OF the six things which existed before creation, when only ‘the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,’ two, the Torah and the throne of God, were complete in every detail. The remaining four, however, viz., the Patriarchs, Israel, the Temple, and the name of Messiah, existed prior to the creation only in an incomplete form.–Gen. Rabba 1.
From the time of creation constant reference is made in Holy Writ to Messiah and the Messianic hope of Israel. ‘The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters’; the Spirit of God means Messiah.–Gen. Rabba 2; also Levit. Rabba 14.
When Eve at the birth of Seth exclaimed, ‘God hath appointed me another seed.’ her underlying thought was the King Messiah.–Gen. Rabba 23.
He who knows how long the Israelites worshipped idols can learn therefrom when the Son of David–Messiah–will come. Three different prophets tell us this: (1) ‘Like as you have forsaken Me, and served strange gods in your land, so shall ye serve strangers in a land that is not yours’ (Jer. 5. 19); (2) ‘And I will visit her the days of Baalim,’ etc., (Hos. 2. 13); (3) ‘Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord hath sent in his spirit by the prophets. Therefore it is come to pass that as he cried and they would not hear, so they cried and I would not hear, saith the Lord’ (Zech. 7. 12, 13).–Lament. Rabba 1.
The great mountain spoken of by the prophet
Zechariah (4. 7) is no other than Messiah, Son of David, and he is called ‘the Great Mountain,’ because he towers above the Patriarchs, is greater than Moses, and is above the ministering angels. As Isaiah says (52. 10), ‘Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.’–Midr. Tanchuma Toldos.
The word הדרך (Hadrach), used by the prophet Zechariah (9. 1), is one of the titles of Messiah. It is connected with the word דרך (leading), and is therefore applied to him who will lead man to repentance.–Midr. Song of Songs 7.
The ‘four carpenters’ to whom the prophet also refers, are Elijah, Melchizedek, the Messiah of war, called by some Messiah son of Joseph, and the true Messiah. These Messiahs are referred to in the 32nd chapter of Isaiah, and their existence is constantly mentioned. Seven or eight Messiahs are sometimes said to be promised in the words of the Prophet Micah (5. 5), ‘Then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal men,’ but it is held that there will be but four (Zech. 1. 20), and these are they: Elijah the Tishbite, an unnamed man of the tribe of Manasseh, Messiah of war–an Ephraimite, and Messiah the Great, the descendant of David.–Midr. Song of Songs 2.
Two of King David’s descendants were destined for universal dominion: King Solomon and King Messiah, to whom David refers in his seventy-second Psalm.–Numb. Rabba U
The whole of the 27th chapter of Isaiah refers to the Messiah.–Exod. Rabba 1.
Solomon’s Song has also reference to Messiah. ‘The voice of the turtle is heard in our land’ means the voice of Messiah.–Midr. Song of Songs 2.
When King Solomon speaks of his ‘beloved,’ he usually means Israel the nation. In one instance he compares his beloved to a roe, and therein he refers
to a feature which marks alike Moses and the Messiah, the two redeemers of Israel. just as a roe comes within the range of man’s vision only to disappear from sight and then appear again, so it is with these redeemers. Moses appeared to the Israelites, then disappeared, and eventually appeared once more, and the same peculiarity we have in connexion with Messiah; He will appear, disappear, and appear again.–Numb. Rabba 11.
The fourteenth verse in the second chapter of Ruth is thus explained. ‘Come thou hither’ is the prediction of Messiah’s kingdom. ‘Dip the morsel in the vinegar,’ foretells the agony through which Messiah will pass, as it is written in Isaiah (cap. 51), ‘He was wounded for our sins, He was bruised for our transgressions.’ ‘And she set herself beside the reapers’ predicts the temporary departure of Messiah’s kingdom. ‘And he reached her a parched corn’ means the restoration of His kingdom.–Midr. Ruth 5.
To three individuals God said, ‘Ask, and it shall be given to thee.’ These are Solomon, Ahaz, and Messiah, to the last of whom it was promised, ‘Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathens for Thine inheritance.’–Gen. Rabba 44.
In a similar strain we read, Israel is to overcome ten of the heathen nations of the world; seven of them have already been conquered; the remaining three will fall at the advent of Messiah.–Gen. Rabba 44. But, despite all this, Messiah will not come till all those who are to be created have made their appearance in the world.–Gen. Rabba 24.
In tracing the descent and history of the Israelites, the Bible enumerates the generations of the heads of the families of the earth whose history touched that of the chosen people. ‘These are the generations of the heavens and the earth’ is the first instance of the use of the word תולדות in such a connexion. If regard
be had to the Hebrew text of the verse, it will be found that here the word referred to is written in full, i.e. spelt תולדות, with the additional ו, whilst in all other places where the word occurs the word is always spelt with one ו, thus, תלדות. This, it will be found, is the invariable usage until we come to, ‘Now these are the generations of Perez’ (Ruth 4. 18). Here we once again find the word תולדות spelt in full. These are the only two instances in the whole of the Bible. The first refers to the time before the sin and fall of Adam, which brought death into the world, and, inconsequence, all succeeding תלדות, ‘generations,’ were deprived of some of the possibilities of life, and this is indicated by the omission of the ו. But the enumeration of the descendants of Perez, bringing appreciably nearer the promised abolition of death through the agency of his descendant, the Messiah, is hailed as the occasion to celebrate the restoration to perfect man of what he had lost through the imperfection of the first of his kind, and hence the word תולדות is here spelt in full.–Exod. Rabba 30.
A similar deduction is made with reference to the spelling of the word עתודים ‘he-goats.’ Each of the princes of Israel brought as a sacrifice at the dedication of the tabernacle five he-goats. This word is spelt without the ו, thus, עתדים in all the numerous repetitions of the details of the offerings, which are identically the same in all instances. There is but one exception, and that is (Numb. 7. 17) in the account of the offerings brought by Nachshon, son of Aminadab, because from him were to spring six (the numerical value of ו) of the great men of Israel, who were each to be distinguished by six special attributes. The Messiah and his ancestor David are among the six, and Isaiah thus enumerates the six distinguishing traits in the character of the descendant of Jesse, whose coming he foretells. ‘And there shall rest upon him (1) the
Spirit of the Lord, (2) the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, (3) the Spirit of counsel, (4) and might, (5) the Spirit of knowledge, and (6) the Spirit of the Lord.’–Numb. Rabba 13.
Abraham, Job, Hezekiah, and Messiah found God out for themselves without being previously instructed.–Numb. Rabba 14.
The great gifts of God, of which Adam was deprived by reason of his sin and fall–light being one of them–will all be restored through Messiah, who will appear from the North and rebuild the Temple in the South.–Numb. Rabba 13.
The prophecy of Isaiah concerning Jerusalem, ‘Behold, thy sons shall come from afar and thy daughters shall be nursed by thy side,’ could not be hailed with the same satisfaction as the words of Zechariah, ‘Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just and having salvation, lonely and riding upon an ass.’ This latter prophecy will bring it about that the daughter of Zion shall greatly rejoice in the Lord, her soul shall be joyful in her God.–Midr. Song of Songs 1.
So greatly shall Zion rejoice and so glorious will be the restoration of the Temple service in the days of Messiah, that three additional strings will be required besides the seven that were formerly upon the harps used by the Levites. In this way only will it be possible for the whole people to give expression to the depths of reverence for their God that shall then stir their hearts.–Numb. Rabba 15. and Tanchuma Behaloscho.
It was indeed pre-ordained that Jerusalem should be lost to the Israelites, but only until the coming of him concerning whom it was said, ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion.’–Gen. Rabba 56.
And so the destruction of Jerusalem is to be locked upon as an event bringing joy in its train rather than as an irreparable loss or sorrow, for through it the coming of the Messiah and consequent expiation of
Israel’s sin were rendered possible. For, just as all sacrifices were formerly brought to Jerusalem, so in future shall messengers come with offerings to Messiah, and all kings shall prostrate themselves before him.–Midr. Esther 1.
As you brought Me the perpetual light in the Temple, says God unto Israel, so will I bring unto you Him, Messiah, who is the personification of light, ‘the sun of righteousness’ promised through Malachi.–Midr. Tanchuma Tetzava.
Our father Abraham, by his meritorious life, won for himself the blessing. ‘Tell the stars, if thou art able to number them,’ He said unto him; ‘so shall be thy children.’ Isaac’s ready compliance with God’s demand to sacrifice his life evoked the promise, ‘I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven.’ Jacob was heartened with the prospect, ‘And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth.’ That which God promised to Abraham He has already fulfilled in that Moses was able to address to his people the words, ‘The Lord your God hath multiplied you, and behold, you are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude.’
