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Revelation 8:7-13
Last update: April 12, 2002


7  and the first messenger did sound, and there came hail and fire, mingled with blood, and it was cast to the land, and the third of the trees was burnt up, and all the green grass was burnt up.

Hail, fire and blood are are said to be "cast to the land" - symbolic of God's judgment. As explained earlier, though the physical earth may feel the results of this judgment, it is primarily (in this case) coming against the powers in the world of Yetzirah, the realm of angels.

The verse (and the preceding verses) are reminiscent of Psalm 18, which speaks of David's cry reaching God in His Temple (i.e., in Beriah). God is said to "come down" to bring judgment:

Psalms 18:6-15 - In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God; from his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; and the foundations of the mountains moved and were shaken, because he was angry. Smoke went out from his nostrils, and a devouring fire from his mouth; coals were kindled by it. And he bowed the heavens, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. And he rode on a kerub, and flew; he flew on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion around him was dark with waters and thick clouds of the skies. Out of the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and confounded them.

In the above Psalm, although David slayed his opponents in the physical world, God enabled this by defeating the forces that empowered them. This is alluded to within the same Psalm, which speaks of "channels of waters," being revealed, from which David is "drawn out of." This is an allusion to the "mixed realm" of Yetzirah.

Psalms 18:16-19 -Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He saved me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. They surprised me in the day of my calamity; but the Lord was my stay.

Later in this Psalm, David specifically mentions how his opponents cried out to the spiritual realm, first for something other than God, then for the Lord Himself:

Psalms 18:41-42 - They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them. Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets.

Midrash Rabbah associates David's words with God defeating the spiritual realm that supported his enemies, just as He did for Moses at the time of the Exodus:

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus XXII:2 - THAT THE WATERS MAY COME BACK UPON THE EGYPTIANS. Another explanation: R. Johanan said: When the last Israelite came out of the sea, the last of the Egyptians descended therein; but R. Simeon b. Lakish said: The sea locked in both the Israelites and the Egyptians from all four sides. Moses said to God: ' What should Israel do? ' The reply was: ' Thou art not responsible as to what they should do; for I am going to perform a miracle for them.’ Then it was that God stretched out His hand and brought them out of the sea, as it says, He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters (Ps. XVIII, 17). R. Abbahu said: It is like one who saw robbers coming towards him. His son was with him, so what did he do? He took his son in one hand and with the other fought the robbers. His son said to him: ' May I never lack [the protection of] those two hands, the one that is holding me and the other which is slaying the robbers! ' This is what the Israelites said to God: ‘May peace be upon both Thy hands! Both on the one with which Thou dost save us from the sea and on the other with which Thou dost overthrow the Egyptians,’ as it says, Thy right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, Thy right hand, O Lord, dasheth in pieces the enemy (Ex. XV, 6). It does not say: ‘And the sea returned’ but’the waters returned’ (ib. XIV, 28), to show that all waters came back. Moreover, it does not say ‘upon the Egyptians ‘, but ’upon Mizraim‘, because God first drowned their guardian angel in the sea and then all of them went down after him. For this reason does it say: THAT THE WATERS MAY COME BACK UPON MIZRAIM, [first], and after that, UPON THEIR CHARIOTS, AND UPON THEIR HORSEMEN (ib. 26).

Regarding the "odd mixture" of hail and fire, Midrash Rabbah offerst the following:

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs III:24 - Also between the plagues He brought on Pharaoh God made peace, as it says, So there was hail, and fire flashing up (mithlakahath) amidst the hail2 (Ex. IX, 24). R. Judah and R. Nehemiah and the Rabbis gave different explanations of the word ’mithlakahath’. R. Judah said: The hail was as it were in little cups rull of fire, yet the water did not quench the fire nor the fire affect the water. R. Hanin said: According to R. Judah's description, it was like a fully-ripened pomegranate through [the skin of] which every pip is visible. R. Nehemiah said: Fire and hail were mingled with one another. R. Hanin said: According to R. Nehemiah's description it was like a light in a glass, where water and oil are mixed, but it goes on burning. And neither interfered with the other. The Rabbis say: It kept on expiring and catching (mithkalha) again in order to perform the will of its Creator. R. Aha said: They were like two fierce legions serving the same king which were at enmity with one another, but when they saw that the king was engaged in a difficult war, they made peace with one another in order to fight in the king's battle. So fire and water are [normally] at enmity with one another, but when they saw the war of the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, namely the war against the Egyptians, they made peace with one another and fought His battle against the Egyptians, as it is written, ’So there was hail, and fire flashing up amidst the hail’--a double miracle.

