נסתרות של רבי שמעון בר יוחאי (Nistarot shel Rabbi Shim’on bar Yoḥai), Secrets of Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai
These are the secrets that were revealed to Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai when he was hiding in a cave on account of [the persecutions of] Caesar king of Edom [see BT Shabbat 33b]. He stood in prayer forty days and forty nights, and opened: YHWH Elohim, how long will you spurn the prayer of your servant? [cf. Psalms 80:5]. Immediately the secrets of the End and hidden things were revealed to him.
He sat and expounded: and saw the Kenite [i.e., ‘Midian’ or ‘Ishmael’ (Rav Ḥai Gaon)] (Numbers 24:21). When he saw that the kingdom of Ishmael would come [and exercise dominion over Israel], he said: Is it not enough what the wicked kingdom of Edom has done to us that we should also [suffer the dominion of] the kingdom of Ishmael?! Immediately Metatron Prince of the Presence answered him, saying: Do not be afraid my son, for the blessed Holy One is bringing about the kingdom of Ishmael only for the purpose of delivering you from that wicked one [Edom]. He shall raise up over them a prophet in accordance with His will, and He will subdue the Land for them; and they shall come and restore it with grandeur. Great enmity will exist between them and the sons of Esau.
Rabbi Shim’on answered, saying: How are they our redemption? He said to him: Did not Isaiah the prophet say so? And he shall see a rider, a pair of horsemen, a rider on a donkey, a rider on a camel (Isaiah 21:7)? [cf. Ibn Ezra ad loc.]. Why did he put a rider on a donkey before a rider on a camel? Should he not instead have said …a rider on a camel… of a rider on a donkey? [Rather,] when the rider on a camel emerges, the kingdom ruled by the one riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9) has sprouted by his agency.
Another interpretation: A rider on a donkey—at the [same] time when riding on a donkey. Consequently they are a redemption for Israel like the redemption of the one riding on a donkey.
Moreover Rabbi Shim’on reported that he learned from Rabbi Yishma’el at the time when the latter learned that the kingdom of Ishmael was coming that [they] will measure the Land with ropes [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 30], as is said: And the Land will be apportioned for wages [cf. Daniel 11:39; Joel 4:2]. They will make cemeteries pasture-land and for flocks, and when one of them dies, they will bury him any place they please. They will then turn around and plow the grave and sow seed on it, as it says, Thus shall the Children of Israel eat their bread defiled (Ezekiel 4:13). Why? Because [the location of] impure fields will be unknown.
Again, and saw the Kenite (Numbers 24:21). What was the parable that wicked one [Balaam] pronounced? When he foresaw that his [i.e., the Kenite’s] descendants were destined to arise and enslave Israel, he began rejoicing and said: אֵיתָן (ethan), staunch, is your settlement (ibid.)—I see human beings who are occupied only with the commandments of Ethan the Ezrahite (1 Kings 5:11; Psalms 89:1).
The second king who will arise from Ishmael will be a friend of Israel. He will repair their breaches and the breaches of the Temple and shape Mount Moriah [cf. 2 Chronicles 3:1; JT Berakhot 4:5, 8c; Sifre, Deuteronomy 62] and make the whole of it a level plain. He will build for himself there a place for prayer upon the site of the אֶבֶן שְׁתִיָּה (even shetiyyah), Foundation Stone [cf. M Yoma 5:2; Tosefta, Yoma 2:14; BT Yoma 54b; JT Yoma 5:2, 42c; Vayiqrah Rabbah 20:4; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahana 26:4; Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 35; Zohar 1:71b–72a, 231a; ZḤ 27d; Rabbi Moshe de León, Sefer ha-Rimmon, 333], as it says, and saw the Kenite (Numbers 24:21). He will wage war with the sons of Esau and slaughter their troops and capture a large number of them, and he will die in peace and with great honor.
And there shall arise a great king from Hasarmawet [cf. Genesis 10:26], but he will exercise rule only for a few years. Warriors of the sons of Kedar shall rise up against him and kill him [perhaps ʿAlī (656–661 CE)], and bring to power another king whose name is Mry’w [perhaps Marwān I (684–85 CE)]. They shall take him from following flocks and mule-herds and elevate him to the kingship. There shall arise from him ‘four arms’ who will make repairs on the Temple [perhaps the four sons of ʿAbd al-Malik (685–705 CE) who became caliphs].
