During the Messianic Age: Who will be resurrected?

Within Jewish tradition, the resurrection of the dead is one of its core principles of faith.

Maimonides, who is also known as Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, or Rambam, composed the thirteen principles of Jewish faith. These thirteen principles are included in every Jewish prayer book, and are recited as a liturgical to this day. For example, the Amidah prayer recited thrice daily by traditional Jews includes a blessing praising God as the resurrector of the dead.

 The thirteenth principle is the belief in the resurrection of the dead. As Maimonides wrote "I believe by complete faith that there will be a resurrection of the dead at the time that will be pleasing before the Creator, blessed be His name, and the remembrance of Him will be exalted forever and for all eternity."

So who will be Resurrected?  

The Mishna, in the tractate of Sanhedrin (10:1) writes the following, "All of Israel have a portion in the World to Come, as it is stated (Isaiah 60:21), 'And your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever..."

Is the resurrection a Rabbinic invention or is it biblical?

There are many reference to the Resurrection in Jewish Sources. Two of the key sources are in Ezekiel chapter 37 and Daniel Chapter 12.

Ezekiel chapter 37:

  1. The hand of the Lord came upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley, and that was full of bones.
  2. And He made me pass by them roundabout, and lo! they were exceedingly many on the surface of the valley, and lo! they were exceedingly dry.
  3. Then He said to me; "Son of man, can these bones become alive?" And I answered, "O Lord God, You [alone] know."
  4. And He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.'
  5. So says the Lord God to these bones; Behold, I will cause spirit to enter into you, and you shall live!
  6. And I will lay sinews upon you, and I will make flesh grow over you and cover you with skin and put breath into you, and you will live, and you will then know that I am the Lord."
  7. So I prophesied as I was commanded, and there arose a noise when I prophesied, and behold a commotion, and the bones came together, bone to its bone!
  8. And I looked, and lo! sinews were upon them, and flesh came upon them, and skin covered them from above, but there was still no spirit in them.
  9. Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, O son of man, and say to the spirit, 'So says the Lord God: From four sides come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain ones that they may live.
  10. And I prophesied as He had commanded me, and the spirit came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, a very great army, exceedingly so.
  11. Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are all the house of Israel. Behold they say, 'Our bones have become dried up, our hope is lost, we are clean cut off to ourselves.'
  12. Therefore, prophesy and say to them, So says the Lord God: Lo! I open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves as My people, and bring you home to the land of Israel.
  13. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and lead you up out of your graves as My people.
  14. And I will put My spirit into you, and you shall live, and I will set you on your land, and you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and have performed it," says the Lord.

Daniel Chapter 12:

  1. And many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awaken-these for eternal life, and those for disgrace, for eternal abhorrence.

The Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin (Starting on page 90a) had a lengthily discussion on the source of the Resurrection within the Five books of Moses and other section of the Jewish bible. Here is a expert of one portion of the discussion.

(צד"ק ג"ם גש"ם ק"ם סימן): שאלו מינין את רבן גמליאל מניין שהקדוש ברוך הוא מחיה מתים אמר להם מן התורה ומן הנביאים ומן הכתובים ולא קיבלו ממנו

The Gemara records a mnemonic for those cited in the upcoming discussion: Tzadi, dalet, kuf; gimmel, mem; gimmel, shin, mem; kuf, mem.Heretics asked Rabban Gamliel: From where is it derived that the Holy One, Blessed be He, revives the dead? Rabban Gamliel said to them that this matter can be proven from the Torah, from the Prophets, and from Writings, but they did not accept the proofs from him.

מן התורה דכתיב (דברים לא, טז) ויאמר ה' אל משה הנך שוכב עם אבותיך וקם אמרו לו ודילמא וקם העם הזה וזנה

The proof from the Torah is as it is written: “And the Lord said to Moses, behold, you shall lie with your fathers and arise” (Deuteronomy 31:16). The heretics said to him: But perhaps the verse should be divided in a different manner, and it should be read: “Behold, you shall lie with your fathers, and this people will arise and stray after the foreign gods of the land.”

מן הנביאים דכתיב (ישעיהו כו, יט) יחיו מתיך נבלתי יקומון הקיצו ורננו שוכני עפר כי טל אורות טלך וארץ רפאים תפיל ודילמא מתים שהחיה יחזקאל

The proof from the Prophets is as it is written: “Your dead shall live, my corpse shall arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust, for your dew is as the dew of vegetation, and the land shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19). The heretics said to him: But perhaps the prophecy was fulfilled with the dead that Ezekiel revived. No proof may be cited from that verse with regard to any future resurrection.

מן הכתובים דכתיב (שיר השירים ז, י) וחכך כיין הטוב הולך לדודי למישרים דובב שפתי ישנים ודילמא רחושי מרחשן שפוותיה בעלמא כר' יוחנן דאמר ר' יוחנן משום ר"ש בן יהוצדק כל מי שנאמרה הלכה בשמו בעולם הזה שפתותיו דובבות בקבר שנאמר דובב שפתי ישנים

The proof from Writings is as it is written: “And your palate is like the best wine that glides down smoothly for my beloved, moving gently the lips of those that sleep” (Song of Songs 7:10), indicating that the dead will ultimately rise and speak. The heretics said to him: But perhaps merely their lips will move, in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yoḥanan, as Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: Anyone in whose name a halakha is stated in this world, his lips move in the grave as if repeating the statement cited in his name, as it is stated: “Moving gently the lips of those that sleep.” No proof may be cited from that verse, as it is unrelated to resurrection.

The following are a couple examples of text that are used to point to the resurrection within Tanach.

"And many of those who sleep in the earth will wake [(at the resurrection)] — these for eternal life and these for shamings and eternal mortification."

Daniel 12:2

"In your going [i.e., in your life], it shall guide you. In your lying down [(in the grave)], it shall guard you. And when you awake [(at the resurrection)], it will speak for you [(i.e., in your behalf)]."

Proverbs 6:22

"I, in righteousness, will see Your face; I will be sated with Your image at the awakening [(the resurrection)]."

Psalms 17:15

Will Non-Jews be Resurrected?

It is not clear whether only Jews, or all people, are expected to be resurrected at this time. With the Jewish commentaries, there are a variety of different options. There are indeed ancient Jewish sources that teach that non-Jews will be resurrected as well.

Yefei Toar,  who was known and Shmuel ben Yitzchak, wrote a commentary on Bereshit Bahhah 13:6. , affirms that righteous gentiles have a place in the World of Resurrection.

Abarbanel, writes that resurrection will apply to all of mankind. He notes two purposes in this:

(1) It would be unfair to all the others if only those who had the good fortune to be alive at that time would be privileged to enjoy the benefits of the Redemption. Therefore all the dead will be resurrected - the righteous to enjoy the benefits they merited, and others in order to witness their own ultimate downfall.

(2) The nations then to be resurrected will realize the folly of their beliefs and will acknowledge G-d's sovereignty, in the spirit of the prophecy that appears in Zephaniah 3:9: "For I shall then make the nations pure of speech, so that they will all call upon the Name of G-d and serve Him with one purpose."


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