RESPONSUM OF R. HAI GAON ON THE TOPIC OF REDEMPTION

 

This responsum was first published in R. Eliezer Ashkenazi, טעם זקנים (Frankfurt am Main: I. Kauffman, 1854), 59-61. Additional versions with some textual variation can be found in ’Oêar ha-Geonim: Tractate Sukkah (ed. B. M. Lewin; Jerusalem: [s.n.], 1934), 72-75, and Abraham ben Azriel, Sefer ‘Arugat ha-Bosem (ed. Ephraim E. Urbach; 4 vols.; Jerusalem: Mekitze Nirdamim, 1939), 1:256-63. The present translation renders the text published by Yehudah Even-Shmuel, Midreshey Ge’ullah (2d ed.; Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954), 135-41.

 

Regarding what you asked to have explained to you; namely, how the redemption will transpire from its start to its end, and (regarding) the resurrection of the dead, and (regarding) the renewal of the heavens, were I to expound each and every matter in all its particulars, the appointed time would expire (before I could finish), but I will indicate some general points about each matter, and so I speak (as follows):

When seven years remain of the years comprising the ‘appointed time’ (הקץ), these will be the years when redemption commences, for the Sages provided an identifying sign for them when they said: ‘the week (שבוע) when the son of David comes ….’ During that week Edom will rule over Israel for a period not less than nine months and no more than three years. This is because Israel can only take sovereignty away from Edom, as Scripture affirms: ‘Edom will have possession; Se‘ir, their enemies, will have possession, but Israel will powerfully prevail. One from Jacob will rule, and he will destroy what remains of the city’ (Num 24:18-19), after Edom has taken sovereignty away from Asshur, as Scripture states: ‘ships will come from the place of the Kittim, and they will afflict Asshur and ‘Ever, and even he will be destroyed forever’ (Num 24:24), after Asshur has taken sovereignty away from the Kenites, who are the Midianites, who are the Ishmaelites, as Scripture says: ‘however Qayin (i.e., the Kenite) will be consumed until the time when Asshur takes you captive’ (Num 24:22). Therefore when we see that Edom has attained ruling authority over the land of Israel, we can affirm that our redemption is beginning, for Scripture declares: ‘deliverers will ascend Mount Zion in order to judge the mountain of Esau, and sovereignty will belong to the Lord’ (Obad 1:21).

At that time [at God’s instigation] there shall arise from among the descendants of Joseph a man who will be called the Lord’s Messiah, and many people will assemble around him in Upper Galilee, and he will become their ruler. Other people will continue gathering themselves to him, two or three coming from this province, and four or five from that one. Regarding this time Scripture states: ‘I will take you—one from a city, and two from a family’ (Jer 3:14). However, most of Israel will remain in their places of exile, for they will not realize that the appointed time has come.

Then the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will go up from Galilee to Jerusalem together with the people who had gathered themselves to him, and they will kill the official appointed by the ruler of Edom and the people associated with him. Regarding this time Scripture states: ‘I will enact my vengeance against Edom by the agency of my people Israel’ (Ezek 25:14). He will dwell in Jerusalem for a brief time.

When all the nations hear that a king for Israel has arisen in Jerusalem, they will rise up against them in the rest of the provinces and drive them out. They will say to them: ‘Up to now you dwelt loyally with us, since you had no ruler or prince of your own. But now that you have a ruler, you can no longer dwell in our land!’ Many Israelites will go out into the wilderness regions adjacent to their (former) homelands—regarding this time Scripture says: ‘I shall make you enter the wilderness of the peoples’ (Ezek 20:35)—and they will dwell there in tents, as Scripture says about this time: ‘I shall make you live in tents again’ (Hos 12:10). Many of them will lack food and water, and they will experience suffering based on their (previous) deeds. Scripture states about this time: ‘I will make you pass beneath the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant’ (Ezek 20:37). Many will abandon the covenant with Israel, for they will be weary of their lives (as Jews), and about them Scripture has stated: ‘I will purge from among you those who rebel and those who offend Me’ (Ezek 20:38).

It will happen that when the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph and all the people who are with him have made their dwelling in Jerusalem, Armilos will hear the news about them. He will come and prepare charms and enticements so as to lead many astray by them. He will come up and do battle against Jerusalem, and he will defeat the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph and his people. Some of them he will kill, whereas others he will take captive, and he will divide their spoil. Regarding this time Scripture states: ‘I will gather all the nations at Jerusalem to do battle’ (Zech 14:2). Even the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will be slain, and Israel will experience great distress. Scripture reveals about this time: ‘and they shall look to Me about the one whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one would mourn an only child, and feel bitterness about him as one would feel bitterness about (the death of) a firstborn son. On that day the mourning will be great in Jerusalem’ (Zech 12:10-11).

Why will Armilos be granted the power to kill the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph? (This will occur) in order to break the heart(s) of the dissenters among Israel; i.e., those who have no faith. They will say: ‘This is the man for whom we have been waiting? He has come and been slain! No more deliverance remains for [for Israel]!’ They will abandon the covenant of Israel and cling to the Gentile nations, but these latter will kill them, for Scripture says about them: ‘all the sinners among My people will die by the sword’ (Amos 9:10). Consequently those who remain in Jerusalem will be refined and purified, and also those who went out to the wilderness areas will be tested and refined; about two parts will be left over from these and about a third will be left of those. About them Scripture testifies: ‘and it will come to pass in all the land—utterance of the Lord—that two portions in it will be cut off (and) will expire, and only a third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part into the fire, and I will refine them like one refines silver, and I will test them like one tests gold’ (Zech 13:8-9). During that time all the ‘messianic birth-pangs’ will pass over them, those things which have been expounded in numerous places from Scriptural verses and the teachings of our Sages, may their memory be blessed. Afterwards they will cry out, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will hearken to their cry, as Scripture promises: ‘and he will call upon My name, and I will answer him.’ (Zech 13:9).

At that time Elijah will appear in the desert among those who are located in the wilderness regions, and he will restore their hearts, as Scripture says: ‘he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers’ (Mal 3:24). The Messiah of the lineage of David will suddenly appear to those who are in the Land, for the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph had previously assembled the people before him, as Scripture states: ‘behold, I am sending My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. Suddenly the Lord Whom you seek will enter His Temple’ (Mal 3:1). The Israelites who are in the wilderness regions will follow Elijah until they meet the Israelites who are with the Messiah of the lineage of David in Judaea. Scripture says about them: ‘in those days the house of Judah will come with the house of Israel, and they will come together from a northern land unto the land which I bequeathed your ancestors’ (Jer 3:18).

Most of those who were slain will lie dead in the Land for forty days, for when the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph is killed, his corpse will be cast aside for forty days. Nevertheless no impure thing will afflict it until the Messiah of the lineage of David comes and resurrects him at the command of the Lord. This will be the first of the signs which he will perform; namely, the resurrection of the dead, for he will regain life.

Then the Messiah of the lineage of David, Elijah, and the Israelites who came from the wilderness regions to Jerusalem will dwell securely (and) undisturbed for a long time. They will construct houses, plant vineyards, and enjoy prosperity in business and trade. (This situation will continue) until Gog hears news of them, as it is written: ‘I shall come up against a land of unwalled towns; I will come to those who are tranquil (and) who live unsuspectingly’ (Ezek 38:11). The land of Gog is Magog, (a territory) in the land of Edom, for Scripture has said about him: ‘[Gog of the land of Magog] is chief prince of Meshek and Tubal’ (Ezek 38:2). He will bring (with him) peoples from all of its surrounding areas and from Edom, as Scripture attests: ‘the far reaches of the north and all his flanks—numerous peoples’ (Ezek 38:6). There will moreover be augmented by masses (of people) drawn from every city and province through which they pass: (some will be) wicked and destructive men intending to mob them and annihilate them, but (also) others, some of the best of the Gentiles, ‘who plan to gather beneath the wings of the Shekinah.’ All of them will come to do battle, and they will fight against Jerusalem with the Messiah of the lineage of David and those persons with him. Scripture says about this time: ‘behold I will make Jerusalem (to be) a cup of venom’ (Zech 12:2), in addition to what is said in the passage about Gog (i.e., Ezekiel 38-39). At that time a mighty earthquake will also rock the Land of Israel.

