Weapons of the Bible : Terrorist Dagger (Sicarii)
In first century Jerusalem the occupying Roman's were hated by most Jews. The occupying army was opposed by many but some took the opposition to a higher level, resorting to terroristic tactics in an effort to drive out the Roman's and reestablish a sovereign Jewish nation. This group was known as the Zealots and in 6 A.D. they were lead in an open revolution against Rome by Judas the Galilean. The group had been opposing Rome for some time but went on a rampage in 6 A.D. due to a new Roman census tax. The revolt was put down and Judas the Galilean was killed. In an effort to discourage possible future leaders of such a movement the Roman's also crucified Judas' sons. After this defeat the Zealots went underground and altered their tactics.
The Zealots would strike Roman targets or targets associated with Jewish people or leaders who were seen as sympathetic to Rome. Often they would set targets on fire and then retreat into hiding in the remote areas around Galilee. It was also during this time the group acquired another name, the Sicarii. The term comes from the Latin word for dagger (Sica) and is associated with a curved dagger. The Zealots, or Sicarii, would hide the curved dagger in the folds of their cloaks and slip up behind their targets. They would stab the target between the ribs and pierce the heart. The attacks were often made during a large public gathering or event. This type of open attack was done to heighten the fear and make certain no one believed they were safe from the Sicarii.
The dagger had a curved blade and while not large in size, was capable of being thrust into a person's body and penetrating to and through the heart. If need be, the dagger could once again be concealed after the attack, or easily discarded. These types of daggers would be readily available and were inexpensive, making them the perfect disposable weapon of choice of the Sicarii. While they were battling an occupying force, the tactics used were terroristic in nature. The intent was not to eliminate the enemy, but to strike fear, terror, into not only the Romans, but anyone who might assist them in any manner.
In 70 A.D. during the Jewish revolt the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem. The Zealots reportedly put to death anyone who suggested or attempted to negotiate with the Romans. The city eventually fell to the Roman army and the entire Temple was destroyed and the Jewish revolt put to an end. First century Jewish historian Flavious Josephus was extremely critical of the Sicarii in his writing. Josephus' writings often favored the Roman's point of view as he was close friends with the leader of the army laying siege to the city and Josephus latter lived in Rome.
The biblical connection comes from three of the four Gospels as well as the Book of Acts. In each we are told one of Jesus' disciples was a member of the Zealot group. Simon, not to be confused with Simon Peter, was always referred to as Simon the Zealot. This could have been to distinguish him from Simon Peter, but more likely it reflected his strong political beliefs and associations.
Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, (Luke 6:15)
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot (Mark 3:18)
Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:4)
When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. (Acts 1:13)
There is certainly no record of Jesus ever supporting or condoning the type of attacks conducted by the Sicarii. There is little doubt however that Simon the Zealot was aware of such tactics and was possibly involved in such attacks. These facts give another example of the power of Jesus to influence people. Simon and the other Zealots were anticipating a Messiah who would lead a great revolt and drive the Romans out of Israel. Instead Simon followed Jesus who was a man of peace and who had very little interest in worldly kingdoms. Still Simon followed.
This is even more remarkable when you look at another of Jesus' disciples, Matthew. The Bible tells us Matthew was a tax collector for the Romans, exactly the type of person who would be targeted by the Sicarii. Now Simon was not only travelling with someone he surely viewed as a Roman sympathizer, he was at times cast into his world. In Matthew chapter nine we are told Jesus and his disciples ate at Matthew's house and many tax collectors were there.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. (Matthew 9:9-10)
This surely must have been difficult for Simon, but his faith in Jesus overpowered his political beliefs and the disciples, different as they were, remained together and there is no record of any conflict ever taking place between Matthew and Simon.
The Bible does not tell us what happened to Simon but early church leaders say he took the Gospel message north and there he literally vanished from history. Tradition holds that Simon was eventually put to death for preaching the Gospel. Matthew would write a Gospel account of Jesus' life and travelled extensively to preach the good news of the Risen Lord. The best information available tells us Matthew was burned at the stake for preaching the Gospel. These two men, so very different from one another, both served Jesus during His lifetime and would later give their own lives in an effort to spread the Gospel. These men show us Jesus' can take anyone, combine them with who He might, and use them for His glory and for the glory of His Kingdom.