Raining on the Just and the Unjust
November 10, 2021
by Barry Fike
The Rabbinic parallel to this verse is found in Taanith 7a, “...for the resurrection is intended to benefit only the righteous, whereas both the righteous and the wicked are benefited by the rain.”
For he makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and send the rain on the just and the unjust- This statement also has a parallel in Rabbinic literature from Rabban Johanan be Zakkai.
“Once it happened that a Gentile asked Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai saying to him:
“We have feasts and you have feasts. We have Kalendae, Saturnalia and
Kratesis, (A festival which makes the date of the capture of Alexandria by
Augustus-first of August, 30 BC) and you have Passover, Pentecost and the Feast
of Tabernacles. What is the day when both you and we rejoice? Rabban Johanan ben
Zakkai said to him: “It is the day of rainfall, as it is written: “The meadows
cloth themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing
together with joy? (Ps. 65:13,14). What is written after these words? “To the choirmaster.
A Song. A Psalm. Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth.” (Ps. 66:1) It is not
written, “Priests, Levites, and Israelites,” but “all the earth.”
Thus, it was not the Jewish people or the privileged group within it that rejoiced on the day of rainfall, but all humanity rejoices with the Jews for everyday benefits. The joy on the day of rainfall is common to the whole of mankind as the benefit brought by the rain does not discern between Jews and Gentiles. The rabbinic passage shows that Jesus was not alone in his theological interpretation of the paradoxical universalism of the rainfall. The saying of the sages represent a powerful trend within ancient Judaism which is intimately connected to the times and the spiritual environment to which Jesus belonged.