word for ‘bandit,’ which he more generally uses to describe the Jewish resistance fighters, is λησταί (lestai).” “Sicarii.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Encyclopedia.com. 4 Mar. 2017. .
Photo Source: Pinterest (Sicarii Dagger) A classic article by the Israeli historian, Menahem Stern (1925-1989), “Zealots and Sicarii,” proposed a distinction between the Sicarii and the Zealots in terms of their loyalty: “The Sicarii continued to be loyal to the dynasty of Judah the Galilean, their last leaders being Menahem and Eleazar b. Jair, who were scions of that house; in contrast the Zealots showed no particular loyalty to any house or dynasty.” This article also pointed out that a “revolutionary government” was set up in Jerusalem near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66-73), but lasted for only about six months. This was the same temporary government that, just after the Jews defeated Cestius Gallus in November AD 66, appointed 10 Jewish generals to lead the inevitable war with Rome (Wars 2.20.3-4): “Just before the war, ‘a kind of enmity and factionalism broke out among the high priests and leaders of the Jerusalem populace’ who joined hands with ‘the boldest revolutionaries’ to carry out their high-level power feuds (Ant. 20:180, cf. Pes. 57a)… And significantly, the first revolutionary government formed in Jerusalem in 66 C.E. and lasting about six months was composed of high priests, noble priests, and lay nobility: the roster of noble rebels is long. These rebellious aristocrats joined the struggle for a variety of motives, including desire to protect their local power and influence, a feeling of genuine outrage at abuses by the Roman procurators, and infection by the messianic fervor and eschatological hopes pervading Judea before the war.” This revolutionary government soon gave way to the Zealot leaders who seized control of Jerusalem during the following 3.5 years: Eleazar ben Simon, John Levi of Gischala, and Simon Bar Giora. Hezekiah the Zealot and His Family Dynasty Ray Vander Laan is an author and a teacher who “has been actively involved in studying and teaching Jewish culture” since 1976. In his book, “Life and Ministry of the Messiah,” he includes the following .
diagram of the Zealot movement’s key leadership (p. 130). Even though Eleazar ben Simon, John Levi of Gischala, and Simon Bar Giora held positions of great power in Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War, Ray’s outline of the Zealot leadership is limited to the family dynasty of Hezekiah: Here Ray lists seven Zealots, all within the family of Hezekiah, extending from 47 BC to AD 73, a period of 120 years: 1. Hezekiah 2. Judah (son of Hezekiah) 3. Jacob (son of Judah) 4. Simeon (son of Judah) 5. Yair (son of Judah) 6. Eleazar ben Yair (son of Yair and grandson of Judah) 7. Menahem (grandson of Judah) .
In 1961 Martin Hengel, a German historian and professor, published a book titled, “The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod I until 70 A.D.” Hengel listed these same seven Zealots on page 332 of his book, where he outlined “the dynasty that began with Hezekiah the ‘robber captain’”: 12 Key Leaders (from 47 BC to AD 73) Let’s start from the beginning with Hezekiah the Zealot, whose Zealot activity took place while Rome was still a republic and not yet an empire. From that point we will trace the activities of 11 other key leaders, progressively covering a period of 120 years. .
Hezekiah (47 BC) On page 313 of his book, “The Zealots,” Martin Hengel explained why a Jewish hero by the name of Hezekiah should be considered the first head of the Zealot movement: “A historical outline of the Jewish freedom movement between the reign of Herod I and 70 A.D. has to begin at the point where Josephus speaks for the first time about Jewish ‘robbers,’ which is the most general term that he uses to include all the groups opposing foreign rule. We come across these ‘robbers’ quite abruptly in connection with the sending of the young Herod to Galilee as commander-in-chief.” Hengel then cited the first occasion where Josephus spoke of these “robbers” in his works. In 46 BC Herod captured “the robber captain Hezekiah,” took him prisoner, and “had him put to death with many of his robbers” (see Josephus, Antiquities 14.9.2-3). In Wars 1.10.5, Josephus says that Hezekiah had “a great band of men.” It may be noteworthy that Josephus calls Hezekiah “the head,” the same term that John used in Revelation 13:1, 3; 17:3, 7, 9-11: “Now Herod was an active man, and soon found proper materials for his active spirit to work upon. As therefore he found that Hezekias, the head of the robbers, ran over the neighboring parts of Syria with a great band of men, he caught him and slew him, and many more of the robbers with him; which exploit was chiefly grateful to the Syrians…” Kaufmann Kohler, PHD, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth-El (New York) and President of Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati, Ohio), also agrees that the Zealot movement began in the time of Herod the Great and Hezekiah. He says that the Zealots were an “aggressive and fanatical war party from the time of Herod until the fall of Jerusalem and Masada. The members of this party bore also the name Sicarii… The reign of the Idumean Herod gave the impetus for the organization of the Zealots as a political party” (Jewish Encyclopedia: Zealots). Menahem Stern also saw Hezekiah as the founder of a movement which eventually spread throughout the entire Jewish Diaspora: “Hezekiah and his son were the founders of a dynasty of leaders of an extremist freedom movement, a dynasty which it is possible to trace until the fall of Masada… They, the proponents of the Fourth Philosophy, were the first to raise the standard of revolt…and preached rebellion throughout the length and breadth of the Diaspora.” .
