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In general, the term "eschatology" designates the doctrine concerning "the last things." The word "last" can be understood either absolutely as referring to the ultimate destiny of mankind in general or of each individual man, or relatively as referring to the end of a certain period in the history of mankind or of a nation that is followed by another, entirely different, historical period.


The Bible has no word for the abstract idea of eschatology. It does, however, have a term – ʾaḥarit ha-yamim – that often has eschatological connotations, at least in the broad sense mentioned above. It means literally "the end of the days," i.e., "the end of time." Just as the cognate Akkadian term, ina aḥrât ūmī (from the older ina aḥriāt ūmī), often shortened to ina aḥrâti, means simply "in the future" or "for [all] the future," so also the Hebrew term beaḥarit ha-yamim can sometimes mean merely "in the future, in time to come," without necessarily having any eschatological connotation (thus, e.g., Deut. 4:30; 31:29; cf. ʾaḥarit, "a future," in Jer. 29:11; et al.). In the Prophets, however, be-ʾaḥarit ha-yamim generally has an eschatological connotation (see below).

In the last few centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple, a new term with a strictly eschatological meaning in the absolute sense appears. This term, keẓ (qeẓ) ha-yamim, means literally "the term of the days" (Dan. 12:13b; cf. the similar term, ʿet qeẓ "the time of the term," Dan. 8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9).

Some scholars have sought to derive Israelite eschatological ideas from similar concepts of its ancient neighbors, Egypt and Babylonia. At most, there may have been some borrowings from these sources by the Prophets in the secondary details of their descriptions dealing with the horrendous conditions of the eschatological period. More likely, the features for which there are early extra-Israelite parallels were concepts common to the entire ancient Near East. Essentially, eschatology in Israel is an inner-Israelite development. Only in the very later period, i.e., in Daniel and the so-called intertestamental literature of the Jews, can a certain amount of borrowing from Persian sources be shown as probable.

It is difficult to date several eschatological oracles. In certain cases where, for instance, reference is made in a pre-Exilic prophet to Jerusalem as already destroyed and the people of Judah as already in exile, it is legitimate to suggest that such passages are later insertions into the pre-Exilic Prophets. However, when such criteria are lacking, the supposition should normally be that the eschatological oracles in question belong to the pre-Exilic prophet to whom they are attributed.


For the sake of showing how eschatological ideas evolved in ancient Israel, it is useful to consider the preprophetic period, the early prophetic oracles, the later pre-Exilic Prophets, and the Exilic and post-Exilic Prophets.

Pre-Prophetic Period

In the age of the Patriarchs, of Moses and Joshua, and of the Judges, and in the first few centuries of the monarchy there is little evidence of true eschatology. Yet the basis of later Israelite eschatology was really laid down in that early age. From the time of Abraham on, those descendants of his who later called themselves bene Yisrael, "the Israelites," venerated their one and only God as a "living God," i.e., as one who took an active part in the history of His people. They were conscious of the fact that He had made them His "*chosen people." Since He was not only the special God of Israel but also the sole Lord of the entire world, Israelite religion combined a certain "particularism" as the "chosen people" with a certain universalism, which looked forward to their God's reign over all mankind. They regarded Him as a just God, who would reward or punish all men according to their morally good or evil lives. Because of His *covenant with His chosen people, He proves Himself to be faithful and loyal to His promises (thus showing His frequently praised ʾemet or ʾemunah, "faithfulness," and ḥesed, "mercy"); therefore in times of need He sends His people "saviors," such as Moses and Joshua, the various "Judges," and especially David, the ideal mashi'aḥ, "anointed" (see *Messiah) king, who was promised an everlasting dynasty (II Sam. 7:11–16). The hope and expectation that this relationship between the God of Israel and His people would continue in the future led to the genuine eschatology that is found in the books of the so-called "writing" Prophets (as distinct from such earlier prophets as Elijah and Elisha). The essential origin of Israel's eschatology lay in Israel's belief in its election by God as the means by which He would establish His universal reign over all mankind, combined with His promise to Israel of its own land, "the Promised Land," "the land of Canaan," as His pledge guaranteeing this promise.

Early Pre-Exilic Prophets

Among all the prophets of Israel, only the recorded oracles of Amos and Hosea were uttered before the destruction of the Northern kingdom of Israel (722 B.C.E.).


The prophetic activity of *Amos took place in approximately 750 B.C.E., during the brief period of peace and prosperity that both Israel and Judah enjoyed after Jeroboam II, king of Israel (786–746), inflicted a decisive defeat (at an uncertain date) on the Arameans of Damascus (II Kings 14:25–27). This prosperity led to various forms of social injustice, whereby the relatively small class of rich landowners and government officials oppressed the poor, as well as to an indulgence by many of the people of both kingdoms in the degrading practices of their pagan neighbors. With divinely inspired foresight, Amos knew that these evils would bring about a time of crisis when the wrath of God would condemn to inevitable doom (Amos 1:3, 6, 9; et al.) not only the pagan nations (1:3–2:3) but also Judah and especially Israel (2:4–6:14). The prophet based his prediction of Israel's and Judah's punishment on the much older concept of their election by God as His "Chosen People": "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (3:2).

In designating the time of God's future punishment, Amos was the first to call it "the *Day of the Lord" (yom YHWH), a term that was taken up, with further developments of the concept, by many of the later prophets (Isa. 13:6, 9; Ezek. 13:5; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11; 3:4; 4:14; Obad. 15; Zeph. 1:7, 14; Mal. 3:23), with variations such as "the day of the Lord's fury" (Zeph. 1:18), "that Day" (ha-yom ha-huʾ, Isa. 2:11; Zeph. 1:15), or simply "the Day" (ha-yom, Mal. 3:19; cf. Ezek. 7:7). However, Amos did not invent the term; it is clear from his reference to it that it was already in popular use. Its origin is obscure, and at first it may have had a military connotation, "the day of the Lord's victory over the enemies of His people" (cf. the expression "the day of Midian" in Isa. 9:3, where, however, it refers to Israel's victory over the Midianites). In any case, at the time of Amos the common people were using the term to designate the time when their God would bring them complete victory over their enemies and thus lead them into the "light" of lasting peace and prosperity. The prophet turned this expectation of theirs directly against them: "Woe to you that desire the day of the Lord! Wherefore would you have the day of the Lord (YHWH)? It is darkness, not light.… No, the day of the Lord shall be darkness, not light, gloomy, devoid of brightness" (5:18, 20). In 8:9–10 Amos enlarges on this theme: "And on that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in the clear day. And I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness on every head; and I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day." While Amos used the image of a midday eclipse of the sun merely in a figurative sense, the eschatological oracles of later prophets (e.g., Isa. 13:10) developed this image into vast cosmic disturbances, seemingly to be understood literally, that would accompany the Day of the Lord.

Although for Amos the event initiating the new historical era would be primarily one of punishment and destruction, he includes, because he is aware of God's fidelity to His promises, the hope that for those who "seek the Lord" (5:4–6) "it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph" (5:14–15). Here again there occurs the earliest use of a term, "the remnant" (she'erit; see *Remnant of Israel), that was reused and at times received a different connotation in later eschatological writings (Jer. 6:9; 31:7; Ezek. 9:8; et al.; sometimes also in the form sheʾar, Isa. 10:20–21; 11:11, 16; et al.). For Amos it designates those who will survive the destruction of the Northern Kingdom.

