’OTOT HA-MAŠIA (SIGNS OF THE MESSIAH)
Translated from the text published by Adolph Jellinek, ed., Bet ha-Midrasch: Sammlung kleiner Midraschim und vermischter Abhandlungen aus der jüdischen Literatur (6 vols.; Leipzig, 1853-77; repr., Jerusalem: Bamberger & Wahrmann, 1938), 2:58-63, who took it in turn from R. Makhir, Sefer ’avqat rokhel (Amsterdam: Nehemiah b. Abraham, 1716), 2b-5b. This edition reprints the Rimini imprint of 1526 (see 2b-4a), which is apparently the first printed edition. See M[oritz] Steinschneider, Catalogus librorum hebraeorum in bibliotheca Bodleiana (Berlin: Ad. Friedlaender, 1852-60), 1638-40. A variant version of this apocalypse appears in Oxford Ms. Heb. d. 11 (2797), the Sefer ha-Zikronot or the so-called Chronicles of YeraÐme’el; see Eli Yassif, ed., Sefer ha-Zikronot hu’ Divrey ha-Yamim le-YeraÐme’el (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 2001), 436-42. Another edition is supplied by Even-Shmuel, Midreshey Ge’ullah, 318-23; cf. his textual notes on pp. 425-26.
The first sign:
The Holy One, blessed be He, will cause three kings to arise who are apostates from their religion. They will behave deceptively, for they will make themselves appear to people (as if) they serve the Holy One, blessed be He, but they (in fact) do not serve (Him). They will lead astray and confuse the entire created order, and all the nations of the world will become apostates by following their laws. Moreover, (certain) wicked ones of Israel who have given up hope in (Israel’s) eventual redemption will commit apostasy against the Holy One, blessed be He, and abandon His veneration. Regarding this generation scripture states: ‘truth will be driven away’ (Isa 59:15). What does ‘driven away’ (ne‘deret) mean? It means that those in possession of the truth will become like herds of animals (‘ederim ‘ederim) and they will depart and flee and hide themselves among caves and underground burrows. All the mighty ones of that generation will perish, faithful ones will cease to exist, the ‘gates of wisdom’ will be hidden, and the world will become different. At that time there will be neither king nor prince in Israel, as scripture says: ‘Israel will dwell for many days without a king or a leader’ (Hos 3:4). Jacob will have no academy heads, no gaon, no faithful shepherds, no pious ones, and no wonder workers. The celestial doors will be locked, and the gates of support and sustenance will be closed.
At the time that the Messiah is revealed by His power, a generation will depart and collapse into its grave while still alive due to the harsh, fickle, and disturbing things which those three kings decree. And while they are decreeing that one should commit apostasy against the Temple, the Lord, and the Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He, will decree that the evil empire will enjoy world sovereignty for no longer than nine months, as scripture states: ‘therefore He will give them until the time when she who is pregnant [has given birth]’ (Mic 5:2), and the word ‘therefore’ (laken) signifies here an oath, as where it is said: ‘therefore (laken) I have sworn an oath to the family of Eli’ (1 Sam 3:14). They shall issue harsh decrees, and they shall increase the tax on Israel tenfold. Whoever formerly paid ten now pays one hundred, and everyone who formerly paid eight now pays eighty, and they will cut off the head of all those who do not have it. During all these nine months they will issue one new decree after another, each one harsher than its predecessor.
Then some extremely ugly people from the end of the earth will appear, and everyone who sees them will die due to the terror evoked by them. They will not need to wage war, for they kill everyone by fear of them alone. Each one of them has two heads and seven eyes; they will glow like fire and be as swift in their movement as deer. At that time Israel will cry out and say, ‘Woe! Alas!’ Children from Israel will become frightened, and each of them will come and hide themselves beneath their father and mother, saying, ‘Woe, my father! Alas, my mother! What shall we do?!?’ Their parents will respond to them (saying): ‘Now we must rely on the (promised) redemption of Israel!’
The second sign:
The Holy One, blessed be He, will introduce heat into the world from the heat of the sun, along with consumption and fever, many terrible diseases, plague, and pestilence. Every day there will die among the gentile nations one million people, and all the wicked ones among Israel will perish. (This will continue) until the nations of the world weep and cry out: ‘Woe to us! Where can we go and to where shall we flee?’ Everyone will dig their own grave while they still retain strength and then they will wish for death. They will conceal themselves in arid places and among towers and crevices in order to cool themselves, and they will go into caves and earthen caverns. And if you should ask how the righteous will be delivered from the heat of the sun, (the answer is that) the Holy One, blessed be He, will render that heat medicinal (for them), as scripture says: ‘O those who revere My name, a sun of righteousness will rise for you, and it will heal (you) with its wings’ (Mal 3:20). Balaam the wicked prophesied about these troubles (when he said): ‘Woe to whoever is alive when God brings it about!’ (Num 24:23).
