The Serpent and the Messiah
“And the human called his woman’s name חַוָּה (Ḥavvah), Eve, for she was the mother of all that lives (Genesis 3:20)—she was given to him for an adviser, but she played the eavesdropper like the serpent. He showed her how many generations she had destroyed. Rabbi Aha interpreted: The serpent was your serpent [i.e., seducer], and you are Adam’s חִוְיָא (ḥivya), serpent” (Bereshit Rabbah 20:11, cf. ZḤ 19b).
“And she bore a son and called his name Seth, as to say, ‘God has granted me other seed in place of Abel, for Cain has killed him’ (Genesis 4:25). Rabbi Tanḥuma said in the name of Shemu’el Kozit: [She hinted at] seed which would arise from another source, namely King Messiah [i.e., not from Hebrew stock]” (Bereshit Rabbah 23:5).
And this is the lineage of Perez. Perez begat Hezron. And Hezron begat Ram and Ram begat Aminadab. And Aminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmah. And Salmah begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed. And Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David (Ruth 4:18–22).
“Rabbi Abba son of Qahana opened, רִגְזוּ (Rigzu), quake, and do not offend (Psalms 4:5). David said to the blessed Holy One ‘How long will מִתְרַגְּזִים (mitraggezim), they rage against, me and say, Is he not of tainted descent? Is he not a descendant of Ruth the Moabite? Speak in your hearts on your beds (ibid.). You also, are you not descended from two sisters [namely, Rachel and Leah who married the same man]? Look upon your own genealogy and be still (ibid.). And Tamar who married your ancestor Judah—is it not a tainted descent? She was but a descendant of Shem the son of Noah [who married his sister, see Jubilees 4:11]. Do you then have an honorable descent?’
[Quake and do not offend.] Rabbi Ya’aqov son of Ahiyah said: Fight against your impulse and do not offend. The Rabbis explain: Anger your impulse and do not offend.
וְאֵלֶּה (Ve-elleh), And these, are the lineage of Perez (Ruth 4:18). Rabbi Abba said: Wherever אֵלֶּה (elleh), these, occurs, it invalidates the preceding; וְאֵלֶּה (ve-elleh), and these, adds to the preceding.
And Hezron begat Ram (ibid., 19). But was not Jerahmeel the elder son, as is written, The sons also of Hezron, that were born unto him; Jerahmeel, and Ram, and Chelubai (1 Chronicles 2:9)? [Jerahmeel is omitted] because he married a Canaanite woman in order to adorn himself with her, as is written, Jerahmeel had also another wife, whose name was עֲטָרָה (Atarah), Diadem, Adornment (ibid. 2:26).
And Ram begat Aminadab. And Aminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmah (Ruth 4:19–20). [Why is he called שַׂלְמָה (Salmah)?] Because up to him they formed סוּלָמוֹת (sulamot), ladders, of princes, from him onwards they formed ladders of kings.
Rabbi Yitsḥaq opened, Then did I think: Look, I come (Psalms 40:8). I ought to have sung a song that I have come, since the word אָז (az), then, refers to song, as is said, אָז (az), then, did Moses sing (Exodus 15:1). I was included in the verse No Ammonite nor Moabite shall come into YHWH’s assembly. [Even his tenth generation shall not come into YHWH’s assembly ever] (Deuteronomy 23:4), but I have come with the scroll of the book written for me (Psalms 40:8). With the scroll—referring to: whom You did command that they should not enter into Your assembly (Lamentations 1:10). The book—as is said, No Ammonite nor Moabite shall come into YHWH’s assembly. And not only have I been allowed to enter, but in the scroll of the book it is written concerning me. In the scroll—Perez, Hezron, Ram, Aminadab, Nahshon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, David; the book—And YHWH said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is the one’ (1 Samuel 16:12).
