THE MESSIAH OF THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD

By Sam Shamoun | Go to Source

In this post, I will cite the Babylonian Talmud to show how post-Christian rabbis applied some of the very same Old Testament passages to the Messiah, which the inspired New Testament writings and Christians in general have typically interpreted in respect to Jesus. The quotations will further demonstrate how the rabbis even believed in the Messiah’s personal preexistence, e.g. Messiah is already alive and waiting to manifest himself at the appointed time.

And Rabbi Yoḥanan says: The son of David will come only in a generation that is entirely innocent, in which case they will be deserving of redemption, or in a generation that is entirely guilty, in which case there will be no alternative to redemption. He may come in a generation that is entirely innocent, as it is written: “And your people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever” (Isaiah 60:21). He may come in a generation that is entirely guilty, as it is written: “And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no intercessor; therefore His arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness, it sustained Him” (Isaiah 59:16). And it is written: “For My own sake, for My own sake will I do it; for how should it be profaned? And My glory I will not give it to another” (Isaiah 48:11)…

§ Rabbi Alexandri says: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi raises a contradiction in a verse addressing God’s commitment to redeem the Jewish people. In the verse: “I the Lord in its time I will hasten it” (Isaiah 60:22), it is written: “In its time,” indicating that there is a designated time for the redemption, and it is written: “I will hasten it,” indicating that there is no set time for the redemption. Rabbi Alexandri explains: If they merit redemption through repentance and good deeds I will hasten the coming of the Messiah. If they do not merit redemption, the coming of the Messiah will be in its designated time…

Rabbi Alexandri says: Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi raises a contradiction between two depictions of the coming of the Messiah. It is written: “There came with the clouds of heaven, one like unto a son of man…and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom…his dominion is an everlasting dominion” (Daniel 7:13–14). And it is written: “Behold, your king will come to you; he is just and victorious; lowly and riding upon a donkey and upon a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Rabbi Alexandri explains: If the Jewish people merit redemption, the Messiah will come in a miraculous manner with the clouds of heaven. If they do not merit redemption, the Messiah will come lowly and riding upon a donkey…

King Shapur of Persia said to Shmuel mockingly: You say that the Messiah will come on a donkey; I will send him the riding [barka] horse that I have. Shmuel said to him: Do you have a horse with one thousand colors [bar ḥivar gavanei] like the donkey of the Messiah? Certainly his donkey will be miraculous…

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to Elijah: When will the Messiah come? Elijah said to him: Go ask him. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked: And where is he sitting? Elijah said to him: At the entrance of the city of Rome. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi asked him: And what is his identifying sign by means of which I can recognize him? Elijah answered: He sits among the poor who suffer from illnesses. And all of them untie their bandages and tie them all at once, but the Messiah unties one bandage and ties one at a time. He says: Perhaps I will be needed to serve to bring about the redemption. Therefore, I will never tie more than one bandage, so that I will not be delayed…

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi went to the Messiah. He said to the Messiah: Greetings to you, my rabbi and my teacher. The Messiah said to him: Greetings to you, bar Leva’i. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to him: When will the Master come? The Messiah said to him: Today. Sometime later, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi came to Elijah. Elijah said to him: What did the Messiah say to you? He said to Elijah that the Messiah said: Greetings [shalom] to you, bar Leva’i. Elijah said to him: He thereby guaranteed that you and your father will enter the World-to-Come, as he greeted you with shalom. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said to Elijah: The Messiah lied to me, as he said to me: I am coming today, and he did not come. Elijah said to him that this is what he said to you: He said that he will come “today, if you will listen to his voice” (Psalms 95:7)…

§ Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma’s students asked him: When will the son of David come? Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma said: I am hesitant to answer you, lest you request from me a sign to corroborate my statement. They said to him: We are not asking you for a sign…

Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma said to them: You will see when this existing gate of Rome falls and will be rebuilt, and will fall a second time and will be rebuilt, and will fall a third time. And they will not manage to rebuild it until the son of David comes. The students said to him: Our rabbi, give us a sign. Rabbi Yosei ben Kisma said to them: But didn’t you say to me that you are not asking me for a sign?…

Rav says: The son of David will not come until the evil Roman kingdom will disperse throughout Eretz Yisrael for nine months, as it is stated: “Therefore will He give them up, until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of his brethren shall return with the children of Israel” (Micah 5:2). Once a period equivalent to a term of pregnancy passes, the redemption will come…

Ulla says: Let the Messiah come, but after my death, so that I will not see him, as I fear the suffering that will precede his coming. Likewise, Rabba says: Let the Messiah come, but after my death, so that I will not see him. Rav Yosef says: Let the Messiah come, and I will be privileged to sit in the shadow of his donkey’s excrement. I am willing to undergo all the pain and disgrace associated with his arrival…

