The golden eagle in Jerusalem: History repeats itself

King Herod put a golden eagle outside of the Temple of Jerusalem.

Scene from the  Arch of Titus (photo credit: JEAN-GUILLAUME MOITTE)
Scene from the Arch of Titus
To curry favor with Rome, King Herod put a golden eagle outside of the Temple of Jerusalem. Like other military standards, this eagle was carried into battle. The presence of the eagle meant the presence of the Roman Legion. By placing one at the gates, Herod was making a powerful statement regarding Jerusalem’s sovereignty under Rome.
Making idols was forbidden to the Jewish people, even if there was no attempt to worship them. Yet the Romans regarded eagle standards as holy symbols, anointing them on special days. Two respected teachers of the law, Judas and Matthias, spoke to religious scholars about this violation.
A group of these men pulled down the golden eagle and cut it into pieces. The king’s captain detained 40 participants, along with Matthias and Judas, and brought them before Herod. They explained that they made the choice to destroy the idol because they upheld the laws of Moses, and loved their religion.
Offended, Herod gathered Jewish leaders together in a theater. He lectured them about all of the things he had done for them, including improvements to their Temple. The Jewish leaders were all afraid of Herod, and relented. Herod had those responsible for the sedition burned alive. He appointed a new high priest: one subordinate to Herod and Rome.
This story is retold by Yosef ben Matityahu, a first century Jewish general who surrendered to the Romans, changing his name to Titus Flavius Josephus. He would later act as a translator for the Flavians when the Temple of Jerusalem was sacked. Despite his royal lineage and extensive written history, to Jews he was a traitor.
The eagle standard accompanied Titus during his siege of Jerusalem. This led to the demolition of the Second Temple. As for Herod, his heirs continued to rule, even after the destruction of Judea and the Diaspora of the Jewish people.
Israel, choose your leaders and your allies wisely.
The writer is a student of Roman history.
Historical references drawn from Pliny Nat. 10.5, Pliny Nat. 13.4, Josephus Ant. 17.149-167, Josephus J.W.5.360-364, Josephus J.W. 3.123 and Josephus J.W. 2.401.