All of the above may help solve what seems to be a contradiction between Revelation 8:7, which states that all the grass was burned, and Revelation 9:4, which shows the grass was not yet harmed:

Revelation 9:4 - They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

It is clear that in Revelation 9:4 "grass" is shown to a metaphor for men on the physical earth. Isaiah, in a section dealing with the end of days, also speaks of people in terms of "grass":

Isaiah 40:6-8 - The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Kabbalistically, there is "grass" in Yetzirah (Revelation 8:8), which the grass of the earth (Revelation 9:4) is "modeled after" and has a spiritual connection to. Thus we see a destruction of the "grass of Yetzirah" in this chapter, which is the spiritual counterpart to men on earth, described as the "grass" of Asiyyah.

The idea of "green grass" being destroyed carries a connotation of something "good" being done away with. The Zohar explains the relationship between the literal understanding of "green" vegetation on the earth and its "green" counterpart in the spiritual realm as follows:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 171a - We read next: “He maketh me to lie down in pastures of tender green; he leadeth me beside the waters of rest; he quickeneth my soul”. “Pastures of tender green” are those which lie round the supernal springs, from whence all nourishment emanates. These pastures are also called “the pastures of Jacob” (Lam. II, 2), and are called “green pastures” in contrast to those pastures which lie outside--”the pastures of the desert” (Joel II, 22). It might be said: Is it not written, “Let the earth bring forth tender (green) grass” (Gen. I, 11), showing that “green” is applied also to what is below? The fact is that this “green” of earth emanates from those “pastures” above, germinating and flourishing through the life-giving energy supplied them from above. “He leadeth me beside the waters of rest.” These “waters of rest” are those which come forth from that region which proceeds from Eden.

As mentioned earlier in this study, the lack of regard for Torah will bring judgment from above. The destruction of the "green grass" above may parallel this. The Zohar says the following about this:

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 151a - ‘I am come to tell you that Jerusalem is about to be laid waste together with all the towns of the sages, for the reason that Jerusalem is the embodiment of judgement, and is preserved by judgement, and now judgement demands its destruction; and Samael has already been given power over it and over its mighty ones. I have therefore come to advise the sages thereof so that they may try to obtain for Jerusalem some years of grace. For so long as knowledge of the Torah is found therein it will be spared, the Torah being the tree of life by which all live. But when the study of the Torah ceases below, the tree of life disappears from the world. Hence so long as the sages cling to the Torah, Samael has no power over them, as Scripture says: "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau" (Gen. XXVII, 22). The voice is the Torah, which is termed the voice of Jacob, and so long as that voice pours forth, the utterance also dominates and prevails (over the hands of Esau). Hence the study of the Torah should never cease.’ R. Hiya then awoke, and they went and told the sages. Said R. Jesse: ‘We all know this, and so it is written: "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in vain" (Ps. CXXVII, 1), as much as to say: "It is those who labour in the Torah who preserve the Holy City, and not the warriors and men of might".’

8  And the second messenger did sound, and as it were a great mountain with fire burning was cast into the sea, and the third of the sea became blood.

The sea becoming blood, is indictive of God's judgment on the world of Yetzirah, the place from which evil people draw their powers. Again, though there may be "bloodied waters" in the physical realm as a result of this action, the real judgment is first and foremost against those powers in the "sea" of Yetzirah.

The Zohars offers some insight into this, using the Exodus from Egypt as an example:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 28b-29a - TAKE THY ROD AND STRETCH OUT THY HAND UPON THE WATERS OF EGYPT, UPON THEIR STREAMS, UPON THEIR RIVERS... THAT THEY MAY BECOME BLOOD. Said R. Judah: ‘How was this possible? Could one rod so be stretched over all this extent? Moreover, it says later, “And seven days were fulfilled after the Lord had smitten the river” (v. 25), only mentioning the river, and leaving out the other waters of Egypt upon which Aaron had stretched out his hand. The explanation is that the reference is to the River Nile, for out of this all the other rivers, streams, ponds, and pools are filled, so that Aaron needed but to smite that river and all the other waters were smitten. The proof is that it says, “And the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river” (v. 2I).’ R. Abba said: ‘Observe that the lower waters diverge and spread on every side, but the upper waters draw together and are concentrated in one place,’[Tr.note: Yesod.] as it says: “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place” (Gen. I, 9); and again, “And the gathering together of the waters called He seas”- as we have explained. The firmament in which the sun, the moon, the stars, and the plants are suspended is the great meeting place where the upper waters are gathered, and whence the earth, or lower world, is watered. She thereupon scatters and distributes these waters far and wide, in order that all things may be watered by them. When, however, chastisement impends over the world, then the lower world does not imbibe from that upper firmament of sun and moon, but from the “left side”, concerning which it says: “The sword of the Lord is full of blood” (Isa. XXXIV, 6). Woe unto them who must drink from this cup! At such times the sea imbibes from both sides and divides itself into two parts, white and red (mercy and justice). Thus it was the lot of Egypt which was cast into the Nile, and the blow was inflicted both above and below. Therefore Israel drank water, but the Egyptians blood. ... ‘Observe that when the Holy One, blessed be He, prepares to inflict chastisement upon the idolatrous nations, the “Left Side” awakens and changes the whiteness of the moon to blood; then the ponds and the pools below are also filled with blood. So the punishment of the unrighteous is indeed blood. Further, when the doom of blood impends upon a people, it is the blood of slaughter executed by another people whom God brings against them. But against Egypt the Holy One, blessed be He, did not choose to raise up another nation, lest Israel, who dwelt in her midst, might also suffer. Therefore He punished the Egyptians by causing their streams to be changed into blood so that they could not drink from them. And as Egypt's supramundane power was centred in the Nile, the Holy One enforced His will first on that principality, so that-the Nile being one of their divinities-their highest power might first of all be humbled. From the lesser idols also blood gushed out, as it is written: “And there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone” (Ibid.).’

