Judean provisional government (66-68)

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Judean provisional Government
ממשלת יהודה
Judean Free Government.png
Map of the changing territory held by Jewish forces during the revolt
StateJudean state
LeaderHead of Government
Appointed byThe heads of government were formally appointed by the Jewish People's Assembly in consultation with the Great Sanhedrin. District commanders were directly appointed by the heads of the government.
Responsible toJudean People's Assembly

The Judean provisional Government was a short-lived de facto governing entity of Judea, which was established in the year 66 by Judean rebel forces of the Pharisee and Saduccee parties,[1] and aimed to govern the Judean state. The government functioned until the Zealot Temple Siege in the year 68, when most of its leaders were massacred in the inter-rebel struggle.



Following the defeat of Gallus in Beth Horon in 66 CE, the People's Assembly was called under the spiritual guidance of Simeon ben Gamliel and thus the Judean provisional Government was formed in Jerusalem. Ananus ben Ananus, the former High Priest of Israel, was appointed one of the government heads and began reinforcing the city, with other prominent figures such as Joseph ben Gurion and Joshua ben Gamla taking leading roles. Yosef ben Matityahu was appointed the commander in Galilee and Golan, while Joseph ben Shimon was appointed commander of Jericho, Yohanan the commander of Jaffa and Lydda, and Elazar ben Hananiya, the joint commander in Edom together with Joshua ben Zafia, with Niger the Perean (the war hero during the Gallus campaign) under their command.

The rebel government was not recognized at any time by the Roman Empire and in fact enjoyed limited recognition from among the rebel factions. The Jerusalem-based rebel government had little authority in the Galilee, where locals were not satisfied with the fact that a non-local Joseph ben Matityahu was appointed a regional commander, marginalizing John of Gischala and Justus of Tiberias, who rejected his authority.[2] Furthermore, Judean-based Zealots, Peasantry and most Idumean factions were never under direct control of the government.


A coin issued by the rebels in 68, note Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.[3] Obverse: "Shekel, Israel. Year 3." Reverse: "Jerusalem the Holy"

According to Cecil Roth, the new government began almost immediately to mint silver coins which, although they were "not distinguished either in design or execution," were of symbolic importance in the struggle for independence both because they were devoid of the name, reign year and image of the Roman emperor, and because they were made of silver. Silver coinage was the privilege of Imperial mints, the bronze coins that provinces were allowed to mint were a symbol of the subjugation of provinces to Rome.[4] There is broad scholarly agreement that coins issued by the Judean government during the Revolt use an archaic Hebrew script and Jewish symbols including pomegranate buds, lulavs, etrogs, and phrases including "Shekel of Israel," and "The Freedom of Zion" (חרות ציון Herut Zion,) as political statements intended to rally support for independence.[5]


The provisional government became obsolete in the year 68, when inter-rebel strife led to the killing of most government members. According to the historian Josephus, Ananus incited the people to rise up against the Zealots who were in control of the Temple. The forces of Ananus besieged the Zealots who held the Temple. When John of Giscala led the Zealots to believe that Ananus had contacted the Roman General Vespasian for assistance in retaking control of all Jerusalem, the Zealots, driven to desperation, asked the Edomites (Idumeans) for assistance in preventing the delivery of the city to the Romans. When the Edomites arrived, the Zealots opened the gates of Jerusalem to them, and the Edomites slaughtered ben Hanan's (Ananus ben Ananus) forces, killing him as well.

After freeing the Zealots from the Temple, the Edomites and Zealots massacred the common people. Remnats of the rebel government summoned the peasant faction headed by Simon bar Giora to Jerusalem, in order to stand against the rampaging Zealots. While the charismatic Bar Giora took over much of the city, he had not attempted to restore the government, rather ruling by himself in a despotic manner. Bitter fighting between Zealot factions and Bar Giora continued until the Roman siege of 70.


Jerusalem mostly remained in the control of the Zealots until the year 70, when it was sacked by Rome.


  1. ^ a b A Chronology of the Life of Josephus and his Era
  2. ^ Bradley W. Root. First Century Galilee: A Fresh Examination of the Sources. Mohr Siebeck. 2014.
  3. ^ "Silver Shekel from the First Jewish Revolt, 66–70 CE". The Center for Online Judaic Studies. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  4. ^ Roth, Cecil. "The Historical Implications of the Jewish Coinage of the First Revolt." Israel Exploration Journal 12, no. 1 (1962): 33-46. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27924880.
  5. ^ Ariel, Donald T. "Judaea and Rome in Coins, 65 BCE - 135 CE.", The Numismatic Chronicle 174 (2014): 385-91. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44710215.