Who is the Moshiach ben Yosef?

CLAIM: The Rabbis believe in two messiahs, one exalted and one suffering. It s not two messiahs one exalted and one suffering, but one messiah, first time sufferi ng the second time exalted.

Missionaries associate this claim with a well-known teaching in the Talmud[1]. Ra bbi Alexandri said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi opposed two verses. One verse says, wi th the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man came.[2] In another verse it says, lowly and riding on an ass.[3] If they merit with the clouds of heaven if not lowly and riding on an ass. [4] Frydland makes the association of this passage to Moshiac h ben Yosef in his famous work, What the Rabbis Know about the Messiah . There he s ays, Rabbi Yehoshua Bar Levi, referring to the Zechariah scripture, said that if Israel is not worthy, then the Messiah will come in humility riding upon an ass. This is Messiah Ben Yosef the Suffering Messiah.[5] He is not the only missionar y to wrongly make such an association. This passage has no direct information ab out Moshiach ben Yosef, or a suffering messiah, as it is not about him at all (w hich will be shown later.) Misnaming Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi is not his only mista ke here.

In order to understand this passage in the Talmud, we need to understand who Mos hiach ben Yosef is and where he fits into Rabbinic/Biblical eschatology. To get to this we need to find out three things: What does the Tenach say about who is messiah ? What do the Rabbis mean by messiah ? Where do the Rabbis get their idea of more then one Messiah? As to the Tenach, the facts about the Messiah iblical scholars J. H. Charlesworth states: will be surprising. One of the top B

The term, the Messiah simply does not appear in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testa ment). The last group of scholars to acknowledge this fact were conservative Chr istians, and now the very conservative New Testament specialist [the late] Profe ssor George Eldon Ladd states, without qualification, that the simple term the Mes siah does not occur in the Old Testament at all. Of course, the title the Anointed One [6] denotes in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament) a prophet, a priest, a nd especially a king. [7]

From here we see that Biblically a person is a messiah if he is doing some G-d ord ained function: prophet, priest or king, but it does not refer to a single speci al person who is expected to arrive at some future date. This, of course, leads to a question. We use the term Messiah and more or less, everyone has an understan ding about that term. At the least, it refers to a person who will appear at the end-times . Where do we get this association with that term?

To understand this we need to look at some of the end-times prophecies of the Tena ch. While much of the arguments with missionaries deal with passages that are un clear as to when or to whom they apply, there are passages in the Tenach that an

nounce that they are dealing with a specific period called the end of days . to the house of the G-d of Jacob. the end of war in verse 6-8. . Let s see what will happen then: People will gather in Jerusalem to worship HaShem (verse 2-3) War will end (verse 4) The nations will be judged (verse 4)[10] In Isaiah 11 we see an expansion of these themes. and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes. and a twig shall grow forth out of his roots. and wi th the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. These issues mentioned will help us to find more passages dealing with this ti me period. the spirit of knowledge and of the fe ar of the LORD. and they shall beat their swords into plowshares. Here we see an announcement of the end of days with a few specifics of that time .[8] So me of them mention particular characters that seem to have a role to play in thi s future period:[9] One of the most well known passages that is explicit about being an end-times pr ophecy is Isaiah 2:2-4. and faithfulness the girdl e of his reins. and he shall smite the land with the rod of his mouth. Verse 4 is one of the most well known verses in the Tena ch. Just as above we have: people gathering in Jerusalem in verse12. 3 And many peoples shall go and say: Come ye. and He will teach us of His ways. nation shall not lift up sword against nation. that the mountain of the LORD S ho use shall be established as the top of the mountains. 1 And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse. 4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor. and all nations shall flow unto it. and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD. and decide with equity for the meek of the land. a nd we will walk in His paths. 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him. the spirit of wisdom and under standing. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. the spirit of counsel and might. and their spears into pruning hoo ks. For out of Zion shall go forth the law. neither decide after the hearing of his ears. and the judgment of nations in 2-5. neither shall they learn war any more. and shall be exalted above the hills. 2 And it shall come to pass in the end of days. and the wor d of the LORD from Jerusalem. 5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins. and shall decide for many peoples. 4 And He shall judge between the nations.