9  and die did the third of the creatures that [are] in the sea, those having life, and the third of the ships were destroyed.

Here again, the term "ships" has more to do with entities existing in the "sea" of Yetzirah than physical ships on earth.

The book of Psalms mentions a connection between "ships" and the being called Leviathan, that exist in the "sea" (of Yetzirah):

Psalm 104:25-26 - So is this great and wide sea, where there are innumerable creeping things, living things, both small and great.  There go the ships; and Leviathan which you have made to play in it.

The Zohar expounds on the "sea" being that realm of spiritual entities extending from one end of Yetzirah to the other. These are all linked to the "living creature" (of Ezekiel 1 and Revelation chapters 4-7). This highly esoteric passage speaks of "fish," "boats" and "chariots" in this realm, and cites Psalm 104:25-26, Job 40:20 and Jeremiah 46:25 as supporting passages:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 48b - All the supernal hosts with their cohorts and lightful chariots of celestial speed are joined one to another, grade to grade, the lower to the higher, each to its counterpart; and above them all a holy “Living being” (Hayah) (cf. Ezek. I) is set, and all those myriads of armies move and rest according to its will and direction. This is that Living Creature to which all Hayoth are linked, as each is also to each, all moving and swimming in the sea, concerning which it is written: “This is the great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts” (Ps. CIV, 25). Now, when the wheels of the sea arise all the boats which sail thereon do heave and toss, and air and waters are mightily stirred so that a great storm arises; and the fishes that dwell in the depths of the sea are whirled about by the violence of the tempest, and are buffeted towards the four corners of the earth, some to the east, and some to the west, some to the north, and some to the south; and there they are caught by the nets of fishermen, as they reach the ocean's shallower depths, where the sands of the shore slope down to meet the breakers of that sea. At that time the boats steer no course, either certain or uncharted, but only toss and heave in one place. At last a swift but subtle current arises amid the tumult of the stormy waters, and gradually their strife is stilled and peace descends upon the waves; then the boats steer a straight course for their bourne, and swerve not nor falter; concerning which it is written: “There go the ships; there is that Leviathan whom thou hast made to play therein” (Ibid. v, 26). And all the fishes of the sea gather to their places, and all the creatures rejoice over it and the Hayoth of the supernal fields, as it is written: “And all the beasts of the field play there” (Job XL, 20). Come and see! The likeness of that which is above is that which is below, and what is below is also in the sea, and the likeness of that which is above is that which is in the supernal sea, and what is below is also in the lower sea. As the higher sea has length and width and head and arms and hair and a body, so also the lower sea.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘How many chariots there are whose wheels run speedily, carrying the framework upon them without delay! Yet here “God made him drive heavily”. We interpret these words of the heavenly chariot, which was the guardian angel of Egypt, and which then was rendered imperfect. There were many others dependent on this one, and when it lost its power the lower chariots lost their power, as it is written: “Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings; even Pharaoh and all them that trust in him” (Jer. XLVI, 25).

Psalm 107 offers kabbalistic insight into "spiritual travel," described as going down to the "sea" in "ships" in order to see the works and wonders of the Lord. The "waves" (of Yetzirah) are calmed by God, allowing those seeking Him to reach their "desired haven." Note the reference, "they reel to and from," reminiscent of Daniel 12:4 (See the Introduction to the Text Analysis of this study):

Psalm 107:23-34 - Those who go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; Those saw the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For he commands, and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up its waves.. They mount up to the sky, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they have quiet; and he brings them to their desired haven. Let them praise the Lord for his loving kindness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. He turns rivers into a wilderness, and springs of water into dry ground; A fruitful land into barrenness, because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.