‘The Lord will come forth and wage battle against those nations’ with four types of catastrophic blows. Some of them will perish by fire, brimstone, and catapulted boulders—these latter are the ‘hailstones’ mentioned in the Scriptural verse: ‘torrential rain and hailstones, fire and brimstone’ (Ezek 38:22). Some of them will perish by the sword being wielded by this one against that one, as Scripture states: ‘I will summon for a sword to be used against him throughout all My hills—utterance of the Lord God—each one’s sword will be against his brother’ (Ezek 38:21). There are some whose flesh will rot away limb by limb. Regarding them Scripture states: ‘this will be the plague with which the Lord will afflict all the peoples who unite together in battle against Jerusalem: their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will melt in their sockets, and their tongues will putrefy in their mouths’ (Zech 14:12), and it will happen that when one (of these) grabs the hand of his colleague in order to gain support for himself, his hand will be pulled off, as Scripture predicts: ‘each will grasp the hand of his colleague, and his hand will prevail over that of his colleague’ (Zech 14:13). Others of them will fall casualty to blindness, an injured hand or foot, or a lacerated nose or ear. These will take flight and go to distant provinces, and there they will recount what they saw with their own eyes, as Scripture says: ‘I will put a mark on them, and I will dispatch some of them as refugees to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, those who bend the bow, to Tubal and Ionia; distant coastlands that have not heard My news and have not seen My glory, and they shall recount My glory among the nations’ (Isa 66:19).

At that time all the nations of the world will take thought and say, ‘What sort of gift might we bear to this king? Are not all kinds of money, clothing, or vessels reckoned as nothing before him? Let us bear to him the descendants of his people and his congregation as a gift!’ For Scripture states: ‘they will bring all your brethren as a gift for the Lord’ (Isa 66:20). Each nation will transport them in accordance with its wealth. Some will ride on horses, in chariots, in wagons, on mules, and on dromedaries, whereas others will be carried by them on their shoulders, as Scripture predicts: ‘They will bring your sons in their arms and will carry your daughters on (their) shoulder(s)’ (Isa 49:22). Some will ride on ships from Tarshish, for Scripture states: ‘ships from Tarshish will be among the first to bring your children from afar’ (Isa 60:9). Others will be in reed vessels, as Scripture says: ‘who sends emissaries by sea in reed vessels floating on the surface of the water’ (Isa 18:2), and it also says: ‘from the other side of the rivers of Cush my suppliants, O daughter of Putzay, will bear my gift’ (Zeph 3:10), and it also says: ‘O land of buzzing wings, which lies beyond the rivers of Cush’ (Isa 18:1). No wooden ships are able to travel there due to the rocks and shoals which lie concealed in the water. As for the remainder of Israel—those found in wilderness regions where there are no Gentiles to bring them—our God will lift them up as if by winds, for Scripture states: ‘I will say to the north, "Give!" and to the south, "Do not hold back!"’ (Isa 43:6), and they will likewise be borne upon clouds and fog, as Scripture states: ‘Who are these floating like a cloud?’ (Isa 60:8). At the approach of these exiles, the sea of Egypt will be divided for them at one spot, and the Euphrates river will be split at seven places. With regard to this time Scripture states: ‘I will open rivers on the heights and fountains in the midst of plains; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the arid land a place where water gushes forth. I will place cedar, acacia, myrtle, and oil tree in the wilderness, and I will set out together in the barren plain cypress, elm, and box-tree’ (Isa 41:18-19)—these latter will serve as shade for them. No single Israelite will be left alive in any (foreign) place when they come to Jerusalem, for Scripture says: ‘I will not leave a single one of them there’ (Ezek 39:28).

And after all who are alive have been gathered together (in Israel) and no Israelites remain (in the Diaspora) save for those who have died, a loud blast will be blown on the shofar, the earth will shake, and the Israelite dead will resurrect, as Scripture says: ‘on that day a loud blast will be blown on the shofar’ (Isa 27:13). They say that Zerubbabel will be the one who blows this shofar. Why will there be a massive earthquake? This is to effect the release of the bones which have been crushed into powder and then incorporated into buildings and baked into bricks and upon which debris has collapsed, so that each bone can draw near to one another just as it is described in the Scriptural portion about the valley (i.e., the ‘valley of dry bones,’ or Ezek 37:1-14). The Holy One, blessed be He, will stretch tendons among them, encase them in flesh, and cover them with skin, but they will be lacking an animating breath. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, will make a vivifying dew fall from heaven, a dew which contains within it a light which revives life, as Scripture says: ‘Your dead will revivify; they will raise my corpse. Awake and shout, O dwellers in dust, for your dew will be one containing light’ (Isa 26:19). They will realize that they were formerly alive, then dead, and now revivified, for Scripture says: ‘You will know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and conduct you out of your tombs, O My people!’ (Ezek 37:13). Everyone who had some sort of physical defect will initially arise with that defect: if one was elderly (at the moment of death), one will return in this elderly state and weakened condition. (This will be done) so that they (i.e., skeptics) might not say: ‘these are really different creatures (and not the resurrected dead)!’ Afterwards the Holy One, blessed be He, will heal them, as Scripture states: ‘then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be cleared; the crippled one will leap like a gazelle, and the mute tongue will shout’ (Isa 35:5-6), and Scripture also says: ‘your youth will be renewed like the eagle’s’ (Ps 103:5). [And from whence do we learn that the resurrection of the dead takes place during the time of the Messiah? Scripture says: ‘we shall raise for him] seven shepherds and eight human princes’ (Mic 5:4). [Our Sages of blessed memory say that the seven shepherds] are Adam, Seth, Methuselah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David; and the ‘eight human princes’ (nesikey adam) are Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Hezekiah, Elijah, and the Messiah. Who will be resurrected? All those in Israel who were completely righteous and those who even though they committed sin made repentance (will be resurrected), but those whose iniquities are more numerous than their merits and did not make repentance will not arise during the time of the Messiah, for Scripture states: ‘many of those who repose in the ground will awaken: some of them to life eternal, but others of them to derision (and) to eternal abhorrence’ (Dan 12:2). This is why our Sages have taught: ‘if someone is ill and approaching death, they say to him: Make confession! Such is the way with all those who are about to die—they make confession. And if they do not know how to make confession, they tell them: Say—I have sinned, I have erred, and I have transgressed! May my death serve as atonement for my wickedness!’ This insures that all Israel will merit resurrection from the dead. Furthermore, the dead whom the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect will not return to dust, for Scripture states: ‘these to eternal life’ (Dan 12:2), and it also says: ‘all who are inscribed for life in Jerusalem will be called holy’ (Isa 4:3). Israel will marvel and ask: ‘From where have all these suddenly come?’ This accords with Scripture: ‘She (Zion) will say to herself: Who engendered these with me?’ (Isa 49:21). Even the gentile nations will be amazed, as Scripture says: ‘Who has ever heard of anything like this? Who has ever seen anything like these things?’ (Isa 66:8).

After the dead and the living have been assembled together, the form and feature(s) of the Temple will be revealed to us on its site: it will correspond with the vision which the priest (and) prophet Ezekiel the son of Buzi (upon him be peace!) saw. There are some who say that it will descend to its site from heaven, as Scripture says: ‘Jerusalem already constructed like the city joined together with it’ (Ps 122:3).

Then all the children of Israel will become prophets, for Scripture states: ‘it shall come to pass after this that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy’ (Joel 3:1). The same will happen to the male and female servants of Israel, as Scripture says: ‘in those days I will pour out My spirit even upon slaves and maidservants’ (Joel 3:2).

Those gentile nations who remain [alive] will become proselytes, as Scripture says: ‘for then I will restore a pure speech to the nations so that all of them might invoke the name of the Lord’ (Zeph 3:9), ‘and they will say: Come, let us ascend the mount of the Lord to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways so that we might walk in His paths. For Torah issues forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord (comes) from Jerusalem!’ (Isa 2:3). And when they arrive in the presence of the King Messiah, he will command that they cease engaging in violence and wars, for Scripture says: ‘they will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; one nation will no longer lift a sword against another, and no more will they learn the art of warfare’ (Isa 2:4).

