The text of the book of Revelation is generally thought to have been written at the end of the first century. This is significant in that by this point, the teachings related to the Yeshua/Nazarene movement have reached beyond the area of Judea-Samaria. These communities would have included a fairly significant level of gentile presence, ranging from full converts to Judaism to those keeping some level of basic Torah commands.
This also places Revelation in the interim period between the first and second Roman-Jewish wars (70 and 132CE). Roman anti-Semitism and oppression would have been increasing during this time, yet the synagogue system remained in place and the Nazarenes maintained some connection to this. Jews in the empire continued to have a level of religious autonomy until the Bar Kochba war (132-135CE), as per the Roman laws of collegia established by Julius Caesar. Influence from surrounding pagan Roman entities ‘creeping in’ to groups, especially those further from the land of Israel, is also a factor to consider.
This is the Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah, which G-d gave him to show to his servants the things which must happen soon, which he sent and made known by his angel to his servant, Yochanan,
John’s opening statement holds a great many clauses, a few of which we will analyze individually.
The “Book of Revelation” may be broken down into four distinct parts. Each of these involves a different level of ‘prophetic experience.’
- In chapters 1-3, several groupings of people are addressed. This section is not so much a look into the future as it is a midrash on general types of behavior and consequences.
- Beginning in chapter 4, (i.e., “Come up hither …”) through chapter 19, John receives a higher level of perception regarding future events.
- Chapter 20 concerns the 1000-year messianic kingdom. It is short and narrow in scope, with emphasis on judgment and resurrection. (i.e., there is no mention of the millennial temple, ingathering of exiled Israel, and other typically-discussed themes.)
- Chapters 21 and 22 relate to the Olam-Haba, the “world to come.” This is very unique as there is little discussed in Torah literature regarding events prior to creation or following the millennial realm of Mashiach.
“… Of Yeshua the Messiah, which G-d gave to him …”
There are several aspects to the idea of mashiach’s relationship to G-d.
The concept of Mashiach ben Yoseph functions on three levels: meta-historical, the actual personality of Mashiach ben Yoseph, and any individual who contributes to the messianic process.
The Secret Doctrine of the Gaon of Vilna – Volume I, Rabbi Joel David Bakst, City of Luz Publications, 2008, p. 152.
All three of these levels are found in the New Testament:
- The idea of messiah being “from the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20, Hebrews 4:3, Revelation 13:8) and the same, “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
- The work of Yeshua himself (both in his lifetime as found in the gospels, and “in the heavenlies” following his death)
- Those who are considered, “the body of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 12:27, Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:13)
The Talmud speaks of the “name” of the Messiah (his authority, function, merit, etc.), pre-existing the created world:
Surely it was taught: Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah.
Talmud, Pesachim 54a
The concept of the “foundation of the world” is directly connected to the idea of the “tzaddik,” the righteous person, serving G-d:
“The wicked Bila’am “distances” the coming of the Mashiach when he says, “I behold it, but not in the near future.” In contrast, the prophet Isaiah draws the Mashiach nearer when he says, “for my salvation is near to come” (Isaiah 56:1). In his commentary on the Torah entitled Heichal Ha’bracho, the Komarnar Rebbe explains Bila’am’s words as follows: ‘Nearness’ indicates a close neighbor who is the Tzadik, the foundation of the world. Similarly, the holy prophet (Isaiah) said, ‘my salvation is near’ (Isaiah 56:1). But this wicked one said, ‘but not in the near future.’ In truth it is near; for the redemption is experienced every day and in each hour by one with a sensitive heart. Now, it is truly close; its ‘appointed time’ is here. Yet, this is not exact, since even the ‘appointed time’ will be ‘hastened’ (before its time; see commentaries on Isaiah 60:22). Our master, the holy Ari, noted that the ‘appointed time’ had actually started in his day: “I am certain of this every day that I yearn and wait for the final redemption.”… “Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar (who passed away in 5503), author of the commentary Or HaChaim, explains our verse as referring in its entirety to the Mashiach. He explains that the Mashiach’s coming will be hastened, if the Jewish People merit it, and if not, then he will come “in its appointed time.” This is the meaning of the quote “in its appointed time, I will hasten it” (Isaiah 60:22), as interpreted by our sages. In accordance with this understanding, the quote “I behold it, but not now” (not immediately now, but very soon) refers to a state in which the Jewish People are worthy, whereas “I behold it, but not in the near future” refers to a state in which they are not. So too, if the Jewish People are worthy, then the Mashiach will come in a manner from above to below as pictured in the phrase, “a star will go forth from Jacob” and as it is said “he will come via the clouds of the heavens”–in the merit of the service of the majority of the souls of Israel, the average ones amongst the Jewish People, the rank and file–who may be labeled “Jacobs.” Whereas, if they are not worthy, then the Mashiach will come in a manner from below to above, “and a staff shall arise in Israel” and as “a poor man, riding on a donkey”–in the merit of the service of the minority of the souls of Israel, the Tzadikim of the generation, who are labeled “Israel.” We notice that the first Mashiach–King David–according to the Rambam’s interpretation, parallels the Mashiach at the level of “if they merit…’I will hasten it'” according to the Or Hachaim’s explanation. In addition, the final Mashiach, a descendent of King David (called by the Sages “Caesar” in contrast to King David who is called “half-Caesar,” according to the Rambam)–parallels the Mashiach at the level of “if they are not worthy –‘in its appointed time'” according to the Or Hachaim’s commentary.”
Kabbalah and Modern Life – Living with the Times: A Torah Message for the Month of Shevat; And a Staff Shall Arise in Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
“To show to his servants the things which must happen soon…”
Why does God show this to His servants? A similar question was asked regarding the study of Ezekiel’s Temple:
“You, son of man: Tell the House of Israel about the Temple. Let them see the measurements of the plan. Let them know the form of the Temple and its structure, all its forms and all its laws. Write it before their eyes, and they will guard all its forms and all its laws and do them.”
“Ezekiel said to the Holy One blessed-be-He: “Master of the World: We are now in exile, and You tell me to go and inform the Jewish People about the plan of the Temple? ‘Write it before their eyes, and they will guard all its forms and all its laws and do them.’ How can they ‘do them’? Leave them until they go out of exile, and then I will tell them.” The Holy One blessed-be-He said to Ezekiel: “Just because My children are in exile, does that mean the building of My House should be halted? Studying the plan of the Temple in the Torah is as great as actually building it. Go and tell them to make it their business to study the form of the Temple as explained in the Torah. As their reward for this study, I will give them credit as if they are actually building the Temple”
Midrash Tanchuma, Tzav #14
Both Ezekiel’s instruction on study of the Temple, and John’s vision in this book, hold the promise of great blessing to the person who seeks to learn the deeper aspects of G-d. There is a purpose for such understanding, namely for us to apply what we learn, thus enabling us to be “conformed to His Image” and bring tikkun (restoration) to the world.