In order that the Book of Amos might end on a more positive note of hope, the last verses of the book (9:11–15), concerning the restoration of Israel, were apparently added by a post-Exilic editor. The later origin of this passage seems probable because it presupposes that the Davidic dynasty has come to an end and that the walls of Jerusalem have "breaches" and the city is in "ruins" (9:11).


It is generally agreed that *Hosea, the only "writing" prophet who was a native of the Northern Kingdom, was a contemporary of Amos, although apparently a younger one, for some of his oracles were probably delivered shortly before the fall of Samaria, although none after that date (722 B.C.E.). Like Amos, Hosea inveighed vigorously against the moral evils in Israel. Yet his vehement threats of terrible punishments (Hos. 2:3–7, 16–25; 5:14; 10:14–15; 13:7–8; et al.) are mingled with generous promises of forgiveness and future happiness (2:16–23; 6:1–3; 11:8–9; 12:6; 14:2–9; et al.); this is done with such sudden and confusing transitions that some scholars regard the book as a rather haphazard collection of Hosea's short oracles strung together by some later editor in complete disorder, while others see in this a reflection on the Lord's part of the prophet's own experience with his faithless wife (1:2–9; 3:1–3; cf. McKenzie, in CBQ, 17 (1955), 287–289).

If eschatology is understood in the broad sense of a dramatic change from one historical period to an entirely different one in the future, Hosea no doubt shows genuine eschatological concepts. Some of these, which are original with him, played an important role in later eschatological writings. Such, for instance, is Hosea's concept of renewal of God's love for and covenant with Israel as in the days following the Exodus from Egypt (2:14–15; 11:1). The notable – and seminal – feature of this new covenant is that it has a built-in guarantee against Israel's ever giving cause for its dissolution as it did with the original covenant. With the covenant, Israel will receive a new nature which will render it incapable of breaking it (Hos. 2:21–22; see Jeremiah below). Another notable eschatological concept is the view of a future in which Israel will never again be attacked by human enemies from without and will live in peaceful harmony with all living creatures within its border.

Later Pre-Exilic Prophets

In the second half of the eighth century B.C.E. two prophets, Isaiah and Micah, were active in Judah, and some of their oracles are eschatological in the broad sense described above. Similar eschatological oracles are found in Zephaniah, Nahum, and Jeremiah, who lived about a century later.


The authentic prophecies of *Isaiah, who was active as a prophet from approximately 740 to at least 701 B.C.E., are found in the first 39 chapters ("Proto-Isaiah") of the long book (66 chapters) that is attributed to him; even in the first 39 chapters there are several sections, some rather long (e.g., the eschatologically important "Apocalypse of Isaiah" in 24:1–27:13), that are later additions to the Book of Isaiah. These, as well as "Deutero-Isaiah" (40:1–55:13) and "Trito-Isaiah" (56:1–66:24) – the question of a Trito-Isaiah is still, however, disputed – will be considered below for their eschatological import. Only those oracles with eschatological bearing that are clearly or at least probably from Isaiah or his disciples are treated here.

Isaiah lived at a time of national crisis for Judah: the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727) ravaged and annexed Syria and most of the northern kingdom of Israel, and under Shalmaneser V (727–722) and Sargon (722–705) subdued the rest of Israel and most of the Philistine plain; meanwhile the wicked Ahaz (735–715) and even the pious Hezekiah (715–687), kings of Judah, played the game of international politics rather than trust in help from the Lord. Filled with a deep sense of God's utter holiness by his call to prophesy, Isaiah fulminated against idolatry and general wickedness in Israel and Judah. Many of his vehement threats of the punishment that would come on "the Day of the Lord" have a genuine eschatological ring: they predict universal destruction, not only for Israel and Judah, but also for the pagan nations, especially those who were the "rod of His wrath," and these oracles often have the overtones of cosmic disturbances that became characteristic of later Jewish eschatology. Thus, for instance: "For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty.… And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low; and the Lord alone will be exalted on that day" (2:12, 17); "You will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire. And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel … shall be like a dream, a vision of the night" (29:6–7).

A recurring theme with eschatological implications in Isaiah is that of the "remnant of Israel" (10:21–22; 11:11, 16; 14:30; 28:5; 37:32). To some extent this term implies a threat, as in Amos 5:15 (cf. "only a remnant" in Isa. 10:22), but usually it includes a consoling promise that at least a remnant of the people will be left with whom the Lord will be pleased (cf. "to recover the remnant of His people" in 11:11, and similar phrases in 4:3; 11:16; 28:5). There is no good reason for rejecting these passages as not authentic or for placing them in the Exilic or post-Exilic period, since there is mention of a son of the prophet with the symbolic name of Shear-Jashub (7:3), which means "a remnant shall return." (This, however, occurs in a third person story about the prophet, and its historicity is therefore not technically assured; but see Isa. 6:11–13.)

A new theme in Isaiah is the prospect of a future ideal king of Judah. This occurs in the so-called Immanuel passages, although, apart from its use as an exclamation in 8:8, the name Immanuel, meaning "God is with us," occurs only in 7:14, and the literary form of third person narrative, among other things, raises doubts as to its historicity (see *Immanuel). When King Ahaz of Jerusalem is threatened with war by a coalition of the kings of Israel and Damascus if he does not enter into an anti-Assyrian league, Isaiah urges him to trust solely in the Lord and gives him this sign: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.… Before the child knows how to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted" (7:14, 16). Although the exact meaning of this passage is disputed, it is usually understood as referring directly to Ahaz' son and successor Hezekiah, who is here given the symbolic name "God is with us." Probably 9:5–6 is to be connected with this passage. Here, after singing of joyful peace following a great victory that the Lord has wrought for His people, the prophet continues: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder; and his name will be called Pele-Joez-El-Gibbor-Abi-Ad-Sar-Shalom ["Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace"]; of the increase of his government and of peace there be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this." Finally, connected with these two prophecies is that of 11:1–5: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow forth out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist and faithfulness the girdle of his loins." These passages are quoted here at length because in their description of the future ideal king of Judah, they laid the foundation for the so-called Royal Messianism in the post-Exilic period, an important element in late Jewish eschatology. There is no solid reason for denying the Isaian authorship of these prophecies; even though the pre-Exilic prophets may not have held the kingship of Judah, as they knew it, in high esteem, they must have been aware of the constant tradition based on Nathan's oracle concerning the perpetual endurance of the Davidic dynasty (II Sam. 7:12–16; Ps. 89:20–38; see *Messiah).

Like Hosea 2:20, 23–25, Isaiah describes the peace of the Messianic age as a return to the happiness of the Garden of Eden, where all creatures, wild beasts as well as men, would live in tranquil harmony; "for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (11:6–9).


Contemporaneous with Isaiah, *Micah, a native of Moresheth in Judah, apparently had a much shorter prophetic ministry. Like Isaiah, he looked forward, in a broader eschatological sense, to an ideal ruler (the basis of Royal Messianism) who would be of the Davidic dynasty, coming from David'snative town of Beth-Lehem (5:1–3).

The theme of Mount Zion's eventually becoming the religious center of all mankind, which is further developed in later Jewish eschatology, is first enunciated in a prophecy that is given, in almost identical words, in both Micah 4:1–4 and Isaiah 2:2–4. Some scholars hold that this prophecy is not original in either Micah or Isaiah, but that it was inserted in both books from some common source by a later editor. Yet there is no solid reason for assigning a post-Exilic date to it. Interestingly enough, in the post-Exilic book of Joel, where there is a description of the eschatological war that will be waged between the Lord and His pagan enemies, the classical words of the earlier oracle describing universal peace are turned into the directly opposite sense: "Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears" (Joel 4:10).