and his resting-p lace shall be glorious. and from Elam. Ephraim shall not envy Judah. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed. 16) In Ezekiel 37 we find more about this reconciliation of Judah and Ephraim. and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp. and from Pathros. and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. and the children of Ammon shall obey them. 10 And it shall come to pass in that day. and from Hamath. and from the islands of the sea. like as there was for Israel in the day that he came up out of th e land of Egypt. that the root of Jesse. 13 The envy also of Ephraim shall depart. and cause men to march over dry-shod. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain. and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. and from Cush. 15 And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea. as the waters cover the sea. and will smite it into s even streams. and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk s den. and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth. that shall remain from Assyria. for the earth shall b e full of the knowledge of the LORD. unto him shall the nations seek. their young ones shall lie down together. with some more information about this ingathering period: . (1 a nd 10) Ephraim (the Northern kingdom of Israel) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom) will n o longer contend with each other. 14 And they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines on the west. (13) The Jewish people will be gathered from exile. that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people. and from S hinar. and they that harass Judah shall be cu t off. 16 And there shall be a highway for the remnant of His people. that shall remain from Ass yria. and with Hi s scorching wind will He shake His hand over the River. (12. they shall put forth their hand upon Edom and Moab. Besides the repetition of what is in Isaiah 2. tog ether shall they spoil the children of the east.6 And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb. and a little ch ild shall lead them. that standeth for an ensign of the peoples. 11 And it shall come to pass in that day. 12 And He will set up an ensign for the nations. this passage adds a few new point s that add to our picture of the end-times: There will be a leader. and from Egypt. from the tribe of Judah who will also be the judge. and the leopard shall lie down with th e kid. and will assemble the dispersed of Israel.

(24-25) . son of man. prince and leader o f that time. 17 and join them for thee one to another into one stick. saying: Wilt thou not tell us what thou meanest by these? 19 say into them: Thus saith the Lord G-D: Behold. whe rein your fathers dwelt. nei ther shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places. I will take the children of Israel from among the nations. and they shall be no more two nations. and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. and I will be their G-d. and will gather them on every side. and their children. nor with thei r detestable things. nor with any of their transgressions. and they all shall have one she pherd. 23 neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols. and I will be their G-d. 28 And the nations shall know that I am the LORD that sanctify Israel. whither they are gone. and bring them into their own land. and observe My statutes. forever. He is called the king. 25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant. And the word of the LORD came unto me. wherein they have sinned. 22 and I will make them one nation in the land. then take another stick. so shall they be My people. an d one king shall be king to them all. and multiply them. 24 And My servant David shall be king over them. and they shall dwell therein. 21 And say unto them: Thus saith the Lord G-D: Behold. 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them it shall be an everlasting c ovenant with them. and I will establish them. they shall also walk in Mine ordinances. take thee one stick. they. And thou. when My s anctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever. and of all the house of Israel his comp anions. that they may become on e in thy hand. which is in the hand of Ephraim. the stick of Ephraim. an d I will put them unto him together with the stick of Judah. and do them. saying: 16. In addition to the same old themes. and write up on it: For Joseph. and David My servant shall be their princ e forever. 27 My dwelling-place also shall be over them. I will take the stick of Jose ph. (16-19) This leader will be David s descendant. and make them one s tick. and they shall be one in My hand. and their children s children. 18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee. 20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thy hand before their eyes. we see the following new ones added to our p icture of the end times: Ephraim and Judah will be joined together with Judah as the lead. and the tribes of Israel his companions. and will cleanse the m. and for the children of Israel his companions.15. and they shall be My people. and write upon it: For Judah. upon the mountains of Israel.

But the one from Judah (i. in the Biblical text and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. 24 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children. lest I come and smite the land with utter destruc tion. i.e. What happens to the leader of Ephraim? Now if we look at Ezekiel 40-48 we see more information about that Temple and an other important figure in that time. the Davidic one) would be the sole leader. but that Judah would lead. In 1QS (Rule of the Comm unity) we read (IX 11) until the prophet comes and the messiahs of Aaron and Isra el. the Northern tribes referred to as Ephraim in the Tenach. and ve rse 44:27 refers to a single priest. But it is important. I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. The second is that there is no me ntion of the House of Israel. There we learn about the priesthood. The final end-times prophecy[11] we will look at is Malachi 3.There will be a sanctuary (temple). One factor seems to be missing. and the heart of the children to their fathers. and the prophet Elijah. and saw. Here are three messianic type characters in the end of days. 23 Behold. which adds anothe r piece of information. To summarize what we have seen in the end-times prophecies: There will be a Davi dic king/leader.e. a Priest. Here we see the three figures mentioned above: the prophet. This indicates that both Ephraim a nd Judah would have leaders. and behold four horns. We find this in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is not so serious as the truth is that there is a limited amou nt of material in the Dead Sea Scrolls. What about Ephraim and her leader?[12] To understand what the Rabbis have taught about the major figures that will have a role in end time s story we need to look at a few verses in Zechariah 2: 1 And I lifted up mine eyes. (28) What is interesting about this passage in Ezekiel is that Ephraim and Judah are on the same level. Sometime during the late second temple period we see that these people are refer red to as Messiahs . . There are two things I have found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. the priest of Aar on and the leader of Israel. One is that the pries tly messiah seems to have the superior position.