The third sign:
The Holy One, blessed be He, will cause a dew of blood to fall, but it will appear to be water to the gentile nations. They will drink of it and die. Moreover the wicked of Israel—those who have abandoned all hope of redemption—will drink of it and die. However, the righteous—those who have maintained faith in the Holy One, blessed be He—will suffer no harm at all, as scripture states: ‘the wise will shine like the brightness of the sky’ (Dan 12:3). The whole world will become blood for three entire days, as Hosea (sic) has said: ‘I will place portents in the heavens and on earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke’ (Joel 3:3).
The fourth sign:
The Holy One, blessed be He, will cause a dew of healing to fall in order to counteract the blood, and those who were wavering will drink of it and be healed of their illness, as scripture states: ‘I will be like dew for Israel: he will bloom like a lily and extend his roots like Lebanon’ (Hos 14:6).
The fifth sign:
The Holy One, blessed be He, will turn the sun to darkness for thirty days, as scripture says: ‘The sun will be changed into darkness, and the moon to blood’ (Joel 3:4). After thirty days the Holy One, blessed be He, will return it to its former state, as scripture says: ‘they will be gathered together like a group of prisoners in a pit and locked away in prison, and after many days they will be recalled’ (Isa 24:22). The gentile nations will feel fear and shame, for they will realize that it is on account of Israel that all these signs are occurring, and many of them will secretly become Jewish, as scripture has envisioned: ‘those who observe (a religion devoted to) worthless vanities will abandon their faith’ (Jon 2:9).
The sixth sign:
As we stated above, the Holy One, blessed be He, will grant the wicked Edom sovereignty over the entire world. A final king will arise in Rome, and he will rule the entire world for nine months and bring about the destruction of many regions. His wrath will increase against Israel and he will burden them with a heavy tax. At that time Israel will experience great distress due to the multitude of restrictive edicts and disturbances affecting them which will recur every day. Israel will undergo decline and be subject to annihilation at that time, and there will be no one to help Israel. Isaiah prophesied about this time when he said: ‘he saw that there was no person; he was astonished that there was no one to interpose’ (Isa 59:16).
When the nine months are completed, the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph—whose name is Nehemiah b. Hushiel—will appear accompanied by the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, and some of the tribe of Gad. Israelites who dwell in every region will hear that the Lord’s Messiah has come, and a small number from every region and every city will assemble around him to fulfill what is said in Jeremiah: ‘Come back, O apostate children—utterance of the Lord! For I have been your Lord, and I will take one of you from the city and two of you from a family and bring you to Zion’ (Jer 3:14).
The Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will come and fight a battle with the ruler of Edom. He will win a victory against Edom, kill great heaps of them, and also kill the king of Edom. He will devastate the province of Rome. He will recover some of the Temple vessels which had been deposited in the palace of Julianos Caesar and come to Jerusalem. Israel will hear (about this) and gather themselves to him. The ruler of Egypt will make a peace treaty with him. He (Nehemiah) will slay all the people of the regions surrounding Jerusalem up to Damascus and Ashkelon, and all the people of the world will hear (about this), and a great fear will fall upon them.
The seventh sign:
The Holy One, blessed be He, who is the Master of Marvels, will effect a miracle in the world. They say that in Rome there is a marble statue (in) the likeness of a beautiful maiden: she was not fashioned by a human hand; rather, the Holy One, blessed be He, created her so by His power. Certain wicked ones belonging to the gentile nations will come—utterly worthless fellows—and excite ‘her’ and have sexual relations with her, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will preserve their seminal emissions within the statue. He will make a creature with it and form with it an offspring: she will (suddenly) split open and a human form will emerge from her. His name is Armilos the Satan; this is the one whom the gentile nations term ‘Antichristo(s).’ He is twelve cubits long and twelve cubits wide, and the distance between his two eyes is a span’s length, and they are deep-set (and) bloodshot. The hair on his head is like the color of gold, the soles of his feet are green, and he has two heads.
He will come to the wicked Edomites and say to them: ‘I am the Messiah! I am your god!’ They will immediately believe him and elevate him over themselves as ruler, and all the descendants of Esau will join forces with him and come to him. He will march forth and subdue all the regions. He will say to the descendants of Esau: ‘Bring before me my revelation which I gave to you!’ They will bring him their ‘frivolity,’ and he will respond to them: ‘This is indeed what I gave to you!’ He will address the nations of the world (saying) ‘Believe in me, for I am your Messiah!’ They will immediately put their trust in him.
At that time he will send for Nehemiah b. Hushiel and for all Israel, saying to them: ‘Bring to me your Torah and bear witness to me that I am God!’ Suddenly they will grow fearful and be perplexed. But at that time Nehemiah b. Hushiel will arise with thirty thousand warriors from among the forces of the tribe of Ephraim, and they will bring a Torah scroll and read aloud before him: ‘I am the Lord your God! You shall have no other gods before Me!’ (Exod 20:2-3). He (Armilos) will say to them: ‘There is nothing like this at all in your Torah! Come and bear witness to me that I am God just as all the gentile nations have done!’ Immediately Nehemiah will rise up to oppose him. He (Armilos) will command his attendants (saying) ‘Seize him and bind him!’ But Nehemiah b. Hushiel will arise, along with the thirty thousand who are with him, and do battle with him, and they will kill two hundred thousand of his (troops).
The anger of Armilos the wicked will increase in intensity, and he will assemble all the forces of the nations of the world in ‘the Valley of Decision’ (Joel 4:14). They will do battle with Israel, and they (Israel) will slay great heaps of them, whereas they will fatally strike only a small number of Israelites, but the Lord’s Messiah will be killed. The ministering angels will come, take him, and conceal him among the ancestors of the world. The courage of Israel will immediately fail and their strength will dissipate. Armilos the wicked will not know that the Messiah is dead, for if he knew (that were the case), he would not allow Israel to have a single survivor or fugitive. At that time all the nations of the world will expel Israel from their territories and will not permit them to dwell alongside them in their countries. They will say: ‘You see this despicable and lowly people who rebelled against us; can they possibly raise up a king?’ Israel will experience trouble the like of which has never happened to her before during the days of the world up to that time.
At that time Michael will arise to purge the wicked from Israel, as scripture states: ‘At that time Michael, the great prince who watches over the sons of Your people, will arise, and there will be a time of trouble such as not has taken place from the time (Israel) became a nation until that time, and at that time all of your people who are found inscribed in the book will escape’ (Dan 12:1). All of Israel will immediately flee into the deserts, whereas everyone who is entertaining doubts about their religion will turn to the nations of the world and state: ‘This is the redemption for which we have been waiting, for the Messiah is dead!’ All those who are no longer anticipating the redemption will be embarrassed by it (i.e., the Messiah’s demise) and they will turn to the gentile nations. At that time the Holy One, blessed be He, will test Israel and refine them like silver and gold, as it is said in Zechariah: ‘I will bring the third part through the fire, and I will purge them (of dross) as one purges silver’ (Zech 13:9), and as it is written in Ezekiel: ‘I will purge from among you those who rebelled and disobeyed Me’ (Ezek 20:38), and as it is written in Daniel: ‘They will be purged and made white: many will be refined and they will convict the wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand’ (Dan 12:10).
The entire remnant of Israel—the sanctified and purified ones—will remain in the desert of Judah for forty-five days. They will forage and feed on salt-plant and pluck leaves of shrubbery (cf. Job 30:4), and by them will be fulfilled what is said in Hosea: ‘Therefore, behold, I will entice her and lead her out to the desert, and I will console her’ (Hos 2:16). What is the scriptural basis of the forty-five days? Scripture states: ‘from the time of the removal of the daily offering and of the installation of the desolating abomination will be 1,290 days’ (Dan 12:11), and it is (also) written: ‘happy is the one who waits and attains 1,335 days’ (Dan 12:12). Consequently one learns that the difference between these two figures is forty-five days. At that time all the wicked of Israel will perish, for they are unworthy of experiencing redemption. Armilos will come and do battle with Egypt and capture it, as scripture states: ‘and the land of Egypt will no longer escape’ (Dan 11:42). Then he will turn his face toward Jerusalem in order to destroy it a second time, as scripture says: ‘he will pitch the tents of his pavilion between the seas and the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he approaches his end, and no one will help him’ (Dan 11:45).
The eighth sign:
Michael will arise and blow three blasts on the shofar, as scripture attests: ‘and it shall come to pass on that day that a great shofar will be blown, and those who are lost in Assyria will come [along with those cast out in Egypt, and they will worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem]’ (Isa 27:13), and as it is written: ‘and the Lord God will blow the shofar and travel with the storm winds of the south’ (Zech 9:14). At the first blast, the Messiah of the lineage of David and Elijah the prophet will be revealed to those proven righteous ones of Israel, the ones who had fled into the desert of Judah, at the end of the forty-five days. They will restore their hearts, invigorate their weakened hands, and strengthen their tottering knees. All Israel—those who remain throughout the whole world—will hear the sound of the shofar and realize that God has remembered them and that complete redemption has arrived. They will gather together and come (to Jerusalem), as scripture says: ‘those who are lost in Assyria will come [along with those cast out in Egypt, and they will worship the Lord on the holy mountain in Jerusalem]’ (Isa 27:13). Fear and trembling will fall upon the nations of the world on account of that sound, and terrible diseases will afflict them. Israel will gird themselves for departure, and the Messiah of the lineage of David will come, together with Elijah the prophet and those righteous ones who returned from the desert of Judah and with all those who have assembled from Israel. He will enter Jerusalem, climb the steps of the Temple ruins, and take his seat there.
Armilos will hear that a king has arisen for Israel, and he will say: ‘How long will this despicable and contemptible nation behave this way?’ He will immediately muster all the forces of the nations of the world and come to do battle with the Lord’s Messiah. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, will deem it unnecessary for him (i.e., the Messiah) to engage in battle. Instead, He will say to him: ‘Remain by My right hand!’ (Ps 110:1), and He will inform Israel: ‘Stand still and behold the Lord’s deliverance which He effects for you today!’ (Exod 14:13). Then the Holy One, blessed be He, will wage war with them, as scripture says: ‘and the Lord will go forth and wage war against those nations as at the time He fought on the day of battle’ (Zech 14:3). The Holy One, blessed be He, will rain down fire and brimstone from heaven, as scripture states: ‘I will contend with him using plague and blood; and I will rain down flooding rains, hailstones, fire, and brimstone upon him, his troops, and the many peoples allied with him’ (Ezek 38:22). Armilos the wicked will immediately die, both he and all his army, and so too (will perish) the wicked Edom who destroyed the Temple of our God and exiled us from our land. At that time Israel will exact much vengeance against them, as scripture foretells: ‘the house of Jacob will become fire, and the house of Joseph will be a flame, and the house of Esau will serve as dry chaff: [they will burn them up and consume them, and no survivor will remain for the house of Esau, for the Lord has spoken]’ (Obad 1:18).
The ninth sign:
Michael will blow a loud blast (on the shofar), and the graves of the dead will split open in Jerusalem, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect them. The Messiah of the lineage of David and Elijah the prophet will then come and resurrect the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph, the one who expired by the gates of Jerusalem. They will send out the Messiah of the lineage of David for the sake of the remnant of Israel that remains scattered among all the lands. Immediately all the rulers of the nations of the world will lift them up on their shoulders and bring them to the Lord (cf. Isa 49:22).
The tenth sign:
Michael will blow a loud blast (on the shofar), and the Holy One, blessed be He, will lead forth all the tribes located beyond the river of Gozan and from Halah and from Habor and from the cities of Media (cf. 2 Kgs 17:6). They will come together with the ‘people of Moses’ (beney Mosheh), (a large group) impossible to number or to measure. ‘The land before them will be like the garden of Eden, and behind them a flame will burn’ (cf. Joel 2:3; note Ezek 36:35), and nothing will remain alive among the nations of the world. At the time that the tribes depart, clouds of glory will encompass them, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will march before them, as scripture states: ‘the breaker will go up before them’ (Mic 2:13). The Holy One, blessed be He, will open for them springs connected with the Tree of Life in order to supply them with water on the way, as it says in Isaiah: ‘I will open rivers on the high places and fountains in the midst of the plains; I will turn the wilderness into a pool of water and the dry land into springs of water’ (Isa 41:18), and it is written: ‘they will not be hungry or thirsty; heat and sun will not afflict them, [for the One showing them mercy will lead them and He will guide them by springs of water]’ (Isa 49:10).
May the Holy One, blessed be He, grant us the merit to witness the redemption soon! May He grant us the merit to see the (rebuilt) Temple! May He fulfill for us the verse in which it is written: ‘Behold I will bring back the captives of the tents of Jacob and show mercy to his places of dwelling; the city (i.e., Jerusalem) will be rebuilt on its mound and the palace will reoccupy its proper place’ (Jer 30:18), and may He confirm for us all of His redemptive deeds and assurances which have been spoken through His prophets! For it is written: ‘at that time I will bring you, and at that time I will assemble you so that I might make you a name and (an object of) praise’ (Zeph 3:20).
The Signs of the Messiah are concluded.
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