The prophet *Zephaniah probably uttered his oracles at about 640–603 B.C.E., in the first decade of the reign of King Josiah of Judah, a turbulent period when the idolatry and general wickedness of the people of Judah, combined with the political folly of Jerusalem's leaders in favoring the declining power of Assyria, led him to believe that "the great day of the Lord is near" (Zeph. 1:14). The bold imagery he used in describing this terrible "day" had much influence on later Jewish eschatological writings. After depicting the destruction of all the wicked on this day of doom (1:2–14), he cries out: "A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on men, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealous wrath, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full, yea, sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth" (1:15–18).

In genuine prophetic tradition, Zephaniah ascribes to the Lord phrases such as "the remnant of My people" and "the survivors of My nation" (2:9), adding "For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall take refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no wrong and utter no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. For they shall pasture and lie down, and none shall make them afraid" (3:12–13). However, the final verses of the book (3:14–20) were probably added to it in the Exile or in the post-Exilic period since they speak of the gathering in of the scattered exiles of Zion.


Although the short Book of *Nahum, as such, consists essentially of a hymn of victory over the fall of Nineveh (612 B.C.E.), this hymn is introduced by an incomplete "alphabetic" psalm (Nah. 1:2–8), in which God's wrath is portrayed in the vivid colors that are later employed in describing the cosmic disturbances accompanying the great and terrible Day of the Lord.


In the broad sense of eschatology as the "end" of a given historical period that would be followed by a very different one, the Book of *Jeremiah, despite its seemingly disturbed sequence of poetic oracles and prose narratives combined with later scribal accretions, can be considered as practically eschatological throughout. Jeremiah clearly foresaw that the kingdom of Judah was doomed, because most of its people refused to give up their evil ways and their political leaders resisted the Babylonians whom God had sent to punish His people. One can almost speak of "realized eschatology" in Jeremiah, since for the prophet the doom was so imminent as to be felt as already present. Sixteen of his oracles begin with the expression hinneh yamim baʾim ("Behold, the days are coming when…"; 7:32; 9:24; 16:14; 19:6; et al.), which for Jeremiah is almost the equivalent of the eschatological term "at the end of days," when the imminent and actual invasion of the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar (cf. 15:1–4; 34:8–22; 37:3–10; et al.) will take place.

Yet even when the situation looked utterly hopeless for Judah, the prophet still believed that in God's mercy a remnant would survive the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (32:1–15), just as he had expected a reprieve for the remnant left in the Northern Kingdom (3:11–18) and a restoration of Judah's exiles taken to Babylonia in the first deportation of 597 B.C.E. (24:1–10). Like Isaiah and Micah a century before his time, Jeremiah looked forward to the continuity of the Davidic dynasty in an ideal king of the future (23:5–6). (In the symbolic name that the prophet gives to the new, ideal king, YHWH ẓidekenu (ẓideqenu) (Heb. יהוה צִדְקֵנוּ), there is most likely an intentional allusion – with obvious inversion – to the name of the last, wicked king of Judah, Zedekiah (Heb. צִדְקִיָּהוּ).) Moreover, Jeremiah, obviously inspired by Hosea 2:21–22, foresaw that Israel's reestablishment would entail a renewal of the ancient Sinaitic covenant in such a way that it would bring about a true change of heart, a new, interior spirituality (31:31–34).

Exilic and Post-Exilic Prophets

During the Babylonian exile and in the centuries that followed the gradual return of the Jewish exiles to the land of Israel until the latest writings in the Bible, important developments took place in Jewish eschatological thought. This can be seen especially in the writings of Ezekiel, the so-called Deutero-Isaiah (Isa. 40:1–55:13), the so-called Trito-Isaiah (Isa. 56:1–66:24), Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, Joel, the so-called Deutero-Zechariah (Zech. 9:1–14:21), the author of the so-called Apocalypse of Isaiah (Isa. 24:1–27:13), and finally in the Book of Daniel.


Since it can rightly be said that the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E. formed the climactic turning point, not only in the political history of ancient Israel but also in its religious orientation, the prophet *Ezekiel is unique in many ways, particularly as he prophesied before that destruction (although already in Babylonia), as well as during the first few decades of the Jewish exile in Babylonia, where he had been taken in the first deportation of Jews by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C.E. He shows a more intense sense than the older prophets both of the imminence of God's punitive judgment on the pagan nations (Ezek. 25:1–32:32) and of the restoration of God's chosen people to a holier state than before.

For Ezekiel, Judah's restoration would be almost as miraculous as the resurrection of the dead to life, which is illustrated in his well-known vision of the valley filled with dead men's bones that took on flesh and came back to life (37:1–14). Although the new religious life of Judah would be essentially based on a sincere inner conversion to the Lord (11:19–20; 36:26–27), it would be centered on an elaborately described worship in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem; this holy city, with its new symbolic name of "The-Lord-Is-There," would be in the center of the new land of Israel, with six of the twelve tribes of Israel living in parallel geographic strips to the north of it, and the other six in similar strips to the south (40:1–48:35).

Now that Judah no longer had its own king, Ezekiel kept alive the ancient expectation of a continuance of the Davidic dynasty – the basis of later messianism. However, for this prophet, Judah's future ruler as the Lord's viceroy would have the title of only "prince" (nasi, anciently "a tribal chief "), not "king" (44:3; 45:17; et al). He would be a true shepherd of the Lord's flock (34:11–24). Chastened Israel, though now scattered throughout the world, would be the Lord's means of establishing His reign over all the earth, and would thus fulfill the promise He made to the Patriarchs (36:1–38). A diligent elaborator of Jeremiah motifs, he conceived in his own way the motif of a change in Israel's nature – "a new heart and a new spirit," with variations (11:17–20; 16:60; 36:24–28) – which would guarantee the new covenant against dissolution as in the case of the first. However, he stresses in his inimitable manner (36:20–23, 29–31) the principle first clearly enunciated in I Samuel 12:22, according to which God's motive is not compassion for undeserving Israel, but His own prestige, since His name, because it is associated with Israel, is discredited in the eyes of the nations by Israel's misfortunes. That is why, even after proving that he is able to restore Israel to its land, He will further "prove Himself great and holy" in the eyes of the nations (38:23) by demonstrating through Gog and Magog that He is able to prevent their being subjugated again (39:22–29).

The fantastic word pictures drawn by Ezekiel, which he used directly only for describing eschatology in the broad sense, e.g., that of *Gog and Magog who represented for the prophet the hostile pagan nations of his time (38:1–39:20), were destined to find many echoes in later Jewish writers, who reused them in depicting their eschatology in the strict sense – the "end" of the world as men knew it.


