Jewish Bar Kochba Revolt


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 Kochba's 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 general's 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 
Trajan's 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 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 
didn't 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 Rabbi's 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 Rabbi's suggested that anybody who can uproot a Cedar of 
Lebanon while riding past it on a horse would be deserving to enter 
Bar Kochba's 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 it's course, we do not need your help. 
 With his army, Bar Kochba started his attack. Instead of Having 
an attack of Bar Kochba's 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 
Kochba's army didn't 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 Hamoda'i 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 Elazar's 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 Elazar's 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 
couldn't 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, 
212, 380

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


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