8 and said unto him: Run. saith the LORD. Zion. to cast down the horns of the nations. and saw. and Jerusalem. and what is the length thereof. saith the LORD. 9 For I. the angel that spoke with me went forth. Who are they? Here is what the Rabbis teach[13]: And th e LORD showed me four craftsmen. ho. The four of the Rabbis are the thre e people mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls plus the leader of Ephraim. 13 For. Elijah and the Righteous Priest. and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me. saying: These the horns which sca ttered Judah. who sent them into exile. These verses seem to be talking about the end times. and the house of Joseph a flame. saying: Jerusal em shall be inhabited without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein. Who are these four craftsmen? Rav Chunah the son of Bizna said in the name of Rebbi Shimon. and they shall kindle in them. Opposed to them are four craftsmen. and it shall be holy. escape. and I will be the glory in the midst of her. and devour them. 4 Then said I: What come these to do? And he spoke. I will shake My hand over them. 11 Ho. whi ch represent the enemies of the Jewish people. will be unto her a wall of fire round about. Israel. so that no man did lift up his head these then are come to frighten them. These are Moshiach ben Dovid. who cut them down. saith the LORD. 10 Ho. and the house of Esau for stubble. But look at 1-4. and they shall be a spoil to tho se that served them . 7 And. speak to this young man. we see that there are 4 horns. 5 And I lifted up mine eyes. flee then from the land of the north. he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. thou that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. So what is the job of this fourth person? One hint is in the prophet Ovadiah: 17 But in mount Zion there shall be those that escape. Moshiac h ben Yosef. 6 Then said I: Whither goest thou? And he said unto me: To measure Jerusalem. behold. 3 And the LORD showed me four craftsmen. Jerusalem is filled again w ith people (8) and verse 10 indicates the ingathering which we have seen the Ten ach places in the end-times. to se e what is the breadth thereof. 12 For thus saith the LORD of hosts who sent me after glory unto the nations whi ch spoiled you: Surely. which lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it. a nd there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau. 18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire. and another angel went o ut to meet him. for I have spre ad you abroad as the four winds of the heaven. for the LORD hath spok . behold. and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.2 And I said unto the angel that spoke with me: What are these? And he said unto m e: These are the horns which have scattered Judah. These four seem to be important figures in the end-times.

Both of them will go up to Mount Zion to fulfi ll the prophecy in Ovadiah verse 21: "And the saviors (plural . and they of the Lowlan d the Philistines. and they shall possess the field of Ephraim. In the seventh year there are great wars in which the Moshiach be n Yosef is first successful and then he is killed in that later part of the year . and a lead er of the tribe of Ephraim. At the end of the sev en years Moshiach ben Dovid comes and finishes the job and there comes the resur rection of the dead. that the House of Joseph (including its leader) has a military role in the end-times drama. Moshiach ben Yosef is a warrior (Moshiach ben Dovid would also appear to be) Moshiach ben Yosef will be killed in BATTLE[15] and will be the first to be rais ed from the dead by Moshiach ben Dovid. but after his initial victory he w ill die in battle. that are among the Canaanites. it starts to improve and then in the sixth year it get s worse again. that is in Seph arad. This would indicate the period we have seen above when there is world peace.en. Moshiach ben Yosef never takes the throne nor is he entitled to. The land of Israel will at that time be under Non-Jewish control. he shall finish the battle. 21 And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau. He we see. Let me summarize the Rab binic writings[14] with regards to Moshiach ben Yosef: There will be a period of about seven years of terrible famines and other troubl es. etc. star ting with the Moshiach Ben Yosef. From this we see that the time when the Moshiach ben Yosef comes ends with a period of peace. and the kingdom will be for Ha shem." There is the fulfillment of ALL the major prophesies like an end to war a nd a world at peace with the Jewish people in a restored Jerusalem with the thir d Temple. shall possess the cities of the South. 19 And they of the South shall possess the mount of Esau. The period of time from when Moshiach ben Yosef first comes into prominence unti l he is resurrected after the Moshiach ben Dovid comes to his throne is very sho rt.both Messiahs) s hall go up onto Mount Tzion and judge Mount Esav. and the field of Samaria. They live at the same time. and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. After which. and the captivity of Jerusalem. This will cause a great mourning and many will lose faith. . even unto Zarephath. Verse 21 indicates that this is a joint ef fort. 20 And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel. He will be successful. Many Jewish people will become depressed and fall away. At that time (still within the seven years) the Moshiach Ben David will be reveale d. The following points summarize this issue and are agreed to in all the Midrashim that deal with the Moshiach ben Yosef and the Moshiach ben Dovid. from verse 18. he will resurrect all the dead. a renewal of the Davidic kingdom. will arise to lead militarily against these nations who control Jerusalem. It starts w ith continually problems. The basic chronology of events is that there is a seven-year period. the longest period is under two years. They are two different people from two different tribal families. and the kingdom shall be the LORD S.

