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5.2.7 - Armilus

A figure of Jewish legend whose characteristics are partially derived from Biblical teaching concerning the Antichrist. “Legendary name of the Messiah’s antagonist or anti-Messiah. Armilus appears frequently in the later Apocalyptic Midrashim, such as Midrash Va-Yosha, Sefer Zerubbavel, and Nistarot shel R. Shimon b. Yohai. He is also mentioned in the Targum pseudo-Jonathan, Isa. 11:14 and in the Targum Yerushalmi A (Deut. 34:3). Armilus is first mentioned otherwise in Saadiah Gaon’s Emunot ve-De’ot (Ma’amar 8), apparently under the influence of Sefer Zerubbavel. The legend of Armilus thus originated not earlier than the beginning of the geonic period. Its basis, however, is the talmudic legend of Messiah the son of Joseph, who would be slain in the war between the nations prior to the redemption that would come through Messiah the son of David (Suk. 52a). In Otot ha-Mashi’ah (Midreshei Ge’ullah, p. 320), there is reference to ‘the Satan Armilus whom the Gentiles call Antichrist’ but this is no proof of Christian influence. . . . This Armilus will deceive the whole world into believing that he is God and will reign over the entire world. He will come with ten kings and together they will fight over Jerusalem, and Armilus will slay Nehemiah b. Hushi’el, who is Messiah the son of Joseph, as well as many righteous men with him, and ‘Israel will mourn for him as one that is in bitterness for his only son’ (cf. Zech. 12:19–12). Armilus will banish Israel ‘to the wilderness’ and it will be a time of unprecedented distress for Israel: there will be increasing famine, and the Gentiles will expel the Jews from their lands, and they will hide in caves and towers. . . . God will war against the host of Armilus . . . Then there will be a great deliverance for Israel and the kingdom of Heaven will spread over all the earth.”1 See Antichrist.

Notes

1 Jacob Klatzkin, “Armilus,” in Geoffrey Wigoder, ed., Encyclopedia Judaica CDROM Edition Version 1.0 (Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1997), s.v. “Armilus.”


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