Isaiah helps us to understand Psalms and Revelation. Compare Isaiah's words in the text below, "they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant," with Daniel 7:25, a verse associated by some with the anti-messiah. Here again we find the term "to and fro," this time associated with the earth. The Lord is seen as punishing the spiritual forces of Yetzirah (the host of the high ones who are on high), as well as the kings of the earth:

Isaiah Chapter 24:1-23 - Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty, and makes it waste, and turns it upside down, and scatters abroad its inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The land shall be completely emptied, and completely ruined; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away, the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth also is defiled under its inhabitants; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore has a curse devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it have been fount guilty; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are parched, and few men left. The new wine mourns, the vine languishes, all the merry hearted sigh. The mirth of tambourines ceases, the noise of those who rejoice ends, the joy of the lyre ceases. They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to those who drink it. The city of confusion is broken down; every house is shut up, and no man may come in. There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. In the city is left desolation, and the gate is struck with destruction. When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done. They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the Lord, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Therefore glorify the Lord in the fires, the name of the Lord God of Israel in the islands of the sea. From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe to me! traitors have dealt treacherously; traitors have dealt very treacherously. Fear, and the pit, and the trap, are upon you, O inhabitant of the earth. And it shall come to pass, that he who flees from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he who comes up from the midst of the pit shall be taken in the trap; for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is completely broken down, the earth crumbles away, the earth is violently shaken. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall sway like a hut; and its transgression shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones who are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be punished. Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his elders gloriously.

Daniel 7:25 - He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand. For a time and times and half a time.

10  And the third messenger did sound, and there fell out of the heaven a great star, burning as a lamp, and it did fall upon the third of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters,

Recall that from the "sea" of Yetzirah extend "rivers and streams" that connect this realm to the physical world of Asiyyah. These tributaries can function to energize either the good or evil realm (i.e., Babylon, Egypt, Rome).

The following Zohar text specifically refers to "ten species of sorcery" which are associated with the evil counterparts to the ten Sephirot. Note the interesting explanation of Isaiah 19:2 ("I will confuse Egypt with Egypt"), as showing how God dealt with the spiritual powers of Egypt (in Yetzirah) first, which resulted in the physical plagues as seen in Exodus. The number "seven" is seen as significant with their being seven "zones of earth" corresponding to seven zones above. Each of the seven zones of earth is said to have ten divisions. Egypt is associated with one zone and thus has ten spiritual chieftains. This may be compared to the ten "kings" of  Daniel 7:24 and ten "horns" of Revelation 12:3 and 13:1. Especially interesting (in light of the punishments seen in this verse of Revelation), is the prophecy that "Rome" will one day meet the same fate as Egypt:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 30b - Observe that ever so many streams and rivers rise out of the Supernal Sea, which in their courses ivide and subdivide again into many other rivers and streams: and the portion that fell to the side of Egypt were waters swarming with such creatures. For all waters issuing from that sea breed various kinds of fishes, to wit, messengers sent into the world to carry out the will of their Master through the spirit of Wisdom. In regard to this a traditional text tells us that there are waters that breed wise men and other waters that breed foolish men, according to the various rivers that branch off into all sides. Now the Egyptian rivers breed masters of sorcery of various kinds, and of ten degrees, as enumerated in the verse, “one that useth divination, a soothsayer, or a charmer, or one that consulteth a ghost or a familiar spirit, or a necromancer” (Deut. XVIII, 10-11). Here we have ten species of sorcery. And at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, stretched forth His finger and disturbed the brooks and rivers of Egypt so that their fishes of wisdom were confounded: some waters turned into blood, others threw up small fishes of no account upon whom the spirit of sorcery never rested. Then there came upon them the plague called ’arob (lit. mixture, i.e. mixture of various beasts) which allegorically indicates that the Almighty confounded their magical arts so that their practitioners were not able to piece them together. Moreover, that confusion produced a mingling of a perverse and hybrid kind similar to those referred to in the words of Scripture, “thou shalt not sow thy field with two kinds of seed; neither shall there come upon thee a garment of two kinds of stuff mingled together” (Lev. XIX, 19). Many were then the legions that bestirred themselves above, but the Holy One, blessed be He, confounded them altogether; these mighty deeds which the Almighty performed in Egypt were accomplished by the raising of one of his hands against them, both on high and below. It was then that the wisdom of Egypt perished, as Scripture says: “and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isa. XXIX, 14). Note further the pronouncement: “And I will confuse Egypt with Egypt” (Isa. XIX, 2), that is to say, celestial Egypt with terrestrial Egypt. For the celestial legions are in charge of the terrestrial ones, and they both were altogether thrown in disorder. They were confused on high so that the Egyptians could not derive inspiration from the celestial sources as formerly. It was with this object that the Almighty brought on them the ’arob, or mixture and confusion, manifested in a mixed horde of beasts that assailed them; as well as the plague of vermin, engendered from the dust of the earth. Observe that whatever is engendered on earth grows through the stimulus of a celestial Chieftain who has charge over it, and that all on earth is shaped after a celestial pattern. There are on high seven firmaments, and seven zones of earth. Correspondingly, in the lower world there are seven graded firmaments and seven zones of earth. These, as the Companions have expounded, are arranged like the rungs of a ladder, rising one above the other, and each zone has ten divisions, so that there are seventy in all. Each one of these is presided over by a Chieftain, and these seventy Chieftains have under their charge the seventy nations of the earth. These seventy earth-divisions, again, border on and surround the Holy Land, as Scripture says: “Behold, it is the couch of Solomon; threescore mighty men are about, of the mighty men of Israel” (S.S. III, 7), there being, in addition to the threescore mentioned, ten concealed among their number. All these surround the Holy Land. This alludes to the upper world, and the same is reproduced in the lower world. Now at that time the Holy One, blessed be He, stretched forth His finger over the zone that was allotted to the Egyptians, and a fiery flame passed through the whole tract and dried up all the alluvial soil, with the result that the dust of the earth generated vermin. It was Aaron that smote the dust, in order to show that the right hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, breaks His enemies, as we read: “Thy right hand, O Lord, dasheth in pieces the enemy” (Ex. xv, 6). The same punishment is destined to be meted out by the Holy One, blessed be He, to Rome the great Metropolis, as it is written: “And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone” (Isa. XXXIV, 9). Thus “all the dust of the earth became vermin throughout all the land of Egypt”.

11 and the name of the star is called Wormwood, and the third of the waters doth become wormwood, and many of the men did die of the waters, because they were made bitter.

Earlier in our study we discussed the how God's characteristics of mercy and judgment were not exclusive of each other (i.e., His left and right hands working together). Throughout the book of Revelation we see God's "judgments" upon creation. He does not send these for the sole purpose of "punishment" however, as it is His desire that people repent by turning to His Torah and Messiah (i.e., Revelation 9:20-21).

This principle is especially well illustrated by the term "wormwood" seen in this last verse. Throughout Scripture and other Hebraic writings, wormwood has a negative connotation of being bitter. What we see however is God using that which is "bitter" to rectify that which is bitter.

As the Midrash Rabbah says:

Midrash Rabbah - Genesis 77:1 - God sweetened the bitter through the agency of bitter.

This can be seen in the Torah at the place of the "bitter waters" of Marah (Exodus 15:23-25). It is said that the "tree" God had Moses throw into these waters was itself bitter. This action however, caused the bitter waters to be sweetened:

Midrash Rabbah - Exodus 23:3 - Note that it is the custom of the righteous to atone with the very same thing whereby they have offended; hence: ’Thy lips, O my bride, drop honey.’1 From whom do they learn this? From God, who heals with the very thing with which He had wounded, as it says, For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds (Jer. XXX, 17). I will heal thee with the very wounds which I inflicted on thee. Whence do we know this? From God Himself; for see what happened at Marah, when God showed Moses a bitter thing, which he was told to cast into the waters, so that they became sweetened, as it says, And the Lord showed him a tree, and he cast it into the waters (Ex. XV, 25). What kind of tree was it? R. Nathan said: It was a kind of creepers; R. Joshua said: It was a willow tree, and R. Eliezer of Modim said: It was an olive-tree. But whatever it was, it was bitter and yet it sweetened the bitter waters. So it was that Moses who had provoked God only with the word ‘az’ made atonement with the very word with which he sinned, and said, THEN (AZ) SANG MOSES.

On a deeper level, the bitter cure that God has given is His Torah:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2,Page 60a-b - AND THEY WENT THREE DAYS IN THE WILDERNESS AND FOUND NO WATER . In Scripture “water” stands as a symbol for the Torah: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters” (Isa. LV, 1). ‘But’, remarked R. Jesse, ‘the time for the giving of the Torah was not yet, and how could they expect to find this “water” there?’ Said R. Eleazar: ‘They went out into the wilderness to see the glory of the Holy One, but could not, for He removed it from there. We learn from this that “water” is the symbol of the Torah, and the Holy One and the Torah are one.’ Said R. Simeon: ‘There in the wilderness a strange power, representing the nations of the world, the ruling spirit of the desert, appeared to them, but they soon discovered that it was not the radiance of their King's glory. Hence it says: AND WHEN THEY CAME TO MARAH THEY COULD NOT DRINK OF THE WATERS OF MARAH, FOR THEY WERE BITTER, and they did not feel the same “sweetness” in their souls as before. Moreover, this power came to act as an accuser against them. Then HE (Moses) CRIED UNTO THE LORD, AND THE LORD SHOWED HIM A TREE, WHICH, WHEN HE CAST IT INTO THE WATERS, THE WATERS WERE MADE SWEET. The tree is a symbol of the Torah, which is “a tree of life to those who lay hold upon her” (Prov. III, 18), and the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.’ R. Abba said: ‘The “Tree” is a direct symbol of the Holy One, for it says: “The tree of the field is (the supernal) Adam” (Deut. XX, 19). The “field” is the “Field of the holy apples”. Thus, when the light of their King's glory manifested itself to them, “the waters were made sweet”, and the accuser became an intercessor.’

As we see in this chapter of Revelation, the bitterness sent upon the world of Yetzirah effects the physical world that we live in. HaSatan is God's "agent" in carrying this out:

Soncino Zohar, Bemidbar, Section 3, Page 125a - For the Sacred Sea has many sweet rivers flowing into it, yet since it presents the world's judgement its waters are bitter, since universal death is attached to it. Yet when these waters flow outwards they are sweet. The sea, besides, exhibits a variety of colours. Now it is when the Serpent injects into it its venom that its waters become bitter and accursed;

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 6a - All the judgements passed upon the world, and all decrees and decisions are stored in a certain palace, where seventy-two members of Sanhedrin deliberate upon them. The palace is called “the Palace of Acquittal”, because the judges there lay stress on whatever can be pleaded in favour of the accused. Not so the “other side”, where there is a place called “Accusation”, because in that abode of the Serpent, the “Wife of whoredom”, every effort is made to procure the condemnation of humanity, and to prejudice the servant in the eyes of the Master. Symbolically, the former is represented by “sweet, clear water”; the latter by “bitter water that causes the curse” (Num. v, 18).

Although the entire world experiences the wrath of God in the end times, His chief concern is bringing Israel back to where they belong:

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs 1:21 - THY NAME IS AS OIL POURED FORTH: Just as oil is in its original form bitter but afterwards becomes sweet, so though thy beginning was small, yet thy end should greatly increase (Job VIII, 7)1 Just as oil is improved only by pounding, so Israel are brought to repentance only by chastisements.

12  And the fourth messenger did sound, and smitten was the third of the sun, and the third of the moon, and the third of the stars, that darkened may be the third of them, and that the day may not shine -- the third of it, and the night in like manner.

13 And I saw, and I heard one messenger, flying in the mid-heaven, saying with a great voice, `Wo, wo, wo, to those dwelling upon the land from the rest of the voices of the trumpet of the three messengers who are about to sound.'

The loss of physical light from the sun, moon and stars is representative of the loss of spiritual light in the world, as mankind for the most part refuses to repent. The concepts of "day" and "night" are often used to represent the realms of good and evil, with the entities of darkness functioning at "night," unable able to carry out their function whenever there is "light."

An interesting teaching regarding this concerns the angel that wrestled with Jacob in the book of Genesis. Although some teach that this angel was an "early appearance" of Yeshua, another opinion (prevalent in Judaism), is quite different, that being that this angel was the guardian angel of Esau, in fact Samael or haSatan himself. 1

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs III:9 - In what form did he appear to him? R. Hamai b. R. Hanina said: He appeared him in the form of the guardian angel of Esau, as it says, Forasmuch as I have seen thy face as one seeth the face of [a] god (ib. XXXIII, 10). ‘Your face,’ he said, ‘resembles that of your guardian angel.’

As this angel was from the side of darkness, he had to depart from Jacob when the light of dawn was about to break:

Genesis 32:27a - And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks.

The Zohar offer the following comments on this idea. The text addresses how angels take form in the physical world and man (Moses in this case) can be taken into the higher worlds, and how "elohim" is used to refer to an angel. The "night" is also compared to the time of Israel's exile, when evil is still active in creation.

