This post-rabbinic midrash was first published separately by Adolph Jellinek who excerpted it from the editio princeps of the so-called Midrash Leqah Tov or Pesiqta Zutarta, an anthology compiled from a variety of sources in the late eleventh century in Byzantium by R. Tobiah b. Eliezer. Within that larger collection it serves as an exegesis of Num 24:17-19. Yehudah Even-Shmuel provides an expanded text with a number of suggested emendations and an annotated commentary; see his Midreshey ge’ullah (2d ed.; Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954), 99-106. The present translation is based on Adolph Jellinek, ed., Bet ha-Midrasch: Sammlung kleiner Midraschim und vermischter Abhandlungen aus der jüdischen Literatur (6 vols.; Leipzig, 1853-77; repr., Jerusalem: Bamberger & Wahrmann, 1938), 3:141-43.
‘A star steps forth from Jacob’ (Num 24:17). It is taught in the name of our Sages: the septennial cycle wherein the Son of David comes (will transpire as follows): (in) the first (year), there will not be food for all who need it; (in) the second (year), the ‘arrows of famine’ (cf. Ezek 5:16) will be unleashed; (in) the third (year), a severe famine; in the fourth (year), neither famine nor plenty; in the fifth (year), great plenty, and a star will emerge in the east. This is the star of the Messiah, and it will be visible in the east for fifteen days. Should it linger, it will be to Israel’s benefit. (In) the sixth (year), noises and sounds. (In) the seventh (year), battles. And at the end of the seventh (year), one will behold the Messiah.
The ‘people of the west’ will behave arrogantly, and they will maintain sovereignty without opposition. They will come to Egypt and hold her entirely captive. In those days ‘the king strong of face’ (melekh ‘az panim) will rise up against ‘the poor and impoverished nation’ (Zeph 3:12), and he will ‘seize control of sovereignty by practicing deceptions’ (cf. Dan 11:21). And about that time Isaiah has spoken: ‘Go, my people! Enter your rooms and lock your doors behind you! Hide for a short while until the danger is past!’ (Isa 26:20).
The Sages have taught: R. Hiyya instructed those of his generation, ‘When you hear that ‘the king strong of face’ has arisen, do not remain there. For he will decree: “Everyone who affirms that the God of the Hebrews is one will be put to death!” He will also say: “Let all of us be of like expression and one people!” He will abolish (observance of) the holidays, festivals, sabbaths, and new moons, and he will suspend the Torah(’s authority) over Israel, as scripture states: “he will hope to change the appointed times and the religious law, and they will be given into his power for a time, two times, and half a time” (Dan 7:25). “Time” means a year; “two times” means two (years), and “half a time” means half a year.’ They (his students) said to him, ‘Teacher, from where can we expect deliverance?’ He answered them, ‘Upper Galilee, for scripture states: “a surviving remnant will be on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem”(Joel 3:5), and “escape and holiness will be on Mount Zion” (Obad 1:17).’
‘… it will crush the corners of Moab’ (Num 24:17). R. Huna repeated in the name of R. Levi: This verse teaches that Israel will assemble in Upper Galilee, and there within Galilee the Messiah of the lineage of Joseph will be revealed to them. They will go up from there—he will be accompanied by all Israel—to Jerusalem in order to fulfill what scripture has stated: ‘and the forceful ones among your people will lift themselves up to fulfill the vision, but they will stumble’ (Dan 11:14). He will go up and rebuild the Temple and offer sacrifices, and the fire (for kindling these offerings) will descend from heaven. He will crush all the nations of the world. He will come to Moab and slaughter half its population, whereas the remainder will endure captivity and bring him tax revenue. He will eventually establish an accord with Moab, as scripture says: ‘I shall restore the prosperity of Moab’ (Jer 48:47), and they will dwell untroubled for forty years, eating and drinking, ‘and foreigners will serve as your farm-laborers and vineyard-tenders’ (Isa 61:5).
‘… and it will demolish all the children of Seth’ (Num 24:17). For he will destroy all the nations of the world who are named after Seth, as scripture states: ‘for God has established another seed for me’ (Gen 4:25). And after all this, Gog and Magog will hear and come up against them, as scripture says: ‘the kings of the earth stand together, and rulers sit in council together against the Lord and His Messiah’ (Ps 2:2). He (i.e., Gog) will enter (the city) and kill him (i.e., the Messiah b. Joseph) in the streets of Jerusalem, as scripture predicts: ‘and it will be a time of trouble’ (Dan 12:1). Israel will see this and say, ‘the Messiah has perished from among us, and another Messiah will not return (for us)!’ Four clans will mourn him, as scripture promises: ‘the land will mourn him individually by clans: the clan of the family of David individually, [the clan of the family of Nathan individually, the clan of the family of Levi individually, and the clan of Shim‘i individually]’ (Zech 12:12).
Then the Holy One, blessed be He, will go forth and do battle with them, as scripture says: ‘and the Lord will go forth and wage war against those nations’ (Zech 14:3). The mountains will quake and the hills will shake, and the Mount of Olives will split across its middle when the Holy One, blessed be He, descends upon it. Israel will run away and escape, as scripture says: ‘you will flee the valley of My mount … and this will be the plague’ (Zech 14:5-12). And Israel will go into exile into the <‘desert of the peoples’> to forage among the salt-plants and broom-sage roots for forty-five days. Clouds of glory will surround them, and there Israel will be concealed. If anyone should harbor a wavering thought in his mind about the Holy One, blessed be He, the clouds will cast him out and the nations of the world will kill him. Many from Israel will go out to the Gentile nations, and (as a result) they will have no portion with Israel in the World to Come. Those however who [remain] must afflict themselves with salt-plant for forty-five days.
At the end of forty-five days, a heavenly voice (bat qol) will say to them: ‘Go down to Babylon,’ for scripture says: ‘and you shall come to Babylon; there you will be rescued’ (Mic 4:10). The heavenly voice will again thunder: ‘Proceed to Edom and wreak My vengeance!’ This accords with the scriptural passage: ‘I will wreak My vengeance on Edom through the agency of My people Israel’ (Ezek 25:14). So Israel will come to Rome. The heavenly voice will come out a third time: ‘Treat it the same way that Joshua treated Jericho!’ So they will circumambulate the city, blowing on their shofars, and on the seventh circuit, they will let forth a shout, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God; the Lord is One!’ (Deut 6:4). Then the city wall will collapse. They will enter it (the city) and discover its young men sprawled dead in its plazas, for scripture says: ‘therefore her young men will collapse in her squares’ (Jer 49:26; 50:30). Afterwards they will help themselves to all her spoils.
Then Israel will search for their God and for David their king, and the King Messiah will forthwith be revealed to them. He will say to them, ‘I am the King Messiah for whom you have been waiting!’ He will command them, ‘Lift up the silver and the gold,’ and they will carry it and go up [to Jerusalem], as scripture states: ‘a multitude of camels will cover you’ (Isa 60:6).
A fourth heavenly voice will come forth and say, ‘(the) voice of one crying out: “Prepare the way of the Lord in the desert!”’ (Isa 40:3), and a fifth heavenly voice will say, ‘no lion will be there’ (Isa 35:9). A sixth heavenly voice will say: ‘I will place in the desert cedar, acacia, and myrtle’ (Isa 41:19), and a seventh heavenly voice will proclaim: ‘Console, console My people!’ (Isa 40:1). Elijah will announce glad tidings to Israel: ‘your God has become sovereign!’ (Isa 52:7).
An eighth heavenly voice will announce and say: ‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem’ (Isa 40:2), (and) a ninth heavenly voice will say: ‘Open the gates and let the righteous people enter!’ (Isa 26:2). A tenth heavenly voice will say: ‘Raise your heads, O gates!’ (Ps 24:7, 9), and the dead will be resurrected, as scripture promised: ‘your dead will live again; they will raise up my body’ (Isa 26:19). Then the exiles will be ingathered, as scripture says: ‘and it shall come to pass on that day that He will sound a great shofar [and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were dispersed in the land of Egypt will come]’ (Isa 27:13). Then will (the verse) ‘a star steps forth from Jacob …’ (Num 24:17) be fulfilled, and thus may it be the will of our Heavenly Father to fulfill this verse during our lifetime and the lifetime of all Israel: ‘and He will hoist a banner to the nations, and He will collect the dispersed ones of Israel and re-gather the scattered ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth’ (Isa 11:12).
’Aggadat ha-Mašiah is finished.