Around the years 72-73 A.D., a band of Jewish rebels and their families sought refuge in one of Herod the Great’s fortresses, Masada. The Roman army had recently destroyed the city of Jerusalem, slaughtering thousands of fellow Jews in the process. These 960 men, women and children belonging to a radical group of Zealots, the Sicarii, sought to hold out at Masada in a last ditch effort to resist the Roman occupation.
Herod the Great, known to students of the Bible for the “massacre of the innocents”, had originally built Masada on a desolate mountaintop just west of the Dead Sea. What happened at the siege of Masada some one hundred years later has continued to fascinate historians and believers down through the years. The Jewish Zealots had enough food and water to last them for many, many months, but it was only a matter of time before their defeat in the hands of the Roman army would become inevitable. Roman troops eventually surrounded the near impenetrable fortress, and over the following months they were able to build a siege ramp that enabled the Romans to break through the Jewish Zealot defenses.
What the Romans found there next on top of Masada has inspired many a freedom fighter while horrifying others by the ghastly moral choices that were made. What really happened at Masada, and how is a Christian to respond to it?