Abaye said to Rabba: What is the reason that you are so concerned? If we say it is due to the pains preceding and accompanying the coming of the Messiah, but isn’t it taught in a baraita that Rabbi Elazar’s students asked Rabbi Elazar: What shall a person do to be spared from the pains preceding the coming of the Messiah? Rabbi Elazar said to them: They shall engage in Torah study and acts of kindness. Abaye continued: And as far as the Master is concerned, isn’t there the Torah and aren’t there the acts of kindness that you performed?…

§ Rav Giddel says that Rav says: The Jewish people are destined to eat from the bounty of, i.e., enjoy, the years of the Messiah. Rav Yosef says: Isn’t this obvious? And rather, who else will eat from them? Will Ḥillak and Billak, two shiftless characters, eat from them? The Gemara explains that Rav Giddel’s statement serves to exclude the statement of Rabbi Hillel, who says: There is no Messiah coming for the Jewish people, as they already ate from him, as all the prophecies relating to the Messiah were already fulfilled during the days of Hezekiah…

Rav says: The world was created only for the sake of David, by virtue of his merit. And Shmuel says: It was created by virtue of the merit of Moses. And Rabbi Yoḥanan says: It was created by virtue of the merit of the Messiah…

Apropos the Messiah, the Gemara asks: What is his name? The school of Rabbi Sheila says: Shiloh is his name, as it is stated: “Until when Shiloh shall come” (Genesis 49:10). The school of Rabbi Yannai says: Yinnon is his name, as it is stated: “May his name endure forever; may his name continue [yinnon] as long as the sun; and may men bless themselves by him” (Psalms 72:17). The school of Rabbi Ḥanina says: Ḥanina is his name, as it is stated: “For I will show you no favor [ḥanina]” (Jeremiah 16:13). And some say that Menaḥem ben Ḥizkiyya is his name, as it is stated: “Because the comforter [menaḥem] that should relieve my soul is far from me” (Lamentations 1:16). And the Rabbis say: The leper of the house of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi is his name, as it is stated: “Indeed our illnesses he did bear and our pains he endured; yet we did esteem him injured, stricken by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4)…

Rav Naḥman says: If the Messiah is among the living in this generation, he is a person such as me, who already has dominion over the Jewish people, as it is stated: “And their prince shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from their midst” (Jeremiah 30:21), indicating that the redeemer is already in power. Rav says: If the Messiah is among the living in this generation, he is a person such as our saintly Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, who was renowned for his sanctity, piety, and Torah knowledge. If the Messiah is among the dead he is a person such as Daniel, the beloved man…

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: The Holy One, Blessed be He, is destined to establish another David for the Jewish people as the Messiah, as it is stated: “And they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will establish for them” (Jeremiah 30:9). It is not stated: I established, but “I will establish,” indicating that the name of the future king will be David. Rav Pappa said to Abaye: But isn’t it written: “And my servant David shall be their prince forever” (Ezekiel 37:25), indicating that King David himself will rule over the Jewish people? Abaye said: They will rule in tandem like an emperor and a viceroy; the Messiah will be king and David will be second-in-command…

§ Rabbi Simlai taught: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord. Why would you have this day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light” (Amos 5:18)? It is comparable to a rooster and a bat who were looking forward to the light of day. The rooster said to the bat: I look forward to light, as light is an indication of my time to be active. But as for you, why do you need light? Nighttime for you is like daytime for me…

And that is the background for the following exchange, as a certain heretic said to Rabbi Abbahu: When will the Messiah come? Rabbi Abbahu said to him: He will come when the darkness will enshroud these people, i.e., you. The heretic said to him: Are you cursing me for no reason? Rabbi Abbahu said to him, I am merely relating to you a verse that is written: “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and fog the peoples; but the Lord shall shine upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you” (Isaiah 60:2)…

§ It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Eliezer says: The messianic era will be forty years long, as it is stated: “Forty years will I strive with the generation” (Psalms 95:10). The forty years of strife with the gentiles will be followed by the glory days of the Messiah. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya says: The messianic era will last seventy years, as it is stated: “And it shall come to pass on that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king” (Isaiah 23:15). In this context, one [eḥad], means unique [meyuḥad]. Which is the unique king? You must say that this is a reference to the Messiah…

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: The messianic era will last three generations, as it is stated: “May they fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout the generations [dor dorim]” (Psalms 72:5). Dor is singular and dorim is plural, for a total of three generations. Rabbi Hillel says: There is no Messiah coming for the Jewish people, as they already ate from him, as all the prophecies relating to the Messiah were already fulfilled, during the days of Hezekiah…

Rav Yosef says: May the Master forgive Rabbi Hillel for stating matters with no basis. With regard to Hezekiah, when was his reign? It was during the First Temple period. Whereas Zechariah ben Berechiah, the prophet, prophesied during the Second Temple period and said: “Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your king will come to you; he is just and victorious; lowly and riding upon a donkey and upon a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). In the generations after Hezekiah, there are prophecies about both redemption and the coming of the Messiah…

It is taught in another baraita: Rabbi Eliezer says: The messianic era will be forty years long. It is written here with regard to the forty-year sojourn of the children of Israel in the wilderness: “And He afflicted you, and suffered you to hunger and fed you with manna” (Deuteronomy 8:3); and it is written there: “Make us glad according to the days that You afflicted us, the years that we saw evil” (Psalms 90:15)…

Rabbi Dosa says: The messianic era will last four hundred years. It is written here with regard to the Covenant of the Pieces: “And they shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13); and it is written there: “Make us glad according to the days that You afflicted us.”…

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: The messianic era will last 365 years, corresponding to the number of days of the solar year, as it is stated: “For the day of vengeance is in My heart, and the year of My redeemed is come” (Isaiah 63:4)…

Avimi, son of Rabbi Abbahu, taught: The messianic era for the Jewish people will last seven thousand years, as it is stated: “And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). The bridegroom rejoices over the bride for seven days, and the day of the Holy One, Blessed be He, is one thousand years…

Rav Yehuda says that Shmuel says: The duration of the messianic era is like the duration of the period that runs from the day the world was created until now, i.e., the day when the Messiah will come, as it is stated: “That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:21)…

Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak says: The duration of the messianic era is like the duration of the period that runs from the days of Noah until now, i.e., the day when the Messiah will come, as it is stated with regard to redemption: “For this is as the seas of [ki mei] Noah to me; as I have sworn that the seas of Noah shall no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I will not be angry with you nor rebuke you” (Isaiah 54:9). The words ki mei can be understood as one word, kimei, meaning: Like the days of…

§ Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba says that Rabbi Yoḥanan says: In their prophecies with regard to redemption and the end of days, all the prophets prophesied only about the messianic era, but with regard to the World-to-Come the reward is not quantifiable, as it states: “No eye has seen it, God, aside from You, Who will do for those who await Him” (Isaiah 64:3). The Gemara notes: And this statement disagrees with the opinion of Shmuel, as Shmuel says: The difference between this world and the messianic era is only with regard to servitude to foreign kingdoms alone, as they will leave Eretz Yisrael. (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a-b-99a https://www.sefaria.org/Sanhedrin.98a.13?lang=bi)

THE MESSIANIC PROOFTEXTS

I will now quote some of the main OT texts which the Talmud ascribes to the Messiah, with some additional context for further clarification.

“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, And his teeth whiter than milk.” Genesis 49:8-12

“Give the king Your judgments, O God, And Your righteousness to the king’s Son… They shall fear You As long as the sun and moon endure, Throughout all generations… He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, And His enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles Will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba Will offer gifts. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve HimHis name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; All nations shall call Him blessed. Read full chapter Psalm 72:1, 5, 8-11, 17

“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:1-2

“He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him. Read full chapter Isaiah 59:16

“Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you… The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, The cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, To beautify the place of My sanctuary; And I will make the place of My feet glorious… You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles, And milk the breast of kings; You shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob… The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the LORD will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended. Also your people shall all be righteous; They shall inherit the land forever, The branch of My planting, The work of My hands, That I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, And a small one a strong nation. I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time.” Isaiah 60:1-2, 13, 16, 19-22

“For the day of vengeance is in My heart, And the year of My redeemed has come. I looked, but there was no one to help, And I wondered That there was no one to uphold; Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; And My own fury, it sustained Me.” Isaiah 63:4-5

“‘For it shall come to pass in that day,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘That I will break his yoke from your neck, And will burst your bonds; Foreigners shall no more enslave them. But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them… Their nobles shall be from among them, And their governor shall come from their midst; Then I will cause him to draw near, And he shall approach Me; For who is this who pledged his heart to approach Me?’ says the LORD.’” Jeremiah 30:9, 21

“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

“‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.’ Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.” Micah 5:2-3

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’” Zechariah 9:9-10

What makes the rabbinic interpretation rather interesting is that cite verses which speak of Yahweh coming to redeem, or using his own Arm to save and justify, or manifesting his glory and shining forth his light upon his own people etc., and apply them all to the Messiah!

Hence, whether this was intentional or not the rabbis have invariably equated the Messiah with God through their application of Yahweh texts to the coming anointed Davidic ruler.

All biblical references taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Holy Bible.

FURTHER READING

The Rabbis Affirm the Divine Prehuman Existence of the Messiah!

The Davidic Branch in Rabbinic Judaism

Jeconiah’s Curse Becomes Messiah’s Blessing!

How Rabbinic Judaism’s Belief in Two Messiahs proves that Jesus is the Christ

A Divine Messiah That Suffers and Reigns! Pt. 1

A Divine Messiah That Suffers and Reigns! Pt. 2

A Divine Messiah That Suffers and Reigns! Pt. 3

JUDAISMS’ VIEWS ON THE MESSIAH’S PREHUMAN EXISTENCE

ENOCH’S MESSIANIC SON OF MAN

Letters to Rabbi Cohen Concerning Messiah

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