A medieval Jewish prophecy regarding the coming of Israel's Messiah appears to correspond to the current situation in the Middle East, Israel National News reported at the weekend.
A piece of rabbinic literature known as the Yalkut Shimoni touches on many future scenarios both for the nation of Israel and for the world. In its section on the biblical Book of Isaiah and the prophecies contained therein, a rabbi cited by the Yalkut Shimoni states:
"In the year in which the Messiah-King appears, all the nations of the world are provoking each other. The King of Persia provokes an Arab king and the Arab king turns to Aram for advice."
That description closely mirrors Iran's defiant nuclear program and the tension it is creating with Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia. But what happens next? According to the Yalkut Shimoni:
"The King of Persia goes back and destroys the entire world. And all the nations of the world are in panic and distress and they fall upon their faces and are seized with pains like those of a woman giving birth..."
A recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and that it could probably field such weapons in no more than a year's time. That means diplomatic efforts have failed, and barring a dangerous preemptive strike by Israel and/or America, Iran will obtain nuclear weapons.
Many in the West are now focusing their efforts on downplaying the dangers of a nuclear Iran. They argue that just as the Soviet Union did not use its nuclear weapons against the West, so, too, will Iran show restraint. But such commentaries fail to take into account the deeply ingrained religious ideology of those who rule Iran, who see themselves as the instruments of Allah in ushering in a new golden age for Islam.
What does all this mean for Israel, assuming the Yalkut Shimoni is accurate? The text reads:
"...and Israel are in panic and distress and asking 'where shall we go? Where shall we go?,' and He says to them 'my sons, do not fear; all that I have done, I have done only for you. Why are you afraid? Do not fear, your time of redemption has come, and the final redemption is not like the first redemption, because the first redemption was followed by sorrow and servitude under other kingdoms, but the final redemption is not followed by sorrow and servitude under other kingdoms."
Israel is indeed already showing signs of that panic and distress. Over the past month, Israel has been engaged in tense public debate over whether or not to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, and newspaper spreads have detailed what could happen to the Jewish state both if it attacks and if it does not. Meanwhile, Israel's Home Front Command has been practicing for a massive unconventional missile barrage on Tel Aviv.
It is not known who exactly compiled the Yalkut Shimoni, but the oldest surviving copy dates to around 1310 AD. Many of the rabbis quoted in the Yalkut Shimoni lived far earlier, during the Talmudic era in the first and second centuries AD.