What was it like living with walled cities?
That depends on whether you were in the army, the very small upper class, or the majority who were poor–i.e. the farmer. As explained in the Valley of Armageddon, about 90% of the population lived outside the walled cities. It was expensive building stone walls with slaves because they had to be fed. Since raiders could easily steal their grain, wine, and oil, it had to be stored inside. Of course, during peaceful times the farmers had a better chance of being treated well. But how much of the time was peaceful? And how much did the rich still oppress?
What kind of policing and justice did they have?
In Christ’s era, war wasn’t officially the main problem like in much of the Old Testament. But riots may be deemed as “acts of war” in this context. These took place more during Passover than any other time of year because Passover brought pilgrims from far and wide to celebrate their freedom from oppression in Egypt. Dr. Jim Fleming calculates the Jews had to pay about 80% of their entire income in either taxes to the Romans or Temple taxes, which were both forcibly taken from the people. At what point do you stop calling “living in peace” freedom? Especially when the punishment for riots was crucifixion?
The unrest, simmering anger, and conspiracies were all squashed during Herod the Great’s time. He killed off all rebels then infiltrated the people with spies everywhere. But while Jesus was here and during the Book of Acts, the unrest and rebellions were increasing almost as fast as the Jews could grow able-bodied men to replace those who were killed. They were spurred on by the oppression, corruption in politics and their judicial system. What kind of policing and justice did they have? The kind that favors the upper class and completely overlooks what happens to the poor.
Jerusalem versus Galilee
Galilee was like a wild frontier and Galileans were rednecks. Jerusalem had the Jewish government, professionals, educated, and Roman power. Galileans had a lot of self-righteous anger against the hypocrisy of leaders in Jerusalem. That’s not to say the Galileans were free from hypocrisy. But there were much poorer, nobler Jews from the north. There were also many poor that lived outside the walls of Jerusalem and farmed the land. These were called the “Daughters of Jerusalem.”
Translating into His Context: Jesus Standing for Righteousness
When Jesus cleansed the Temple at the beginning and end of his ministry, he was taking a stand for something all Galileans felt strongly about. Animals had to be purchased at the Temple to pass the Priests’ approval so they would be acceptable as sacrifices. This meant they could cost 10 times more than what those same animals would cost in the Jerusalem streets. The Priests were the ones collecting these profits. Jesus took just as strong a stand against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were everywhere, including in Galilee. But it was in Jerusalem where the religious Jews had the most money and power. So it was in Jerusalem where religion had the most oppression, the silencing of complaints, and the control.
How Should that Affect Us?
In Exodus God warns Moses that Pharaoh would harden his heart, and God even hardened Pharaoh’s heart. That was also taking place with the Jewish leaders when Christ was here. In the Gospels, Jesus goes to Jerusalem despite his disciples’ warning that the Jewish leaders and Romans would kill him. The more we read Christ’s words and actions knowing this background, the more we get how to rest in the Lord’s leading. When difficult circumstances make black and white seem grey, we first should learn if the Bible says anything about those situations. But then we must pray and commit it to the Lord. Lastly, we must trust in his leading despite the consequences. By knowing the scriptures well we can rest assured what God permits is for the best.
Do you feel like God doesn’t care about the choices you make and the consequences you must endure? How familiar are you with what the Bible teaches on those subjects? Do you want to trust God?
I took the above picture while in Israel at Megiddo.