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Revelation 5:1-6
Last update: February 19, 2002

1 And I saw upon the right hand ...

The "right hand" of God is generally associated with His mercy (i.e., the Sephirah of Hesed). With regard to what follows in John's vision, it would seem that this is not the case, as the opening of the scroll in this right hand is the beginning of judgment (Gevurah).

The explanation for this (as mentioned earlier in this study), is that God's judgment and His mercy are not distinct. (i.e., He chastises those He loves.) Each Sephirah has aspects of the others within it, (i.e., the Fifty Gates of Understanding)

For instance, the Zohar speaks of the Torah of Sinai coming from a combination of the merciful right hand and judgmental left hand of God. Here, the color black is associated with "tempered judgment," (as opposed to the color red, which is linked to unmitigated judgment):

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 84a - But are we not told that "from his right hand (came) a fiery law to them" (Deut. XXXIII, 2)? The truth is that although the Torah emanated from the side of Power-that is the Left-the Left Side was included in the Right, and thus Justice was tempered by Mercy, which was symbolized by the two fires: white for Mercy, black for Power and Severity. It is written: "And the tablets were the work of God" (Ex. XXXII, 18). They were indeed so, for, as R. Judah said: ‘The word ha-luhoth (the tablets) being written in a defective form, indicates that although they were two they appeared like one, and the Ten Words were engraved upon them, one section of five being included in, or superimposed on, the other five, so that they should be included in the emanations of the Right Side, that is, of Mercy; and in this way they were indeed the very "work of God".’

The Zohar also mentions the idea of the two hands of God working as one in its commentary on how God dealt with Egypt in the book of Exodus. It also links this idea to another Divine action that will come at the end of days (the "Day of the Lord"):

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2,Page 56a - All the ten punishments which the Holy One brought on Egypt were achieved by the power of one "hand", for the "left hand" is included in the right, the ten fingers forming one entity in correspondence to the Ten expressions by which the Holy One is designated. Then came a punishment which was equal to all the rest, that of the sea: "The last one was the hardest" (Isa. VIII, 23). And in the future the Holy One will deal similarly with all the hosts, princes and chieftains of Edom (Rome), as it is written: "Who is he who cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save" (Isa. LXIII, 1).’

The following text associates the action of the right and left hands of God with the time of Messiah's arrival:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2,Page 57b - THY RIGHT HAND, O LORD, GLORIFIED IN POWER, THY RIGHT HAND DASHES IN PIECES THE ENEMY. The form "ne'ddari" (glorified) instead of "ne'ddar" suggests a plural, referring as it does to the joining of the Left Hand with the Right. Said R. Simeon: ‘It is as we have explained. Just as man was divided physically, in order that he should receive a wife and both together form one body, so the Right Hand was divided, as it were, in order that it might take unto itself the Left and both become one, and therefore it is that God smites and heals with one and the same Hand. Note that this whole song has a reference both to the time of its composition and to the future; hence it does not say "hath dashed", but "dashes" (tirtaz, lit. will dash), i.e. w hen the Messiah shall arise. The same applies to the following verse: "In the fulness of thy majesty thou wilt overthrow (taharos) thine opponents; thou wilt send forth (teshalah) thy wrath; it will devour them like stubble." Thus the words, "Thy right hand, O Lord, glorified in power", refers to this time, to this world; the words "Thy right hand will dash the enemy" to the time of the Messiah; "ln the fulness of thy majesty thou wilt overthrow thine opponents" to the time of Gog and Magog; "Thou wilt send forth thy wrath, it will devour them like stubble" to the time of the resurrection, of which it says, "and many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. XII, 2). Blessed are those who will be left in the world at that time.

The subject of God's "unity" is especially prevalent through this chapter. This idea is reflected in the following verses from Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), where God's right and left arms work together. There is an interesting warning in this section, concerning not awakening "love" (mercy) ahead of its time (as judgment comes with it):

Song of Songs 2:6-7 - His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

The Zohar interprets the above verse in light of the end of days, and offers this interesting commentary:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 9a - Then said R. Simeon: ‘Eleazar, my son! Thou canst find all this in the mystery of the thirty-two paths of the Holy Name. Before these wonders have taken place in the world, the mystery of the Holy Name will not be manifested in perfection and love will not be awakened: "Ye daughters of Jerusalem, I adjure you by the gazelles and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake the love until she pleases" (Cant II, 7). The "gazelles" (zebaoth) symbolize the king, who is called Zebaoth; the "hinds" represent those other principalities and powers from below; "that ye stir not up, etc." refers to the "Right Hand" of the Holy One, called "Love"; "until she pleases", namely She (the Shekinah) who lies at present in the dust and in whom the King is well pleased. Blessed be he who will be found worthy to live at that time! Blessed will he be both in this world and in the world to come.’

