Bar Kokhba, ‘son of a star’ in Aramaic, is the name given to the leader of the second Jewish revolt in Palestine (132–5 ce), to whom was apparently applied by Rabbi Akiba the Messianic prophecy in Num. 24: 17. His real name, Shimʼon (Simon) ben or (in Aramaic) bar Cosiba, which appears in various forms in rabbinic literature, has emerged through the discovery of letters and other documents from his camp. These designate him ‘Nasi (prince) of Israel’. They are dated by the era of his ‘liberation of Israel’ apparently beginning on 1 Tishri (October) 131, the era also used on the coins struck by the rebels. Little is known of the course of the revolt, but literary evidence suggests large-scale conflict and inscriptions show that a major legionary force was needed to suppress it. The rebels relied mainly on guerrilla tactics, with their focus in Judaea. While the letters show that En Gedi was an important base, and archaeology suggests that the caves of the region were occupied by both rebels and refugees, whether the rebels ever held Jerusalem is unclear. The last stand was made at Bethar, in the sack of which Bar Kokhba was killed.
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