The anonymous writer who composed Isaiah 40:1–55:13 and to whom modern scholars have given the name "Deutero-Isaiah" (the "Second Isaiah") is generally believed to have prophesied in the last years preceding the conquest of Babylon by the Persians under Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C.E. Just as the prophet knew that the Lord had used the pagan kings of Assyria and Babylon to punish His sinful people according to the predictions of the earlier prophets (Isa. 1:21–31; Jer. 7:1–15; Ezek. 22:1–22), so he foresaw that the Lord would use the pagan king of Persia as His "anointed one" (cf. Isa. 44:28; 45:1 with Jer. 25:9; 27:6; 43:10) to liberate repentant Judah from its captivity. The prophet's preaching, therefore, is almost entirely one of consolation for his afflicted fellow exiles. From an eschatological viewpoint, Deutero-Isaiah is important for his clear perception of God's plan in directing man's history on earth; the Lord alone prearranged this history from beginning to end (Isa. 41:22–23; 42:8–9; 46:8–13; et al.). The prophet treats this history of man on a cosmic scale; the restoration of Judah is to be a "new creation" for all mankind as well as for the Jews (41:17–20; 42:5–7; 43:1; 45:8). This plan of God for the world's salvation would be carried out by the *Servant of the Lord (ʿeved YHWH), who both personifies Israel (49:3) and has a mission for Israel (49:5–6); his sufferings atone for man's sins, but his glorious exaltation brings peace and salvation to the world (52:13–53:12). With Deutero-Isaiah there begins a more transcendent concept of eschatology; climactic events in history are viewed not so much as the beginning of a new historical era brought about by human means, but rather as a transformation of the world on a cosmic scale produced by God's extraordinary intervention in man's history.


When Zerubbabel, the grandson of King Jehoiachin of Judah, was appointed governor of the small Persian province of Judah, the prophets *Haggai and *Zechariah temporarily saw him as the one who could continue the Davidic dynasty (Hag. 2:20–23; Zech. 4:6–7; 6:9–14 (emending "Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest," to "Zerubbabel" in v. 11; cf. "the Shoot" in 3:8)); thus they kept alive the messianic expectation in Judah. Moreover, the strange type of symbolism that first appears in Zechariah 1:7–2:13 and 5:1–6:8, connected with the concept of an incredibly enlarged Jerusalem (Zech. 2:5–9), was later reechoed in the eschatological imagery of Daniel and the later Jewish writers.

The book that bears the title *Malachi ("my messenger"), apparently borrowed from Malachi 3:1, was probably written about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (second half of the fifth century B.C.E.). This prophet predicts that the Lord will come to His temple preceded by His messenger, and will hold His Day of Judgment against the wicked (Mal. 3:1–6). In what is generally considered to be a later addition to the book, this messenger is identified with "Elijah the prophet [coming] before the great and terrible day of the Lord" (3:23). Since on the basis of II Kings 2:11 it was commonly assumed that Elijah never died, a popular belief, later elaborated on in Jewish writings, held that he would return to earth as the precursor of the *Messiah (cf. Matt. 11:14; 16:14; Mark 9:11–13; Luke 1:17; John 1:21; et al.).


A terrible plague of locusts (Joel 1:2–20) was seen by the prophet *Joel, who probably prophesied between 400 and 350 B.C.E., to have eschatological significance in that it symbolized the forces hostile to God on "the day of the Lord…, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains …" (2:1–17). Yet the Lord would be victorious over His enemies (4:1–16) and bring salvation and blessings to His chosen people (2:18–3:5). This is eschatology in the strict sense, involving cosmic disturbances as the initiation of the new, transcendent era (3:1–4).

In the verse in which Joel has God say: "I will gather all the nations, and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of My people and My heritage Israel…" (4:2), the term "valley of Jehoshaphat" has no geographic significance; it merely means "the place where the Lord judges." Later tradition identified it with the Kidron Valley to the east of Jerusalem, and consequently this valley and The Mount of Olives to the east of it became a favorite burial place, where one would be at hand at the resurrection of the dead for general judgment on the Last Day.


The last six chapters of the Book of Zechariah (9:1–14:21) differ in so many respects from the first eight chapters that many modern scholars attribute them to a later writer (or even to two later writers – one for 9:1–11:17, and another for 12:1–14:21), who apparently lived some time between Joel (c. 400–350 B.C.E.) and Ben Sira (c. 180 B.C.E.). Rejoicing over the fall of Syria and the coastal cities of Palestine (9:1–8), perhaps as the victorious army of Alexander the Great advanced toward Egypt in 332 B.C.E., the prophet saw in their fall a sign of the imminent coming of the Messiah as a prince of peace: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble, and riding on an ass …" (Zech. 9:9). In describing the new, transcendent era, the prophet develops the symbolic language of the older prophets, especially that of Ezekiel, but it already has more of the fantastic imagery that is characteristic of *apocalyptic literature. A theme that later receives further development is that of the sufferings that God's people must still endure (14:1–2, 13–14a) before "the Lord will become King over all the earth" (14:9).


Many scholars hold that the last 11 chapters of the Book of Isaiah (56:1–66:24) form a unit quite distinct from both Proto-Isaiah (1:1–39:8) and Deutero-Isaiah (40:1–55:13). This section probably consists of a collection of writings composed by different men at various times in the post-Exilic period (even though 57:3–13a may possibly be of pre-Exilic origin). From an eschatological viewpoint, the passages in Isaiah 60:1–62:12; 65:17–25; 66:7–17, depicting the glory of the new Jerusalem and the joy of all the earth, and the passage in 66:18–21, describing the gathering of all the nations of the earth for God's final judgment on mankind, are of particular importance. (On the bearing of the "unquenchable fire" (66:24), together with Jer. 7:30–8:3; 19:6; 31:40, for the later eschatological concept of the eternal fire of Gehenna, see below.)


Isaiah 24:1–27:13 is so different from the rest of Isaiah that it seems to have been written by some anonymous prophet distinct from all the other prophets whose prophecies have been gathered together in the large compilation now known as the Book of Isaiah. The hymns of praise (24:14–16a), thanksgiving (25:1–12), and supplication (26:1–19) that are interspersed among the various prophecies of doom and blessing suggest that this section once formed a sort of "liturgy." Nowhere in the section is there any reference or even allusion to an historical event that could be used for dating the composition. Yet in the descriptions of the devastation of the entire world (24:1–13), of the concomitant cosmic disturbances (24:19–23a), and the salvation of the "remnant" (26:20–21), the style and language are so similar to later apocalyptic writings that this section is commonly called "the Apocalypse of Isaiah," and the date of its composition is generally placed not long before the composition of the genuinely apocalyptic chapters in the Book of Daniel. Concepts that play a large role in the later apocalyptic writings, such as the eschatological banquet (Isa. 25:6) and the resurrection of the dead (26:19, perhaps to be understood here in the literal sense as distinct from the symbolic resurrection of the dead, signifying national resurrection, in Ezek. 37:1–14) appear here for the first time (see the Book of *Isaiah).


The first section of the Book of *Daniel is a compilation of six (or five, the first being merely introductory) aggadic stories about Daniel and his three companions, who are presented as living in Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E., toward the end of the Neo-Babylonian empire and the beginning of the empire of the Medes and Persians (Dan. 1:1–6:29); the second section contains four visions or revelations (7:1–12:13) that Daniel is said to have received and which foretell the history of the Near East from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (605–562 B.C.E.), to that of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of Syria (175–164 B.C.E.). This compilation was made in its present form shortly before the death of Epiphanes, at a time when Judaism in Palestine was suffering a severe crisis both from defection toward pagan Hellenism from within, and from violent persecution from without by Epiphanes to make the Jews forsake their ancient religion.

The older aggadic stories were retold in the book for the sake of encouraging faithful Jews to withstand persecution; as the Lord had come to the rescue of Daniel and his companions, so also would He intervene in the present crisis by putting an end to the pagan empires and establishing His reign over all the earth by means of His chosen people, for He is the Lord of history, who "changes times and seasons; he removes kings, and sets up kings" (2:21).