At the end of the reign of the ‘four arms’ there shall come to power another king [perhaps Sulaymān (715–717 CE)]. He will diminish measures for quantity, length, and weight, and enjoy three years of tranquility. A dispute will erupt in the world during his reign, and he will send out mighty forces against the sons of Edom. There [Byzantium?] they will die of hunger, even though they will have abundant provisions—he will refuse [sustenance] from them, [and] none will be given him. The sons of Edom will prevail over the sons of Ishmael and slaughter them. Then the sons of Ishmael will arise and burn the provisions, and those who are left will flee and depart [perhaps Sulaymān’s expedition against and siege of Constantinople].
After this a great king will come to power and rule for nineteen years [Hishām (724–743 CE)]. These are his signs: reddish and squinty-eyed [alt., crosseyed], and he will have three moles: one on his forehead, one on his right hand, and one on his left arm. He will plant saplings and rebuild ruined cities and tap subterranean waters to bring up water to irrigate his plantings so that his future descendants will have plenty to eat. All who arise to oppose him will submit to his power, and the Land will remain undisturbed during his reign, and he will die peacefully.
Then another king will arise who will seek to cut off the waters of the Jordan [perhaps Al-Walīd ibn Yazīd]. He will bring far-away peoples from alien lands to excavate and build a canal to bring up the waters of the Jordan to irrigate the Land. The excavated portion of the Land will collapse upon them and kill them. Their leaders will hear [about this], and then rebel against the king and kill him.
Another king will then arise—strong and a warrior [perhaps Marwān II]. A dispute will erupt in the world during his reign. This will be the sign for you: When you see that the western gyrwn has fallen [the eastern wall or gate]—at the western side of [the place of] prayer of the sons of Ishmael in Damascus—his dominion will have fallen. They will be assembled and marched out to do forced labor, and indeed the kingdom of Ishmael will collapse. Of them it says, YHWH has broken the wickeds’ scepter, [and שֵׁבֶט מֹשְׁלִים (shevet moshlim), the rod of rulers; or: the tribe of rulers—alluding to מוּסלְמִים (muslemim), Muslims] (Isaiah 14:5). Rod—Ishmael. And who is this? It is Marwān [Marwān II was termed al-Ḥimār, the ‘wild ass of Mesopotamia’ in Muslim sources]. Warriors from the sons of Kedar will still remain with him, but the northeastern corner [of his kingdom] will rebel and come up against him [i.e., Khorāsān, the province where the ʿAbbāsid dynasty originated]. There shall fall from among his forces three great armies at the Tigris and at the Euphrates, and he himself will flee from them, but he will be captured and put to death. His sons will be impaled on wood.
And after this a king עַז פָּנִים (‘az panim), brazen faced [see Deuteronomy 28:50; Daniel 8:23; Targum to the Hagiographa, Ecclesiastes 8:1], will arise for three months [perhaps Abū al-ʿAbbās as-Saffāḥ], and then the wicked kingdom will rule over Israel for nine months, as it says, Therefore shall He give them over till the time the woman in labor bears her child, [and the rest of his brothers shall come back with the Children of Israel] (Micah 5:2). And there shall sprout up for them Messiah Son of Joseph, and he will bring them up to Jerusalem. He will rebuild the Temple and offer sacrifices; fire shall descend from the heavens and consume their sacrifices, as it says, The lawless sons of your people shall be raised up to fulfill the vision, but they shall stumble (Daniel 11:14). If they are not worthy, Messiah Son of Ephraim comes [i.e., Messiah Son of Joseph]; but if they are worthy, Messiah Son of David will come [cf. BT Sanhedrin 98a; Zohar 1:116a–118b].
A wicked king will arise whose name is Armilus: bald, with small eyes and a skin-blanched forehead; his right ear closed up and his left ear open. If a good person should speak to him, he will turn his closed ear toward him, and if a wicked person should speak to him, he will turn his open ear to him. He is the offspring of the שָׂטָן (satan), Adversary, and a stone [statue], and he will come up to Jerusalem and incite war with Messiah Son of Ephraim [i.e., Messiah Son of Joseph] at the eastern gate, as is it says, And they shall look upon those who were stabbed [and mourn for them like the mourning for an only child, and they shall grieve bitterly for them as one grieves bitterly for a firstborn] (Zechariah 12:10) [cf. BT Sukkah 52a]. Israel will go into exile into the uncleared wilderness to forage among the salt-plants and broom-sage roots for forty-five days, and then they will be tested and refined, as it says, And I will bring the third part through the fire, [and will refine them as silver is refined, and will test them as gold is tested: they shall call on My name, and I will hear them: I will say, They are My people: and they shall say, YHWH is my God] (ibid. 13:9). Messiah Son of Ephraim shall die there, and Israel shall mourn for him. After this the blessed Holy One will reveal to them the Messiah Son of David, but Israel will want to stone him, and they will say to him: You speak a lie, for the Messiah has already been slain, and there is no other Messiah destined to arise [cf. BT Sanhedrin 99a: “Rabbi Hillel (a brother of Yehudah II) said: There shall be no Messiah for Israel, because they already consumed him in the days of Hezekiah”]. They will scorn him, as it says, Despised and shunned by people, [a man of sorrows and visited by illness. And like one from whom the gaze is averted, despised, and we reckoned him naught] (Isaiah 53:3). He shall withdraw and be hidden from them, as it says, and we hid as it were our faces from him (ibid.). But in Israel’s great distress, they will turn and cry out from hunger and thirst, and the blessed Holy One will be revealed to them in His glory, as it says, [And YHWH’s glory shall be revealed,] and all flesh together see [that YHWH’s mouth has spoken] (ibid. 40:5). And King Messiah will sprout up there, as it says, And, look, with the clouds of the heavens [one like a human being was coming] (Daniel 7:13), and it is written after it: and authority was given to him (ibid., 14). He shall blow [his breath] at that wicked Armilus and kill him, as it says, [And he shall judge the poor in justice and render right verdict for the lowly of the land. And he shall strike the land with the rod of his mouth,] with the breath from his lips put the wicked to death (Isaiah 11:4).
The blessed Holy One will signal for and gather together all Israel and bring them up to Jerusalem, as it says, I will whistle to them and gather them, [for I will ransom them, and they shall increase as before. And I will sow them among the peoples, in far places they shall recall Me, and they shall thrive with their children and return. And I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and from Assyria I will gather them] (Zechariah 10:8). Fire will descend from the heavens and consume Jerusalem up to three cubits, and uncircumcised foreigners and the impure will be removed from her midst. Then a rebuilt and decorated Jerusalem will descend from the heavens; in it seventy-two precious stones will shine from one end of the world to the other. And all the nations will come to [bask in] her splendor, as it says, But nations shall walk by your light, [and kings by your dawning radiance] (Isaiah 60:3). A rebuilt Temple will descend from the heavens—the one which was folded within Zebul [BT Ḥagigah 12b], for thus Moses saw, as it says, You’ll bring them, you’ll plant them, [on the mount of Your estate, a firm place for Your dwelling You wrought, O YHWH, the sanctum, O Sovereign, Your hands firmly founded] (Exodus 15:17).
Israel will dwell in peace for two thousand years [see BT Avodah Zarah 9a; Sanhedrin 97a in the name of Tanna debe Eliyyahu; Berit Menuḥa, Haqdamah]. They will feast upon Behemoth, Leviathan, and Ziz [on the Ziz, see BT Bava Batra 73b]. They will slaughter Behemoth; Ziz shall rend Leviathan with its ankles; and Moses will come and slaughter the ‘wild Ziz’ [cf. Psalms 50:11; 80:14]. At the end of two thousand years, the blessed Holy One will sit upon the Throne of Judgment in the valley of Jehoshaphat [cf. Joel 4:2, 12]. Immediately the heavens and the earth will wear out and fade away: the sun will be ashamed and the moon embarrassed [cf. Isaiah 24:23]; the mountains will shake and the hills will quake [cf. ibid. 54:10], so that Israel will no longer have her sins recounted to her. The gates of Hell will be opened in the Wadi Yehoshu’a, and on the third day the gates of Eden [will be opened] in the east, as it says, After two days will He revive us (Hosea 6:2)—the days of the Messiah, which are two thousand years. [On the] third day [He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight] (ibid.)—the Day of Judgment, and alas for the one who is among all those who perish during it! The blessed Holy One shall cause to pass before Him every nation, and He shall say to them: ‘You who worshipped gods of silver and gold—see now if they are able to deliver you!’ Immediately they shall pass by and be immolated, as it says, The wicked will turn back to Sheol, [all the nations forgetful of God] (Psalms 9:18). Israel shall come after them, and the blessed Holy One will say to them: Whom have you worshipped? They will answer: [Though Abraham did not know us nor Israel recognize us,] You, YHWH, are our Father, [our Redeemer of yore is Your name] (Isaiah 63:16). And the nations of the world will complain from the midst of Hell: Let us see whether He will judge His people Israel like He judged us! Immediately the blessed Holy One will pass with Israel through the midst of Hell, and it will be made like cool water before them, as it says, [He who makes the breach shall go up before them, they shall break out and pass through the gate and go out there.] And their king shall pass through before them, [YHWH at their head] (Micah 2:13), and it says, Should you walk through fire, you shall not be singed, and flames shall not burn you (Isaiah 43:2). At that time the transgressors among Israel will be dumped into Hell for twelve months [see for example M Eduyot 2:10; BT Rosh ha-Shanah 17a], but after that the blessed Holy One will bring them up and settle them in Eden, and they will enjoy its fruits, as it says, And your people, all of them righteous, [shall forever possess the land, the shoot I have planted, My handiwork in which to glory] (Isaiah 60:21).
Rabbi Shim’on said: The blessed Holy One will signal to the bee who is at the end of the rivers of Egypt, and they shall come and wage war in the midst of Egypt. The first king who leads them and brings them forth is a slave who has rebelled against his master, as it says, Thus said YHWH… to the despised one, reviled by nations (Isaiah 49:7)—that is the one held abhorrent among the nations; namely, the sons of Canaan—the slave of rulers. [Kings shall see and rise, princes, and bow down, for the sake of YHWH, who is faithful, Israel’s Holy One who has chosen you] (ibid.). He shall rebel against his overlord, and others who have rebelled against their masters will be gathered to him, and they shall gradually go out and seize the kingdom by force. They will make war with the sons of Ishmael, kill their warriors, and take possession of their wealth and property. They are repulsive men, dressed in black and coming from the East, and they are quick and impetuous, as it says, [For I am about to raise up the Chaldeans,] the harsh and headlong nation [that goes to the wide reaches of the earth to take hold of dwellings not theirs] (Habakkuk 1:6). They will ascend the mountain of the height of Israel intending to tear down the Temple and to uproot the doors, but will [instead] weep bitterly [?].
Four kings shall arise over them: two of them will be princes and two of them chieftains. The first… [?] and the king who rules after them [sic] will conduct himself humbly: his eyes will be attractive and his hair lovely, and he will die in peace, with no one in the world collecting tribute from him. After him there shall arise a king accompanied by strife. He will station armies by the Euphrates River, but all of them will fall in a single day. He will flee, but will be captured, and all the time he is held captive there will be peace in the world. His brothers will rule over all lands.
The fourth king who shall arise over them will be a lover of silver and gold. He will be a dark man and tall, old and גַּרְגַּר (gargar), shrivelled [or: גַרגְרָן (gargeran), gluttonous]. He will kill those whom they bring to him, and they will install him as king. He will build boats of bronze and fill them [with] silver and gold, and store them beneath the waters of the Euphrates in order to reserve them for his sons. But they are destined for Israel, as it says, And I will set before you treasures of darkness and hidden stores [so that you may know that I am YHWH who calls your name, the God of Israel] (Isaiah 45:3). During his reign the western quadrant will rebel, and he will dispatch there many troops, but [the leader of the rebellion] will kill the easterners. Again [the fourth king] will send out many troops, and they will come and slay the westerners, and take up residence in their land.
And this will be the sign for you—when you see that at the beginning of one week there is rain, and in the second [week] the loosing of the ‘arrows of hunger,’ and in the third a severe famine, and in the fourth no hunger but [also] no satisfaction, and in the fifth there is great satiety. A star shall appear from the east with a rod on top of it—this is the star of Israel, as it says, A star steps forth from Jacob… (Numbers 24:17). If it shines, it is for the benefit of Israel. Then Messiah Son of David shall emerge.
And this will be the sign for you—when you see that the eastern gyrwn in Damascus has fallen, the kingdom of those in the East has fallen. Then redemption will sprout for Israel. Messiah Son of David will come, and they [sic] will go up to Jerusalem and rejoice over her, as it says, And the poor shall inherit the earth and take pleasure from great well-being (Psalms 37:11). May the blessed Holy One in His compassion send to us the redeemer quickly in our era, amen!