“Through His angel…”
“Angel” and “messenger” (found in some texts) are equivalent terms (Hebrew: “malakh”). This particular angel is said to be “his” – which from the text could be considered either “G-d’s angel” or “Mashiach’s angel.” There are different, but related, possibilities here.
The Shekinah (“divine presence”) is referred to as ‘angel’:
Angel is here one of the names of the Shekinah, applied to her when she is a messenger from on high and receives radiance from the supernal mirror, for then she is blessed by the Father and Mother, who say to her: Daughter, go, mind thy house, attend to thy house; go and feed them, go to the lower world where thy household wait for sustenance from thee; here is all which they require … She is, however, called angel when she is sent by the Father and Mother … When she first appeared to Moses she was called angel, but to Jacob she appeared only under the figure of Rachel.
The entity considered both the “angel of the Lord” and the angel of Messiah ben Yosef, is called Metatron throughout Torah literature. The Zohar associates the tzaddik with a pillar of seven foundations and the idea of the ‘handmaid of the Shekinah’ and identifies this with Metatron:
“R. Isaac here asked R. Simeon to explain how it is that some say the world is founded on seven pillars and some on one pillar, to wit, the Zaddik. He replied: ‘It is all the same. There are seven, but among these is one called Zaddik on which the rest are supported. Hence it is written: “The righteous one is the foundation of the world” (Proverbs 10:25). This ‘handmaid,’ resumed R. Simeon, ‘will one day rule over the holy land below as the Matrona (Shekinah) once ruled over it, but the Holy One, blessed be He will one day restore the Matrona to her place, and then who shall rejoice like the King and the Matrona? – the King, because he has returned to her and parted from the handmaid, and the Matrona because she will be once more united to the King. Hence it is written: “Rejoice exceedingly, O daughter of Zion”, etc. Observe now that it is written, “This shall be to you a statute for ever” (Leviticus 16:29). This promise is a decree of the King, fixed and sealed.”
Zohar, Vayikra, 69a
“Which is the body of the King’s daughter? Metatron; and this same body is identical with the handmaid of the Shekinah.”
Zohar, Shemoth 94b
The idea alluded to in the text, is that this message “connecting above and below,” is going “through” Metatron, who is associated with Mashiach ben Joseph:
“The tikkun of transcendence refers to a higher state of consciousness released through the power of Metatron who is the collective oversoul of Messiah ben Yoseph…”
The Secret Doctrine of the Gaon of Vilna – Volume I, Rabbi Joel David Bakst, City of Luz Publications, 2008, p. 127.
For a unique angle on Metatron being the connection between above and below, and its relationship with a messianic figure, see Gematria: Spiritual Geometry in the Matrix Trilogy – Matrix4Humans
who testified to G-d’s word, and of the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah, about everything that he saw.
“Prophecy is a knowledge and an attainment that G-d, in His Glory, gives he prophets. But doesn’t this necessarily contradict what we previously said regarding the fact that we can never attain knowledge of G-d’s ways? No, for as we have mentioned, we cannot grasp the whys and wherefores of the Infinite One (Eyn Sof), but as to limited will, namely the Sefirot, we can grasp something, for the Sefirot exist even in the world of making (Asiyah). We have defined this limited will through the Sefirot, which are the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed be He … In addition, we mentioned that the Sefirot represent the actual essence of reality, and everything that will ever happen is included and rooted in them … No creation — not even the loftiest of the creations — has direct access to the Creator, and any access at all must come through the Sefirot, through G-d’s will. … When a person attains a great level of spirituality, the creator, Blessed be He, allows that person to gain some measure of insight into the way He rules the world. This is what we call prophecy. Prophecy is ranked by the level the prophet achieves in comprehending the Sefirot. When a prophet gains a certain level of comprehension of G-d, in other words when he attains the Sefirot, which are G-d’s guiding ways, he will also necessarily gain an understanding of the details and the results, the product of the Sefirot.”
Yedid Nefesh (Song of the Soul), Rabbi Yecheil Bar-Lev, Petach Tikva, 1994. pp. 349,350.
The relationship between prophecy and the Sefirot will be covered in greater detail in chapter 19.
Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand.
“He who reads…”
We find that the Zohar designates unique blessings to those who concern themselves with G-d’s Torah, finding themselves linked to Tiferet (“Beauty” in the sense of harmony), the Sefirah most associated with the Mashiach:
“What, now, is the difference between those who study the Torah and faithful prophets? The former are ever superior, since they stand on a higher level. Those who study the Torah stand in a place called Tiferet, which is the pillar of all faith, whereas the prophets stand lower in the place called Netzach (Victory) and Hod (Majesty); and those who merely speak in the spirit of holiness stand lower still. He who studies the Torah needs neither peace offerings nor burnt offerings, since the Torah is superior to all and the bond of faith; wherefore it is written “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17), and also, “Great peace have they which love thy law and they have no occasion for stumbling” (Psalm 119:165).”
Zohar, Vayikra 35a
The above is a midrash on these words of King David, who made the same claim concerning Torah:
“I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.”
(See notes on 4:1 regarding the relationship between Tiferet and the name YHVH regarding Moshe’s level of revelation.)
“Who hear the words and keep the things…”
The Hebrew meaning of “hearing” and “keeping” gives deeper insight into what is being said here:
- Hearing = Shema, to hear with understanding of obedience (see “prophecy” note in 1:2 above)
- Keeping = Shamar, to guard, protect and preserve
The book of Revelation begins with a promise of a blessing to those who hear and obey. It ends with a curse (22:18-19) to those who do not adhere to its teachings. Between these “bookends” is the message that those who obey G-d’s Torah are the ones that will acquire the blessings of G-d:
“Because thou did keep the word of my endurance, I also will keep thee from the hour of the trial that is about to come upon all the world, to try those dwelling upon the earth.”
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of G-d, and the faith of Yeshua.”
