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Medieval Messiahs (4)

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David Alroy

David Alroy lived in Babylon, but the ancient city no longer was the center of the civilized world it once had been. It belonged to the Caliphate of Baghdad, the religious capital of the Muslim world. In fact, the caliphate was a protectorate of the Seljuk Empire, which was ruled by a Turkish sultan. So, the large Jewish community at Babylon was living in a confused world.

In 1147, a new Christian army was coming to the Levant, reminding the Jews of prophecies about the kings of Gog and Magog. David Alroy -whose father was known to be a descendant of king David- claimed he was the Messiah and performed some miracles that made a great impression. (Later, hostile sources say that he was in fact a magician, using elaborate tricks.) He used his fame to start a rebellion against the sultan, saying that the time had come when God's armies would join forces with the troops of Israel. Together, they would take back Jerusalem from the infidels.

Now, the sultan started to make plans to destroy his adversary. He did not have to wait very long, because two of David's adherents sent a letter in his name to the Jews in Baghdad, ordering them to wait on the roofs of their houses, where angels would pick them up and fly them to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, nothing happened and many were disappointed. According to one report, David's father-in-law accepted a large bribe from the sultan and killed the Messiah during a dinner given in his honor. David's head was sent to the Seljuk sultan.

Muhammad (570-632)
Abu Isa' al-Isfahani (c. 700)
Moses al-Dar'i (c.1127)
David Alroy (c.1147)
Yemenite Messiah (c.1172)
Abu'lafia (1230-1291)

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