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 144a-b - Observe that all, both above and below, confirmed these blessings, and even he who was the portion that fell to the lot of Esau consented to those blessings, and, moreover, actually himself blessed Jacob, as it is written: “And he said: Let me go for the day breaketh. And he said: I will not let thee go, except thou bless me” (Gen. XXXII, 27). The angel said “Let me go” because Jacob seized hold of him. You may wonder how could a man of flesh and blood take hold of an angel, who is pure spirit, as it is written: “Who makest spirits thy messengers, the flaming fire thy ministers” (Ps. CIV, 4). But the truth is that when the angels, the messengers of the Holy One, descend to earth, they make themselves corporeal, and put on a bodily vesture like to the denizens of this world. For it is fitting not to deviate from the custom of the place where one happens to be, as has already been explained. We find it thus written of Moses when he ascended on high: “And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water” (Ex. XXXIV, 28), in order not to deviate from the custom of the place to which he went. Similarly we read, as an example of the behaviour of angels on descending here below: “And he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat” (Gen. XVIII, 8). So here, Jacob could only have wrestled with the angel after the latter had assumed a bodily vesture after the manner of a being of this world. The reason, too, why Jacob had to wrestle with him the whole of that night was because those beings possess dominion only in the night, and so, correspondingly, Esau dominates only during the exile, which is none other than night. During the night, therefore, the angel held fast to Jacob and wrestled with him; but as soon as day broke his strength waned, and he could no more prevail, so that Jacob got the upper hand, since Jacob's domination is in the daytime. (Hence it is written: “The burden of Dumah. One calleth unto me out of Seir: Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” (Is. XXI, 11). For the domination of Esau, who is identical with Seir, is only in the night.) The angel, therefore, feeling his strength ebb as the day broke, said: “Let me go, for the day breaketh.” Jacob's answer, “I will not let thee go, except thou hast blessed me”, is peculiar, since we should have expected “except thou wilt bless me”. By using the past tense, however, Jacob as much as said: “except thou acknowledge those blessings with which my father blessed me, and wilt not contend against me on account of them”. The angel, we are told, thereupon said: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. XXXII, 29). By the name Israel he meant to imply: “We must needs be subservient to thee, since thou art crowned with thy might above in a supernal grade.” “Israel shall be thy name”; assuredly so, for “thou hast striven with Elohim”. By this name he apparently referred to himself, but he really had a deeper meaning, viz. “Thou hast striven to associate thyself with God in a close union, as symbolised by the junction of the sun and the moon.” Hence he did not say “thou hast prevailed over God”, but “with God”, i.e. to unite closely with God.

In the following texts, the Zohar specifically identifies Esau's angel with Samael (haSatan). As Esau is associated with Rome (in the latter times), haSatan will once more have "his day" against Israel. The sun and moon are seen as "clear" and "fair" when Israel is made head of nations in the Kingdom of God. Conversely, the red moon and darkened sun of Revelation and other writings show that Esau has the "upper hand" over Israel. The relationship between Jacob and Esau may be compared to each being on each side of a scale. When one is "up" the other must be "down":

Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 170a-b - AND THERE WRESTLED (vaye'oveq) A MAN WITH HIM . R. Joshua the son of Levi said: ‘From the word behe'ovqo (in his wrestling) we learn that they raised a dust with their feet which reached the Throne of Glory, as this word finds a parallel in the phrase “the dust (’abaq) of his feet” (Nahum I, 3). The angel here mentioned was Samael, the chieftain of Esau, and it was right that his dust should rise to the Throne of Glory which is the seat of judgement.’ R. Simeon said: ‘This dust (’abaq) was not ordinary dust, but ashes, the residue of fire. It differs from dust proper in that it is sterile and unproductive, whereas dust (’afar) is that from which all fruit and vegetation spring and is common to the lower and higher existences.’ R. Judah remarked: ‘If so, how can we explain the passage: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust” (I Sam. II, 8)?’ R. Simeon replied: ‘The dust possesses nothing of its own, hence it is from the dust that the poor man has to be raised who possesses nothing of his own either. At the same time the dust is the source of all fruitfulness and of all the produce of the world, and from it have been formed all things in the world, as it is written: “all are of the dust and all return to dust” (Eccl. III, 20), including, according to tradition, even the solar sphere. But the dust called abaq is forever barren, and hence, as the term vaye'obeq (“and he wrestled”, or “raised the dust”) implies, the man came up, riding, as it were, upon that dust, in order to contest Jacob's right.’ UNTIL THE BREAKING OF THE DAY; this being the moment when his dominion passed away and vanished. The same will happen in the time to come. For the present exile is like the night, and in that night the barren dust rules over Israel, who are prostrate fo the dust; and so it will be until the light will appear and the day will break; then Israel will obtain power, and to them will be given the kingdom, as they are the saints of the Most High. So Scripture says: “And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them” (Dan. VII, 27).  AND HE SAID: LET ME GO, FOR THE DAY BREAKETH, AND HE SAID: I WILL NOT LET THEE GO, EXCEPT THOU BLESS ME . R. Judah discoursed on the verse: Who is she that looketh forth as the dawn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with banners ? (S. S. VI, 10). ‘This verse’, he said, ‘refers to Israel, at the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, will raise them up and bring them out of captivity. At that time he will first open for them a tiny aperture of light, then another somewhat larger, and so on until He will throw open for them the supernal gates which face on all the four quarters of the world. And, indeed, this process is followed by God in all that He does for Israel and the righteous among them. For we know that when a man has been long shut up in darkness it is necessary, on bringing him into the light, first to make for him an opening as small as the eye of a needle, and then one a little larger, and so on gradually until he can endure the full light. It is the same with Israel, as we read: “By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, etc.” (Ex. XXIII, 30). So, too, a sick man who is recovering cannot be given a full diet all at once, but only gradually. But with Esau it was not so. His light came at a bound, but it will gradually be withdrawn from him until Israel will come into their own and destroy him completely from this world and from the world to come. Because he plunged into the light all at once, therefore he will be utterly and completely exterminated. Israel's light, on the other hand, will come little by little, until they will become strong. God will illumine them forever. All then will ask: “Who is she that looketh forth like the dawn”, this being a reference to the first tiny streak of the dawn, then “fair as the moon”, the light of the moon being stronger than that of the dawn, and then “clear as the sun”, that is, a still stronger light, and finally “terrible as an army with banners”, expressive of the light in its full strength. For, just as when the dawn emerges from the darkness its light at first is faint, but gradually brightens till full daylight is reached, so when God will bestir Himself to shine upon the Community of Israel, He will first shed on them a streak of light like that of the daybreak which is still black, then increase it to make it “fair as the moon”, then “clear as the sun”, until it will be “tremendous as an army with banners”, as already explained.’ Now in connection with Jacob it is not written: “for daybreak has come (ba’)”, but “for daybreak has gone up (’alah)”. For at the moment when daybreak arrived, the Chieftain summoned all his strength and struck out at Jacob in order thereby to impart power to Esau; but as soon as the blackness of the dawn passed the light came on and Jacob's power increased; for his time had then arrived to come into the light, as it is written: “And the sun rose upon him as he passed over Peniel. In the next words, AND HE LIMPED UPON HIS THIGH , there is a hint that after Israel in exile have endured many sufferings and pains, when daylight rises upon them and they attain to rest and ease they will in their memory go through again their past sufferings and afflictions and will wonder how they could have endured them. So Jacob, after “the sun had risen upon him”, was “limping upon his thigh”, vexing himself for what had befallen. But when the blackness of the early dawn passed he made a great effort and grasped his opponent, whose strength at the same time gave out, his dominion being only during the night, whereas Jacob has ascendancy in the daytime. Hence he said: LET ME GO, FOR THE DAY BREAKETH, so that, as he might have added, “I am now in thy power”.

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 163b - He then forthwith began to expound these words of Jacob to Esau: “Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee” (Gen. XXXIII, 11). ‘When Jacob’, said he, ‘saw on that night the Accuser, Samael, he saw him in the form of Esau, and it was not until dawn was breaking that he recognized him as Samael. When the dawn broke, he looked at him closely, but even then he appeared at times to be the one and then the other. He then looked more closely still and he knew him for the celestial representative of Esau, and he prevailed against him. He said to Jacob, “Let me go, for the dawn breaketh” (Ibid. XXXII, 26), and the companions have already explained that he said this, because the moment had arrived when he, the representative of Esau, had to raise his voice in hymns to the Holy One. On this we may remark that indeed the power of Samael is only in the ascendant in the dark, as indicated in the words, “of fear in the night” (Ps. XCI, 5), namely, the fear of Gehenna; so it is that he rules at night alone. Hence he said, “Let me go, for the dawn breaketh”, for when morning comes and his power is on the wane, he must depart, and he and his hosts must enter the recess of the abyss in the North, and they must remain until night breaks in on them, and the dogs are loosened from their chains and allowed to roam about till morning. That is why he pressed Jacob to let him go. In the same way Israel's exile has taken place at night, it is in fact called “night”. The evil kingdom (Rome), the pagan power, rules over Israel until the morning shall again appear, and the Holy One, blessed be He, will cause the light to dawn again and the heathen power shall wane and at last disappear. Therefore it was that Esau's representative said, “Let me go, for the dawn breaketh”. But Jacob held him, and his power weakened, because night had passed, so Jacob's strength increased, and he saw, in that angel, the image of Esau, but not quite clearly. Then the angel confirmed the blessings he had received. And what was it that Jacob afterwards said to Esau? “For therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me” (Gen. XXXIII, 10). For he saw in Esau's face now the very image of Samael as he had appeared to him, for the realm to which a person belongs is revealed in his face. And ye, supernal saints, the Shekinah is in you, and your faces reflect the beauty of Her face. Blessed are ye!’ Then said he also: ‘If we were going in the same direction, I would be in your midst; but now, as ye must go one way, and I another, I will part from you with words of the Torah.’


1. The reasoning for believing that this angel was Yeshua is the angel's reply to Jacob, in Genesis 32:21, where it says: "And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel; for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." This is not such a definite interpretation however. The term for "God" in this verse is elohim, which is used in Hebraic literature to describe several things, such as the angelic realm that serves God (including haSatan and all angels of the "dark side"). Later, when he meets Esau, Jacob tells his brother that seeing Esau's face was like seeing the face of Elohim; "And Jacob said, No, I beg you, if now I have found grace in your sight, then receive my present from my hand; for therefore I have seen your face, as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me." Jacob had to first prevail over Esau's angel in the spiritual realm before he could deal with him (and eventually subdue him) in the physical world.


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