Balaam was constrained to acknowledge the impossibility of ‘counting the dust of Jacob,’ and it might seem as if the prophet Hosea looked forward to the speedy realization of the promise made to Isaac when he gave utterance to the sentiment, ‘Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.’ The fulfilment, however, will not come about until the time of the Messiah, when the heathen shall be altogether absorbed and God will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh.–Numb. Rabba 2.
The honour and majesty with which David tells us (Ps. 104.) that God is clothed, He will bestow on Messiah. As it is said, ‘His glory is great in Thy salvation, honour and majesty hast Thou laid upon Him.’–Numb. Rabba 14.
Seeing in his spirit of prophecy that the time would come when the משכן, ‘Mishkan’ (the Sanctuary) would cease to exist and the Shechinah dwell no more in Israel’s midst, Moses was anxious to know by what means the sins of his people would then be expiated. The Almighty vouchsafed the information that He would choose a righteous man from their midst, and make him a משכן (pledge) for them, and through him their sins would be forgiven.–Exod. Rabba 35.
The prophets formerly recorded the good deeds performed by man, but now Elijah and Messiah record them and God puts His seal on the record.–Levit. Rabba 34.
‘Fear not, Abraham; I am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward,’ refers to the glorious epoch of Messiah. The Patriarch was apprehensive lest the covenant made with him might not prove lasting because of the sins of his descendants. God here gave him the assurance that, though his descendants fall into sin, there shall be one great and noble amongst them, who will be qualified to say to the avenging angel, ‘Stay thy hand.’ ‘Him will I accept and he shall be a pledge for my people.’–Midr. Song of Songs 1.
‘The sceptre shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet until “Shiloh” come,’ refers also to Messiah, who is to enlighten Israel on the words of the Torah, and point out the errors of the people. Rabbi Chanan, on the other hand, holds that the teaching of Messiah will not be addressed to Israel, whose knowledge of the law of God will be all-sufficient. Rather will his task be to instruct the Gentiles: in the words of the prophet Isaiah (11. 10), ‘To him shall the Gentiles seek, and he shall assemble the outcast of Israel.’–Gen. Rabba 98.
The faithful of Israel are desirous of sepulture in the land of Palestine because, at the advent of Messiah, the resurrection will take place there before any other part
of the world, but that will be the resurrection of the righteous only.–Gen. Rabba 96.
The general resurrection of the dead is appointed for the day of judgment, and when it takes place the revived souls will sing angelic songs.–Midr. Eccles. 1.
The death of the righteous is even like the Day of Atonement, in that each secures forgiveness for the sins of Israel.–Levit. Rabba 20.
A time has been appointed by God for the coming of Messiah. Yet if Israel but repent his sins, the glorious redemption will be hastened, and Messiah will make His appearance before the appointed time.–Exod. Rabba 25.
Great indeed will be the time of the approaching advent of Messiah. The wicked will be trodden down as ashes under the feet of the righteous, the trees will send forth their fragrance, and concerning the righteous it will be said, ‘He that is left in Zion and he that remaineth in Jerusalem shall be called holy.’
The seven years preceding the coming of the Son of David will be distinguished by the following signs: The first year rain will be scarce and partial; in the second year pangs of hunger will be felt; during the third year a severe famine will be experienced, and many human beings will die; men of renown and piety will perish, so that the Torah will be forgotten in Israel. This famine will be the last of the ten predestined for the world; the other nine occurred during the lives of Adam, Lemech, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Elijah, Elisha, the Judges, and King David. The fourth year will be marked neither by famine nor by plenty, but the fifth year will be one of prosperity, when the earth will bring forth abundance. There will then be joy in all parts of the earth, and a revival of study and knowledge of the Torah will be noticeable in the ranks of Israel. The sixth year will be full of rumours of war, and the seventh year will see the actual dread visitation of war. After all these signs have come to pass, at the end of
the seventh year, the Son of David will make His appearance. According to other opinions, prior to the coming of Messiah the world will be terribly corrupt; there will be no compassion amongst men, great derision and contempt for the Torah and for piety will be universal, and truth will be almost unknown. Men will be as shameless of their evil doings as the very animals, and the few righteous who still exist will be in exceeding great distress. Persecution will be rife everywhere, the youth will have no respect for the aged, so that the aged will even rise before the presence of the young. The daughter will rebel against her mother, and a man’s worst enemies will be those of his own household. The reigning powers will become infidel, and none will be found to raise his voice in protest, so that mankind will seem to merit nought but extermination. If, therefore, we behold the generations becoming ever more corrupt, there is therein good reason to anticipate the advent of Messiah.–Midr. Song of Songs 2.