1st Century Jewish Diaspora (Jewish Virtual Library) The following description of “Hezekiah (The Zealot)” in The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906) reveals that his rebellion was in response to the actions of Pompey the Great, who conquered Judea in 63 BC. It also reveals that Hezekiah was beheaded: “He fought for Jewish freedom and the supremacy of the Jewish law at the time when Herod was governor of Galilee (47 B.C.). When King Aristobulus, taken prisoner by the Romans, had been poisoned by the followers of Pompey, Hezekiah (‘Ezekias’ in Josephus, ‘Ant.’ xiv. 9, §§ 2 et seq) gathered together the remnants of that king’s army in the mountains of Galilee and carried on a successful guerrilla war against the Romans and Syrians, while awaiting the opportunity for a general uprising against Rome. The pious men of the country looked upon him as the avenger of their honor and liberty. Antipater, the governor of the country, and his sons, however, who were Rome’s agents in Palestine, viewed this patriotic band differently. In order to curry favor with the Romans, Herod, unauthorized by the king Hyrcanus, advanced against Hezekiah, took him prisoner, and beheaded him, without the formality of a trial; and he also slew many of his followers. This deed excited the indignation of all the patriots. Hezekiah and his band were enrolled among the martyrs of the nation.” Because many of the Jews were angry with Herod, an effort was made by the Sanhedrin to bring him to trial over what he had done to Hezekiah. Judas the Galilean (Hezekiah’s son) and Zadok Over the next half century, more robbers followed in Hezekiah’s trail throughout Galilee and Judea, but it was his son, Judas the Galilean, who took the movement to the next level. Kaufmann Kohler said this about the period after which Herod the Great repeatedly crushed the rebellions of Hezekiah and those who rose up after him: .
“The spirit of this Zealot movement, however, was not crushed. No sooner had Herod died (4 C.E.) then the people cried out for revenge (“Ant.” xvii. 9, § 1) and gave Archelaus no peace. Judea was full of robber bands, says Josephus (l.c. 10, § 8), the leaders of which each desired to be a king. It was then that Judas, the son of Hezekiah, the above-mentioned robber-captain, organized his forces for revolt, first, it seems, against the Herodian dynasty, and then, when Quirinus introduced the census, against submission to the rule of Rome and its taxation.” According to Josephus, “the Fourth Philosophy” was founded by Judas of Galilee. Martin Hengel, however, didn’t believe that Josephus provided evidence that Judas, rather than his father, was the founder. He pointed out that Josephus merely noted a “great increase” of robbers because of the exploits and teachings of Judas: “[All] that [Josephus] says of the founding of the fourth sect of philosophy by Judas the Galilean is that it led to a great increase in the scourge of robbers” (Hengel, p. 41). Like the “robbers” before him, Judas seemed to concentrate his activities around Sepphoris (Antiquities 14.15.4 and Antiquities 17.10.5), the capital of Galilee which was not far from Nazareth. Here’s how Josephus described “the Fourth Philosophy” of the Zealots, and how Judas of Galilee laid the groundwork for this movement near the time of Jesus’ birth (Antiquities 18.1.1-6): “1. NOW Cyrenius, a Roman senator… came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’s money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it, by the persuasion of Joazar, who was the son of Beethus, and high priest; so they, being over-persuaded by Joazar’s words, gave an account of their estates, without any dispute about it. Yet was there one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc [Zadok], a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty; …so men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height. All sorts of misfortunes also sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree; one violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends which used to alleviate our pains; there were also very great robberies and murder of our principal men. This was done in pretense indeed for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; whence arose seditions, and from them murders of men, which sometimes fell on those of their own people, (by the madness of these men towards one another, while their desire was that none of the adverse party might be left,) and sometimes on their enemies; a famine also coming upon us, reduced us to the last degree of despair, as did also the taking and demolishing of cities; nay, the sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies’ fire. Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction, which these men occasioned by their thus conspiring together; for Judas and Sadduc, who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us, and had a great many followers therein, filled our civil government with tumults at present, and laid the foundations of our future miseries, by this system of philosophy, which we were before unacquainted withal, concerning which I will discourse a little, .
and this the rather because the infection which spread thence among the younger sort, who were zealous for it, brought the public to destruction. 2. The Jews had for a great while had three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees; of which sects, although I have already spoken in the second book of the Jewish War, yet will I a little touch upon them now… 6. But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author. These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord… And it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans” (See also Wars 2.8.1). The Jewish Virtual Library adds this about Judas: “He had put himself at the head of a band of rebels near Sepphoris and had seized control of the armory in Herod’s palace in the city. According to Josephus, he had even aspired to the throne (Ant., 17:271–2; Wars, 2:56). Though the rebels were defeated, Judah apparently succeeded in escaping (Jos., Ant., 17:289ff).” Judas is mentioned in Acts 5 by Gamaliel when he addressed the council of the high priests and elders concerning Peter and the other apostles: “And he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed…’” (Acts 5:35- 37; see Antiquities 20.5.1 for the account of Theudas, the magician). Robert Travers Herford (1860-1950), a British scholar of rabbinical literature, made an interesting comparison between Mattathias of the Maccabean revolt (167 BC) and Judas of Galilee nearly 175 years later: “There is no certain trace of the Zealots as a party until the end of the reign of Herod; but even at the beginning of his reign there were those whose actions were of a kind precisely like the deeds of the somewhat later Zealots. Hezekiah, whom Josephus called a robber-chieftain, was put to death by Herod at the beginning of his reign. His son was that Judas of Galilee who was the real founder of the Zealot party; but Hezekiah only did much what Judas did, and the so-called robber-chieftain, though he failed, sounded the first note of the rebellion, which became the great war of A.D. 66-70. .