that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city. that great city. and went unto Nineveh. But that is not . Emunah V Deos by Rabbi Saadiah Gaon. Let s look at the book of Jonah. and Messiah ben David will appear to us suddenly. that great city. 4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day s journey. saying: 2. and s aid: Yet forty days. In chapter 1 we see that Jonah is commanded by G-d to bring a message: 1.There is one more aspect with regards to Moshiach ben Yosef that appears in Rabb inic literature that we need to address. go unto Nineveh. But if we repen t. nor come to pass. we need to understand something si mple about Biblical prophecy. But there is a problem. the prophet hat h spoken it presumptuously. Arise. Here is what appear s in Deuteronomy 18: 21 And if thou say in thy heart: ot spoken? How shall we know the word which the LORD hath n 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD. and then we can return to the passage i n the Talmud which opened up this paper and see how far off they are. and proclaim against it. In the wor k. and Nineveh shall be overthrown. according to the word of the LORD. saying: 2 Arise.[17] To understand this issue and how it could be. So the message of Jonah was that Ninevah had only 40 days left. they will not. of three days journey. 3 So Jonah arose. the events of Ben Joseph will come to pass. and make unto it the proclamation tha t I bid thee. and he proclaimed. People usually think (based on Deuteronomy 18) tha t a false prophet says something will occur and it does not. thou shalt not be afraid of him. In chapter 3 we see the message: 1 And the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the second time. if the thing follow not. go to Nineveh. for their wickedness is come up before Me. after a discussion of the end-times[16] he makes the following comment: If we do not repent. NOW THE WORD of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai.

9 The prophet that prophesieth of peace. One will occur if they repent and the other if they do not. 8 but let them be covered with sackcloth. that they turned from their evil way. and laid his robe from him. and G-d repent ed of the evil. So is Jonah a false prophet??? What he said did not come to pass. that the LORD hath truly sent him. The key is ver se 10: When G-d sees that people repent. there is no need for the bad decree. nor drink water. ONLY if he had predicted that ther e would be a peaceful result. Only through a positive philosophy ca n they know a true prophet. and in the ea rs of all the people: 8 The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied agains t many countries. but if not then it will. of war. then it wi ll not have to come. and of pestil ence. and he arose from his throne. that we perish not? 10 And G-d saw their works. yea. when the word of the prophet shall come to pass. there is an understood condition: If you repent then it is not going to happen. let them turn every one from his evil way. and put on sackcloth. That is what Rabbi Saadiah Gaon was referring to. From this we see that there can be two possibilities for the end-times. and from the v iolence that is in their hands. both man and beast. This passage refers to the principle we have just stated. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles. IF they repent. and He did it not. and they proclaimed a fast. Wi th every prophecy of doom. 6 And the tidings reached the king of Nineveh. and let them cry m ightily unto G-d. from the greatest of them even to the least of them. and covered him with sackcloth. then its non-occurrence would be a sign of his bei ng a false prophet. and is a reference to . We read in Jeremiah 28: 7 Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears. and turn away from His fierc e anger. ta ste any thing. then shall the prophet be known. This principle is explicit in the Tenach. and against great kingdoms. let them not feed. and sat in ashes. His p rophecy of disaster had an understood condition that. For that reason Jonah was NOT a false prophet. Here we see that although many prophecies of disaster have been sent it is only those prophecies of peace that must occur. which He said He would do unto them.what happened: 5 And the people of Nineveh believed G-d. 9 Who knoweth whether G-d will not turn and repent. With this we can return to the passage from the Rabbis quoted at the beginning. and of evil. saying: Let neither man nor beast. herd nor flock.