“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”
Revelation mirrors G-d’s word in Deuteronomy, where He promises blessings to those who obey His Torah and curses to those who do not heed it:
“And it hath been, if thou does hearken diligently to the voice of YHWH thy G-d, to observe to do all His commands which I am commanding thee to-day, that YHWH thy G-d hath made thee uppermost above all the nations of the earth, and all these blessings have come upon thee, and overtaken thee, because thou does hearken to the voice of YHWH thy G-d.”
“And it hath been, if thou does not hearken unto the voice of YHWH thy G-d to observe to do all His commands, and His statutes, which I am commanding thee to-day, that all these revilings have come upon thee, and overtaken thee: `Cursed art thou …”
Yochanan, to the seven assemblies that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from G-d, who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne
“The number seven is significant in Hebrew culture and faith, having come to symbolize both a number of completion, as well as an incomplete structure that is representative of a greater truth. The number seven as it appears in the Bible is connected with every aspect of religious life in almost every time frame.”
The Jewish Book of Numbers, Ronald H. Isaacs, Jason Aronson, Inc., London, 1996, p.64.
Examples of the use of the number seven include:
- The seven “lower” Sefirot (“middot”)
- Seven days of creation (Genesis 2)
- Seven Feasts of the Lord (Leviticus 23:8)
- Seven pair of clean animals went on the ark with Noah (Genesis 7)
- Abraham made a covenant with Avimelech using seven ewes (Genesis 21:28-30
- The time period to be made clean from tzarat, was seven days (Leviticus 14:9)
- Seven pipes on the Menorah (Zechariah 4:2)
- Sprinkling of blood seven times (Leviticus 4:6)
- The Omer is counted for seven weeks (from First Fruits to Shavuot)
- The bride and groom rejoice for seven days according to Jewish law
- The bride circles her husband seven times and says seven blessings at their wedding
- Tefillin are wrapped seven times around the arm
(See notes to Revelation 5:1 for the idea of seven associated with fullness of punishment.)
The Greek word, ekklesia, found throughout Revelation does not mean “church,” as seen in most Bibles. The word “church” does not exist in the books of the New Testament. It was added by the Christian Church whose origins began no earlier than after the second Roman-Jewish war of 132-135CE. Ekklesia has to do with an assembly of people who are connected in some fashion.
Seven assemblies are written to, which are not only physical groups in the first century CE, but more importantly reveal attributes that transcend time. Moshe also taught in this fashion, speaking to his generation with future ones in mind, particularly the one to come at the end of the age. (i.e., in Deuteronomy chapters 29 and 30, Moses speaks to those in front of him as the generation that will see the final salvation of the Lord.)
“From G-d, who is, and who was and who is to come … and from the seven spirits who are before His throne … “
John’s “compound” greeting (extending through the beginning of verse 5) express a continuity that extends from the eternal G-d, through the sefirot.
- G-d as eternal (who was and is to come) = Keter or Ain Sof
- G-d as Abba (“His” throne) = Sefirah of Chokmah
- The actual ‘Throne of G-d” = Sefirah of Binah
- The seven spirits = seven lower Sefirot, the ‘middot’
One midrash speaks of seven middot as being before the heavenly throne (with slight variance in terminology):
“Seven middot serve before the throne of Glory: they are Wisdom, Justice and the Law, Grace and Mercy, Truth and Peace. … Everyone who has these qualities as middot, obtains the knowledge of G-d.”
‘Midrash Aboth de Rabbi Nathan,’ as cited in ‘Origins of the Kabbalah,’ Gershom Sholem 82.
and from Yeshua the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood,
The Zohar commentary below explains that the Sefirah of Tiferet (‘beauty’ in the sense of harmony) is associated with the one who will be sovereign of the earth. The allusion to “right and left” is to the merciful and judgmental aspects of G-d, which are placed in harmony with Tiferet. Mashiach, as the “goal of the Torah (Romans 10:4) represents the balance of these two attributes.
We see this direction toward harmony (Tiferet) between mercy (Chesed) and judgment (Gevurah) specifically pointed out in both the Tenakh and New Testament:
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, But to do justly, to love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
Tiferet is further associates with the “holy king who judges the world,” “sun” and “bridegroom” in kabbalistic literature (i.e., Jacob in Joseph’s dream).
“A second use of the terms ‘right and left’ is based on the identification of the grade Tiferet with the Holy King, the Ruler and Judge of the world. The Holy King as judge can exercise either clemency or rigour, and it is a not unnatural figure to say that He exercises clemency with His right hand and rigour with His left”
Soncino Zohar Appendix III
“… because the holy sun [Tr. note: ‘ Tiferet] is as a tabernacle of all those supreme grades, and is as a light which has taken into itself all the hidden lights and the whole current of their extension, whereby Faith is manifested in the whole world. To grasp the Sun is equivalent to grasping all grades, because the sun is a “tent” including all and absorbing all; and he in turn lights up all the shining colours below. Hence “He is a bridegroom coming forth from his canopy (covering)”
Zohar, Shemoth 136a -138b
“And washed us from our sins by his blood…”
There are many connections to be found between the concepts of; the tzaddik, suffering on behalf of others, the shedding of blood, bringing tikkun and atonement for many:
“The Mashiach ben Yosef, when he comes, does not come in order to establish his own dynasty, rather he comes to help re-establish the Davidic dynasty. He will even sacrifice his own life in order to accomplish this. His blood will atone for the sins of the Jewish people. His atonement will take the form of the Davidic dynasty being restored to the Jewish people as an everlasting kingdom.”
Shelah, Shnei Luchot HaBrit, Vayeshev-Miketz-Vayigash, R’ Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1640), translated by Eliyahu Munk, pg. 317
“… Israel’s spilled blood contains many lofty and hidden matters, be it blood spilled through embarrassment or other, actual spilled blood. For there are very many fallen souls which have no elevation except through the spilled blood of Israel; [that] of a great individual. In some cases, they have no elevation except through actual spilled blood.”
Likutey Moharan, Volume II, 83:11, Volume XV, Breslov Research Institute, pg 225
“And When He Sees the Blood. He sees the blood of the sacrifice of Isaac, as it is said: “And Abraham called the name of that place Adonai-jireh” (the Lord will see), etc. (Gen. 22:14). And it is also written: “And He was about to destroy, the L-rd beheld and it repented him” (1 Chron 21:15). What did he behold? He beheld the blood of the sacrifice of Isaac, as it is said, “G-d will Himself see the lamb for a burnt-offering.” (Gen 22:8).”
Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Tractate Pischa, Chapter 11, Translated by Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Jewish Publication Society, pg 61.
“Why is it that whenever sinners multiply in the world and punishment impends over the world, the virtuous among them are smitten for them, as we have learnt, that for the guilt of the generation the holy and righteous are seized upon? Why should this be? If because they do not reprove mankind for their evil deeds, how many are there who do reprove but are not listened to (though the righteous do humble themselves before them)? If it is in order that there may be no one to shield them, let them not die and let them not be seized for their sins, since it is a satisfaction to the righteous to see their destruction. He replied: It is true that for the guilt of the generation the righteous are seized upon, but we may explain this on the analogy of the limbs of the body. When all the limbs are in pain and suffering from sickness one limb has to be smitten in order that all may be healed. Which is the one? The arm. The arm is smitten and blood is drawn from it, and this is healing for all the limbs of the body. So men are like limbs of one body. When G-d desires to give healing to the world He smites one righteous man among them with disease and suffering, and through him gives healing to all, as it is written, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). A righteous man is never afflicted save to bring healing to his generation and to make atonement for it, for the “other side” prefers that punishment should light upon the virtuous man rather than on any other, for then it cares not for the whole world on account of the joy it finds in having power over him.”
Zohar, Bemidbar, 218a
“Suffering and pain may be imposed on a tzaddik (righteous person) as an atonement for his entire generation. This tzaddik must then accept this suffering with love for the benefit of his generation, just as he accepts the suffering imposed upon him for his own sake. In doing so, he benefits his generation by atoning for it, and at the same time is himself elevated to a very great degree. … Such suffering also includes cases where a tzaddik suffers because his entire generation deserves great punishments, bordering on annihilation, but is spared via the tzaddik’s suffering. In atoning for his generation through his suffering, this tzaddik saves these people in this world and also greatly benefits them in the World-to-Come. … In addition, there is a special higher type of suffering that comes to a tzaddik who is even greater and more highly perfected than the ones discussed above. This suffering comes to provide the help necessary to bring about the chain of events leading to the ultimate perfection of mankind as a whole. … Beyond that, the merit and power of these tzaddikim is also increased because of such suffering, and this gives them even greater ability to rectify the damage of others. They can therefore not only rectify their own generation, but can also correct all the spiritual damage done from the beginning, from the time of the very first sinners.”
Derech Hashem, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, translation by Aryeh Kaplan Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1977, pp 123-125.
Other texts from the New Testament allude to these concepts:
“For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Messiah, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”
1 Peter 1:18-20
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
And we have this from the Torah:
“And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient.” And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words’.”
and he made us to be a Kingdom, priests to his G-d and Father, to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The Torah makes the promise of being a kingdom of priests, conditional on obedience:
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Note that Moshe’s anointing of Aharon and sons was all done on the ‘right’ side of mercy:
“And he brought the other ram, the ram of consecration: and Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the ram. And he slew it; and Moses took of the blood of it, and put it upon the tip of Aaron’s right ear, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot. And he brought Aaron’s sons, and Moses put of the blood upon the tip of their right ear, and upon the thumbs of their right hands, and upon the great toes of their right feet: and Moses sprinkled the blood upon the altar round about.”
In the first letter of Peter, we find the idea of the people, who should have had received mercy and been called “G-d’s possession, not receiving this (i.e., “not a people” – Hebrew: “lo ammi”)
“Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of G-d, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
1 Peter 2:7-10
The book of Hebrews looks back to the conditional agreement of Exodus 19, and sees the disobedience of the people causing this ‘disconnect,’ arguing that as the promise was to “all of Israel” (i.e., Romans 11:26) yet some did not ‘enter into His rest,’ there remained an additional aspect to this:
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And G-d rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of G-d. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as G-d did from His.”
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen.
“coming with the clouds…”
The Clouds of Glory are associated with the Feast of Sukkot which holds enormous Messianic significance. For instance, in Matthew 17:4, Peter wanted to build “tabernacles” when he saw Yeshua, Moses and Elijah. Also, in Matthew 21:8, the people laid down “branches” in front of Yeshua, welcoming Him as Messiah. (Branches called “the Lulav” are a key part of Sukkot.) The Tenakh tells us that Sukkot will be celebrated by all of the nations in the Millennial Kingdom (Zechariah 14:16-19).
The 18th century kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, wrote the following about the link between the Heavenly Clouds and Sukkot:
“Sukkos observances in general are related to the Clouds of Glory. Besides the physical benefit of providing shelter and protection, these Clouds also provided an important spiritual benefit. Just as these Clouds caused Israel to be set apart, and elevated physically, they likewise were responsible for the transmission of the Essence of illumination that made them unique. As a result, they were differentiated from all peoples and literally elevated and removed from the physical world itself … This is the Light of holiness, transmitted by G-d which surrounds every righteous man of Israel, distinguishing him from all other individuals, and raising and elevating him above them all. This is the concept that is renewed every Sukkos through the sukkah itself.”
Derech Hashem, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Feldheim Publishers, 1997, p. 343, citing Zohar 3:103a, Tikkunei Zohar 21 (55a).
The idea of Messiah coming on the clouds is found in the; Tenakh, the “New Testament,” Apocryphal writings, the Talmud and the Zohar.
We find the following in the Tenakh (see note below on this verse in Zohar Bereshith 145b)
I was seeing in the visions of the night, and lo, with the clouds of the heavens as a son of man was [one] coming, and unto the Ancient of Days he hath come, and before Him they have brought him near.
References from the New Testament include:
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Yeshua said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Yeshua, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Acts 1:9- 11
The apocryphal book of 4 Ezra contains reference to a“sea,” which is understood to be the Supernal Sea and associated with the spiritual realm. The language in 4 Ezra is reminiscent of the “New Testament,” with likeness to Armageddon, and someone called “My Son,” who was hidden away for a while by G-d, slaying those who come against him with the word of his mouth. This man flies with the clouds of heaven:
“And it came to pass after seven days that I dreamed a dream by night: and I beheld, and lo! there arose a violent wind from the sea, and stirred all its waves. And the wind caused the likeness of a form of a man to come out of the heart of the seas. And this Man flew with the clouds of heaven. And wherever he turned his countenance to look, everything seen by him trembled; and whithersoever the voice went out of his mouth, all that heard his voice melted away, as the wax melts when it feels the fire. And after this I beheld that there were gathered from the four winds of heaven an innumerable multitude of men to make war against that Man who came up out of the sea … And I saw that he cut out for himself a great mountain and flew upon it … And when he saw the assult of the multitude as they came, he neither lifted his hand, nor held spear nor any warlike weapon; but I saw only how he sent out of his mouth as it were a fiery stream, and out of his lips a flaming breath, and out of his tongue he shot forth a storm of sparks … And these fell upon the assault of the multitude … and burned them all up .. These are the interpretations of the vision: Whereas you did see a man coming up from the heart of the sea: this is he whom the Most High is keeping many ages and through whom He will deliver His creation, and the same shall order the survivors … But he shall stand upon the summit of Mount Zion. And Zion shall come and shall be made manifest to all men, prepared and built, even as you did see the mountain cut out without hands. But he, My Son, shall reprove the nations that are come for their ungodliness …”
4 Ezra 13:1-9; 25,26,35,36
The Talmudic references to the “son of the clouds” (Bar Nafle), states that this person is the Messiah. The following text includes references to their being very few people studying Torah upon his return (i.e., Luke 18:8) and that this will be preceded by times of great tribulation (i.e., Matthew 24). Mention is also made of Messiah coming at the end of a seven year cycle, which would be the 70th shemita cycle of Daniel’s prophecy:
R. Nahman said to R. Isaac: ‘Have you heard when Bar Nafle [son of the clouds] will come?’ ‘Who is Bar Nafle?’ he asked. ‘Messiah,’ he answered, ‘Do you call Messiah Bar Nafle?’ — ‘Even so,’ he rejoined, ‘as it is written, in that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David ha-nofeleth [that is fallen].’ He replied, ‘Thus hath R. Johanan said: in the generation when the son of David [i.e., Messiah] will come, scholars will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.’ Our Rabbis taught: in the seven year cycle at the end of which the son of David will come-in the first year, this verse will be fulfilled: And I will cause it to rain upon one city and cause it not to rain upon another city; in the second, the arrows of hunger will be sent forth; in the third, a great famine, in the course of which men, women, and children, pious men and saints will die, and the Torah will be forgotten by its students; in the fourth, partial plenty; in the fifth, great plenty, when men will eat, drink and rejoice, and the Torah will return to its disciples; in the sixth, [Heavenly] sounds; in the seventh, wars; and at the conclusion of the septennate the son of David will come.
Talmud, Sanhedrin 96b
In the following passage from Talmud, the sages saw that the Tenakh contained what appeared to be a contradiction. One the one hand, Messiah would arrive triumphantly on the clouds, on the other hand, lowly on a donkey. The conclusion was that if Israel merited it, he would come on the clouds, but if they failed, he would come on a donkey:
R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua b. Levi pointed out a contradiction. it is written, in its time [will the Messiah come], whilst it is also written, I [the Lord] will hasten it! — if they are worthy, I will hasten it: if not, [he will come] at the due time. R. Alexandri said: R. Joshua opposed two verses: it is written, And behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven whilst [elsewhere] it is written, [behold, thy king cometh unto thee . . .] lowly, and riding upon an ass! — if they are meritorious, [he will come] with the clouds of heaven; if not, lowly and riding upon an ass.
Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a
Messiah will come regardless of whether His people merit it or not. However, a far less desirable scenario comes about if it is the latter.
As stated by Rabbi Pinchas Winston:
“Hence, if the Jewish people do not warrant the arrival of Moshiach and redemption in a positive way, they will be forced to cross a historical threshold to Yemos HaMoshiach of a far more destructive nature. In Biblical terms, it is called the ‘War of Gog and Magog’.”
“Approaching the Threshold: Current Events in Light of the Past,” Rabbi Pinchas Winston
The Zohar directly associates Daniel 7:13 with the Messiah who will establish the Kingdom of G-d:
“R. Hiya then followed with a discourse on the verse: I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of devices (Proverbs 8:12). ‘ “Wisdom” here’, he said, ‘alludes to the Community of Israel; “prudence” signifies Jacob, the prudent man; and “knowledge of devices” alludes to Isaac, who used devices for the purpose of blessing Esau. But since wisdom allied itself with Jacob, who was possessed of prudence, it was he who was blessed by his father, so that all those blessings rested on him and are fulfilled in him and in his descendants to all eternity. Some have been fulfilled in this world, and the rest will be fulfilled on the advent of the Messiah, when Israel will be one nation on earth and one people of the Holy One, blessed be He. So Scripture says: “And I will make them one nation on earth” (Ezekiel 37:22). And they will exercise dominion both on high and here below, as it is written: “And, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man” (Daniel 7:13), alluding to the Messiah, concerning whom it is also written: “And in the days of those kings shall the G-d of heaven set up a kingdom, etc.” (Daniel 2:44). Hence Jacob desired that the blessings should be reserved for that future time, and did not take them up immediately’.”
Zohar, Bereshith, 145b
“those who pierced him…”
The allusion is to Zechariah 12:10, which the Talmud comments on, making a connection to Messiah ben Yoseph:
“What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]? — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, ‘The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph’, and the other explained, ‘The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination (yetzer hara)’. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, “And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son…”
Talmud, Sukkah 52a
I am the Alef and the Tav, says the Lord G-d, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
שְׁמַע אֵלַי יַֽעֲקֹב וְיִשְׂרָאֵל מְקֹרָאִי אֲנִי־הוּא אֲנִי רִאשֹׁ֔ון אַף אֲנִי אַחֲרֹון׃
“Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he. I am the First, I also am the Last.”
The Zohar makes an interesting connection between the Alef-Tav and a “mark” indicative of those who followed the Torah (re: 1:3 above). This will become significant later in this study.
“IN THE BEGINNING. Rab Hamnuna the Venerable said: We find here a reversal of the order of the letters of the Alphabet, the first two words Bereshith bara-in-the-beginning He-created-commencing with beth, whereas the two words following, Elohim eth-G-d the-commence with aleph. The reason is as follows. When the Holy One, blessed be He, was about to make the world, all the letters of the Alphabet were still embryonic, and for two thousand years the Holy One, blessed be He, had contemplated them and toyed with them. When He came to create the world, all the letters presented themselves before Him in reversed order. The letter Tau advanced in front and pleaded: May it please Thee, O Lord of the world, to place me first in the creation of the world, seeing that I am the concluding letter of EMeTh (Truth) which is engraved upon Thy seal, and seeing that Thou art called by this very name of EMeTh, it is most appropriate for the King to begin with the final letter of EMeTh and to create with me the world. The Holy One, blessed be He, said to her: Thou art worthy and deserving, but it is not proper that I begin with thee the creation of the world, since thou art destined to serve as a mark on the foreheads of the faithful ones (Ezekiel 9:4) who have kept the Law from Aleph to Tau, and through the absence of this mark the rest will be killed; and, further, thou formest the conclusion of MaWeTh (death). Hence thou art not meet to initiate the creation of the world.”
Zohar, Bereshith 2b
We will deal with the concept of “the first and the last” in depth in Chapter 22.
I Yochanan, your brother and partner with you in oppression, Kingdom, and perseverance in Messiah Yeshua, was on the isle that is called Patmos because of G-d’s Word and the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah.
With this verse John’s text changes from greetings, salutations and references to the unity of G-d, to details regarding the nature of his revelation.
Ezekiel offered a similar introduction to his prophecy:
“Now it happened in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth of the month, as I was among the captives by the river Kevar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of G-d.”
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, like a shofar
The concept of “the spirit of prophecy” will be addressed in detail in notes to 19:10.
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan offers the following regarding the connection between the Ruach (Spirit) and prophecy:
“The individual must be in a pure state, not tainted by the Evil Urge (Yetzer Hara), and beyond the grasp of everything pertaining to the physical. He must be completely free of any sin that would blemish any of the roots of his soul. Only then, if he prepares himself properly, can he attach himself to the highest root. Even though an individual is worthy for it, however, he must still divest his soul from all mundane things, separating it from all physical concepts. Only then can it be attached to its spiritual Root. This is the concept of “divestment,” discussed in all the texts with regard to Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and Prophecy. It does not refer to actual divestment, where the soul would actually leave the body, as when one sleeps. If this were the case, the person would not experience prophecy, but it would be like any other dream. But Ruach HaKodesh is experienced when the individual’s soul is in his body, when he is awake, and when his soul has not left him.”
Meditation and the Bible, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., York Beach Maine, 1978, p. 49.
The sound of the shofar with the idea of “connecting” to G-d goes back to Sinai:
“Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with G-d, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.”
saying, ‘What you see, write in a book and send to the seven assemblies: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.’
As we will see, these seven assemblies represents ‘types’ of followers. These descriptions closely follow those of the “seven types of Pharisees” found in the Talmud.
What is particularly noteworthy is that in each case we have:
- 1 who is considered the example of righteousness (i.e., the Pharisee from love and assembly of Philadelphia)
- 1 who is considered good but deficient (the Pharisee from fear and assembly from Smyrna)
- 5 who are seen as having primarily negative attributes in need of correction (tikkun)
“Our Rabbis have taught: There are seven types of Pharisees: the shikmi Pharisee, the nikpi Pharisee, the kizai Pharisee, the pestle Pharisee, the Pharisee [who constantly exclaims] What is my duty that I may perform it?, the Pharisee from love [of G-d] and the Pharisee from fear. The shikmi Pharisee. He is one who performs the action of Shechem. The nikpi Pharisee. He is one who knocks his feet together. The kizai Pharisee. R. Nahman b. Isaac said: He is one who makes his blood to flow against walls. The pestle Pharisee. Rabbah b. Shila said: [His head] is bowed like [a pestle in] a mortar. The Pharisee [who constantly exclaims] What is my duty that I may perform it? But that is a virtue! Nay, what he says is, What further duty is for me that I may perform it? The Pharisee from love. The Pharisee from fear.”
Talmud, Sotah 22b
I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. Having turned, I saw seven golden menorahs.
Note that John says he turns to see the voice. How does one see a voice? The same question has been asked regarding the events of Mt. Sinai:
“And all the people are seeing the voices, and the flames, and the sound of the trumpet, and the mount smoking; and the people see, and move, and stand afar off, and say unto Moses, `Speak thou with us, and we hear, and let not G-d speak with us, lest we die.”
The relationship between the menorah and Israel is established through several Zohar passages relating to this verse:
“Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.”
Song of Solomon 3:7
There is a relationship between the “sixty valiant men,” the Shekinah and the Menorah’s branches. Note also that these “accompany” Jacob (all of Israel) in his exile.
“R. Simeon here discoursed as follows: ‘In his going down into Egypt Jacob was accompanied by six angelic grades, each consisting of ten thousand myriads. Correspondingly Israel was made up of six grades, in correspondence to which again there are six steps to the supernal celestial Throne, and corresponding to them six steps to the lower celestial Throne. … Observe that each grade was an epitome of ten grades, so that altogether there were sixty, identical with the “threescore mighty men” that are round about the Shekinah. And these sixty, again, are the sixty myriads that accompanied Israel in their departure from exile and accompanied Jacob into exile.’ R. Hiya asked him: ‘But are there not seven grades, each an epitome of the ten grades, thus amounting to seventy?’ R. Simeon said in reply: ‘That number has no bearing on this matter, as we learn from the description of the candlestick, of which it says: “And there shall be six branches going out of the sides thereof: three branches of the candlestick out of the one side thereof, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side thereof… And thou shalt make the lamps thereof seven” (Exodus 25:32). The central branch is not counted with the rest, as it says, “and they shall light the lamps thereof over against it.’”
Zohar, Shemoth 14b
“R. Judah illustrated from the verse: “Behold, it is the couch of Solomon, threescore mighty men are about it, of the mighty men of Israel” (Song of Songs 3:7), which he expounded thus: ‘Six luminosities form a circle surrounding a seventh luminosity in the centre. The six on the circumference sustain the sixty valiant angels surrounding the “couch of Solomon”. The “couch” is an allusion to the Shekinah, and “Solomon” refers to the “King to whom peace (shalom) belongs”: “threescore mighty men are about it”-these are the sixty myriads of exalted angels, part of the army of the Shekinah which accompanied Jacob into Egypt.’”