The following text from the Zohar links Song of Songs to a number of related themes, including; the Jubilee (Yovel), the heavenly "mother" (i.e., Galatians 4:26), "father," and "son" -- the latter bearing the colors white, red and green, symbolic of Metatron and Tipheret, the Sephirah of the Divine Son. (See previous section for more on this symbolism.) Recall that another name for Tipheret is (heavenly) Israel.

The text in several places also speaks of the relationship between the merciful right hand of God, and His judgmental left hand:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 84a - ‘When the Israelites received the Torah the Jubilee crowned the Holy One, blessed be He, even as a king is crowned in the midst of his host, as it says, "Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals" (S.S. III, 11). Who is His "mother"? The Jubilee. And the Jubilee crowned itself with perfect joy, as it is written: "The mother of the children rejoiced" (Ps. CXIII).’ R. Judah said: ‘Concerning this it is written: "Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bore thee shall rejoice" (Prov. XXIII, 25).’ Said R. Isaac: ‘In the hour when the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, that mountain began mightily to shake and all the other hills and high places of the earth trembled in accord with it, so that they heaved and quaked until the Holy One stretched out His hand and calmed them, and a voice was heard: "What aileth thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest, and thou Jordan that thou wast driven back? Ye mountains that ye skipped like rams, and ye hills like young sheep?"

And the answer was: "Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob" (Ps. CXIV, 5-7). Now, "the Lord" in this verse refers to the "Mother" (Binah); "earth", to the "Mother" below (Malkuth); "the God of Jacob", to the Father (Hohmah), whose "firstborn son is Israel" (Ex. IV, 23), whom "his mother crowned in the day of his espousals": she crowned him with the symbolic colours, white, red, and green, in which all other colours are included, and in him they were all united.’ According to R. Judah, the "crown" symbolizes Israel, who is God's glory, as it is written :"Israel, in whom I am glorified" (Isa. XLIX, 3); "and I will glorify the house of my glory" (Ibid. LX, 7). Said R. Isaac: ‘The Torah was manifested in a black fire which was superimposed upon a white fire, signifying that by means of the Torah the "Right Hand" clasped the "Left Hand" that the two might be fused, as it is written: "from his right hand a fiery law to them" (Deut. XXXIII, 2).’

Said R. Abba: ‘When the smoke came out of Mount Sinai a fire ascended enveloped therein, so that its flames were of a blue colour. They flared high and dwindled again, and the smoke emitted all the aromas of Paradise, displaying itself in the colours of white, red, and black, as it says, "perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant" (S.S. III, 6). It was the Shekinah who manifested Herself thus at the giving of the Law in the wilderness on Mount Sinai, as it says, "Who is this (zoth) that cometh up from the wilderness like pillars of smoke?" (Ibid.)’ Said R. Judah: ‘But surely it is not necessary to go so far afield to discover this. Have we not the direct statement that "Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace" (Ex. XIX, 18)? Blessed were the people who beheld this wondrous thing and apprehended the mystery thereof!’

Said R. Hiya: ‘When the letters were engraved upon the two tablets of stone they were visible on both sides of the tablets. The tablets were of sapphire [Tr. Note: Heb. sanpirinon, prob. lapis-lazuli, v. Jastrow, s.v.] stone, and the letters were formed of white fire and covered again with black fire, and were engraved upon both sides.’ According to R. Abba, the tablets were not engraved, but the letters fluttered on to them, being visible in two colours of fire, white and black, in order to demonstrate the union of Right and Left, as it is written, "length of days is in her right hand and in her left hand is riches and honour" (Prov. III, 16).

But are we not told that "from his right hand (came) a fiery law to them" (Deut. XXXIII, 2)? The truth is that although the Torah emanated from the side of Power-that is the Left-the Left Side was included in the Right, and thus Justice was tempered by Mercy, which was symbolized by the two fires: white for Mercy, black for Power and Severity. It is written: "And the tablets were the work of God" (Ex. XXXII, 18). They were indeed so, for, as R. Judah said: ‘The word ha-luhoth (the tablets) being written in a defective form, indicates that although they were two they appeared like one, and the Ten Words were engraved upon them, one section of five being included in, or superimposed on, the other five, so that they should be included in the emanations of the Right Side, that is, of Mercy; and in this way they were indeed the very "work of God".’

Song of Songs is considered one of the most important and revealing texts of all Scripture. The text is even called "Holy of Holies" by the sages. (See Zohar citation in notes to verse 9 below, on the subject of "singing.") Song of Songs is a deeply mystical text concerning the reunion of the groom (Tipheret) and bride (Malkut/Shekinah), which represents God and Israel (with the Shekinah among them). A correct interpretation of this book is derived only at the Sod-level.

The one coming from the desert in Song of Songs (above) it the same one coming from Botzrah, as seen in Isaiah 63. This passage also speaks of the end times and redemption, alluding to God's judgment (i.e., "Thou hardenest our heart from Thy fear"), in the context of His mercy:

Isaiah 63:1 - `Who [is] this coming from Edom? With dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is honourable in his clothing, Travelling in the abundance of his power?' -- `I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.' `Wherefore [is] thy clothing red? And thy garments as treading in a wine fat?' -- `A wine-press I have trodden by myself, And of the peoples there is no one with me, And I tread them in mine anger, And I trample them in my fury, Sprinkled is their strength on my garments, And all my clothing I have polluted. For the day of vengeance [is] in my heart, And the year of my redeemed hath come. And I look attentively, and there is none helping, And I am astonished that there is none supporting, And give salvation to me doth mine own arm. And my wrath -- it hath supported me. And I tread down peoples in mine anger, And I make them drunk in my fury, And I bring down to earth their strength. The kind acts of YHVH I make mention of, The praises of YHVH, According to all that YHVH hath done for us, And the abundance of the goodness to the house of Israel, That He hath done for them, According to His mercies, And according to the abundance of His kind acts. And He saith, Only My people they [are], Sons -- they lie not, and He is to them for a saviour. In all their distress [He is] no adversary, And the messenger of His presence saved them, In His love and in His pity He redeemed them, And He doth lift them up, And beareth them all the days of old. And they have rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit, And He turneth to them for an enemy, He Himself hath fought against them. And He remembereth the days of old, Moses -- his people. Where [is] He who is bringing them up from the sea, The shepherd of his flock? Where [is] He who is putting in its midst His Holy Spirit? Leading by the right hand of Moses, the arm of His glory, Cleaving waters from before them, To make to Himself a name age-during. Leading them through the depths, As a horse in a plain they stumble not. As a beast into a valley goeth down, The Spirit of YHVH causeth him to rest, So hast Thou led Thy people, To make to Thyself a glorious name. Look attentively from the heavens, And see from Thy holy and beauteous habitation, Where [is] Thy zeal and Thy might? The multitude of Thy bowels and Thy mercies Towards me have refrained themselves. For Thou [art] our Father, For Abraham hath not known us, And Israel doth not acknowledge us, Thou, O YHVH, [art] our Father, Our redeemer from the age, [is] Thy name. Why causest Thou us to wander, O YHVH, from Thy ways? Thou hardenest our heart from Thy fear, Turn back for Thy servants' sake, The tribes of Thine inheritance.

The theme of unity in relation to the voice of God, is the focus of this enigmatic Zohar passage:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 246b - The Voice speaks to the Utterance, there being no voice without utterance. This Voice is sent from a deep recess above in order to guide the Utterance, the two being related as general and particular. The Voice issues from the south and speaks to the west, inheriting two sides, and therefore Moses said to Naphtali: “Possess thou the west and the south” (Deut. XXXIII, 23). Observe that Thought is the beginning of all. This Thought is recondite and inscrutable, but when it expands it reaches the place where spirit abides and is then called Understanding (binah), which is not so recondite as the preceding. This spirit expands and produces a Voice composed of fire, water, and air, which corresponds to north, south, and east. This Voice embraces in itself all forces, and speaks to Utterance, and this shapes the word properly. When you examine the grades closely, you find that Thought, Understanding, Voice, Utterance are all one and the same, and there is no separation between them, and this is what is meant by the words: “The Lord is one and His Name is One.”

The keys to unlocking the above text are as follows. (These descriptions are all found in earlier background information):

  • Voice is associated with Tipheret, which is the Son/Bridegroom and the "V" in YHVH
  • Utterance is associated with Malkut which is the Daughter/Bride and the last "H" in YHVH
  • Thought is associated with Chokhah which is the Father and the "Y" in YHVH
  • Understanding is associated with Binah which is the Mother and the first "H" in YHVH
  • South is the right (merciful) side of the Tree of Life
  • North is the left (judgmental) side of the Tree of Life
  • West is toward the earth (Malkut) on the Tree of Life
  • East is toward the heavenlies on the Tree of Life
  • Fire is generally associated with the left (judgmental) pillar of the Tree of Life
  • Water is generally associated with the right (merciful) pillar
  • Air is associated with the center (balanced) pillar
  • The Voice (Tipheret) embraces all the aspects (see previous notes on Tipheret)
  • The Voice (Tipheret) is associated with the Written Torah
  • The Utterance (Malkut) is associated with the Oral Torah, which explains the Written
  • The Lord's Name (YHVH in this case) is "one" in that "Father," "Mother," "Son/Bridegroom," and "Daughter/Bride," are all emanations of the One God.

The unification of the name "YHVH" will be an imporant theme as we go forward into the text.

1 ... of Him who is sitting upon the throne a scroll, written within and on the back,

Previous references in the Tenakh, associate the idea of a scroll with the themes of warning, repentance, judgment, and the Temple:

  • In the book of Ezra (chapters 5 and 6) a scroll is found containing the decree of King Cyrus to rebuild the Temple.
  • In Isaiah chapter 30, God's judgment against rebellious Israel is recorded on a scroll.
  • Isaiah 34:4 speaks of the heavens being rolled up like a scroll (i.e., Revelation 6:14) due to the anger of the Lord against the nations. God's sword is specifically said to come down upon Edom (Isaiah 34:5).
  • In Jeremiah 36 and 37 the prophet is told to issue God's warning and call for repentance on a scroll, which is destroyed by the King, who then receives God's curse in a second scroll.
  • Ezekiel (chapters 2 and 3) is told to "eat of the scroll" that has writing on both sides. The eating of the scroll is associated with Ezekiel receiving and accepting the Word of God (Ezekiel 3:10). John has a similar experience in Revelation 10:8-10. Note the likeness to Yeshua's statements of, "eating His flesh and drinking His blood," as having to do with acceptance of the Torah He taught, as part of one's very inner being.
  • In Zechariah 5, the prophet is shown a scroll that represents a curse going out to the nations. God makes it a point to mention that this curse is going out against, "the house of the one who swears falsely by My name." (Zechariah 5:4) This is an important point later in the study. This scroll accompanies a basket, which is described as wickedness that goes out throughout the earth, having it "base" set in Shinar, which is in Babylon (Zechariah 5:5-11).

Author James Trimm makes comparisons between this chapter of Revelation and the book of Hebrews beginning with the idea of the slain Messiah being at the right hand of God. He is therefore qualified to be the one to initiate certain actions. Aside from opening the seals of the scroll in this chapter, the same one at the right hand becomes mediator of the New Covenant. (Hebrews 8:3-15). Trimm also draws a parallel to Leviticus 16:14, where blood is sprinkled on the Mercy Seat seven times, and the fact that seven seals are opened. Thus, the opening of the sealed book in this chapter is synonomous with becoming mediator of the New Covenant, and the fulfillment of the the Yom Kippur ceremony. 1

1 ... sealed with seven seals;

As mentioned throughout earlier parts of this study, the number seven is associated with both the idea of "completion" (in the physical world), as well as the lower seven Sephirot. (See comment from Pinchas Winston in section on the Moedim, below.)

2 and I saw a strong messenger crying with a great voice, `Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose the seals of it?'

3 and no one was able in the heaven, nor upon the earth, nor under the earth, to open the scroll, nor to behold it.

4 And I was weeping much, because no one was found worthy to open and to read the scroll, nor to behold it,

As mentioned, although the opening of the seals releases judgment, these judgments are wrapped in God's mercy and the opportunity for repentance (i.e., Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9-11), all of which leads to the coming of His Kingdom and fulfillment of His promises to those who come to trust and obey (i.e., Revelation 14:12; 22:14).
The one "worthy" to do this, is the one who brought the necessary heavenly tikkun (rectification), enabling God's perfect will (the merging of mercy and judgment as found in Tipheret), to come into the imperfect worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah and Asiyyah. This is the Divine Tzaddik, also called the Suffering Servant, and Lamb of God. (See previous study on this work of Messiah as Divine Tzaddik, as well as notes to verse 9, below.)

5 and one of the elders saith to me, `Weep not; lo, overcome did the Lion, who is of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, to open the scroll, and to loose the seven seals of it;

The reference to the Lion of Judah goes back to Jacob's prophecy from the book of Genesis, one containing numerous Messianic references:

Genesis 49:8-12 - Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father's children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey's colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, And his teeth whiter than milk.

6 and I saw, and lo, in the midst of the throne ...

As mentioned earlier in this study, the one in the midst (or "beyond") the throne is Metatron. The term for "midst" is mesos, which comes from the root meta (Strong's #3326). The term for throne, is thronos (Strong's #2362). Placed together, one has meta-thronos, or "Metatron."

6 ... and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb hath stood as it had been slain ...

The same being is called a lion in verse 5 is now called a lamb. Note that John also sees the Lamb as being in the midst of the throne (verse 6) as well as separate from the one in the throne in one verse (verse 7). As mentioned earlier, the great theme of this chapter is the unity of God when He is perceived at the higher realms.

John's vision is one coming from a high spiritual level (i.e., Beriah). He experiences a much more unified view of God and of creation (the latter including both space and time), than we do living in the physical world of Asiyya, being "further away" from the ultimate "source," Eyn Sof.

As stated by Rabbi Moshe Miller:

"... the higher the world or plane of reality, the greater the unity and infinity of God that is revealted or manifest there. Nevertheless, since all worlds are the result of a constriction and lessening of the Infinite Light (the Eyn Sof), they are all, in one sense or another, limited and defined. That is to say, the revelation of God is less or more limited, depending on which world is referred to. Therefore the word for "world" in Hebrew, "olam," is etymologically related to the word "he'elem," meaning hiddeness, or concealment -- referring to the concealment of God's Infinite Light, so that in the higher worlds the Infinite Light is more revealed, and in the lower worlds the Infinite Light is less revealed. 2

Other teachings put it even more succinctly:

At the deepest levels of divinity, all opposites and distinctions vanish, overwhelmed by oneness. 3

"There is a secular world and a holy world, secular worlds and holy worlds. These worlds contradict one another. The contradiction, of course, is subjective. In our limited perception we cannot reconcile the sacred and the secular, we cannot harmonize their contradictions. Yet at the pinnacle of the universe they are reconciled, at the site of the holy of holies." 4

As shown in an earlier background study, the book of Enoch also presents a very unified view of God -also at the level of Beriah.) Also see notes to the next section for how the Moedim (Feasts of the Lord), are associated with this theme.

6 ... having seven horns ... and seven eyes, which are the Seven Spirits of God, which are sent to all the earth

The "seven eyes" are said to be the seven Spirits of God, which are the lower seven Sephirot, i.e.;

"There are seven eyes of God that transvers the entire earth." This metaphor portrays G-d's Providence as "contracted" and revealed through the "eyes" of the seven lower sefirot, which, in the soul of man, correspond to the seven attributes of the heart, the seven ways of serving God ..." 5

The following teaching from Rabbi Ginsburgh expounds on the theme of the eyes of God, associating them as well to the righteous ones who serve Him.

The word for "tree" in Hebrew, etz, is composed of two letters: ayin and tzadik. Ayin means "eye"; tzadik means the "righteous one." Each and every Jew is in essence a tzadik, as it is said: "And your people are all tzadikim, they shall forever inherit the land, they are the sprout which I have planted, the workings of My hands in which to take pride." The potential tzadik inherent, though initially latent, in every Jew becomes activated when the "eye" of the Torah enters his consciousness and becomes part of him. Just as the Torah is the "tree of [eternal] life," so does the tzadik, when connected and one with the "eye" of the Torah, become a "tree of [eternal] life." This is the secret of the word "tree," etz--ayin ("eye") tzadik ("righteous one"). And so do we find in Psalms: "The eyes [einei] of G-d are to the righteous [tzadikim]." To each potential tzadik G-d gives His "eyes," His ability to look into the Torah (the secret of the insight of His "right eye") and His ability to thereby create (and rectify) reality (the secret of the power of His "left eye"). 6

1. Seven Seals, Seven Thunders, James Trimm, Society for the Advancement of Nazarene Judaism, Hurst Texas, 2000, p. 4.

2. Zohar: Selections translated and annotated by Moshe Miller, Moshe L. Miller, Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars, Morristown, NJ, 2000, p.39.

3. The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, Daniel C. Matt, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1996, p.167.

4. ibid, p. 154.

5. The Hebrew Letters, Channels of Creative Consciousness, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, Gal Einai Publications, Jerusalem, 1990, p. 119.

6. A Torah Message for the Month of Shevat: The Tree of Life, The Tree - Man and the Torah, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh,