The Jewish revolt led by Bar Kochba in 132 AD was not the work
of a single if a single radical revolutionary. It was the inevitable
result of years of promises not kept to the Jews, and laws which
suppressed the basis of Jews as a nation. To understand the reason
for Bar Kochbas Revolt one must go back many years even before the
war. Prior to Hadrian, an emperor by the name of Trajan was the ruler
of the Roman empire. Due to the rebellion of the Jews in the Diaspora
to the east and the west of them, Trajan, in order to keep the Jews in
Palestine from rebelling he had to send a great general to be governor
of the Jews in Palestine, a general who was well with the harshness in
which he treated people. This generals name was Tineius Rufus, he was
the general that put down the uprising of the Jews in Parthia. Because
of Rufus reputation of his severity to the Jews, he uprooted any
thought of the Jews in Palestine to rebel against Rome at that time.
The Jews did not want to rebel anyway. Trajan had promised the Jews
that he would rebuild the asenv ,hc, the Jews assumed this also meant
to rebuild Jerusalem.
The Pagans in Palestine did not want the asenv ,hc to be
rebuilt, they thought that if it was rebuilt it would be the rebirth
of the Jewish nation. Also, in addition, Trajan, the Emperor who made
this promise died and was succeeded by Hadrian. The Jews were unsure
if Hadrian would keep the promise that Trajan once made. Hadrian
wanted to go to Jerusalem to see what he was rebuilding before he
started the construction. When Hadrian got there he was awed by the
sight of a once desolate and fruitful city in ruins. He immediately
wanted to start the reconstruction. However later the Jews were
surprised and disappointed to discover that Hadrian wanted to rebuild
Jerusalem not as a city for the Jews to restart in, but as a Pagan
city sanctified to the Pagan G-d Jupiter. He was going to put an alter
where the Jews asenv ,hc once stood. Hadrian was to be the high
priest. What once was called Jerusalem would now be called Aelia
This was a mockery to the Jews. The Jews waited sixty years from
the destruction of the Second asenv ,hc for Rome to restore it to
them. The Jews held themselves back from Rebelling with their
neighboring Jews in Diaspora because they held onto, and believed that
Trajans promise would be kept. Furthermore, Hadrian later made a
prohibition of circumcision. "Consequently the Jews saw in Hadrian
another Antiochus Epiphanes. And where there was an Antiochus, a
Maccabee was bound to arise."
THE JEWS HAD TO REVOLT.
The Romans had by now either banned or mocked some of the most
important beliefs in Judaism. If they did not revolt against the
Romans they would have died, in a spiritual sense. Even if the Romans
didnt kill them, they would not really be Jewish anymore.
Circumcision, which was the physical difference between them as Jews
and, as well as a basic premise of their Jewish beliefs. Their only
choice was to gain their independence. Rabbi Akiva, a great scholar
of his day, also once believed in Tarsus promise. He had also been
led astray. Therefore, the great Rabbi helped organize thousands of
soldiers to fight for the independence and welfare of the Jewish
people. Rabbi Akiva also picked a man named Shimon Bar Kochba to lead
his army. Rabbi Akiva was sure that Bar Kochba would turn out to be "A
second Judah the Maccabee."
Rabbi Akiva was so sure of this that he called Bar Kochba the
jhan. His name alone was a reference to him being the jhan, his name
Bar Kochba means "Son of a Star" from the word Kochab which means
star. There was also a sentence in the Torah which stated, "A star has
come forth from David." Both times a star is mentioned. This is a
direct referral to him being the jhan. Bar Kochba had to make
sure his army was ferocious and unstoppable. To make sure that his
army only consisted of the strongest warriors, he said that only men
who would bite a finger off his right hand would merit to be in his
army, 200,000 people passed this test. The Rabbis objected to this
manner of testing Jews. They said to Bar Kochba, "How long are you
going to turn Jews into ohnun hkgc?" This means, how long will you
turn Jews into Warriors with imperfection (a missing finger).
Nonetheless, Bar Kochba could think of no other way to test the Jews.
So the Rabbis suggested that anybody who can uproot a Cedar of
Lebanon while riding past it on a horse would be deserving to enter
Bar Kochbas army, 200,000 more people passed this test. After
recruiting several others Bar Kochba had an enormous and ferocious
army of about 580,000 people. Bar Kochba was so confident of his army
that before each battle he would say to G-d, "Ribbono Shel Olam! Do
not help us do not hinder us!" What Bar Kochba basically meant
was, let nature run its course, we do not need your help.
With his army, Bar Kochba started his attack. Instead of Having
an attack of Bar Kochbas army to all of Palestine at once, he
captured Palestine a little at a time. He would take over fortress
after fortress, city after city. Pretty soon Bar Kochba had overthrown
all of Palestine for the Jews. The Jews were once again independent.
In Jerusalem an alter to the Jewish G-d was placed on the place where
the magnificent asenv ,hc once stood. Also the building of a wall
around Jerusalem had begun.
Despite this new joy brought to the Jews, Bar Kochba knew that
the Romans were planning a counter attack so he kept training his
army. In fact Bar Kochba was right. Hadrian had brought a world
renowned general all the way from Britain to lead his army against the
Jews. The Roman army along with aiding pagan armies went to launch
their counterattack against Bar Kochba. The Roman army, much like Bar
Kochbas army didnt attack them with one big battle. They reconquered
Palestine one town at a time. They defeated little bands of rebels
independently defending their cities. The Romans took back the Galil,
Yehuda and eventually the Roman army forced Bar Kochba into a small
fortified city in Jerusalem called Betar.
It was said that Betar was impenetrable. Every day of the Roman
siege around Betar a man named Rabbi Elazar Hamodai prayed to G-d
that they should live another day. Rabbi Elazar prayed to G-d
everyday, "Do not sit in judgment today." One day a Kussi snuck into
the city. He pretended to whisper into Rabbi Elazars ear. When Bar
Kochba heard of this, he questioned Rabbi Elazar. Bar Kochba asked
Rabbi Elazar what was said to him by the Kussi on that day. When Rabbi
Elazar replied that nothing was said to him Bar Kochba kicked Rabbi
Elazar and he immediately died.
On the Ninth of Av, shortly after Rabbi Elazars death Betar
fell. The Ninth of Av was a very mournful day for the Jews, it
was the day of the destruction of the first and second asenv ,hc. The
fall of Betar was due to a three main events. The first is that the
siege of Betar left the Jews inside the city starving and exhausted.
The second is that a spy from Betar told the Romans a secret way to
get into the city. The third is that perhaps Bar Kochba was not the
real protection of the Jews, Rabbi Elazar was. He was a righteous man
and prayed for the welfare of the Jews and of himself every single
day. On the battlefield about a half a million Jews were found dead.
The rest of the Jews were either sold as slaves, hid in caves, or fled
to other countries. Bar Kochba was found dead on the front. However
he was not found to be killed by a Roman, he was found strangled by a
huge serpent. After they saw that Bar Kochba lost the war and died,
they realized that Bar Kochba was no jhan. They renamed hi
m from Bar Kochba which symbolized him being the jhan, "Son of a Star"
to Bar Koziva "Son of deceit."
Hadrian realized that the Jews would never see Rome as a mother
country. A Country that control them. He realized that the Jews would
always see the Romans as Tyrants. Hadrian finished the construction of
the city made by Hadrian for Jupiter called Aelia Capitolina where
Jerusalem once stood. The Jews exiled from Jerusalem were forbidden to
go near the city. The Jews thus every year on the Ninth of Av would
bribe their way into the city and Mourn over the city that was once
the center of their religion. Hadrian issued a bunch of prohibitions
against Judaism. He forbade Circumcision, keeping the Sabbath, and the
making and keeping of a Jewish Calendar. Though not making a calendar
may not seam like such a harsh punishment but it is. Without a Jewish
Calendar you cannot fixate the Jewish Holidays which meant you
couldnt keep them. He also prohibited studying and teaching. So in
short, Hadrian prohibited Judaism.
The Jews had to fight, the Jews had to revolt against the
Romans. Even though the revolt yielded disastrous results, the Jews
had no other alternative. Bar Kochba just tried to help. He happened
to have been a great general with a magnificent army. If anyone of
lesser talent was to have been general over the Jewish army and led
the revolt, it probably would have been even worse. Bar Kochba
therefore was good for the Jews he gave hope to the Jews and gave them
a taste of independence and what it feels like to fight for all you
believe in. He was the inevitable result of years of suppression. The
Jews had no choice but to revolt. Even if Bar Kochba did not exist a
revolt would have still occurred maybe with a different date and a
different leader, but a revolt was inescapable.
1. Solomon Grayzel, A History of the Jews (Philadelphia: The Jewish
Publication Society of America, 1961) pages.180-185, 199-201, 204-205,
2. Rabbi Dr. Raphael Posner, eds. Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica
for Youth, (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Jerusalem LTD., 1982)
s.v. Bar Kokhba pages. 106-107
3. Suri Cohen, Mashiach, Mashiach, Mashiach. 1996 (?), School Booklet.
Shevach High School, New York. pages. 13-18
4. Naomi Ben-Asher and Hayim Leaf, The Junior Jewish Encyclopedia (New
York City: Sheng Old Publishers Inc, 1967) s.v. Bar Kokhba, Simeon
page. 53 5. Encyclopedia International (Canada: Grolier Inc., 1972)
s.v. Bar Cocheba or Bar Kokba page.386