Jewish Belief About Mashiach and the End Times

I want to go into a little more on the idea of the End of Times as perceived in Judaism. This also includes the term “mashiach,” as understood, it is not the name of a special person per se, but he will be a physical person, who will be descended from King David’s dynasty through Solomon.

The saying of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, fallen down, yet with opened eyes:
How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwellings, O Israel!
(Numbers 24:4-5, Jewish/English Bible, JPS 1917)

And he will be anointed as a king. Israel today is not a kingdom, but it will be in the future! It is worth noting that this King will not in any way take some divine properties or perform miracles, as this is an idea which primarily originate from Christianity. This concept goes much further back in time. This is a major topic that could fill several volumes, so I will only mention a little brief about the main idea. At the end I will add a list of readings for those interested to delve deeper into this interesting topic.

What we are talking about is what in Biblical scholastics is called Eschatology. In Hebrew it is shortly called Olam ha-ba, ּעוֹלָם הַב, “the coming world.”

Although modern Judaism is not focused significantly around the subject of the end time, the messianic age is still a Jewish concept and the interest in this topic within Judaism is increasing. This is the idea of what will happen in a distant future, when our lives take a new beginning. When our life on Earth has reached its end, a transformation of the whole creation is to take place. For more information, read my texts on “Introduction to the concept of Messiah (mashiach)”. The term olam ha-ba, literally means “the coming world”, in contrast to olam ha-zeh, literally “this world”, it refers to the hereafter, which begins with the termination of man’s earthly life.

Biblical Passages Referring to the mashiach

The following passages in the Jewish scriptures are the ones that Jews consider to be messianic in nature or relating to the end of days. These are the ones that we rely upon in developing the Jewish messianic concept:

24 And My servant David shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in Mine ordinances, and observe My statutes, and do them.
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever; and David My servant shall be their prince for ever.
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them–it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever.
27 My dwelling-place also shall be over them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
28 And the nations shall know that I am the LORD that sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever.

(Ezekiel 37:24-28, Hebr/Eng Bible, JPS 1917)

And more:
Deuteronomy 30:1
Isaiah ch.2, ch.11, 42; 59:20, 66:23
Jeremiah ch.23, ch.30, ch.33; 48:47; 49:39
Ezekiel 37:24-28
Ezekiel 38:16
Hosea 3:4-5
Micah 4
Zephaniah 3:9
Zechariah 14:9
Daniel 10:14

What is the “End of Days?”

The term “End of Days” is taken from Numbers 24:4. This has always been taken as a reference to the messianic era. Here we shall explore briefly the Jewish belief in the coming of mashiach.

Where is mashiach mentioned in the Scriptures? The Scriptures are replete with messianic quotes. In Deuteronomy 30:1 Moses prophesies that, after the Jews have been scattered to the four corners of the earth, there will come a time when they will repent and return to Israel where they will fulfil all the commandments of the Torah. The gentile prophet Bilam prophesies that this return will be lead by mashiach (Numbers 24:17-20). Jacob refers to mashiach by the name Shilo (Genesis 49:10).

The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Joel and Hosea all refer to the messianic era. It is also clear from the prophets, when studied in their original Hebrew, that mashiach is a Jewish concept and will entail return to Torah law, firmly ruling out any “other” messianic belief systems.

When will Mashiach come?

Jews anticipate the arrival of mashiach everyday. Jewish prayers are full of requests to G-d to usher in the messianic era. Even at the gates of the gas chambers it is said that many Jews sang, “Ani Maamin” (“I believe in the coming of mashiach.”) However, the Talmud states that there is a predestined time when mashiach will come.

If we are meritorious he may come even before that predestined time. This “end of time” remains a mystery, yet the Talmud (oral teaching or repeating ca. 200-500 C.E.) states that it will be before the Hebrew year 6000. (The Hebrew year at the date of this document is 5772=2012.) This does not rule out the possibility of mashiach coming today and now if we merit it. It should be noted that many Torah authorities are of the opinion that we are in the “epoch of the mashiach” and the Lubavitcher Rebbe stated on numerous occasions that the messianic redemption is imminent.

For In-depth studies:
Jewish Virtual Library
Jews For Judaism
Judaism 101
My Jewish Learning

© 2012 Jonathan Axelsson
אתר הבית של יונתן
Twitter @tzedaqyal

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About Meadow of Tzedaqyal

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1881-1955)
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