Tisha B'Av

The story of Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av) begins in the second year of the Exodus. It is told in the book of Numbers:

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel... “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan... “And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.“And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.“And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness!
“And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
(Num. 13:1-2, 17, 25-28, 30-32; Num. 14:1-2, 4.)

In the midst of all of this wailing and moaning by the children of Israel against God; “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.” (Num. 14:5)

“And Joshua (Heb. Yehoshua which is the same basic name as Yeshua. It was given to him by Moses and implies ‘May God save you from the counsel of the spies’.) the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, ... rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; Only rebel not ye against the LORD ... the LORD is with us: fear them not. But all the congregation bade stone them with stones....”
(Num. 14: 6-10)

At this point in the story we have a remarkable scene that takes place between Moses and the LORD. God is angry and is ready to wipe out all of the children of Israel except for Moses himself In their place God promises to use Moses to father a nation of chosen people: “...and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.” (Num. 14:12) Moses, however, again proves himself to be the humble type of the future ‘suffering servant’ Messiah, (Isa. 52:13-53:12) and does not seek self aggrandizement but rather, asks God to fulfill His original plan using the children of Israel.

In the end, God sentences the children of Israel to wander in the wilderness “...forty years, and bear your whoredoms (idol worship), until your carcasses be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.”
(Num. 14:33-34)

All of this is said to have taken place on Tisha B’Av (the 9th of Av). According to tradition, over 15,000 men died each year on Tisha B’Av beginning with this second year of the Exodus. Thus, (when you include the men that died in other uprisings such as Korah’s rebellion) over a period of thirty-nine years, all of the 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 60 died. According to tradition, on the eve of Tisha B’Av each condemned man dug his own grave and rested in it during the night. All of those who had reached the age of 60 that particular year died in their self prepared graves. However, according to tradition, on Tisha B’Av of the fortieth year, an amazing thing happened. The men dug their own graves as usual but in the morning they discovered that none of the remaining rebels had died. They thought they must have calculated the date incorrectly so they continued to return to their graves each night for the next six days. When they saw the moon was full on 15 Av they realized that God, in His mercy, had lifted His decree. This caused 15 Av to also become a special day of celebration for the children of Israel.

According to tradition, God’s rejection of the children of Israel (because they believed the spies report) had also affected Moses’ relationship with the LORD, in that during those thirty-eight years God did not speak to Moses face to face as He had in the past. Rather, God communicated to Moses through an angel; through the urim (oo-reem’) and thummim (thoomeem’) of the High Priest; or through visions. However, to Moses’ great joy, God reinstated him to his former estate on that final 15 Av.

There were some groups of people that were not affected by the death decree:

  • Joshua and Caleb.

  • All of the women. (Because they did not participate in the sin.)

  • The men older than sixty. Two examples are Machir and Jair who were children of Manasseh the son of Joseph) and who are mentioned later as living in the land. (Num. 32:40-41)

  • The members of the tribe of Levi. According to tradition they did not participate in any of the sins of the children of Israel except for those who died in Korah’s rebellion.

Tisha B’Av in Jewish History
The foe has laid hands
On everything dear to her.
She has seen her Sanctuary
Invaded by nations
Which You have denied admission
Into your community.
Lam. 1:10

As you can see, Tisha B’Av did not get off to a very auspicious beginning in the lives of the children of Israel. But there is much more to come. The next major event to take place on that day was the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 BCE. The scriptures seem to differ on the exact day:

And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, ... came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, and he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.
(II Kings 25:8-9)
“Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, ... came Nebuzaradan, ... and burned the house of the LORD...”
(Jer. 52:12-13)

This seeming discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the troops entered the Temple grounds on the 7th. However, the Temple fire was probably started on the 9th and did not finish burning until the 10th.

As a result of the destruction of the Temple, the Jews began a tradition of fasting and reading the book of Lamentations every year on the 9th of Av.

The next major event to take place on this date is (incredibly) the destruction of the second Temple in 70 CE by the Roman general Titus. Thus we find the second Temple was also being destroyed at the precise time the Jews, who were still in the first Diaspora, were reading the book of Lamentations (in 70 CE) and lamenting the destruction of the first Temple.

This event is described in detail by the Jewish historian Josephus in his book Wars of the Jews. The fighting was fierce, with many casualties on both sides. After heavy fighting on the 9th of Av, during which the Romans breached the Temple compound, the Jews locked themselves in the Temple that night. On the next day, 10 Av, the fire was started that resulted in the complete destruction of the Temple as had been prophesied by Yeshua, forty years before:

“And Yeshua went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Yeshua said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
(Matt. 24:1-2)

Before the Temple was completely burned, Titus went into the Holy Place, that is, the outer sanctuary of the Temple. Because Titus was an uncircumcised gentile, this was a further desecration of the Temple in the eyes of the Jews. One might ask; how could a building built entirely of stone burn’? While the walls and floor were of stone, much of the building was overlaid with wood. Also, the roof was constructed of wood and the curtains were of woven material. All of this material was flammable. In fact, the Temple was often called “Lebanon” by the Jews because of the cedar wood that came from Lebanon for its construction. A prophecy found in Zechariah 11:1-2 was considered, by the sages, to be a prophecy of the destruction of the Temple:

“Open thy doors, O Lebanon, (Temple) that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.”
(Zech. 11:1-2)

What about the stones being thrown down? Much of the Temple wood was also overlaid with gold. The heat of the fire melted the gold and it ran down between the cracks in the stones. The Roman soldiers moved every stone in order to reclaim the gold. By the time the entire operation was over there was not one stone remaining in proper order on top of another, thus fulfilling Yeshua’s prophecy. Later on many of the stones were removed by other inhabitants and used for construction of other buildings.

