Jews in Bible times were very proud of their heritage, and they resented being under the control of non-Jews. The zealots were a group of Jews that did not like the fact that Rome controlled Palestine, their homeland. They wanted to be an independent nation like they had been during the time of the kingdom of Israel. They were very patriotic in their zeal for the nation of Israel, which makes their title of “zealots” appropriate.
The zealots did not want to obey the Roman government, and they saw paying taxes to Caesar as a sin (a view of taxes that Jesus corrected; read Matthew 22:15-22.) The zealots plotted to overthrow the Roman government in Palestine, and on several occasions they led revolts against the Roman authorities. They were the main ones who led the Jewish Revolt against Rome that resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Around the year A.D. 6, a man by the name of Judas of Gamala is believed to have formed the zealots. He led them in a revolt against Rome that began the years of unrest in the land of Palestine. Yet the zealots faced a serious problem: they were up against one of the most powerful armies in the history of the world. It was only a matter of time before the Jews were crushed by Rome’s might.