The צמח (‘Zemach’), mentioned by Jeremiah (23. 5) and by Zechariah (6. 12) is the Messiah.–Numb. Rabba 18.
Unlike the kings of this earth, God bestows some of His possessions and dignities upon beings of flesh and blood. He set Solomon upon His own throne (1 Chron. 29. 23). He caused Elijah to ride upon His own horse; that is to say, upon the storm and whirlwind. To Moses, He gave God’s rod, and upon the head of Messiah He placed His own crown.–Exod. Rabba 8. and Tanchuma Voera.
Many and varied are the things that in the Bible are designated ‘the first.’ The month of the Egyptian exodus God named the first month of the year (Exod. 12. 2). He revealed Himself as ‘the first’ to the prophet Isaiah (44. 6). Zion, too, is styled ‘the first’ (Jer. 117). Of Esau also the epithet is used (Gen. 25.) And, lastly, Messiah is mentioned as ‘the first’ (Isa. 41. 27).
There is this intimate connexion between them, that God, who is the first, will rebuild Zion the first, and bring retribution on Esau (= Rome), known as the first, at the time of the advent of Messiah the first, in the month (= Nissan) which was appointed as the first.–Exod. Rabba 15.
Five things brought about the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt: (1) The sufferings of the people (2) their repentance; (3) the merits of their ancestors (4) the expiration of the time fixed for their captivity (5) the mercy of their God. These same causes will operate towards the realization of Israel’s Messianic hopes and lead to the last redemption through Messiah.–Deut. Rabba 2.
There will be a great difference between the Egyptian and the last redemption. ‘When you were delivered from Egypt,’ says God to Israel, ‘you had to depart in haste; at the last deliverance you shall not go in haste nor by Right, (Isa. 52. 12). At the Egyptian deliverance I, in my manifestation, went before you (Exod. 13. 21). At the last deliverance ‘the Lord will go before you and the God of Israel will be your reward.’ (Isa. 52. 12).–Exod. Rabba 19.
‘All your former redemptions,’ God says to Israel, have been accomplished through the instrumentality of men, and were, consequently, not lasting in their effect. You were delivered from Egypt through Moses and Aaron; you were rescued out of the hands of Sisera by Deborah and Barak; from the power of Midian you were saved by Shamgar. I myself will be your last and your everlasting Redeemer.’–Tanchuma Achray.
Great chariots, precious stones and other valuable gifts will the nations bring to Messiah. This means that the nations will bring Israel as a present to Messiah.–Midr. Song of Songs 4.
Just as Judah, though not the eldest, had always
precedence of Reuben and the other tribes (as is to be seen in various parts of the Bible–Numbers 2. 3, 2. 9, 7. 12; Judges 1. 2, 20. 18), so he will have precedence in announcing the coming of Messiah, as foretold by the prophet Nahum (1. 15).–Numb. Rabba 2.
To Judah were revealed all the great men and what will happen to them from the time of Jacob till the coming of Messiah.–Numb. Rabba 13.
The perpetual light in the Mishkan was typical of the light of King Messiah.–Levit. Rabba 31.
All the gifts which Jacob felt himself constrained–out of fear–to present to Esau, will be restored to Israel at the advent of Messiah.–Gen. Rabba 75.
Moses, the first redeemer, rode on an ass, gave the Israelites manna for food, and brought up the water. So also shall Messiah be seen riding on an ass (Zech. 9), shall bring down manna from on high (Ps. 70. 16), and cause the rivers of Judah to flow with water (Joel 4. 18).–Midr. Eccles. 1.
‘The envy of Ephraim shall depart and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off’ (Isa. 11. 13). That means that amongst the Jews themselves, at the time of Messiah, there will be perfect peace and harmony.–Tanchuma Vayeegash.
There is no redemption without faith.–Tanchuma Beshallach.