The second half of the book (7:1–12:13) contains the earliest preserved form of apocalyptic literature in the strict sense, a type of writing that was frequently imitated and developed by Jews at least until the destruction of the Second Temple. This type of writing, in brief, purports to be a revelation (Greek apocalypsis, literally an "uncovering") of the future, especially the final destiny of the world, which was given to some ancient worthy centuries or even millennia earlier, but was left "hidden" (Gr. apocryphon – hence many of these writings are called "*apocrypha") until the present time of crisis.

Persian influence on the apocalyptic writings can be seen, not only, e.g., in their more elaborate *angelology, but especially in their division of history into various distinct eras or "monarchies." The Persians divided their history of the world into three "monarchies": the Assyrian, the Median, and the Persian. In the Hellenistic period a fourth "monarchy" was added – their own Greek "kingdom," which as far as Palestine was concerned, consisted of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty in Syria, with the capital at Antioch. The Jews adapted this four-monarchy theory of history to their own situation by substituting the Babylonian empire (as better known to them) for the Assyrian empire, and by adding a fifth "kingdom" – the universal reign of God on earth, based on His chosen people, Israel. This last kingdom would be "an everlasting kingdom" (3:33) – a concept that is eschatology in the strict sense. In Daniel this view of world history is presented in two places: first, in the aggadic story of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the gigantic statue made of four different materials (symbolizing the four successive pagan empires), that was smashed by a rock hewn without hands from a mountain, which itself "became a great mountain and filled the whole earth," the kingdom of God, "which shall never be destroyed…, and it shall stand for ever" (2:31–45); secondly, in the apocalypse of chapter 7, where four beasts (each with a characteristic number to show the number of rulers) representing the four successive pagan empires are destroyed by God, and in their place "one like a son of man" receives from the Lord "dominion, and glory, and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (7:13–14).

In Daniel, the "one like a son of man" (a Semitism meaning simply "one like a human being") is a symbol, as stated explicitly, representing "the people of the saints of the Most High" (7:27); that he "came with the clouds of heaven" (7:13), i.e., had his origin from God, is said primarily to contrast him with the four great beasts that "came up from the sea" (7:3), i.e., from the realms of chaos (cf. Gen. 1:2). However, as will be shown below, this purely symbolic figure of "one like a son of man" was soon regarded as a real person, the Messiah.

Daniel contains the first unequivocal affirmation of a belief in the eschatological resurrection of the dead: "There shall be a time of trouble…; and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (12:1–2). This does not necessarily imply a universal resurrection of all mankind at "the end of the world"; the expression "many of those" hardly means "all men, numerous as they are." But it does offer a solution to the age-old problem of divine retribution, why the just suffer and the wicked seem to prosper in this life. The Book of Job struggled in vain with this problem; yet even the well-known passage in Job 19:25–27, where the text itself is not clear, seems merely to have the sufferer reassert his firm belief that God would some day vindicate Job's righteousness. Belief in the resurrection of the dead may have been adumbrated in the "Apocalypse of Isaiah" (Isa. 26:19; see above) and in the pious hope of the Psalmist (Ps. 73:23–26), yet it appears in Daniel 12:1–2 with startling suddenness. Perhaps there is some influence here from the Zoroastrian religion of the Persians, which had such a belief. However, the occasion for the expression of this belief in Israel was apparently due to Israel's conviction, on the one hand, of God's justice in rewarding the good, and on the other hand the martyrdom of so many innocent Jews in Antiochus Epiphanes' persecution.

Another important trait in the eschatology of Daniel is the attempt by the author of the apocalypse contained in chapter 9 to show that "the end" was to come in the near future; he does this by interpreting the 70 years of exile that had been foretold by Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11; 29:10) to mean 70 weeks of years or 490 years, and to argue from this by his own strange chronology that only three and a half years still remained before the end would come. The author may well have been the compiler of the entire book, for the references to the remaining three and a half years before "the end" in the other apocalypses (7:25b; 8:14; 12:7) seem to be insertions made by him. Later on, additions were made to the book in 12:11 and 12:12, in order to lengthen the period of waiting when the earlier predictions failed to be fulfilled.


Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

Certain Jewish writings that were composed after the completion of the latest book of the Hebrew Bible (probably Daniel, c. 165 B.C.E.) and before the completion of the books of the New Testament are commonly referred to as the "intertestamental literature." With the exception of some fragments that have been found at *Qumran, these writings have been preserved in Greek (or in secondary translations made from the Greek), although most of them were originally written not in Greek but in Hebrew or Aramaic. None of these books is included in the Jewish or Protestant canon; but seven of them, which are found in the *Septuagint, are included in the Bible of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. These seven books – Tobit, Judith, Baruch, I and II Maccabees, the Wisdom of Ben Sira, and the Wisdom of Solomon – are called "deuterocanonical" (i.e., belonging to the "second canon") by the Catholics; Protestants call them "the *Apocrypha," and the rest, "the Pseudepigrapha." Some of these books – the Ethiopic and the Slavonic Books of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Ezra, the Syriac and the Greek Apocalypses of Baruch, the Jewish Sibylline Oracles, etc. – are primarily apocalyptic and of prime importance for the eschatological concepts of the period in question. However, even the pseudohistorical writings (Jubilees, Life of Adam and Eve, Ascension of Isaiah, etc.) and the moral-didactic writings (Wisdom of Solomon, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Psalms of Solomon, etc.) provide much information concerning eschatological ideas of the Jews in the last two centuries before, and the first century after, the destruction of the Second Temple. Almost all the intertestamental writings have come down in copies or translations made by Christian scribes, who often interpolated new passages containing Christian concepts into the older original Jewish compositions. However, it is generally not difficult to discern which passages are Christian interpolations.


Although Jewish eschatology, including that of the intertestamental literature, was always theocentric, i.e., concerned basically with the ultimate triumph of God and His justice, it combined this with certain preliminary events that would precede the establishment of God's universal reign over all mankind on "the Day of the Lord." Chief among these preliminary events would be the reign of the *Messiah (I En. 45:3; 105:2; 28:29; 13:32–35; 14:9). Not only from the intertestamental writings but also from Josephus (Wars, 2:6, 12; Ant., 13:9) and the New Testament (Matt. 23:23–24; etc.), it is clear that in the last two centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple and even in the succeeding generations, e.g., at the time of the revolt of Bar Kokhba (132–135 C.E.), belief in the imminent coming of the Messiah was widespread in Judaism. During that period more than one contender arose to claim the title of Messiah (cf. Acts 5:36; 12:38). The intertestamental literature naturally reflects this belief, but not always in a uniform fashion.

Some of these writings speak of certain personages who would precede the coming of the Messiah. On the basis of Deuteronomy 18:15 ("A prophet will the Lord thy God raise up into thee…, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken"), some of the apocalyptic writers of this period predicted that a special prophet, or even Moses himself, would come to prepare the way for the Messiah. Jeremiah, "a friend of his brethren, who prays much for his people and for the holy city" (II Macc. 15:14) and highly respected by the Jews of the period, was sometimes identified with this precursor of the Messiah. However, the chief candidate for the office of the precursor of the Messiah was the prophet Elijah, in keeping with the oracle of Malachi 3:23–24; by his miracles and his preaching he would reform the people and make them ready to receive the Messiah (cf. e.g., Ecclus. 48:10–11).

Reckoning Eschatological Times

In imitation of the attempts made in Daniel to calculate the time remaining before "the end of time" (cf. Ass. Mos. 1:18; IV Ezra 3:14), the apocalyptic writers of the intertestamental period devised various methods for reckoning "the times of the Messiah," Yemot ha-Mashiah. Jubilees, for instance, divided the history of the world into a great number of "jubilees" (period of 50 years each) in order to establish when "the end" would come. Other writings divided the history of the world into 12 periods of 400 years apiece (IV Ezra 14:11; Test. Patr., Abraham A 19, B 7; Life of Adam and Eve 42). Some reckoned by millennia and maintained that the reign of the Messiah itself would last for a thousand years, referring to "the Messianic millennium," a period of peace and happiness on earth before the final Day of the Lord.

Birth Pangs of the Messiah

In general, the intertestamental literature depicts the period preceding the coming of the Messiah as one of terrible distress: plagues and famine, floods and earthquakes, wars and revolutions, accompanied by such cosmic disturbances as the darkening of the sun and the moon and the falling of the stars from the sky. In part, these ideas were derived from contemporary events, such as the dispersion and persecutions suffered by the people of Israel, and in part from the descriptions of the Day of the Lord found in the writings of the earlier prophets. The purpose of these terrifying pictures was to encourage the faithful in Israel to bear their afflictions patiently as God's will for them, for only when the cup of evil was filled to the brim would the Messiah come to bring salvation. These sufferings, therefore, are commonly called "the pangs of the Messiah," ḥevlo shel Mashiaḥ, meaning that Israel, like a mother, was to bring forth the Messiah in the pangs of childbirth.

On the basis of Ezekiel 38:1–39:20, the pre-messianic wars are presented as the Lord's fight against Gog and Magog, symbols of the powers of evil in the world. The leader of these evil forces bears such names as Satan, Belial (or Beliar), Maste Din (or Mastema), and (in the Greek versions) the Anti-Christ. However, it should be noted that this pre-messianic warfare is to be understood primarily as a spiritual, not a military, one; and the Lord's use of Israel in establishing His reign over all mankind is not intended to imply an Israelite political empire.

Son of Man

Besides such titles as "savior" and "redeemer," which are given to the expected Messiah in the intertestamental writings, a special title is given to him in the (Ethiopic) Book of Enoch (I En.; written shortly after Daniel) and in the Apocalypse of *Ezra (IV Ezra; written c. 30 years after the destruction of the Second Temple), that of the "son of man." This title is clearly borrowed from Daniel 7:13. Although in Daniel the term is purely symbolic (see above), the intertestamental books use it in reference to an actual person, the Messiah. According to these writings, the "son of man," who stands "at the throne of God" in heaven, existed "before the sun and the stars were created" (I En. 46:1–3); he will bring salvation at the end of the ages, when he will be enthroned as king of the world (IV Ezra 13:26).


The apocalyptic writings after Daniel (though in this book the terms themselves are not used) divide the time after God's great eschatological interventions as "this (present) time" (olam ha-zeh) and "the time to come" (olam ha-ba, lit. "the coming time"; cf. I En. 23:1; IV Ezra 7:30, 43; Test. Patr., Abraham 19, B 7). It is only in the latter period – the eschatological period in the strict sense – that full retribution for good and evil is meted out by God to every man.


Israel always had firm faith in the Lord's justice, in His rewarding the good and punishing the wicked. However, in Israel there was a definite development of this concept in two important points: (1) from collective responsibility and retribution to individual responsibility and retribution, and (2) from full retribution in man's mortal life to full retribution only "in the world to come (*olam ha-ba)," i.e., after man's death.

Although even in the oldest periods of biblical theology Israel often expressed the belief that God rewards and punishes each man according to his own deeds (cf. e.g., I Sam. 26:23), as can be seen in the numerous cases of divine punishment meted out to individual sinners (Cain, Lot's wife, Miriam, Er and Onan, etc.) and as frequently stressed in the wisdom literature, in pre-Exilic Israel the emphasis was placed primarily on collective retribution; the whole group (family, tribe, nation) was responsible for the deeds of its members. It was Ezekiel in particular who shifted the concept of divine retribution from a collective to an individual one (cf. especially Ezek. 18; Jer. 31:29–30 is probably a later addition, borrowed from Ezek. 18:2–3). However, the principle that every man is rewarded or punished in this life for his good or evil deeds seemed to be contradicted by ordinary experience; and the problem of why the innocent suffer and the wicked prosper in this life, as presented especially in *Job, appeared to be an insoluble mystery, best left to God's wisdom.

Resurrection of the Dead

A solution to this problem was finally found in the belief of the resurrection of the dead (teḥiyyat ha-metim), i.e., in the notion that the dead would come back to life, both in body and in soul, on the Day of the Lord. The earliest clear expression of this belief is in Daniel 12:12, and subsequently it was often expressed by many writers of the intertestamental literature (II Macc. 7:9, 11, 14, 23; 12:43; 14:46; Jub. 23:30; Test. Patr., Men. 98:10; IV Ezra 7:29–33; etc.). Some of these writings speak of all men, good and bad alike, rising from the dead for judgment on the Day of the Lord; others maintain that only the just will rise to life, since the condemnation that the wicked receive at God's tribunal can scarcely be called "life" (so apparently even in Dan. 12:2). Moreover, some of the apocalyptic writings (e.g., II En. 66:5) speak of two resurrections: the first only of the just, at the beginning of the Messianic millennium; the second of the wicked, at the final Day of the Lord, which is for the wicked a "second death."

A special concept of a future life immediately after death is seemingly found in the Wisdom of *Solomon, a Greek composition (c. 75 B.C.E.) by an Alexandrian Jew, who was influenced by the Greek philosophical concept of the immortality of the human soul (cf. Wisd. 3:1–9). Yet the author of this work really follows the common Hebrew concept of life as truly human only when man's body and soul are united.

In the last two centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple the *Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead, whereas the *Sadducees did not (Jos., Ant., 18:14; Wars, 2:14; cf. also Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8).

Until the last two centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple the Jews retained the ancient Israelite concept of *Sheol, the dark abode in the nether world of all the dead, good and bad alike (thus still Ben Sira: e.g., Ecclus. 14:16; 28:21; 51:6, 9). However, when the concept of individual retribution after death developed in Judaism during this period, the concept of Sheol underwent various changes in the different intertestamental writings. According to some of these writings there are various levels in Sheol (e.g., six: IV Ezra 7:36–37), so that even before the resurrection of the dead the wicked are tormented in various degrees in Sheol's lower levels, whereas the good enjoy bliss in its highest level. According to other writings Sheol is replaced by *Gehinnom (Gehenna), the place where the damned are in torment, whereas the just, either immediately after death or only at the resurrection, have the delights of an eschatological *Garden of Eden or Paradise.


The word "Gehenna" is the Greek form of the Aramaic Gehinnom for the Hebrew Ge (Bene) Hinnom ("the Valley of (the sons of) Hinnom"), the ravine in the south of ancient Jerusalem (Josh. 15:8; 18:16). Since it had been defiled by being the site of the Topheth worship of Molech (II Kings 23:10; Jer. 32:35; etc.), Jeremiah cursed the place and predicted that, at the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, this valley would be filled with the corpses of the city's inhabitants, to be burned there and rot like "dung upon the face of the earth" (Jer. 7:32–8:3; 19:6; 31:40). Trito-Isaiah (Isa. 66:24) clearly alludes to these sayings in Jeremiah, even though he does not use the word "Gehenna," when he speaks of the eschatological punishments of the wicked: "And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have rebelled against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence unto all flesh."