But the story of Tisha B’Av does not end here. On this very day, in 130 C.E., the Romans plowed up the site of the Temple so that all trace of the Jewish Temple would be removed. It was then converted to a Roman colony and renamed Aeilia Capitolina.

In 133 CE the last Jewish revolt against Rome took place. It was led by a Jew who became known as Bar Kochba. A famous Jewish sage of that time, Rabbi Akiva, proclaimed Bar Kochba to be the messiah. This was the final straw in any relationship between the Jewish Believers and non-believers. The Believers could not accept Bar Kochba as the messiah but, rather, considered him a false messiah. They refused to fight the Romans and were thereafter considered traitors to Judaism by the non-believing Jews. Bar Kochba’s last outpost, Betar, fell to the Romans on 9 Av in 135 CE.

There are some other events that occurred on this day that have special significance to the Jewish people:

Hebrew Year
Common Year
3893 133 Turnus Rufus ploughs site of Temple. Romans build pagan city of Aelia Capitolina on site of Jerusalem.
4855 1095 First Crusade declared by Pope Urban II. 10,000 Jews killed in first month of Crusade. Crusades bring death and destruction to thousands of Jews, totally obliterate many communities in Rhineland and France.
5050 1290 King Edward I orders expulsion of Jews from England, accompanied by pogroms and confiscation of books and property.
5252 1492 Inquisition in Spain and Portugal culminates in the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. Families separated, many die by drowning, massive loss of property.

On April 30, 1492 a decree expelling the Jews from Spain went forth. This was the same day Christopher Columbus was given a royal commission to equip his fleet for a voyage to discover a new route to the Orient. On the 9th of Av Columbus made his final preparations for departure. On the 10th of Av, as Columbus sailed out of the harbor; he made note in his journal about the thousands of Jews who were in boats trying to leave Spain rather than convert to Catholicism. Some historians have speculated that Columbus was himself a Jew and that he had several, if not many, Jews as crew members.

It is interesting that many of the Spanish Jews (known as Maranos) ended up immigrating to the Spanish controlled New World. Most of them made conversions to Catholicism some of which were false. About five years ago, the Los Angeles Times, ran an extensive article about the unknown Mexican Jews. Many, of Spanish/Mexican descent hav discovered that old grave stones, of their supposed good Catholic ancestors, were found to have small engravings of the Star of David, a menorah, or a Torah scroll. Apparently many of these Jews went to Mass every Sunday but still held to their Jewish traditions in secret. It has been said that Hispanics, whose last name ends in the letter "Z", may be of Jewish descent.

1571The ghetto of Florence, Italy was inaugurated
1648Three thousand Jews perished in Konstantynow in what were known as the Chmielnicki massacres
1670The last group of Jews were forced to leave Austria
1882The Turkish government, which then controlled the Holy-land, barred immigration of Russian and Rumanian Jews and also banned the sale of land in Palestine to Jews.
5674 1914 Britain and Russia declare war on Germany. First World War begins. First World War issues unresolved, ultimately causing Second World War and Holocaust. 75% of all Jews in war zones. Jews in armies of all sides - 120,000 Jewish casualties in armies. Over 400 pogroms immediately following war in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.
1941 A decree went forth expelling all Jews from Hungarian Ruthenia
5702 1942 Deportations from Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp begin.
5749 1989 Iraq walks out of talks with Kuwait.
5754 1994 The deadly bombing the building of the AMIA (the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina) which killed 86 people and wounded some 300 others.

A Recent Happening

On Tisha B’Av in 1994 a most remarkable thing occurred. It was that day the first of twenty-one mountain sized parts of a comet collided with the planet Jupiter. Is this significant? Was this one of the “signs in the heavens”?

“And there shall be signs in the sun, arid in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
“And He spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”
(Luke 21:25-31)

While the world is unquestionably in a certain amount of distress at this time, it is also true that much of the world is at relative peace. Yet, we do see signs of breakdown in many countries, a tendency toward nationalism and fragmentation. But to say that the comet colliding with Jupiter is a direct fulfillment of the above prophecy is probably stretching it a little. However, it could be a wake up call for those who do study prophecy; for it was dramatic, it does prove that earth is not immune from such a disaster unless God protects us, and it did take place on Tisha B’Av.


Bloch, Abraham P., Day by Day in Jewish History, Ktav, New York, 1983
Bullinger, EW., Number in Scripture, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1967
The Jewish Encyclopedia, 12 Vols., Funk & Wagnells Co., New York & London, 1901
Josephus, Flavius, The Complete Works, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1984
Strassfeld, Michael, The Jewish Holidays, A Guide & Commentary, Harper & Roe, New York, 1985
Trepp, Leo, The Complete Book of Jewish Observance, Behrman House/Summit Books, New York, 1980
Weissrnan, Rabbi Moshe, The Midrash Says, 5 vols., Benei Yakov Publications, Brooklyn, New York, 1983

Used by permission:
Hebrew Roots
July/August 1996