Now I will explain the third oath, not to force the end. What exactly does this mean? Rashi says that “yidchaku” (force) comes from the word “dochak” (pressure): that the Jews should not pray too much for the end of exile. But how can we understand this? How much prayer is too much? Didn’t Chazal incorporate prayers for the redemption into all the prayers? They instituted Shmoneh Esrei three times a day, and it contains many prayers for the redemption, for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and for the sprouting of the pride of the Son of Dovid. Righteous people have always devoted themselves to these prayers. How then are we to know the limit beyond which prayer violates the prohibition of the oath?
However, the Rambam, at the end of Igeres Teiman, disagrees with Rashi’s interpretation of this oath. He writes:
Because Shlomo knew with Divine inspiration that this people, in the course of its long exile, would make efforts to move itself before the proper time, and they would perish because of this, and calamities would befall them; so he warned them not to do this, and he made the nation swear, by way of analogy, and he said, “I have made you swear…” Now you, our brothers and friends, accept his oath upon yourselves, and do not arouse the love until it is desired.
[So we see that the Rambam holds that the oath refers to action, not prayer.] And the same is clear from all the Midrashim: the Midrash Rabbah, the Tanchuma, the Mechilta, the Yalkut and the rest of the Midrashim, which say that the oaths were violated by the Bnei Ephraim, Ben Koziva and others who took actions to redeem themselves and take for themselves a kingdom before the right time. These groups were severely and very bitterly punished for this violation, may Hashem Yisborach spare us and protect us.
And the Midrash Rabbah, Shir Hashirim 2:7, adds:
What is the meaning of “until it is desired”? Until the kingdom of heaven desires it. When the Attribute of Justice desires it, I will bring it on its own, with great fanfare, and I will not delay.
[We see from this that the oaths prohibit action, and thus the warning is: Do not take action to bring the redemption, for when the time comes Hashem alone will make it happen, without your assistance.]
The Targum Yonasan on Shir Hashirim also explains the oaths as prohibiting any action to go to Eretz Yisroel before it is Hashem’s will to do so. However, there is a difference between the first two oaths and the third. The first two oaths refer to Moshe Rabbeinu’s warning to the Jews not to enter Eretz Yisroel before the forty years were up. The third oath (Shir Hashirim 8:4) refers to the time of moshiach:
The king moshiach will say: I adjure you, my people, the House of Israel: Why do you fight with the nations of the world to leave exile, and why do you rebel against the armies of Gog and Magog? You must wait a little bit longer, until the nations that came to fight against Jerusalem are destroyed, and afterwards the Master of the World will recall for you the love of the righteous and it will be His will to redeem you.
According to the Targum Yonasan, we can answer the question of why the wording of the third oath is different from that of the first two. The first two say “im” (if you arouse or if you awaken) whereas the third says “mah” (why do you arouse and why do you awaken). The answer lies in the Targum’s words on the third oath, “Wait a little bit longer.” He does not say those words on the first two oaths, because they were spoken by Moshe thousands of years before the redemption. But the third oath will be spoken by moshiach just before the redemption. Therefore, he says “mah” (why), implying that it would be a small and easy thing to wait a little longer. We find that the Gemara elsewhere understands “mah” in this way: in Berachos 33b the Gemara quotes the verse, “And now Israel, what (“mah”) does Hashem your G-d ask of you except to fear Hashem…” and the Gemara asks that fearing Hashem is no small matter.
The Targum says the third oath is a warning not to rebel against the armies of Gog and Magog. This seems to contradict the prophetic description of the war of Gog and Magog in the Book of Yechezkel, where it is stated that this war will occur after the coming of moshiach, when the nation of Magog, led by Gog, will wage war against the king moshiach. The answer is that Magog is not going to be a new nation that will be resurrected from the dead after moshiach comes; its armies will be in existence before moshiach, and they will be the same cursed wicked ones who persecute and fight against the Jewish people before moshiach.
Another point: the Targum says that at that point there will be only a little more time left before the redemption. But today unfortunately, since they violated the oath and didn’t wait just a little longer [possibly this means a little longer after the Holocaust, when there was an opportune time for redemption], they extended the exile, until Hashem has mercy and takes pity on His people and His land. And I will explain more later [about why violating the oaths prolongs the exile – see beginning of Siman 28 and Siman 84, and see Hakdamah p. 8].
In any case, we see from the Targum Yonasan as well that the oath not to “force the end” refers to physical action: fighting against the nations of the world to go out of exile, and daring to go up to Eretz Canaan before it is G-d’s will to redeem Israel from exile. This fits well with the Rambam and the Midrashim [but not with Rashi].