The intertestamental writings add further gruesome details to the torments suffered by the wicked in this fiery pit, where their bodies burn eternally, although, incongruously, they are, at the same time, rotting away with worms and maggots (cf. IV Ezra 7:36; I En. 27:2; 48:9; 54:1; 90:26–27; 103:8; Ass. Mos. 10:19;II Bar. 85:12–13).

Eschatological Paradise

The term "paradise" is from the Greek word that the Septuagint uses to translate the Hebrew term, Gan Eden ("the Garden of Eden"). Since the earlier prophets had depicted, in figurative terms, the eschatological bliss of "the new earth" as a return to the original peace and joy of the Garden of Eden before Adam's sin (cf. Isa. 11:6–9; 51:3; Ezek. 36:35), the intertestamental writers call the place where the righteous are to enjoy endless bliss "the Garden of Eden" (IV Ezra 4:7; 7:36, 123; 8:52;II En. 42:3; 65:10). It is not identical with "heaven" as God's abode. But just as Gehenna is pictured as having several levels, one lower than the other, so the eschatological paradise has at least three levels (I En. 8), one higher than the other, the uppermost being nearest to God's abode in heaven. As in the case of Gehenna, so also in regard to the eschatological paradise there is inconsistency in these writings concerning the time when the just enter this place of paradisiacal bliss, whether immediately after death, or only at the resurrection.

One of the features of the eschatological paradise, at least during the "messianic millennium," is the participation in the messianic banquet (based on Isa. 25:6; cf. the Qumran literature below, and Matt. 8:11). A special privilege at this banquet in the world to come is to be seated at the side of Abraham (Test. Patr., Abraham 20; cf. Luke 16:26; the poor man Lazarus in "Abraham's bosom").

Dead Sea Scrolls

The writings composed by the *Essene community that lived at Qumran from approximately 150 B.C.E. to 68 or 70 C.E., generally called "the *Dead Sea Scrolls," can from a merely chronological viewpoint be classified with the intertestamental literature; yet, because of their unique importance for revealing the specifically Essene concepts of eschatology, they are here given separate treatment.


The presumably Essene community of Jews that had its headquarters at the site now known as Khirbat Qumrān, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, was very concerned with eschatology. Its life was organized by austere rules, especially by an exact observance of the various precepts of the Torah, particularly those concerning ritual purity, so that this would hasten the coming Day of the Lord and, at the same time, make the members of the community ready to stand at God's awesome tribunal on that day. They lived in the barren Desert of Judah, not merely because they had fled from Jerusalem and its Temple on account of what they considered the illegitimacy of the Hasmonean high priests and their successors who were appointed by the conquering Romans, but more particularly because they thus sought to carry out literally the command (originally intended merely in a metaphorical sense) of Isaiah 40:3: "Clear ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord" (cf. 1QS 8:12–14; 9:19). They were convinced that they were living "at the end of the era of wickedness" (CD 6:10, 14; 12:23; 14:19), which was soon to be followed by "the era of (divine) favor" (1QH 15:5). They believed that they were living in the "last days" foretold long ago by the ancient prophets; and, therefore, they held that their anonymous founder, whom they called the Moreh Ẓedek "Teacher of Righteousness" (probably to be understood as "the right teacher," i.e., the one who explained the Torah correctly), had been raised up by God "to make known to the later generations what He would do in the last generation" (CD 11:12). Their pesher ("commentary") on Habakkuk 2:1–2 says: "Its interpretation concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known all the secrets of the words of His servants the prophets" (1QpHab 7:4–5). The Qumran community apparently expected "the end" to come 40 years after the death of their founder (CD 20:14–15), during which period the wicked in Israel would be destroyed by God (CD 20:15–16). However, when the members of the community were disappointed in the nonfulfillment of this expectation, they admitted that only God knows when the end will come. So the writer of the pesher on Habakkuk 2:3a says: "Its interpretation is that the final end may be prolonged, indeed longer than anything of which the prophets spoke, for the secrets (or mysteries) of God are for wondrous fulfillment" (1QpHab 7:7–8). The interpreter, therefore, says on Habakkuk 2:3b: "Its meaning concerns the men of truth, who carry out the Law (Torah) and do not let their hands grow too weak to serve the truth, despite the final end being long drawn out; for all the limits set by God will come in their due time, as He has set for them in His mysterious wisdom" (1QpHab 7:10–14).


Before "the end" there will be, according to the Qumranites, a great eschatological war, waged not only against the powers of evil but also against all wicked men, not excluding the wicked of Israel. In fact, the Qumranites placed in the latter class all the Jews who did not belong to their community. They alone were "the remnant of Israel" (CD 1:4–5), God's "chosen ones" (1QM 8:6). They called themselves "the Sons of Light"; all others were "the Sons of Darkness." This ethical dualism, perhaps influenced by Persian thought (though not foreign to the older Hebrew Scriptures), is typical of Qumran theology: "He [God] created man to rule the world, and He set for him two spirits by which he would walk until the appointed time of His visitation; these are the spirits of truth and perversity" (1QS 3:17–19).

The eschatological war, besides being referred to in other Qumran writings, is described at great length and in great detail in a fairly well-preserved scroll of 19 columns to which the title "The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness" has been given. This document is a strange mixture of sound military tactics combined with idealistic warfare, in which God and His angels fight on the side of the Sons of Light against Belial (Satan) and his evil spirits, who come to the aid of the Sons of Darkness. The good fight is waged also against Gog and Magog (cf. Ezek. 38:1–39:20), here merely symbols of the powers of evil. It seems, therefore, that this eschatological war is to be viewed as waged on a transcendental plane, despite the elaborate rules based on mundane battles; the Essenes of Qumran, like their predecessors the Hassideans of Hasmonean times (cf. I Macc. 7:13–17; and perhaps Dan. 11:34), were not militarists. They trusted more in the power of God than in the force of arms. In the end God would be victorious, and then the messianic age would begin.


The "Teacher of Righteousness" did not regard himself, nor did his disciples regard him, as a Messiah. In fact, there is little messianism in the earliest Qumran documents. However, when the 40 years had elapsed after the death of their founder and "the end" had not yet come, the Qumran writers speak more often of the ultimate salvation that would come with the appearance of the Messiah: "the coming of the prophet and the Messiahs (meshiḥe – note the plural) of Aaron and Israel" (1QS 9:11; cf. 4QTestestimonia).

For the Jews of that time the Hebrew term, ha-Mashi'aḥ, "The Messiah" (lit. "the Anointed One"), did not have the same connotations that its Greek translation, Christos, had for Christians. From certain other passages, in the Qumran writings it appears quite certain that this community, which was fundamentally a priestly one, expected an especially anointed high priest ("the Messiah of Aaron") as well as an especially anointed lay ruler ("the Messiah of Israel"). It should be noted that in the Cairo Damascus Document (CD 7:20) the royal Messiah is not called a "king," but a "prince" (nasi, in keeping with Ezek. 34:24; 37:25; etc.). The concept of two Messiahs, one royal and one priestly, probably goes back to Zechariah 4:14: "These are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" (said of Zerubbabel of the Davidic line and of the priest Joshua). On the presence and precedence of the royal Messiah and the priestly Messiah at the eschatological "messianic banquet," see below.

It is not clear what the Qumranites meant by the "prophet" who precedes these two Messiahs. He may be the "prophet like Moses" foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, since the Qumranites believed they were living or were to live under a "new covenant" (CD 8:35 – the term, no doubt, borrowed from Jer. 31:31); or he may be Elijah (on the basis of Mal. 3:23), in whom the Qumranites were interested.