Zohar, Shemoth 5a
“How many thousands, how many myriads, of celestial cohorts surround the Holy One and follow in His train! Princes of supernal countenances are there, and beings full of eyes; lords of the sharp weapons, lords of the piercing cry, lords of the heralding trumpet, lords of mercy, lords of judgment; and above them the Lord has appointed the Matrona (re: Shekinah) to minister before Him in the Palace. She for her own bodyguard has armed hosts of sixty different degrees. Holding their swords, they stand around Her. They come and go, entering and departing again on the errands of their Master. Each with his six wings outspread they circle the world in swift and silent flight. Before each of them coals of fire burn. Their garments are woven of flames from a bright and burning fire. A sharp flaming sword also is at the shoulder of each to guard Her. Concerning these swords it is written: “The flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23). Now, what is “the way of the Tree of Life”? This is the great Matrona who is the way to the great and mighty Tree of Life. Concerning this it is written: “Behold the bed which is Solomon’s; the three score valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel” (Song of Songs 3:7), namely, the Supernal Israel. “They all hold swords,” and when the Matrona moves they all move with her, as it is written: “and the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them” (Exodus 14:19). Is, then, the Shekinah called “the angel of the Lord”? Assuredly!”
Zohar, Shemoth 50b – 52a
The “Tree of Life” mentioned above is another term for the Matrona/Shekinah and the power of resurrection. This is significant as Jacob (mentioned in this text) is a major messianic figure and Yeshua made claims of being the “resurrection and the life.”
Now Jacob is united with the Tree of Life, over which death has no dominion, since in it all life is contained, emanating from it unto all those who are in perfect union with it. For this reason Jacob did not really die. He died in a physical sense when “he gathered up his feet into the bed” (Genesis 49:33), which bed is mysteriously called “the bed of Solomon” (Song of Songs 3:7), the bed of the “strange woman” whose “feet go down to death” (Proverbs 5:5).
Zohar, Shemoth 48b
Lastly, there is also a connection to gentiles through the sixty valiant men”
There are on high seven firmaments, and seven zones of earth. Correspondingly, in the lower world there are seven graded firmaments and seven zones of earth. These, as the Companions have expounded, are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, rising one above the other, and each zone has ten divisions, so that there are seventy in all. Each one of these is presided over by a Chieftain, and these seventy Chieftains have under their charge the seventy nations of the earth. These seventy earth-divisions, again, border on and surround the Holy Land, as Scripture says: “Behold, it is the couch of Solomon; threescore mighty men are about, of the mighty men of Israel” (Song of Songs 3:7), there being, in addition to the threescore mentioned, ten concealed among their number.
Zohar, Shemoth 30b
And among the menorahs was one like a Son of Man, clothed with a robe reaching down to his feet, and with a golden sash around his chest.
“Among the menorahs was one…”
The idea of “one among seven” is a direct allusion to the tzaddik, in this case the “ultimate tzaddik,” Mashiach ben Yoseph. The terms, “before his throne,” (Revelation 1:4) and, “from among them,” are in the Zohar passage below and are connected through the name “Metatron,” which may be understood via the Greek as; META (“among/beyond”) and TRON (“tronos” = throne).
“R. Judah discoursed here on the text: The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High gave forth his voice; hailstones and coals of fire (Ps. XVIII, 14). ‘When G-d’, he said, ‘created the world, He constructed for it seven pillars by which it was to be upheld. So Scripture says: “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars” (Proverbs 9:1). These in turn are upheld by one grade from among them called “the Righteous One, the everlasting foundation” (Proverbs 10:25). Further, when the world was created, it was started from that spot which is the culmination and perfection of the world, the central point of the universe, which is identical with Zion, as it is written: “A psalm of Asaph. G-d, G-d the Lord hath spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, G-d hath shined forth” (Psalms 50:2). That is to say, G-d started the earth from Zion, from the spot where faith culminates in its full perfection. Zion is thus the citadel and central point of the universe, from which it began to be fashioned and from which the whole world is nourished.”
Zohar, Bereshith, 186a
His head and his hair were white as white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire.
The terminology connects back to Daniel and 2Enoch:
“I lifted up my eyes, and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, whose thighs were adorned with pure gold of Uphaz: his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as flaming torches, and his arms and his feet like burnished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.”
“I have seen the Lord’s eyes, shining like the sun’s rays and filling the eyes of man with awe.”
2 Enoch 39:4
Daniel further associates the figure in his vision with the phrase “ancient of days” – “Atik Yomin”:
“I saw until thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat: his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels burning fire.”
This is a specific term indicative of the highest level of the partzufim (personae) of G-d:
“Atik Yomin: ( Aramaic, kabbalistic term; literally “ancient days”); the inner dimension of Keter, a level which transcends the entire scheme of the ten Sefirot; an elevated spiritual level that is in absolute oneness with G-d’s essence.”
Chabad Knowledge Base
Author Rabbi J. Henoch states in his book about Nachmanides
“… the decent unto the celestial Merkabah (chariot) was not restricted to the viewing of the Merkabah and the holy throne of G-d, but included at its pinnacle the vision of G-d Himself, so to speak, in the image of man.”
Ramban: Philosopher and Kabbalist, Chayim J. Henoch, Jason Aronson, Inc., London 1998, p.181.
The same source discusses how Tiferet (i.e., Messiah) rests in the “garment” of Malkut (the Shekhina, represented by the Menorahs):
“In slightly different words, all Torah prophecy derives from the Great [Unique] Name, the sefirah of Tifereth. Moses, because of his greatness, received Torah prophecy from it directly, whereas Israel, could receive such prophecy only via the Honorable Name, the sefirah of Atarah (Malkut), which serves as a garment to the Sefirah of Tifereth, which so to speak, rests in her.”
Ramban: Philosopher and Kabbalist, Chayim J. Henoch, Jason Aronson, Inc., London 1998, p.148.
The Zohar supports the idea of a messianic figure being in the midst of the Shekinah. It makes reference to a “celestial living being” called “Israel” (that resembled Jacob), which accompanied the Shekinah with Israel. They are accompanied by 42 attendants, an allusion to the unity of the groom and bride and the ‘chibur’ (union) of the number 6 (groom) and number 7 (bride), i.e., the chibur (mathematical product) of 6 x 7 = 42.
“Said R. Simeon: ‘When the Shekinah went down to Egypt, a celestial “living being” (Hayah, cf.Ezek. 1, 5), called “Israel”, in form like the patriarch Jacob, went down with Her, accompanied by forty-two heavenly attendants, each of whom bore a letter belonging to the Holy Name. … When R. Isaac was once studying with R. Eleazar, the son of R. Simeon, he asked him: ‘Did the Shekinah go down to Egypt with Jacob?’ Said R. Eleazar: ‘Surely! Did not G-d say to Jacob, “I will go down with thee into Egypt” (Gen. XLVI, 4)?
Zohar, Shemoth 5a
His feet were like burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace. His voice was like the voice of many waters.
