Sefer Zerubbabel

Translated from the text published by Israel Lévi, “L’apocalypse de Zorobabel et le roi de Perse Siroès,” REJ 68 (1914): 131-44. Lévi’s text was based on that contained in Oxford Ms. 2797, the Sefer ha-Zikronot or so-called Chronicles of Yerahmeel. That manuscript has recently been transcribed and published as Sefer ha-Zikronot hu’ Divrey ha-Yamim le-Yerahme’el (ed. Eli Yassif; Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 2001); see pp. 427-35 for Sefer Zerubbabel. In addition, I have also consulted Adolph Jellinek, ed., Bet ha-Midrasch (6 vols.; repr., Jerusalem: Bamberger & Wahrmann, 1938), 2:54-57; S. A. Wertheimer, Batey Midrashot (2 vols.; repr., Jerusalem: Ktav wa-Sefer, 1980), 2:495-505; Yehudah Even-Shmuel, Midreshey ge’ullah (2d ed.; Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954), 71-88; Cairo Geniza fragments T-S A45.5, 45.7, 45.19, and 45.22 as published in Simon Hopkins, A Miscellany of Literary Pieces from the Cambridge Genizah Collections (Cambridge: Cambridge University Library, 1978). Other manuscript versions of this work are Oxford Ms. Opp. 236a (Bod. Or. 160) fols. 13a-15b; Oxford Ms. Opp. 603 fols. 32b-34; and Oxford Ms. Heb. f27 (2642) fols. 42-43.

The prophetic vision of Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel.

(This is) the word which came to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, (future) governor of Judah. On the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month, the Lord showed me this spectacle there while I was prostrate in prayer before the Lord my God, experiencing a visionary spectacle which I saw by the river Kebar. And as I was reciting (the passage of the ‘Amidah which ends) ‘Blessed are You, O Lord, the One Who resuscitates the dead!’, my heart groaned within me, thinking ‘[How will] the form of the Temple come into existence?’ He answered me from the doors of heaven and said to me, ‘Are you Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel, governor of Judah?’ I responded, ‘I am your servant.’ He answered me and conversed with me just as a person would speak to their friend. I could hear His voice, but I could not see His appearance. I continued to lie prostrate as before, and I completed my prayer. Then I went to my house.

On the eleventh day of the month ’Adar He was speaking with me (again) there, and he said to me, ‘Are you my servant Zerubbabel?’ I responded, ‘I am your servant.’ He said to me, ‘Come to me! Ask (anything) and I will tell you!’ I answered and said, ‘What might I ask? That my appointed lifespan be short and my destiny fulfilled?’ He said to me: ‘I will make you live (a long life).’ He repeated, ‘May you live (a long time)!’

A wind lifted me up between heaven and earth and carried me to the great city Nineveh, city of blood, and I thought ‘Woe is me, for my attitude has been contentious and (now) my life is at great risk!’ So I arose in distress in order to pray and entreat the favor of the name of the Lord God of Israel. I confessed all my transgressions and my sins, for my attitude had been contentious, and I said: ‘Ah Lord! I have acted wrongly, I have transgressed, I have sinned, for my attitude has been contentious. You are the Lord God, the One Who made everything by a command from Your mouth, and (Who) with a word from Your lips will revivify the dead!’ He said to me, ‘Go to the “house of filth” near the market-district,’ and I went just as he had commanded me. He said to me, ‘Turn this way,’ and so I turned. He touched me, and then I saw a man (who was) despicable, broken down and in pain.

That despicable man said to me: ‘Zerubbabel!? What business do you have here? Who has brought you here?’ I responded and said: ‘A wind from the Lord lifted me up and carried me to this place.’ He said to me: ‘Do not be afraid, for you have been brought here in order that He might show you (and then you in turn might inform the people of Israel about everything which you see).’ When I heard his words, I was consoled and regained my self-composure. I asked him, ‘Sir, what is the name of this place?’ He said to me, ‘This is mighty Rome, wherein I am imprisoned.’ I said to him, ‘Who then are you? What is your name? What do you seek here? What are you doing in this place?’ He said to me, ‘I am the Messiah of the Lord, the son of Hezekiah confined in prison until the time of the End.’  When I heard this, I was silent, and I hid my face from him. His anger burned within him, and when I looked at him (again), I became frightened.

He said to me, ‘Come nearer to me,’ and as he spoke to me my limbs quaked, and he reached out his hand and steadied me. ‘Don’t be frightened,’ he said, ‘and let your mind show no fear.’ He encouraged me, and said: ‘Why did you become silent and hide your face from me?’ I said to him: ‘Because you said, “I am the servant of the Lord, His Messiah, and ‘the light of Israel’ (2 Sam 21:17).”’ Suddenly he appeared like a strong young man, handsome and adorned.