nations. 10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim. and a kingdom. w ith the clouds of heaven one like a son of man came.Moshiach ben Dovid. even upon a colt the foal of an ass. shout. If they don t repent they will not be redeemed? But the Holy One Blessed is He will raise up for them a King who will make decr ees over them like Haman and they will repent and return to the good. First Daniel 7: 13 I saw in the night visions. and he came even to the Ancient of days. and he shall speak peace unto the nations. and he was brought near before Him. and from the River to the ends of the e arth. Here we see the end-times. like Ez ekiel 38 and Zechariah 12. If Israel repents they will be redeemed. and languages should serve him. that all the peop les. low ly and riding on an ass. 14 And there was given him dominion. Let s see the p assages in context. his dominion is an everlasting dom inion. which shall not pass away. and the two ways in which HE can come! Before this above pas sage[18] we find the following passage: Rabbi Eliezer said. and glory. O daughter of Zion. One verse says. and victorious. This is the message of the Talmud. but the protagonist is described as coming in a m ore humbling manner. In another verse it says. As Rabbi Saadiah Gaon points out[19] this teaching refers to the wars and disast ers that would occur before the coming of Moshiach ben Yosef. If they merit with the clouds of heaven if not lowly and ri . O daughter of Jerusalem. and the horse from Jerusalem. mentioning neither war. Bringing all these Biblical verses and principles we now ha ve the teaching of the Rabbis: Rabbi Alexandri said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi opposed two verses. Based on the Biblical principle we saw from the books of Jonah and Jeremiah. But in Zechariah 9. and riding up on an ass. and his kingdom that which shall not be destro yed. an d his dominion shall be from sea to sea. an d the battle bow shall be cut off. But others are silent. lowly. and. he is triumphant. we see that G-d s message of war is a conditional one that can be mitigated by repentance. Rabbi Yehoshua said to him. t hy king cometh unto thee. but in a miraculous way. nor an y other series of events. Here the results are the same. behold. there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man. the same results are given in another format: 9 Rejoice greatly. One tells of wars. behold. If we look at the Tenach we see two t ypes of prophecies dealing with the end-times period. But if they do rep ent then there is no need for all of that. and if not they will not be.

[13] [14] Tractate Sukkah 52b. Moshe Shulman for http://www. since it is possible for a person to be BOTH humble.MessiahTruth. Sanhedrin 97a. Midrash Shir HaShirim 2. and not even all of the end-times prophecies that relate to the Messiah .14. We shall see in the next passage who this is. then the horrible things described will not co me and the end-times will be inaugurated in a wondrous way. Copyright © 2003. the Messiahs . Charleswo [7] From Messianology to Christology: problems and prospects. Sefer Zerubabal OH page 160. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------[1] [2] [3] Sanhedrin 98b Daniel 7:13 Zechariah 9:7 [4] It should be noted that this is not necessarily a contradiction. Derech Eretz . [10] It is interesting to note that the verse mentions someone as doing the ju dging. Rabbenu Saadia Goan in Emunah VaDeos book 8 from chapter 5. Page 11 in the book The Messiah edited by Charlesworth. [11] This is far from exhaustive. Primary Sources: Pesikta Zetrusa (parshas Balak).ding on an ass. Responsa from Rabbenu Hai Goan OH page 387. I have limited the verses to those which lea d us to the identification of the main characters of the end-times. If the Jewish people will repent. In additions to the sources previously mentioned I can bring the following parti al sources: Succah 52a. All rights reserv ed. then there w ill be wars and humility. the Messiah . [5] [6] Page 51-52. [12] In the work of the prophet Ovadiah we see the importance of the house of Joseph. rth. I will only bring here a few passages that tell us about those characters who are to play a key role during the end-times period.com. H. but not who this is. This is the translation into English of the Hebrew HaMoshiach . and make a wondrous entry. By J. [8] It is not my intention of going through all of them. [9] All translation are from the JPS. If not. That is a whole study in itself. Midrashim on Moshiach from the Otzar HaMidrashim (OH) pages 390-395. See my ar ticle What is a Midrash? for a discussion of how the Rabbis use verses.

[17] This quote is directly from The Messiah Texts by Raphael Patai.Zuta 10. [18] [19] Sanhedrin 97b. I have taken it from there because this work is a favorite of missionaries who q uote it extensively. There he translates part of Rab bi Saadiah Gaon s work. page 317. [15] This is subject to how the end-times drama will enfold. [16] Part 8 chapters 4 and 5 are the primary sources for this. See the discussio n below for how this works. even with it s many failures. Chapter 4 . cit. Op.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful