Last update: December 20, 2004
1 And the fifth messenger did sound, and I saw a star out of the heaven having fallen to the earth, and there was given to it the key of the pit of the abyss,
2 and he did open the pit of the abyss, and there came up a smoke out of the pit as smoke of a great furnace, and darkened was the sun and the air, from the smoke of the pit.
3 And out of the smoke came forth locusts to the earth, and there was given to them authority, as scorpions of the earth have authority,
Here we see a "star" clearly explained as being an angel from heaven. (See previous comments on this subject.) This angel opens a "pit" from which emerges "smoke" and "locusts," which affect the physical realm. These are not physical insects, but a description of demons, called Shedim in the Hebrew. (Note that Chapter 9 of Revelation contains a great deal of metaphorical language.)
Demons are mentioned in the Torah, where they are also called "spirits":
Deuteronomy 32:16-17 - They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed to powerless spirits, not to God; to gods whom they knew not; to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
Leviticus 17:7 - And they shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they play the harlot. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.
Demons are beings of their own class. They are not "fallen angels" or angels of any type. Rather, they are a peculiar set of spiritual entities that have characteristics of both both angels and humans. They are also associated with the evil realm, and have a relationship with the angelic world (as seen by such an angel opening the pit in verse 2 above). As demons play an important role in John's prophecy, we will take a closer look at what various sources have to say.
Regarding the composition of these demonic entities, Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto, in his work Derek Hashem (The Way of God), explains as follows:
There is however, another class that is like an intermediate between the spiritual and the physical. This consists of entities that cannot be detected by physical means and are not bound by the limitations and laws of ordinary detectable matter. For this reason, they might improperly be considered spiritual. Their Essense, however, is very different from that of the angelic class, even though they may resemble them in some ways. These entities also have specific attributes and unique limitations, based on their true nature. They are therefore considered a separate class, namely that of Shedim (Demons). This class also contains certain individual types, where each type may be considered a separate species belonging to the general class of Shedim. 1
The following text of the Zohar comments on the concepts of "smoke" and "the pit of the abyss," here called a "hidden cavern in the North" (north = left side = origin/location of evil realm). Note first that impure spirits (demons) are said to rule at night, hence the prohibition concerning leaving a dead body out past sundown. (See comments in notes from previous chapter regarding the "night" and the evil realm.)
Demons are said to not have access to the land of Israel unless they find a means through part of a sacrifice that was not burned. (Might this shed light on the modern phenomena of animals who are found ritualistically killed with organs missing from their bodies?) The text goes on to say that some of the smoke from the sacrifices was to "nourish" demons in order that they would not attempt to come into the land for this purpose. This smoke would enter into a hidden cavern in the North, where the evil realm has its "abode":
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 141a - He whose soul leaves him in the Holy Land, if his body is buried upon the day of his death, is in no way dominated by the spirit of impurity. Therefore it says of one who has been put to death by hanging that his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day.. that thy land be not defiled (Deut. XXI, 23), for at night the impure spirit is given permission to rule. However, although these last are given temporary power, they cannot exercise their sway within the boundaries of the Holy Land, because it is impossible for them to enter it unless they can come upon an organ or means of approach in the parts and fat of those sacrifices that are consumed at night for the purpose of feeding other (foreign) kinds. [Tr. note: v. supra. p. 129b-130a.] But even these portions were not left with the purpose of attracting evil potencies to the Holy Land, but rather, on the contray, to entice them away from it, for, as has been said on another occasion, the smoke of these parts of the sacrifices was wont to ascend crookedly and drift away until it reached that hidden cavern in the North in which all the powers of the other side have their abode; into which cave the smoke would enter and all the demons and impure spirits be nourished thereby. But the smoke of those sacrifices which were burnt during the day ascended in a straight line unto its rightful place and all the proper spirits received nourishment from it. Over the bodies of the righteous, who were not seduced in this world by the lusts of the hard shell, the impure spirit has no power at all, because they did not associate themselves therewith. But just as the wicked in this life were seduced by that powerful shell of evil and its pleasures and practices, so are their bodies unclean after the soul has left them.
The Talmud also describes demons in terms of being "part human" and "part angelic." Note that unlike angels, demons can reproduce and be killed:
Talmud - Mas. Chagigah 16a - Our Rabbis taught: Six things are said concerning demons: in regard to three, they are like the ministering angels; and in regard to three, like human beings. In regard to three they are like the ministering angels: they have wings like the ministering angels; and they fly from one end of the world to the other like the ministering angels; and they know what will happen like the ministering angels. [You say], They know you cannot mean that! Rather, they hear from behind the Veil like the ministering angels. And in regard to three, they are like human beings: they eat and drink like human beings; they propagate like human beings; and they die like human beings. Six things are said of human beings: in regard to three, they are like the ministering angels, and in regard to three, they are like beasts. In regard to three, they are like the ministering angels: they have understanding like the ministering angels; and they walk erect like the ministering angels; and they can talk in the holy tongue like the ministering angels. In regard to three, they are like beasts: they eat and drink like beasts; and they propagate like beasts, and they relieve themselves like beasts.
Talmud - Mas. Yevamoth 122a - Is it not possible that it was a demon [that cried]? Rab Judah replied in the name of Rab: [This is a case] where they saw in him the likeness of a man! But they also are in the likeness of men! They saw his shadow. But these also have a shadow!
The Zohar (below) offers more insight into the origin and function of the demonic world. Note that demons also serve God's purpose, but are in great terror of the holy name. Compare this to the reaction of demons who faced Yeshua in the "New Testament" accounts.
These demons are also said to be hidden in an abyss covered by a millstone. Note also the references to the Tabernacle as "mother" and place of the souls (i.e., the Sephirah of Binah). Lastly, compare the reference to Psalm 91 as a prayer against the demonic realm (a hymn of accidents) to Paul's teachings from Ephesians 6 and comments from Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XII:3, shown further below on this page:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 47b-48b - WHICH GOD CREATED TO MAKE: As remembering finds its fulfilment in keeping, so here creating is implemented by making, to establish firmly the work of the world; to make indicates the world's artificer, through whom the whole is carried on. R. Simeon further explained the verse as follows. He said: It is written, Who keepeth the covenant and the kindness (Deut. V, 10). Who keepeth indicates the community of Israel; the covenant indicates the Foundation of the world; kindness indicates Abraham. The community of Israel is that which keeps the covenant and the kindness, and it is called keeper of Israel, and guards the gate of the Whole, and on it depend all the works of the world. This it is which God created to make, i.e. to perfect and finish off the whole, and to bring forth spirits and souls and even spirits and demons. Do not think that these also are not for the good of the world, for they serve for the punishment of the wicked, whom they find out and admonish; for he who proceeds towards the left becomes entangled in the left side, and is set upon by them. Hence they are of use. We read that God said with regard to Solomon, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the plagues of the children of men (II Sam. VII, 14). These plagues of the children of men are the demons. They were created just at the moment when the Sabbath was sanctified. [Tr. note: v. p. 59.] and they were left spirit without body. These are the creatures which were not finished; they are from the left, dross of gold, and because they were not finished and remained defective, the holy name is not mentioned in connection with them, and they do not cleave to it, and are in great terror of it. The holy name does not rest upon anything defective. Hence a man who departs from life defective through not having left a son behind him cannot attach himself to the holy name, and is not admitted within the curtain, because he is defective, and a tree which has been uprooted must be planted over again; for the holy name is perfect on every side, and no defect can attach to it. Those creatures we have mentioned are rejected both above and below, and therefore they have no sure place either above or below. It is these which are meant by the words which God created to make, i.e. they were not made into finished beings either above or below. You may ask, seeing that they are spirits, why were not these beings finished off above? The answer is that they were not finished below on the earth, and therefore they were not.finished above. They all have their origin in the side of the left; they are invisible to men and hover round them to do them mischief. They have three features in common with the angels and three in common with human beings, as has been laid down elsewhere. After they had been created, they were left behind the millstones of the chasm of the great abyss during the night and the day of Sabbath. When the sanctity of the day expired, they came out into the world in their unfinished state and commenced flying about in all directions. They became a great danger to the world, because with them the whole of the left side roused itself and the fire of Gehinnom began to flash, and all the denizens of the left side commenced to roam about the world. They sought to clothe themselves in bodies, but were not able. Hence we require protection against them, and therefore the recital of the hymn of accidents (Ps. XCI) has been prescribed for every occasion when danger is threatened from them. For when the Sabbath is sanctified on Friday evening, a tabernacle of peace descends from heaven and is spread over the world. This tabernacle of peace is the Sabbath, and when it comes down, all evil spirits and demons and all the creatures which defile hide themselves within the orifice of the millstones of the chasm of the great abyss. For when sanctity spreads over the world, the spirit of uncleanliness remains inactive, since the two shun one another. Hence the world is under special protection (on the Sabbath eve), and we do not require to say the prayer who keepeth his people Israel for ever, amen. This prayer has been prescribed for week-days, when protection is needed. But on Sabbath a tabernacle of peace is spread over the world, which is thus sheltered on all sides. Even the sinners in Gehinnom are protected, and all beings are at peace, both in the upper and lower spheres, and therefore we conclude our prayer this day with the words who spreads a tabernacle of peace over us and over all his people Israel and over Jerusalem. (The reason why Jerusalem is mentioned is because it is the abode of the tabernacle.) Thus it behoves us to invite that tabernacle to spread itself over us and to rest upon us and to shield us as a mother shields her children, so that we should feel secure on every side. See now, when Israel by reciting this blessing invite this tabernacle of peace to their homes as a holy guest, a divine sanctity comes down and spreads its wings over Israel like a mother encompassing her children. Then all evil spirits disappear from the world, and Israel are at rest under the sheltering sanctity of their Master. Further, this tabernacle of peace imparts new souls to her children. For souls have their abode in her and issue from her, and so when she comes down and spreads her wings over her children, it sheds a new soul on each one of them. R. Simeon said further: It is on this account that, as we have learnt, Sabbath is a mirror of the future world. For this same reason, too, the Sabbatical year and the Jubilee mirror one another. This additional soul descends from the mystic force implied in the word zachor (remember) upon the tabernacle of peace, being taken from the future world, and the tabernacle gives it to the holy people, who are gladdened by it and enabled to forget all worldly matters and all their troubles and sorrows, thus realising the words of the prophet, on the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy trouble, and from the hard service, etc. (Is. XIV, 3). Therefore on Friday night a man should have a fullcourse meal, to show that this tabernacle of peace has been formed by a union of all principles, provided only that he leaves himself enough for one meal the next day, or, according to others (and this is more correct), for two meals. All the more so, of course, if he has more than enough left for the next day. For children two dishes are enough; [Tr. note: al. Two dishes should be the minimum.] and so the colleagues agreed. The function of lighting the Sabbath light has been entrusted to the women of the holy people: as the colleagues put it, woman put out the light of the world and brought darkness, etc.; and so we agree. There is, however, a more esoteric reason. This tabernacle of peace is the Matron of the world, and the souls which are the celestial lamp abide in her. Hence it behoves the matron to kindle the light, because thereby she is attaching herself to her rightful place and performing her rightful function. A woman should kindle the Sabbath light with zest and gladness, because it is a great honour for her, and, further, she qualifies herself thereby to become the mother of holy offspring who will grow to be shining lights of learning and piety and will spread peace in the world, and she also procures long life for her husband. Hence she should be very careful to observe this ceremony. Observe that the words remember and keep in the commandment of the Sabbath (Ex. XX, 8, and Deut. V, 12). Both apply equally to the day and to the night; nevertheless remember has a more special application to the man and keep to the woman, whose chief observance is at night.
Mark 5:1-8 - And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
The following text from Midrash Rabbah, concerning demons, strongly resembles the advice given by Sha'ul (Paul) in his Ephesians letter. Note the relationship between demons and the Torah, the latter which is defined as the "truth" of God. (See notes on "truth" from chapter 7:1b-17.) Demons set out to disrupt study of Torah as such study is the protection against them. Subsequently, when Torah study in the world is diminished, as is foretold by Scripture and the Hebrew sages, demonic activity will increase, as we see occur in the book of Revelation:
Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XII:3 - I will say of the Lord that He is my refuge -- mahsi (Ps. XCI, 2). This psalm of plagues was composed by Moses while he was making his ascent of Mount Sinai, for he was afraid of the harmful demons. What is the meaning of: I will say of the Lord that He is mahsi? He is my protection ...
... He will protect you for the sake of the Torah which was given with the right hand of the Holy One, blessed be He; as it says, At His right hand was a fiery law unto them (Deut. XXXIII, 2). Under his wings thou shalt take refuge (Ps. XCI, 4). If one comes to take refuge beneath His wings the Holy One, blessed be He, will be unto him. A shield and a buckler (ib.) of truth. What is the exposition of the text: His truth is a shield and a buckler-sohera (ib.)? R. Simeon b. Lakish explained: The Holy One, blessed be He, says, ' I shall forge a weapon for all who trade (soher) in the truth of the Torah. R.Simeon b. Yohai said: The truth of the Torah is the weapon of him who possesses it. R. Simeon b. Yohai further said: The Holy One, blessed be He, gave Israel at Sinai a weapon upon which the Ineffable Name was written. Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night (Ps. XCI, 5), namely of Igrath, daughter of Mahalath, [names of demons] and her chariot, and of any of the demons who hold sway at night. Nor of the arrow that flieth by day (ib.). R. Berekiah explained that there is a kind of demon who flies through the air like a bird, and darts like an arrow.
... Of the pestilence that walketh in darkness (Ps. XCI, 6) implies that if a man's deeds are in the dark the pestilence gains mastery over him. In a like strain it says, Before Him goeth the pestilence, and fiery bolts go forth at his feet (Hab. III, 5). So here too it says, Of the pestilence that walketh in the darkness. Nor of the destruction (keteb) that wasteth at noonday (Ps. Ioc. cit.). Our Rabbis explain that keteb is a demon. And why was he called keteb? R. Abba son of Kahana said: Because he breaks into the daily studies from the beginning of four hours of the day to the end of nine. R. Levi said: Because he robs pupils of their noonday lessons from the end of four hours to the beginning of nine hours. He holds sway neither in the shade nor in the sun but between the shade and the sun.
Ephesians 6:10-17 - As to the rest, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might; put on the whole armour of God, for your being able to stand against the wiles of the devil, because we have not the wrestling with blood and flesh, but with the principalities, with the authorities, with the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, with the spiritual things of the evil in the heavenly places; because of this take ye up the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to resist in the day of the evil, and all things having done -- to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about in truth, and having put on the breastplate of the righteousness, and having the feet shod in the preparation of the good-news of the peace; above all, having taken up the shield of the faith, in which ye shall be able all the fiery darts of the evil one to quench, and the helmet of the salvation receive, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the saying of God.
Regarding the "authority" of the demons in this chapter, the Zohar has this interesting comment as associated with those who teach Torah without proper training and understanding:
Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 5a - Happy are those who devote themselves to the study of the Torah! You should not think, however, that all this applies even to one who is no true scholar. Not so. When one who is a stranger to the mysteries of the Torah makes pseudo-discoveries based on an incomplete understanding, that word rises, and is met by the perverse One, the Demon of the false tongue, who emerges from the cavern of the great abyss and makes a leap of five hundred parasangs to receive that word. He takes it and returns with it to his cavern, and shapes it into a spurious heaven which is called Tohu (chaos). That Demon then traverses in one swoop the whole of that heaven, a space of six thousand parasangs. As soon as that heaven is formed, the Harlot emerges, and lodges herself in it, and joins forces with it, and issuing from thence she slays thousands and tens of thousands. For as long as she is lodged in that heaven she has authority and power to swoop through the world in the twinkling of an eye. This is implied in the words, Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity (Is. V, I8). The word for iniquity, Avon, being of the masculine gender, designates the Demon. In the next part of the verse, and sin, as it were, with a cart rope, the word for sin, hattaah, being of the feminine gender, signifies the female, the Harlot who rushes to execute slaughter on the sons of men. Concerning her we also read, For she hath caused to fall many deadly wounded (Prov. VII, 26), namely, that hattaah (sin) who slays the sons of men. And the ultimate cause is the unripe scholar who is not qualified to teach and yet does so.
Lastly, the following Talmudic text is especially relevant when we view the beginning of this Revelation chapter to the last verse where theft/robbery is mentioned:
Talmud - Shabbath 32b - For the crime of robbery locusts make invasion, famine is prevalent, and people eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, for it is said, Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy.
4 and it was said to them that they may not injure the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but -- the men only who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads,
This verse helps decipher some of the metaphorical language to this point. The text points to grass, green things and trees (of the physical realm) that may not be be injured. On the other hand those who the demons may harm are the unrighteous who do not have the seal of God upon their foreheads. (i.e., seal = truth = Torah = protection from demons. See also reference to Zohar, Bereshith, 104a, in verse 11 below.) We can thus determine that the grass, green things and trees represent the righteous people on earth - those who follow God's Torah (i.e., Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14).
The Zohar comments on the place of Torah in keeping Jerusalem safe from Samael (haSatan). Note how Sha'ul (Paul) in the "New Testament" foretold that "falling away" (Israel's deviation from Torah) would one day come, followed by such judgment:Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 151a - R. Hiya and R. Hizkiah were once sitting underneath a tree in the field of Ono. R. Hiya fell into a slumber and beheld Elijah. He said to him: The whole field is illumined with your presence. Elijah answered: 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".
2 Thessalonians 2:3 - Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
5 and it was given to them that they may not kill them, but that they may be tormented five months, and their torment [is] as the torment of a scorpion, when it may strike a man;
6 and in those days shall men seek the death, and they shall not find it, and they shall desire to die, and the death shall flee from them.
John gives no definitive reason for the time period of five months. An educated guess would be the five months between the first month of Nissan (the month of the spring Feasts) and the seventh month of Tishrei (the fall Feasts). Coincidently(?), the number of days in this five Hebrew month period is 147, which is also the number of years that Jacob lived.
Another possible starting point is the beginning of Nissan, as according to the Zohar, this is the month where evil is "let loose" in the world:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 240b - It was on the first of Nisan that the Tabernacle was reared up, a season when the evil powers are let loose in the world; for in the days of Nisan, as the saying goes, "even when the ox has his head in the fodder basket, go up the roof" [Tr. note T. P. Pesahim, 112.]
The number five is also associated with the amount of time (five hours) that demons are said to interrupt Torah study, as mentioned earlier:
Midrash Rabbah - Numbers XII:3 - Our Rabbis explain that keteb is a demon. And why was he called keteb? R. Abba son of Kahana said: Because he breaks into the daily studies from the beginning of four hours of the day to the end of nine. R. Levi said: Because he robs pupils of their noonday lessons from the end of four hours to the beginning of nine hours. He holds sway neither in the shade nor in the sun but between the shade and the sun.
Midrash Rabbah speaks of the peculiarity of the torment that God will bring upon the nations. As ususal, God's punishment is middah knegged midah, "measure for measure":
Midrash Rabbah - Numbers X:2 - Thine eyes shall behold strange things (Prov. XXIII, 33): in retaliation for the close looks with which the idolaters have scrutinised Israel, the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring upon them strange punishments which shall be rivals to one another, in the same way as they had come upon Israel; as you read, And many evils and troubles shall come upon them (Deut. XXXI, 17), which means evils that are rivals to each other; such as a bee-sting and a scorpion-bite. And thy heart shall utter confused things--tahfukoth (Prov. XXIII, 33): You turn about against them every day--as you read, Surely against me He turneth (yahafok) His hand again and again all the day (Lam. III, 3)--and Israel's mind is deranged by reason of the multitude of sufferings which you cause them. Accordingly the Holy One, blessed be He, will requite them as they deserve, measure for measure; for He will bring upon them such severe punishments that their minds will be deranged and their heart shall utter confused things, and terrors shall come upon them. ' Confused things (tahfukoth) ; as you read, Terrors are turned upon me-hohpak (Job XXX, 15). In the same strain it says, Hark! the Lord rendereth recompense to His enemies (Isa. LXVI, 6); measure for measure. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the heart of the sea (Prov. XXIII, 34); that alludes to Pharaoh, who was drowned in the heart of the sea; as you read, The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea (Ex. XV, 8), and as it says, But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea (Ps. CXXXVI, 15). As in the case of Pharaoh, the Holy One, blessed be He, smote him with ten plagues, in retaliation for the ten things which he had decreed against Israel, and finally drowned him, in retaliation for Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river (Ex. I, 22), so will the Holy One, blessed be He, do to all the idolatrous nations who do evil to Israel; measure for measure.
7 And the likenesses of the locusts [are] like to horses made ready to battle, and upon their heads as crowns like gold, and their faces as faces of men,
8 and they had hair as hair of women, and their teeth were as [those] of lions,
9 and they had breastplates as breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings [is] as the noise of chariots of many horses running to battle;
10 and they have tails like to scorpions, and stings were in their tails; and their authority [is] to injure men five months;
These demons, as with the angels of the Sitra Atra, are under the "authority" of Samael (haSatan). The Zohar refers to them as being like horses when they are active on the earth:
Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Raya Mehemna, Page 43a - Samael and all his groups - these are like clouds to ride upon when He descends to earth: they are like horses.
Spiritual entities are associated with horses and chariots in a number of Tenakh passages, including; 2 Kings 2:11; 6:16-17; Psalm 68:17 and Zechariah 6:1-5.
Scripture, as well as other Hebraic writings, have numerous mentions of hair, moreso for women than for men. (Although the High Priest had to tend to his hair as part of his duties). In the "New Testament," Sha'ul (Paul) makes a point about a woman's hair being covered. Such concerns about a woman's hair are also found throughout Talmud, Midrash Rabbah and the Zohar.
As a woman's hair is associated with her beauty, and thus the passions it arouses in men (a necessary function of life), it has an association with the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) and the the "left side" of the Tree of Life. The Zohar comments on how the Levites, who are also associated with the Left side (not in an "evil" sense of course), are not to let their hair grow long as this brings judgment:
Soncino Zohar, Bemidbar, Section 3, Page 151b - "Take the Levites ..." This indicates that it was needful to cleanse them and draw them on that they might be linked to their own proper place. For they symbolize the Left Arm, identical with the side of Judgement, and whoever proceeds from the side of Judgement ought not to let his hair grow, as he thereby strengthens Judgement in the world. For the same reason a woman may not have her hair exposed to view, but it behoves her to cover her head and keep her hair concealed. When this is done, all those who proceed from the side of Judgement are blessed; and thus is explained the significance of the command saying: "And thus shalt thou do unto them to cleanse them ... and let them cause a razor to pass over all their flesh ..."
Rabbi Pinchas Winston makes the following comment on long hair and "divine judgment"::
"Korach, son of Yitzhar, grandson of Kehas, great-grandson of Levi ..."
(Bamidbar 16:1) What's in a JEWISH name? One can just imagine standing around at a Bris, just as the one honored with the pronouncement of the name of the newly circumcised baby turns to the father to hear the name announced publicly for the first time. "Korach ben Yitzhar, HaLevi." Would that not raise eyebrows? "Korach"? "Bald One?" Perhaps he was hairless at birth, as many babies are. However, is that any reason to give him a name that would remind him of this the rest of his life? Hardly. Perhaps, then, Yitzhar and his wife were prophets and knew something about the future, even though the Jewish people were still gainlessly 'employed' in Egypt, with no hope of redemption?
The Midrash says yes, whether they knew it at the time or not (and it is true of all parents when they give their children Jewish names). For, in last week's parshah, as part of their inauguration ceremony into the Temple service, all the Levi'im were shaven clean. In fact, this is one of the 'events' that so angered Korach's wife that she used it to 'intimidate' her husband into following through with his proposed rebellion. The Arizal explains why: This is why he called him 'Korach' ('Bald One'), because, Korach son of Yitzhar also came from the root of Kayin. Now, he was called 'Korach' because all the Levi'im had been completely shaven bald, because of the strong "din" that was in them. (Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 34)
In other words, the removal of hair from each Levi was more than just a cleansing process; it was also a way of softening a Levi's propensity to be judgmental -- to be din-oriented. For, the Temple was a place of mercy, a place representative of Divine love, not Divine judgment, and this had to be expressed through the very people who performed the Temple service and participated in its upkeep. Now, Kabbalistically, hair (se'ar) represents 'din,' just as barley (se'ora) does, which is why it was the Omer-Offering between Pesach and Shavuos, during which time 24,000 of Rebi Akiva's students died for less than perfect 'social' behavior. Interestingly enough is the fact that Rebi Akiva himself was called 'Korach,' at least as a nickname. 2
In addition to this, the Talmud (Eiruvin 100b), makes it a point to mention that the demon named Lilith, has long hair. The Zohar (Vayikra, Page 19a) states that Lilith's abode is in the depths of the great abyss. Lilith is said to tempt men in the area of sexual sin. (See section on sexual sin in notes to verses 20-21.)
COMPARISON TO JOEL
The book of Joel begins with many parallels to what we have seen in Revelation. The prophet, in speaking of the "Day of the Lord," mentions locusts bringing judgment on the land, "wine, oil, wheat and barley" being in short supply (see notes to Revelation 6:6) and teeth of lions in the context of judgment on Israel. Note also the connection between these "locusts" and "a nation" that has come up upon His land. Joel also speaks of the "meal offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord;" (Daniel 9:27?), and vines, trees and water streams (sources of Torah and God's blessings), drying up:
Joel 1 - The word of the Lord that came to Joel the son of Pethuel. Hear this, you old men, and give ear, all you inhabitants of the land. Has such a thing been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? Tell you your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the cutting locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; which the swarming locust has left, the hopping locust has eaten; and that which the hopping locust has left, the destroying locust has eaten. Awake, you drunkards, and weep; and howl, all you drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation has come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he has the fangs of a lioness. He has laid my vine waste, and splintered my fig tree; he has made it clean bare, and thrown it down; its branches are made white. Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth. The meal offering and the drink offering is cut off from the house of the Lord; the priests, the Lords ministers, mourn. The field is wasted, the land mourns; for the grain is wasted; the new wine is dried up, the oil languishes. Be you ashamed, O you farmers; howl, O you vine dressers, for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field has perished. The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languishes; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, all the trees of the field, are withered; because joy is withered away from the sons of men. Gird yourselves, and lament, you priests; howl, you ministers of the altar; come, lie all night in sackcloth, you ministers of my God; for the meal offering and the drink offering is withheld from the house of your God. Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry to the Lord. Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come. Is not the food cut off before our eyes, joy and gladness from the house of our God? The seed is shrivels under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the grain is withered. How do the beasts groan! The herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yes, the flocks of sheep are made desolate.O Lord, to you I cry; for the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame has burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also to you; for the waters streams have dried up, and the fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.
Joel's end-time prophecy continues, and points out that even in this time of judgment, God seeks people to come to teshuvah (repentance). What is also interesting is the reference to "two rains" given by God. The first one, which comes in "due measure" in the first month (Nissan, according to the religious calendar) and the second, which is the final one coming at Yom Kippur (i.e., the Day of the Lord). This could be associated with the first coming of Yeshua (given in "due measure" as He came as the divine Tzaddik, Messiah ben Joesph, to deal with sin) and His return as Messiah ben David, to deal with salvation and bring in the Kingdom (i.e., Hebrews 9:28). Note also how God refers to the "locusts" that accosted Israel as "His army":
Joel 2 - Blow the shofar in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain; let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord comes, for it is near at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness. Like twilight spread upon the mountains; a great and mighty people; there has never been the like, nor shall be any more after them, through the years of many generations. A fire devours before them; and behind them a flame burns; the land is like the garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness; and nothing escapes them. The appearance of them is like the appearance of horses; and like horsemen they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devours the stubble, like a strong people set in battle array. At their presence the people are in anguish; all faces are covered with blackness. They run like mighty men; they climb the wall like men of war; and they march everyone on his ways, and they do not break their ranks; Nor does one thrust another; they walk everyone in his path; and when they burst through the weapons, they are not wounded. They run to and fro in the city; they run upon the wall, they climb up into the houses; they enter by the windows like a thief. The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble; the sun and the moon are dark, and the stars withdraw their shining; And the Lord utters his voice before his army; for his camp is very large; for he who executes his word is strong; for the day of the Lord is great and very awesome; and who can abide it? Yet even now, says the Lord, turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning; And tear your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents of the evil. Who knows if he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him; a meal offering and a drink offering to the Lord your God? Blow the shofar in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly; Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts; let the bridegroom go out of his room, and the bride out of her chamber. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the vestibule and the altar, and let them say, Spare your people, O Lord, and give not your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord was zealous for his land, and pitied his people. And the Lord answered and said to his people, Behold, I will send you grain, and wine, and oil, and you shall be satisfied with that; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations; But I will remove far off from you the northerner, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the eastern sea, and his rear toward the western sea, and his stench and foul smell shall rise, though he has done great things. Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice; for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, you beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness shall spring, for the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine yield their strength. Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he has given you the first rain in due measure, and he has brought down for you the rain in the first month, the former rain, and the latter rain. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten, the hopping locust, and the destroying locust, and the cutting locust, my great army which I sent among you. And you shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be ashamed. And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else; and my people shall never be ashamed.
The book of "James" (Jacob!) directly associates "two rains" with Yeshua's return:
James 5:7-8 - Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
1. The Way of God, Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, translated and annotated by Aryeh Kaplan, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem, 1997, p. 77.
2. Perceptions, Parsha Korach, Was Korach Bald?, Rabbi Pinchas Winston, http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5761/korach.html
BACK TO THE TEXT INDEX