Rav Huna said: It is written [And she bore a son and called his name Seth, as to say,] ‘God has granted me other seed [in place of Abel, for Cain has killed him’] (Genesis 4:25)—seed from another place, referring to the Messiah [cf. Bereshit Rabbah 23:5; 51:8]. Rabbi Berekhiyah and Rabbi Shim’on said: We may illustrate with a parable: A king who was travelling from one place to another, when a precious pearl fell from his head. So the king and all his retinue stopped there. All the passers-by asked, ‘What are the king and his retinue doing here?’ They discerned the reason and said, ‘A pearl has fallen from his head.’ What did he do? He gathered all the soil into heaps and brought brooms [alt., sieves]. He had one heap swept, but did not find it; a second heap, and he did not find it; but in the third, he found it, and they announced ‘The king has found his pearl!’ So the blessed Holy One said to Abraham, Go forth [lit., Go to yourself] (Genesis 12:1). It was to you that I looked forward. What need had I to record the lineage of Shem, Arpachshad, Shelah, Eber, Peleg, Reu, Serug, Nahor, and Terah? (1 Chronicles 1:24–26). Only on account of you, Abram; the same is Abraham (ibid.); And found his heart faithful before You (Nehemiah 9:8). So said the blessed Holy One to David, ‘What need had I to record the lineage of Perez, Hezron, Ram, Aminadab, Nahshon, Salmah, Boaz, Obed, and Jesse? Only on account of you; I found David My servant (Psalms 89:21)” (Rut Rabbah 8a).
“Come and see: Tamar was the daughter of a priest. Now, would you ever imagine that she set out to whore with her father-in-law, given that she was inherently modest? Rather, she was righteous and did this out of wisdom. She offered herself to him only because she possessed knowledge and contemplated wisdom. So she approached him to act kindly and faithfully; that is why she came to him and engaged in this affair.
Come and see: Because she possessed knowledge and exerted herself in this affair, the blessed Holy One offered assistance in that very act and she immediately conceived. All issued from Him.
Now, you might ask: ‘Why didn’t the blessed Holy One bring those sons through some other woman? Why through this one? But precisely she, and no other woman, was needed for this act.
There were two women through whom the seed of Judah was established, from whom issued King David, King Solomon, and King Messiah. These two women correspond to one another: Tamar and Ruth, whose husbands died first, who exerted themselves in this action.
Tamar enticed her father-in-law, who was next of kin to his sons who had died. Why did she entice him? As is written: for she saw that Shelah had grown up and she had not been given to him as wife (Genesis 38:14). That is why she engaged in this act with her father-in-law.
As for Ruth, her husband died and then she engaged in this act with Boaz, as is written: She uncovered his feet and lay down (Ruth 3:7). Engaging with him, she later gave birth to Obed. Now, you might ask ‘Why didn’t Obed issue from another woman?’ But precisely she was needed, no one else.
From these two, the seed of Judah was established and consummated. Both of them acted properly, acting kindly toward the dead so that the world would later be enhanced. This corresponds to what was said: I praise the dead, who have already died (Ecclesiastes 4:2), because when they were first alive, they were not praiseworthy, but later they were. Both of them exerted themselves to act kindly and faithfully toward the dead, and the blessed Holy One assisted in that act. All was fitting!…
It is written: Look, there were twins in her womb! (Genesis 38:27)—they were twins; previously they were brothers [Er and Onan].
Rabbi Ḥizkiyah said, ‘That’s not the implication! Rather, other sons were born.’ Rabbi Abba said, ‘This is why she exerted herself: to recover what had been lost.’
Come and see what is written: As he was drawing back his hand, look, out came his brother, and she said, ‘What a breach you have breached for yourself!—alluding here to the original, licentious breach that he breached, because of which he died. This is implied by the phrase you have breached for yourself—for yourself you have breached a breach, since you had to trouble your Lord; consequently, you will make a breach in other nations. So, he named him פָּרֶץ (Perets), Breach.
After the entire incident of Judah has been told—how he sold Joseph and brought all of this about: for if Judah had said, ‘Let’s return him to our father,’ his brothers would have done so; consequently, his brothers demoted him from dominion over them. After he was banished from his brothers and all this came upon him, Scripture speaks of Joseph: Joseph was brought down to Egypt. Why was brought down? Because the blessed Holy One approved that act, to fulfill the decree that He had issued: Know well that your seed will be strangers… (Genesis 15:13)” (Zohar 1:188a–b, cf. Bahir §§197–198).
“For Rabbi Abba has said, ‘How many wicked there are in the world who engender more virtuous children than the righteous!’” (Zohar 2:12b).
“Evil was consumed and good eventually emerged—the one of whom is written: goodly to look on, and YHWH is with him (1 Samuel 16:12, 18)” (Zohar 2:103b).
“Seed of David…. In his anger he is calm, immediately appeased; but he retains enmity like a serpent in the end, for that side provokes this, surrounding on all sides. However, the kernel within the shell and the heart are upright and firm” (Zohar 2:74b).