Are Jesus' words in Matthew 23:37 regarding Jerusalem killing prophets about past murders (which are not documented in history prior to the first century) or to the persecution that he and his disciples would (and did) experience in the first century, ala Matthew 23:34?

[Mat 23:29-38 KJV] (29) Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, (30) And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. (31) Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. (32) Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (33) Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? (34) Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (35) That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. (36) Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. (37) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (38) Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

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Are Jesus' words in Matthew 23:37 regarding Jerusalem killing prophets historic or predictive?

It is both historic as well as predictive, Jesus was referring to the numerous prophets sent by God to the nation of Israel ,to plead with his people to return to Him, but instead they stoned them or put them to death, like John the Baptizer.


Luke 11:48-51 (NASB)

48 "So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation."


Jesus new that they were shortly going to kill him, so add to their bloodguilt , (Acts 3:13-15) so in a loving but sad tone Jesus said :

Matthew 23:37 (NET Bible)

Judgment on Israel

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!"

About 37 years later ,the Roman armies ransacked Jerusalem and burned the temple, thus Jesus prophetic words were fulfilled , historians estimate that 1,100,00 people were put to death. God exacted vengeance on the rebellious people Like the prophets, Jesus said that Christians will be hunted and persecuted for doing what is morally right, Jesus said to his faithful followers:

Matthew 5:10-12 (NASB)

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Acts 22:20-25)

  • Thanks. For completeness, I would add that Acts 7:51-54 is a very important and relevant passage.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 18:45

Matthew 21:33 NASB “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34“When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35“The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36“Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37“But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38“But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ 39“They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Bold mine.

This passage shows that the killing of prophets mentioned by Jesus was a historic description. Confirmed by the chronological progression seen in the sending of first, prophets, and then, Messiah.

  • That may be a relevant passage but needs some comment to make a point. Can you please comment on why you think this verse addresses the question? Thanks Seeker.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 13:43
  • 1
    Added last paragraph.
    – Seeker
    Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 15:51


Prophets were killed,persecuted and throw in jail throughout the ages.Zechariah was killed prior to the first century,Jeremiah was beaten and jailed,Elijah was persecuted.All those things happened before the first century.

"Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’” But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD." 2 chronicles 24:21

“I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of Hosts,” he replied, “but the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I am the only one left, and they are seeking my life as well.”1 King 19:10

"And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison."Jeremiah 37:15

The books of chronicles,Kings and jeremiah were written before the first century.


Prophets were also killed after our Lord ascended into heaven.

"You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit, just as your fathers did.Which of the prophets did your fathers fail to persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One. And now you are His betrayers and murderers— ou who have received the law ordained by angels, yet have not kept it.” Acts 7:51

"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" Acts 7:55

Notice how filled with the Holy Spirit,those two prophets were,before they were killed. The apostle Paul knew beforehand(by the Holy Spirit) that he was going to be persecuted which means that he was also a prophet. The Lord's prophets were always mistreated and they are still going to be mistreated until His coming.

"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."Matthew 5:12


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