Three things Israel despised, viz., the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of the house of David, and the Temple, and God withholds His blessings from them till they mend their ways in these things. That they will do so the prophet Hosea (3. 5) tells us. ‘Afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek their God’ means that they will again accept the kingdom of heaven, ‘and David their king’ obviously means the formerly rejected House of David, ‘and shall fear the Eternal and his goodness’ refers to the Temple.–Midr. Samuel 13.
Messiah will be asked which place He selects as His residence. His reply will be, ‘Need you ask Me? Surely Zion, my holy mountain.’–Midr. Samuel 19.
Amongst the various names of Messiah, who was born on the day on which the Temple was destroyed, is that of מנחם בן עמיאל (Menachem ben Amiel) -Numb. Rabba 13.
The proper name of Messiah is ה׳ צדקנו (the Lord our righteousness).–Midr. Lament. 1.
IT is neither desirable nor consistent with the teachings of Judaism, or with present day sentiment, to make attacks or adverse reflections on any religious creed. But, while disclaiming any desire to provoke theological controversy, or to accentuate religious differences, I should like to append a few observations to this collection of excerpts from the Midrash on the subject of Messiah.
What impels me to do this is the existence of organizations for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, and the possibility of attempts being made to make capital out of some of the Rabbinic passages which I have cited.
It has been my privilege to come into contact with many Christian clergymen, both in England and in the Cape Colony, during more than forty years, and I have reason to know, and am glad to acknowledge, that there could not be a body of men more learned and pious, and more free from religious rancour and intolerance. My own experience has abundantly proved that it is possible for sincere Jews and Christians to associate on terms of friendship and mutual respect, and that no friction need arise from their differences of opinion on certain matters, But, at the same time, these differences do exist; and if a Jew refuses to adopt Christianity on the strength of arguments drawn from Jewish writings, he must be prepared to justify his attitude. I will therefore touch very briefly on one or two of the
arguments brought forward in support of the belief in Jesus as the Messiah.
The prophetic utterances which Christians quote as foreshadowing the coming of Messiah are quoted repeatedly by the Rabbis, and, in my opinion, have been largely borrowed by Christians from that source. These prophecies cannot be assumed without further proof to refer to the founder of Christianity.
I do not wish to go into the question whether the term ‘Messiah’ means an epoch of time or a personal Messiah–a matter on which Jews are by no means unanimous.
But it must be apparent to every thinking and unbiassed mind that not one of the prophetic utterances and predictions or of the Midrashic sayings can apply to the founder of Christianity any more than to the other numerous claimants to the Messianic dignity who have appeared from time to time. Jesus of Nazareth, no less than the other claimants, utterly failed to answer to the description of the Messiah in the prophets, and to accomplish the work which the prophets predicted.
One has but to glance at the present condition of the world–not the heathen, but the Christian world–after more than nineteen hundred years from the supposed advent of the Messiah; one has but to observe how anxious, for instance, nations are to convert their Krupp guns into ploughshares and their machine guns into pruning hooks. One has but, amongst very many other things, to consider the peace on earth which now exists throughout the world! I would also remind those who see in the name ה׳ צדקנו as applied to Messiah, a convincing proof of the divinity of Jesus, that Jerusalem is also called ה׳ צדקנו (Jer. 33. 16). In a similar way, the altar which Moses erected–in commemoration of his victory over Amalek–he dignified by naming it ה׳ נסי (Exod. 17. 15).
And there is, in my humble opinion, amongst other
arguments, one argument against the belief in Jesus as the Messiah, which is unanswerable.
The Messiah, according to all who believe in a personal Messiah, Jews and Christians alike, is to be a descendant of David. Now, according to Christianity, Jesus, the son–though not the only son–of Mary, was the offspring of immaculate conception, and had no earthly father from whom to take his pedigree. Even assuming that (as some of my Christian friends assert, but without proof) Mary was a descendant of David, that would not make Jesus a descendant, because pedigrees are reckoned from the father’s, and not the mother’s, side. God being the Father of Jesus, and God not being a descendant of King David, it follows that Jesus, His alleged son, cannot be King David’s descendant.
In support of my argument I may state that in the first four chapters of Numbers, the words לבית אבתם למשפהיתם ‘After their families by the house of their fathers,’ occur more than twenty times. There is not in the whole range of Holy Writ an instance where we find a phrase repeated so many times in so short a space.
And this tends to show Moses’ anxiety to impress us with the fact that descent is to be reckoned on the father’s side. On his father’s side Jesus is not a scion of David, and consequently he cannot be the Messiah.