Written in Spanish by Rabbi (Hacham) Menasseh ben Israel, Piedra Gloriosa is a messianic treatise on the Prophet Daniel's interpretation of the dream of the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. Menasseh examines the significance of the mysterious stone that shattered an immense statue and then 'became a great mountain and filled the whole earth' (Daniel 2:34). The rabbi identifies the stone as that upon which Jacob slept and with which David slew Goliath, and the four beasts of Daniel's own dream with the monarchies of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, which were to be succeeded by the Monarchy of Israel. The stone that destroyed the statue symbolised the Messiah, so that from the dream God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, 'one infers the existence of God.' By foretelling the impending redemption of the Jews, Menasseh considered the episode, intensely disputed between Christians and Jews, as 'one of the most luminous of the infallible prophecies found in all the Holy Scripture.'
Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657), rabbi, author, printer and diplomat, of Marrano origin, was one of the most distinguished members of the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam. The etchings produced by Rembrandt are regarded as the first instance of a rabbi commissioning a Christian to illustrate a Jewish text, and as such is an important document in the history of Judaica. The circumstances surrounding the commission are unclear, but the suggestion that he made the plates out of friendship for the author (the two lived very near one another) is plausible, particularly as his services would otherwise have been beyond the rabbi's financial reach.
Rembrandt illustrated three books only; for the first two he produced one etching each, for the present work he made four. Complete copies are extremely rare. Hinterding et. al. list examples in the Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam, the University Library, Leiden, the Musèe du Petit Palais, Paris, the Institut Neerlandais (Collection F. Lugt), Paris, and one in the Fairfax Murray Collection.