Brass is a symbol of judgment that the Zohar relates to “powers and principalities” (i.e., Ephesians 6:12) that lie behind the nations, whom Messiah is coming to judge.
Brass is symbolic of the days of the Sacrifices of the Feast of Tabernacles which alluded to the powers and principalities of the heathen nations, who are designated “mountains of brass.”
Zohar, Shemoth 135a
The terminology is reminiscent of Ezekiel’s vision:
“Then I saw, and behold, a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his waist and downward, fire; and from his waist and upward, as the appearance of brightness, as it were glowing metal.”
“Behold, the glory of the G-d of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shined with his glory.”
The voice heard by Moses at Mount Sinai, was also said to be one of seven voices:
“This teaches us that the Torah was given (at Sinai) with seven voices. In each of them the Master of the Universe revealed Himself to them, and they saw Him. It is thus written, “And all the people saw the voices.”
“GO THOU NEAR AND HEAR, ETC. When the Law was given to Israel, all the Voices were present and the Holy One, blessed be He, was sitting on His throne, and one was seen within another, and the utterance of each came forth from the one above it, wherefore it is said, “The Lord spake to you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire” (Deuteronomy 5:4), which means that the utterance came forth from the midst of fire and flame, which thrust it forth by the force of spirit and water; and fire,spirit and water all issued from the trumpet which contained them all.”
Zohar, Devarim 261a
The voice emanating from the fire and flame, mentioned in the above Zohar passage, has a direct connection to Moses, who also “saw” G-d in the form of a voice, which is called “the messenger (angel) of YHVH”:
Exodus 3:2-4 – and there appeareth unto him a messenger of YHVH in a flame of fire, out of the midst of the bush, and he seeth, and lo, the bush is burning with fire, and the bush is not consumed. And Moses saith, `Let me turn aside, I pray thee, and I see this great appearance; wherefore is the bush not burned?’ and YHVH seeth that he hath turned aside to see, and G-d calleth unto him out of the midst of the bush, and saith, `Moses, Moses;’ and he saith, `Here [am] I.’
He had seven stars in his right hand. Out of his mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining at its brightest.
The sword is said to be “projecting” from the mouth of the Lord. This is an allusion to the “giving” of the Torah. Life and death both proceed from the word of G-d – the Torah:
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”
“Our Rabbis said: SWORD refers to the Torah, as it is written, And a two-edged sword in their hand (Psalm 149:6).”
Midrash Rabbah – Genesis 21:9
“And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments from Mount Horeb onward. (By three names is this mount known: The mountain of G-d, ‘Mount Horeb’ and Mount Sinai. Why ‘The mountain of G-d?’? Because it was there that G-d manifested His G-dhead. And Sinai? use [it was on that mount] that G-d showed that He hates (sane) the angels and loves mankind. And why was it called ’Horeb’? Because thereon was the Torah, called ‘a sword’ (hereb), given, as it says, Let the high praises of G-d be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand (Psalm 149:6).”
Midrash Rabbah, Exodus 51:8
“A man should sharpen the intellect of his son on the words of the Torah like a two-edged sword, so that he should not be dull.”
Zohar, Devarim 269a
“G-d is a just judge, and G-d is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts.”
“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of G-d is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
“May the high praises of G-d be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hand.”
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of G-d.”
Conversely, Scripture uses the “sword” metaphor to represent lies opposed to G-d’s Torah as well:
“My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted, O G-d, above the heavens.”
“On the tenth heaven, Aravoth, I saw the appearance of the Lord’s face, like iron made to glow in fire, and brought out, emitting sparks, and it burns. Thus in a moment of eternity I saw the Lord’s face, but the Lord’s face is ineffable, marvelous and very awful, and very, very terrible. And who am I to tell of the Lord’s unspeakable being, and of his very wonderful face? And I cannot tell the quantity of his many instructions, and various voices, the Lord’s throne is very great and not made with hands, nor the quantity of those standing round him, troops of cherubim and seraphim, nor their incessant singing, nor his immutable beauty, and who shall tell of the ineffable greatness of his glory.”
2 Enoch 21:1-3
“It happened, when Moshe came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the testimony in Moshe hand, when he came down from the mountain, that Moshe did not know that the skin of his face shone by reason of his speaking with him.”
When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last,
Isaiah holds yet another interesting verse regarding the “first and the last.” Here again the “sword” (Torah) of G-d comes to judge:
“Keep silent towards Me, O isles, And the peoples pass on to power, They come nigh, then they speak, `Together — to judgment we draw near.’ Who stirred up from the east a righteous one? He calleth him to His foot, He giveth before him nations, And kings He causeth him to rule, He giveth them as dust to his sword, As driven stubble to his bow. He pursueth them, he passeth over in safety A path with his feet he entereth not. Who hath wrought and done, Calling the generations from the first? I, YHWH, the first, and with the last I am He.”
and the Living one. I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. I have the keys of Death and of Sheol.’
“R. Johanan said: Three keys the Holy One blessed be He has retained in His own hands and not entrusted to the hand of any messenger, namely, the Key of Rain, the Key of Childbirth, and the Key of the Revival of the Dead.”
Talmud, Ta’anit 2a
Write therefore the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will happen hereafter,
“Thus speaks HaShem, the G-d of Israel, saying, Write all the words that I have spoken to you in a book.”
the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden menorahs. The seven stars are the angels of the seven assemblies. The seven menorahs are seven assemblies.
The term “star” is associated with angels:
“R. Hunia said with reference to the dictum of R. Isaac: The Holy One, blessed be He, does not punish a nation on earth till He has cast down its guardian angel from heaven. This is borne out by five Scriptural verses. One, the verse, And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will punish the host of the high heaven on high-that first, and then-and the kings of the earth upon the earth (Isa. XXIV, 21). The second is: How art thou fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning!”
Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 8:19
Pharaoh had as his counsellors three sages: Jethro, Balaam, and Job. Jethro, as already set forth, was the minister of worship, and there was no celestial Chieftain or star of which he did not know the appropriate cult.”
Zohar, Shemot 69b
“And then the angels of the third watch commenced to sing, and also all the stars and constellations of the heaven, as it is written: “When the morning stars sung together and all the sons of G-d shouted for joy” (Job 38:7), and also, “Praise him, all ye stars of light” (Psalm 148:3), these being the radiant stars which are appointed to sing at dawn.”
Zohar, Bereshith 230b