Then He will resettle Sodom and Gomorrah in their cities and the whole of the plain so that the Land of Israel will no longer be blemished by the devastation (which took place) within it, as it is written: ‘and your sisters—Sodom and her suburbs—will return to their former condition’ (Ezek 16:55). All dangerous wild animals will cease to exist in the Land, as Scripture states: ‘the wolf will live with the lamb, and the panther will repose with the goat-kid; the calf, the lion, and the fatling will be together, with a small child leading them. The cow and the bear will graze: their offspring will lie down together, and the lion will feed on straw like an ox. An infant will play over the hole of a serpent; a small child will stretch his hand over the lair of a snake. Nothing terrible or destructive will happen on the whole of My holy mountain, for the Land will be filled with knowledge of the Lord just like water covers the sea’ (Isa 11:6-9).

The people whom the King Messiah found still alive will live long lives and then die, as Scripture states: ‘they will not build and another live (there), nor will they plant and another consume (the fruits), for the days of My people will be as long as the days of a tree’ (Isa 65:22). No one will die in the prime of life or as a child, for Scripture says: ‘no longer will there be an infant or an elder who does not live out their full lifespan. A young boy will be one who dies at one hundred years of age, while the one who fails to attain one hundred years will be thought accursed’ (Isa 65:20). It is doubtful that such a one would die; rather, this will be the way it is at the time of redemption. Whoever dies at the age of one hundred then will be comparable to one who dies at the age of twenty now, and should one who is one hundred years old wrong someone so that the latter curses him, they would not tolerate it, for he would not deserve toleration in their estimation, since he would be equivalent to our youth of about twenty years of age. There are some who say that death will be uprooted from the world, for Scripture says: ‘He will eradicate death forever’ (Isa 25:8). Others say that they will be dead for only three days and then they will revivify, and about them Scripture says: ‘He will invigorate us for two days, and on the third day He will raise us up, and we will live before Him’ (Hos 6:2). The dead ones who resurrect during the time of the Messiah will live eternally in the World to Come thanks to the merit of those who were completely righteous.

In those times when the Temple and Jerusalem are revealed, the Shekinah will descend from heaven and stand erect like a column of fire extending from the ground to the sky, as Scripture foretells: ‘and the Lord will create upon all the locality of Mount Zion and its place of assembly a (canopy of) cloud and smoke by day, and a bright flame of fire by night’ (Isa 4:5). All who seek to come to Jerusalem will see that column of fire on its eastern edge and will be guided by its light until they arrive in Jerusalem, as Scripture states: ‘the nations will come to your light’ (Isa 60:3). That light consequently will be brighter than the light of the sun or moon, for it will darken them, as Scripture says: ‘the moon will darken and the sun will blush, for the Lord of Hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem’ (Isa 24:23).

At that time they will notice that the heavens and earth will look as if they have been remade, as if the heavens and earth existing at the time when Israel was subjugated departed and were replaced, and a new set of heavens and earth put in their place. For Scripture says: ‘behold, I am creating new heavens and a new earth’ (Isa 65:17). Moreover, both Jerusalem and Israel will notice that they themselves have become as new, as if the Jerusalem and Israel existing at the time of their subjugation have passed away and been replaced, and others put in their place marked by joy and celebration, as Scripture notes: ‘for behold, I am creating Jerusalem (as a place for) rejoicing, and her people (as a cause for) delight’ (Isa 65:18).

They will dwell in their kingdom until the end of the world. There are some who say that this will be at the completion of seven thousand years counting from the era of Creation. Others say that many thousands (of years) beyond reckoning will transpire, and that eventually the heavens and earth will perish, as Scripture states: ‘for the heavens will dissipate like smoke, and the earth wear out like a cloth garment’ (Isa 51:6). The dead who resurrected and witnessed the redemption will depart bodily for the World to Come, as Scripture says: ‘My redemption is eternal, and my victory will not break apart’ (Isa 51:6). At that time the Holy One, blessed be He, will create another set of heavens and earth different from those (which deteriorated), and the righteous will make their dwelling among them for all eternity, as Scripture envisions: ‘for just as the new heavens and the new earth which I made endure before Me, so will your offspring and your name endure!’ (Isa 66:22).

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