I asked him: ‘When will the light of Israel come?’ And as I was speaking to him, behold, a man with two wings approached me and said to me, ‘Zerubbabel!  What are you asking the Messiah of the Lord?’ I answered him and said, ‘I asked when the appointed time for deliverance is supposed to come.’ ‘Ask me,’ he replied, ‘and I will tell you.’ I said to him, ‘Sir, who are you?’ He answered and said, ‘I am Michael, the one who delivered good news to Sarah. I am the leader of the host of the Lord God of Israel, the one who battled with Sennacherib and smote 180,000 men. I am the prince of Israel, the one who fought battles against the kings of Canaan. In the time to come, I will fight the battles of the Lord alongside the Messiah of the Lord—he who sits before you—with the king ‘strong of face’ (‘az panim) and with Armilos, the son of Satan, the spawn of the stone statue. The Lord has appointed me to be the commanding officer over his people and over those who love Him in order to do battle against the leaders of the nations.’

Michael, who is (also) Metatron, answered me saying: ‘I am the angel who guided Abraham throughout all the land of Canaan. I blessed him in the name of the Lord. I am the one who redeemed Isaac and [wept] for him. I am the one who wrestled with Jacob at the crossing of the Jabbok. I am the one who guided Israel in the wilderness for forty years in the name of the Lord. I am the one who appeared to Joshua at Gilgal, and I am the one who rained down brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. He placed His name within me: Metatron in gematria is the equivalent of Shadday. As for you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, whose name is Jeconiah, ask me and I will tell you what will happen at the End of Days.’

Then he said to me: ‘This is the Messiah of the Lord: (he has) been hidden in this place until the appointed time (for his manifestation). This is the Messiah of the lineage of David, and his name is Menahem ben ‘Amiel. He was born during the reign of David, king of Israel, and a wind bore him up and concealed him in this place, waiting for the time of the end.’ Then I, Zerubbabel, posed a question to Metatron, the leader of the host of the Lord.  He said to me: ‘The Lord will give a rod (for accomplishing) these salvific acts to Hephsibah, the mother of Menahem ben ‘Amiel. A great star will shine before her, and all the stars will wander aimlessly from their paths.

Hephsibah, the mother of Menahem ben ‘Amiel, will go forth and kill two kings, both of whom are determined to do evil. The name(s) of the two rulers (whom she will slay): Nōph, king of Teman, (so named) because he will shake (henīf) his hand toward Jerusalem, (is the first one), and the name of the second is ’Isrinan, king of Antioch. This conflict and these signs will take place during the festival of Shavu‘ot in the third month.

The word is true. Four hundred and twenty years after the city and Temple have been rebuilt, they will be destroyed a second time. Twenty years after the building of the city of Rome, after seventy kings corresponding to the seventy nations have ruled in it, when ten kings have finished their reigns, the tenth king will come. He will destroy the sanctuary, stop the daily offering, the ‘saintly people’ will be dispersed, and he will hand them over to destruction, despoiling, and panic. Many of them will perish due to their faithfulness to Torah, but (others) will abandon the Torah of the Lord and worship their (i.e., Rome’s) idols. “When they stumble, a little help will provide assistance” (Dan 11:34). From the time that the daily offering ceases and the wicked ones install the one whose name is ‘abomination’ in the Temple, at the end of nine hundred and ninety years, the deliverance of the Lord will take place—“when the power of the holy people is shattered” (Dan 12:7)—to redeem them and to gather them by means of the Lord’s Messiah.

The rod which the Lord will give to Hephsibah, the mother of Menahem [ben] ‘Amiel, is made of almond-wood; it is hidden in Raqqat, a city in (the territory of) Naphtali. It is the same rod which the Lord previously gave to Adam, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and King David. It is the same rod which sprouted buds and flowered in the Tent (of Meeting) for the sake of Aaron. Elijah ben Eleazar concealed it in Raqqat, a city of Naphtali, which is Tiberias. Concealed there as well is a man whose name is Nehemiah ben Hushiel ben Ephraim ben Joseph.’ Zerubbabel spoke up and said to Metatron and to Michael (sic) the prince: ‘My lord, I want you to tell me when the Messiah of the Lord will come and what will happen after all this!’ He said to me, ‘The Lord’s Messiah—Nehemiah ben Hushiel—will come five years after Hephsibah. He will collect all Israel together as one entity and they will remain for <four> years in Jerusalem, (where) the children of Israel will offer sacrifice, and it will be pleasing to the Lord. He will inscribe Israel in the genealogical lists according to their families. But in the fifth year of Nehemiah and the gathering together of the ‘holy ones,’ Šērōy the king of Persia will attack Nehemiah ben Hushiel and Israel, and there will be great suffering in Israel. Hephsibah—the wife of Nathan the prophet (and) mother of Menahem ben ‘Amiel—will go out with the rod which the Lord God of Israel will give to her, and the Lord will place “a spirit of dizziness” upon them (i.e., the Persian army), and they will kill one another, each (slaying) his companion or his countryman.  There the wicked one (Šērōy) will die.’

When I heard (this), I fell upon my face and said, ‘O Lord!  Tell me what Isaiah the prophet (meant) when he said: “There the calf will graze, and there it will crouch down and finish its branches” (27:10)?’ He answered me, ‘This calf is Nineveh, the city of blood, which represents mighty Rome.’

I continued asking there about the prince of the holy covenant. He held me close and they (sic) brought me to the ‘house of filth’ [and scorn]. There he showed me a marble stone in the shape of a maiden: her features and form were lovely and indeed very beautiful to behold. Then he said to me, ‘This statue is the [wife] of Belial. Satan will come and have intercourse with it, and a son named Armilos will emerge from it, [whose name in Greek means] “he will destroy a nation.” He will rule over all (peoples), and his dominion will extend from one end of the earth to the other, and ten letters will be in his hand. He will engage in the worship of foreign gods and speak lies. No one will be able to withstand him, and anyone who does not believe in him he will kill with the sword: many among them will he kill. He will come against the holy people of the Most High, and with him there will be ten kings wielding great power and force, and he will do battle with the holy ones.  He will prevail over them and will kill the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph, Nehemiah b. Hushiel, and will also kill sixteen righteous ones alongside him. Then they will banish Israel to the desert in three groups.

But Hephsibah, the mother of Menahem b. ‘Amiel, will remain stationed at the eastern gate, and that wicked one will not enter there, thereby confirming what was written: “but the remainder of the people will not be cut off from the city” (Zech 14:2). This battle will take place during the month of Av. Israel will experience distress such as there never was before. They will flee into towers, among mountains, and into caves, but they will be unable to hide from him. All the nations of the earth will go astray after him except for Israel, who will not believe in him. All Israel shall mourn Nehemiah b. Hushiel for forty-one days. His thoroughly crushed corpse will be thrown down before the gates of Jerusalem, but no animal, bird, or beast will touch it. Due to the intensity of the oppression and the great distress, the children of Israel will then cry out to the Lord, and the Lord will answer them.’

As I listened to the content of the prophecy of the Lord to me, I became very agitated and got up and went to the canal. There I cried out to the Lord God of Israel, the God of all flesh, and He sent His angel to me while the prayer was still in my mouth before I had finished (it). The Lord sent His angel to me, and when I saw (him) I knew that he was the angel who had spoken with me regarding all the previous matters. I knelt and bowed before him, and he again touched me like he had the first time. He said to me, ‘What’s the matter with you, O Zerubbabel?’ I answered him, ‘Sir, my spirit remains depressed.’

Metatron responded by saying to me: ‘Ask me (questions) and I will provide you with answers before I depart from you.’ So I again asked him and said to him, ‘My lord Metatron, when will the light of Israel come?’ He answered and said to me, ‘By the Lord Who has sent me and Who has appointed me over Israel, I solemnly swear to reveal to you the Lord’s doing(s), for the Holy God previously commanded me, “Go to My servant Zerubbabel, and tell him (the answers to) whatever he may ask of you.”’ Then Michael, who is (also) Metatron, said to me, ‘Come closer and pay careful attention to everything which I shall tell you, for the word which I am speaking to you is true; it was one spoken by the Living God.’

He said to me: ‘Menahem b. ‘Amiel will suddenly come on the fourteenth day of the first month; i.e., of the month Nisan. He will wait by the Valley of ’Arb’el (at a tract) which belonged to Joshua b. Jehosadaq the priest, and all the surviving sages of Israel—only a few will remain due to the attack and pillage of Gog and Armilos and the plunderers who despoiled them—will come out to him. Menahem b. ‘Amiel will say to the elders and the sages: “I am the Lord’s Messiah: the Lord has sent me to encourage you and to deliver you from the power of these adversaries!” The elders will scrutinize him and will despise him, for they will see that despicable man garbed in rags, and they will despise him just as you previously did. But then his anger will burn within him, “and he will don garments of vengeance (as his) clothing and will put on a cloak of zealousness” (Isa 59:17b), and he will journey to the gates of Jerusalem. Hephsibah, the mother of the Messiah, will come and give him the rod by which the signs were performed. All the elders and children of Israel will come and see that Nehemiah (b. Hushiel) is alive and standing unassisted, (and) immediately they will believe in the Messiah.’ Thus did Metatron, the leader of the host of the Lord, swear to me: ‘This matter will truly come to pass, for there will be full cooperation between them in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah, “Ephraim will not envy Judah, nor will Judah antagonize Ephraim” (Isa 11:13).

On the twenty-first day of the first month, nine hundred and ninety years after the destruction of the Temple, the deliverance of the Lord will take place for Israel. Menahem b. ‘Amiel, Nehemiah b. Hushiel, and Elijah the prophet will come and stand by the Mediterranean Sea and read the prophecy of the Lord. All the bodies of those Israelites who had thrown themselves into the sea while fleeing from their enemies will emerge: a sea-wave will rise up, spread them out, and deposit them alive within the valley of Jehoshaphat near the Wadi Shittim, for there judgment will transpire upon the nations.

In the second month; i.e., Iyyar, the congregation of Qorah will reemerge upon the plains of Jericho near the Wadi Shittim. They will come to Moses (!), and the cohort of the Qorahites will assemble.

On the eighteenth day of it (the second month) the mountains and hills will quake, and the earth and everything on it will shake, as well as the sea and its contents.

On the first day of the third month those who died in the desert will revive and will come with their families to the Wadi Shittim. On the eighteenth day of the month of Sivan (i.e., the third month), there will be a mighty earthquake in Eretz Israel.

In Tammuz, the fourth month, the Lord God of Israel will descend upon the Mount of Olives, and the Mount of Olives will split open at His rebuke. He will blow a great trumpet, and every foreign deity and mosque will crumple to the ground, and every wall and steep place will collapse. The Lord will kill all their plunderers, and He will battle those nations “like a warrior fired with zeal” (Isa 42:13). The Lord’s Messiah—Menahem b. ‘Amiel—will come and breathe in the face of Armilos and thereby slay him. The Lord will place each man’s sword on the neck of his companion and their dead bodies shall fall there. The “saintly people” (i.e., Israel; cf. Dan 8:24) will come out to witness the Lord’s deliverance: all of Israel will actually see Him (equipped) like a warrior with “the helmet of deliverance on His head” and clad in armor (cf. Isa 59:17). He will fight the battle of Gog ha-Magog and against the army of Armilos, and all of them will fall dead in the Valley of ’Arb’el. All of Israel will then issue forth and “[despoil] their despoilers, looting those who previously plundered them” (Ezek 39:10) for seven months. However, some survivors will escape and they will all regroup at Zela‘ ha-Elef: five hundred men, and (another) one hundred thousand wearing armor. (Opposing them will be) five hundred from Israel with Nehemiah and Elijah, and you, O Zerubbabel, will be their leader. They (sic) will kill all of them: one man will pursue a thousand.

This will be the third battle, for three battles will take place in the land of Israel. One will be waged by Hephsibah with Šērōy the king of Persia, one will be fought by the Lord God of Israel and Menahem b. ‘Amiel with Armilos, the ten kings who are with him, and Gog and Magog, and the third will be at Zela‘ ha-Elef, where Nehemiah b. Hushiel and Zerubbabel will see action. The third battle will take place in the month of Av.

After all this (has taken place), Menahem b. ‘Amiel will come, accompanied by Nehemiah b. Hushiel and all Israel. All of the dead will resurrect, and Elijah the prophet will be with them. They will come up to Jerusalem. In the month of Av, during which they formerly mourned for Nehemiah (and) for the destruction of Jerusalem, Israel will hold a great celebration and bring an offering to the Lord, which the Lord will accept on their behalf. “The offering of Israel will be pleasing to the Lord as it was formerly during her past history” (cf. Mal 3:4). The Lord will discern the pleasant aroma of His people Israel and greatly rejoice. Then the Lord will lower the celestial Temple which had been previously built to earth, and a column of fire and a cloud of smoke will rise to heaven. The Messiah and all of Israel will follow them to the gates of Jerusalem.

The holy God will stand on the Mount of Olives. Dread at and reverence for Him will be upon the heavens and the uppermost heavens, the entire earth and its deepest levels, and every wall and structure to their foundations. No one will be able to catch their breath when the Lord God reveals Himself before everyone on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives will crack open beneath Him, and the exiles from Jerusalem will come up to the Mount of Olives. Zion and Jerusalem will behold (these things) and ask: “‘Who bore these to us?…Where have these been?’” (Isa 49:21). Nehemiah and Zerubbabel will then come up to Jerusalem and say to her: “Behold, (they are) your children whom you bore who went into exile from you. ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!’” (Zech 9:9).’

Again I started to question Metatron, leader of the host of the Lord: ‘Sir, show me how far and how wide Jerusalem will extend, along with its architecture.’ He showed me the walls which surrounded Jerusalem—walls of fire—extending from the Great Desert unto the Mediterranean Sea and unto the Euphrates River. Then he showed me the Temple and the structure. The Temple was built on the peaks of five mountains which the Lord had chosen to support His sanctuary: Lebanon, Mount Moriah, Tabor, Carmel, and Hermon.  Michael spoke and said to me, ‘At the completion of nine hundred and ninety years for the ruins of Jerusalem is the appointed time for the deliverance of Israel.’ He also continued to interpret for me the message and the vision in accordance with what he had first said to me: ‘If you wish to know, ask! Keep coming back!’ (cf. Isa 21:12).

In the fifth (year) of the week Nehemiah b. Hushiel will come and gather together all Israel. In the sixth (year) of the week Hephsibah, the wife of Nathan the prophet, she who was born in Hebron, will come and slay the two kings Nōph and ’Esrōgan. That same year the ‘shoot of Jesse’ (Isa 11:10), Menahem b. ‘Amiel, will spring up. Ten kings from among the nations shall also arise, but they will not supply enough (rulers) to rule for a week (of years) and a half-week (of years), each one (ruling) for a year. These are the ten kings who will arise over the nations for the week of years: these are their names correlated with their cities and their places. The first king is Sīlqōm and the name of his city is Seferad, which is Aspamia, a distant country. The second king is Hartōmōs, and the name of his city is Gītanya. The third king is Flē’vas (Flavius?), and the name of his city is Flō’yas. The fourth king is Glū’as (Julius?), and the name of his city is Galya (Gaul?). The fifth king is Ramōshdīs, and the name of his city is Mōdītīka. The sixth king is Mōqlanōs, and the name of his city is Italia. The seventh king is ’Ōktīnōs, and the name of his city is Dōrmīs.  The eighth king is ’Aplōstōs from Mesopotamia. The ninth king is Šērōy, the king of Persia.

The tenth king is Armilos, the son of Satan who emerged from the sculpted stone. He will gain sovereignty over all of them. He will come along with the rulers of Qedar and the inhabitants of the East and provoke a battle in the Valley of ’Arb’el, and they will take possession of the kingdom. He will ascend with his force and subdue the entire world.  From there in Riblah, which is Antioch, he will begin to erect all the idols of the nations on the face of the earth and to serve their gods, those whom the Lord hates. During those days ‘there will be reward for neither human nor beast’ (cf. Zech 8:10). He will construct four altars, and he will anger the Lord with his wicked deeds. There will be a very terrible and harsh famine upon the surface of the whole land for forty days—their food will stem from the salt-plant; leaves plucked from shrubbery and broom to sustain them (cf. Job 30:4). On that day ‘a fountain will flow forth from the Temple of the Lord and fill the Wadi Shittim’ (Joel 4:18).

Now this Armilos will take his mother—(the statue) from whom he was spawned—from the ‘house of filth’ of the scornful ones, and from every place and from every nation they will come and worship that stone, burn offerings to her, and pour out libations to her. No one will be able to view her face due to her beauty. Anyone who refuses to worship her will die in agony (like?) animals.

This is the mark of Armilos: the color of the hair of his head is similar to gold, and (he is) green, even the soles of his feet. His face is one span in width, his eyes are deep-set, and he has two heads. He will arise and rule over ’Īmīs (?), the province of Satan, the father of Belial. All who see him will tremble before him. Menahem will come up from the Wadi Shittim and breathe in the face of Armilos and thereby slay him, just as it is written: ‘he will slay the wicked one with the breath of his mouth’ (Isa 11:4). Israel will take possession of the kingdom; ‘the holy ones of the Most High will receive sovereign power’ (Dan 7:18).

These were the words which Metatron spoke to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, (future) governor of Judah, while he was still living in exile during the time of the Persian empire.  Zechariah ben ‘Anan and Elijah recorded them when the period of exile was completed.



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