Although the Qumran community possessed and, therefore, apparently prized several of the books of the so-called intertestamental literature mentioned above – Jubilees, Enoch, Testaments of Levi and Naphtali, etc. – its own compositions, at least as far as now known, betray relatively little concern with the future world after death. They do not use the terms, "this world," and "the coming world," to designate the present and the future eras. There is no explicit mention of the resurrection of the bodies of their deceased members, but neither is there any denial of such a belief. Perhaps it was taken for granted, or it was left as one of God's mysteries about which they should not speculate. However, they do say the righteous "will share the lot of God's Holy Ones," i.e., the angels (1QH 11:11–12), and they are to enjoy "everlasting" bliss (see below).

The Qumran writings often speak of "the end" (Keẓ), i.e., of the present era (1QS 3:23; 4:18, 25; CD 4:9–10; 20:15; 1QpHab 7:2; etc.). The end will be preceded by the "pangs" of the premessianic era (1QH passim), by cosmic storms (1QH 3:13–16), and by a cosmic conflagration (1QH 3:29–31; cf. 1QM 14:17). At "an appointed time of decisive judgment" (mo'ed mishpat neḥerashah: 1QS 4:20) God will judge both angels and men (1QH 7:28–29), for in the present era there are both good and evil spirits (1QS 3:20–22).


Whereas the writings of the Qumran community do not mention either a "Gehenna" for the wicked or a "Garden of Eden" for the just in the afterlife, they do, apparently, speak of the punishment of the wicked as an everlasting death, and reward of the just as an eternity of bliss: "The doors of the Pit will be closed upon those who are pregnant with wickedness, and the bars of eternity upon all the spirits of worthlessness" (1QH 3:18). "But the reward of all those who walk in it [the way of truth] will be a healing remedy and abundant well-being in a long life and a fruitfulness of seed, together with all the blessings of eternity and everlasting bliss in life forever, and a crown of glory with a recompense of majesty in light everlasting" (1QS 4:6–8).


Because of God's promise of "new heavens and a new earth" (Isa. 65:17), the apocalyptic writings sometimes speak of a new Jerusalem with its new temple as coming down from heaven to the earth. Since the Qumran community was basically a priestly one, it was naturally interested in a new temple for the messianic age of bliss on earth. Even the so-called War Scroll gives instructions on how the priests and levites are to function in the new temple (1QM 2:1–6). But, surprisingly, the new temple of the Qumranites is not thought of as coming down ready-made from heaven, but as built by themselves according to a new plan revealed by God.

The *Temple Scroll, like the Torah, is written as if dictated by God to Moses. Besides giving various precepts concerning ritual purity, festivals, sacrifices, etc., it presents detailed prescriptions for the construction of the new temple and its surrounding courts. The resulting construction differs from all the previous temples – of Solomon, of Zerubbabel, and of Herod, and even from the idealistic temple of Ezekiel 40:1–42:20.

To understand the relationship between this proposed man-made temple and "the house that He [God] will make for you at the end of days," as mentioned in certain Qumran pesharim, one must remember that the Qumran community lived a quasi-sacramental life: their cultic acts both prepared for, and symbolized, the full reality that would come to pass in the messianic age. This is likewise the case in regard to the so-called messianic banquet at Qumran.


The midday and evening meals at Qumran were cultic acts. Those who were ritually unclean or who were penalized for various faults could not be present at them. The Davidic Messiah and the Priest (or Aaronic Messiah) are depicted as already present at these repasts, even though this would not be actually true until "the end of days."

The protocol of these eschatological meals is described in 1QSa 2:11–22: "This is the (order of the) seating of 'the Men of the Name who are invited to the Feast' (a phrase based on Num. 16:2, but with Qumranite interpretation) for the council of the community, if … [?] the Messiah with them. The priest shall come in at the head of the whole assembly of Israel, and all the ancestral leaders of the Aaronide priests…; and they shall take their seats, each one according to his rank. After that, the Messiah of Israel shall come in; and the head of the thousands of Israel shall take their seats, each one according to his rank." The text then continues with instructions on the blessing of the bread and wine by the priest, who is the first to partake of them, followed by the Messiah of Israel, and finally by "all the assembly of the community." This rite is to be observed when at least ten men are present. One striking element in this ritual is the precedence given to the priestly Messiah over the royal (lay) Messiah – which would be expected in such a sacerdotally oriented community. Another important feature is that this ceremony is to be observed even when only a minyan is present. This ritual meal, therefore, is both a foreshadowing and a quasi-sacramental anticipation of the great eschatological messianic banquet that is often referred to in other religious writings of the period (e.g., the New Testament).

From its earliest beginnings in God's promises to the patriarchs until the dispersion of the Jews after the destruction of the Second Temple, Israel always kept alive its eschatological hopes and expectations, based both on a belief in God's justice and on an optimism that, with God's help, good would ultimately triumph over evil in the world.


GENERAL: J. Klausner, The Messianic Idea in Israel (1956); A.H. Silver, A History of Messianic Speculation in Israel (19592). IN THE BIBLE: L. Černý, The Day of Yahweh and Some Relevant Problems (1948); C. Steuernagel, in: Festschrift fuer Alfred Bertholet (1950), 479–87; G.A.F. Knight, in: Scottish Journal of Theology, 4 (1951), 355–62; T.C. Vriezen, in: VT Supplement 1 (1953), 199–229; idem, An Outline of Old Testament Theology (1958), index; G.W. Buchanan, in: JNES, 20 (1961), 188–93; G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology (1962), index; R.H. Charles, Eschatology (1963); W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (1964), index; H.P. Mueller, in: VT, 14 (1964), 276–93; O. Ploeger, Theocracy and Eschatology (1968); Scholem, Mysticism, index. IN THE TALMUD: G.F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era, 2 (1927), 275–395; A. Kohut, in: zdmg 21 (1867), 552ff.; R.H. Charles, A Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life… (1899); W. Bousset, Der Antichrist in der Ueberlieferung des Judentums (1895). IN THE INTERTESTAMENTAL LITERATURE: D.S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic (1964), with very good bibliography; B. Vawter, in: CBQ, 22 (1960), 33–46; S. Mowinkel, He That Cometh: The Messianic Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism (1956); J. Bloch, On the Apocalyptic in Judaism (1952). IN THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS: H. Ringgren, The Faith of Qumran (1963); E.F. Sutcliffe, The Monks of Qumran (1960), 83–90; R.E. Brown, in: CBQ, 19 (1957), 53–82; P. Grelot, in: Revue de Qumran, 1 (1958–59), 113–31; A.M. Habermann, Megillot Midbar Yehudah (1959). IN ISLAM: Tor Andrae, Der Ursprung des Islams und das Christentum (1926), 83ff.; J. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums (18972), 240; K. Ahrens, Muhammed als Religionsstifter (1935), 23, 59; J.W. Hirschberg, Der Dīwān des as-Samauʾal ibn Ādija (1931), 10, 19, 24, 48, 54–56, 58–59; idem, Juedische und christliche Lehren… (1939), 73–78, 139–62; idem, Yisrael be-Arav (1946), 208–14, 240–1; idem, in: Rocznik Orientalistyczny, 17 (1952), 342–8; M. Wolff, Muhammedanische Eschatologie (1872; containing K. Ahwāl al-Quiyama); R. Leszynsky, Mohammedanische Traditionen vom juengsten Gericht (1909; containing K. al Zuhd); J. Horovitz, Das koranische Paradies (1923); A. Eichler, Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel im Koran (1928); I. Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, 2 (1890), 308ff.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.