It may come as a surprise to some of the readers to discover that rabbinic Judaism came up with a belief in two distinct Messiahs, namely, the Messiah son of Joseph (also called the son of Ephraim), and the Messiah son of David.
The rabbis further taught that the Messiah of Joseph would be killed in battle and that the Davidic Messiah would then raise him back to life.
To help explain this further we will cite from the work of one of the 20th-21st centuries leading Jewish rabbis and philosophers. The following excerpt is taken from the late renowned rabbinic scholar Joseph Imannuel Schochet’s book Mashiach: Principles of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition (expanded edition), published by S.I.E. (New York-Toronto), 5752-1992, Appendix II. Mashiach Ben Yossef, which can be viewed here https://www.scribd.com/document/168767178/The-Principle-of-Mashiach-and-the-Messianic-Age:
Jewish tradition speaks of two redeemers, each one called Mashiach. Both are involved in ushering in the Messianic era. They are Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yossef.1
The term Mashiach unqualified always refers to Mashiach ben David (Mashiach descendant of David) of the tribe of Judah. He is the actual (final) redeemer who shall rule in the Messianic age. All that was said in our text relates to him.
Mashiach ben Yossef (Mashiach the descendant of Joseph) of the tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph), is also referred to as Mashiach ben Ephrayim, Mashiach the descendant of Ehpraim.2 He will come first, before the final redeemer, and later will serve as his viceroy.3
The essential task of Mashiach ben Yossef is to act as precursor to Mashiach ben David: he will prepare the world for the coming of the final redeemer. Different sources attribute to him different functions, some even charging him with tasks traditionally associated with Mashiach ben David (such as the ingathering of the exiles, the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash, and so forth).4…
The immediate results of this war11 will be disastrous: Mashiach ben Yossef will be killed. This is described in the prophecy of Zechariah, who says of this tragedy that “they shall be mourn him as one mourns for an only child” (Zechariah 12:10). 12 His death will be followed by a period of great calamities. These new tribulations shall be the final test for Israel, and shortly thereafter Mashiach ben David shall come, avenge his death, resurrect him, and inaugurate the Messianic era of everlasting peace and bliss.13
This, in brief, is the general perception of the “second Mashiach,” the descendant of Joseph through the tribe of Ephraim. (Pp. 93-98)
- Sukah 52a-b; Zohar I:25b; ibid. III:246b and 252b etc.; and Midrash Agadat Mashiach; use the term Mashiach ben Yossef. Targum Yehonathan on Exodus 40:11; Zohar II:120a; ibid. 153b, 194b and 243b etc.; Midrash Tehilim 60:3; and other Midrashim refer to Mashiach ben Ephrayim. Pesikta Rabaty, ch. 36-37 (ed. Friedmann, ch. 35-36) refers to Ephrayim Meshiach Tzidki (Ephraim, My righteous Mashiach); the term Ephraim, though, may relate here to collective Israel, thus referring to Mashiach ben David. (Pp. 93-94)
11. Targum Yehonathan on Exodus 40:11, and on Zechariah 12:10 (manuscript-version in ed. A. Sperber); Aggadat Mashiach; Pirkei Heichalot Rabaty (in version cited by Ramban, Sefer Hage’ulah, sha’ar IV; ed. Chavel, p. 291); and Rashi on Sukah 52a; identify the battle of Mashiach ben Yossef with the war of God and Magog.
12. Sukah 52a, and parallel passages. (P. 97)
Here is the reference from the Jewish source Pesikta Rabaty, which Schochet made mention of:
- Hosha‘ya said: “In the future Jerusalem will be a lantern for the nations of the world, and they will walk in her light….”
In Thy light do we see light (Ps. 36:10). This is the light of the Messiah, as it is written, And God saw the light that it was good (Gen. 1:4). This teaches us that the Holy One, blessed be He, saw the generation of the Messiah and its deeds prior to the creation of the world. And He hid the light for the Messiah and his generation under His Throne of Glory.
Satan said before the Holy One, blessed be He: “Master of the World! The light which is hidden under Your Throne of Glory, for whom is it [destined]?” He said to him: “For him who will turn you back and disgrace you, and shame your face.” He said to him: “Master of the world! Show him to me!” He said to him: “Come and see him!” When Satan saw the Messiah, he trembled and fell upon his face and said: “Surely this is the Messiah who in the future will cast me and all the princes of the nations of the world into Gehenna….”
In that hour the nations became awestruck and said before him: “Master of the World! Who is he into whose hand we shall fall, what is his name and what is his nature?” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to them: “His name is Ephraim, My True Messiah. He will raise his stature and the stature of his generation, and will light up the eyes of Israel, and will save his people, and no nation and language shall be able to stand up against him…. All his enemies and adversaries will be affrighted and will flee from him… and even the rivers will cease to flow into the sea….”
[When He created the Messiah], the Holy One, blessed be He, began to tell him the conditions [of his future mission], and said to him: “Those who are hidden with you [your generation], their sins will in the future force you into an iron yoke, and they will render you like unto a calf whose eyes have grown dim, and they will choke your spirit with the yoke, and because of their sins your tongue will cleave to the roof of your mouth. Do you accept this?”
The Messiah said before the Holy One, blessed be He, “Master of the World! Will that suffering last many years?” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him: “By your life and the life of my head, it is a septenary of it that I decreed upon you. But if your soul is troubled, I shall banish them as from this moment.”
He said before Him: “Master of the Worlds! With gladness in my soul and with joy in my heart I accept it, so that not a single one of Israel should perish; and not only those who will be alive should be saved in my days, but even the dead who have died from the days of Adam the first man until now. And not only they, but even the stillborn should be saved in my days; and not only the stillborn, but even those to whose creation You gave thought but who were not created. This is what I want, this is what I accept!” (Pes. Rab. pp. 161a-b)
They said: In the septenary in which the Son of David comes they will bring iron beams and put them upon his neck until his body bends and he cries and weeps, and his voice rise up into the Heights, and he says before Him: “Master of the World! How much can my strength suffer? How much my spirit? How much my soul? And how much my limbs? Am I not but flesh and blood?…”
In that hour the Holy One, blessed be He, says to him: “Ephraim, My True Messiah, you have already accepted [this suffering] from the six days of creation. Now your suffering shall be like My suffering. For ever since the day on which wicked Nebuchadnezzar came up and destroyed My Temple and burnt My sanctuary, and I exiled My children among the nations of the world, by your life and the life of your head, I have not sat on My Throne. And if you do not believe me, see the dew that is upon My head….”
In that hour he says before Him: “Master of the World! Now my mind is at rest, for it is sufficient for the servant to be like his Master!” (Pes. Rab. pp. 162a) (Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years [Wayne State University Press, Detroit, MI 1979], 12. The Suffering Messiah, pp. 111-113; bold emphasis ours)
What an amazing exposition! Not only does the above reference speak of Messiah suffering in order to atone for the sins of creation, and not only does it apply Psalm 22:15 to the Messiah, thereby showing that even some of the Jews took this to be a Messianic Psalm, it also confirms the Messiah’s preexistence, since it claims that the light that God spoke forth in Genesis 1:4 was none other than the Messiah whom God has kept hidden under God’s throne!
This rabbinic source even has God and the Messiah speaking to each other long before Messiah’s appearance into the world, further highlighting the rabbinic belief in the Messiah’s personal prehuman existence!
And here is another rabbinic citation which Schochet alluded to:
What was the mourning for? R. Dosa and the rabbis differ: One holds that it was for the Messiah the son of Joseph, who was killed; 1 and one holds that it was for the evil angel, who was killed. 2 It would be right according to one who holds that it was for the Messiah the son of Joseph, because he explains as supporting him the passage [Zech. xii. 10]: “And they will look up toward me (for every one) whom they have thrust through, and they will lament for him, as one lamenteth for an only son, and weep bitterly for him, as one weepeth bitterly for the firstborn”;…
The rabbis taught: The Messiah b. David, who (as we hope) will appear in the near future, the Holy One, blessed be He, will say to him: Ask something of me and I will give it to thee, as it is written [Ps. ii. 7-8]: “I will announce the decree . . . Ask it of me, and I will give,” etc. But as the Messiah b. David will have seen that the Messiah b. Joseph who preceded him was killed, he will say before the Lord: Lord of the Universe, I will ask nothing of Thee but life. And the Lord will answer: This was prophesied already for thee by thy father David [Ps. xxi. 5]: “Life hath he asked of thee, thou gavest it to him.”…
It is written [Zech. ii. 3]: “And the Lord showed me four carpenters.” Who are the four carpenters? Said R. Hanah bar Bizna in the name of R. Simeon the Pious: Messiah b. David, and Messiah b. Joseph, Elijah, and Cohen Zedek.
It is written [Micah, v. 4]: “And in this (manner) shall there be peace: If Asshur should come into our land; and if he should tread in our palaces, then will we raise up against him seven shepherds, and eight anointed men. Who are the seven shepherds? David in the centre; Adam, Sheth, Methushelach, at his right; Abraham, Jacob, and Moses at his left. And who are the eight anointed men? Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zedekiah, Messiah, and Elijah. 1…
79:1 There was a tradition among the ancient Hebrews that two Messiahs would appear before the redemption of Israel one of the tribe of Joseph and one of the tribe of Jehudah, a descendant of David and the expression “who was killed” means who will have been killed. The Jewish Christians at that time, who did not believe in the divinity of Christ, but in his Messiahship (i.e., that the traditional Messiah ben Joseph meant the son of a man by the name of Joseph, but not of the tribe of Joseph, as Christ was, and that his fate was to be killed before the appearance of Messiah b. David), explain this passage to have reference to Christ. (Tract Succah (Booths), Chapter V, from the Babylonian Talmud, translated by Michael L. Rodkinson [d. 1918], Section Moed (Festivals)Tracts Betzh, Succah, Moed Katan, Taanith, Megilla and Ebel Rabbathi or Semahoth, Book 4: Volumes VII. and VIII. http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/t04/suc07.htm; underline emphasis ours)
And note what the renowned medieval rabbi Rashi wrote in respect to Zechariah 12:10:
a spirit of grace and supplications: That it should come into their mind to supplicate Me, and they will be in My good graces.
a spirit: Talant in Old French, a desire.
they shall look to Me because of those who have been thrust through: Jonathan renders: And they shall supplicate Me because of their wanderings.
And they shall look to Me to complain about those of them whom the nations thrust through and slew during their exile.
and they shall mourn over it: Over that slaughter.
as one mourns over an only son: As a man mourns over his only son. And our Sages expounded this in tractate Sukkah (52a) as referring TO THE MESSIAH, SON OF JOSEPH, WHO WAS SLAIN. (The Complete Jewish Bible With Rashi Commentary https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16216#v=10&showrashi=true; capital and underline emphasis ours)
These quotations strongly suggest that the reason why later rabbinic Judaism came up with two Messiahs, one who shall be slain and the other who will reign, is because of passages such as Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and Zechariah 12:10, all which speak of the vicarious sufferings of the Messiah, as even the Jews could see. They, thus, had to come up with a way of harmonizing these texts with all the other prophecies that speak of the Messiah eternally reigning in glory and triumphing over the enemies of God.
Now the interesting fact about the prophecy in Zechariah is that the prophet actually speaks of the time when all the Jews will repent and mourn for their sin of slaying their God!
“I will save the houses in Judah first. The honor of David’s family line is great. So is the honor of those who live in Jerusalem. But their honor will not be greater than the honor of the rest of Judah. At that time I will be like a shield to those who live in Jerusalem. Then even the weakest among them will be great warriors like David. And David’s family line will be like the angel of the Lord who leads them. On that day I will begin to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem. I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on David’s family line. I will also send it on those who live in Jerusalem. They will look to me. I am the one they have pierced. They will mourn over me as someone mourns over an only child who has died. They will be full of sorrow over me. Their sorrow will be just like someone’s sorrow over an oldest son. At that time there will be a lot of weeping in Jerusalem. It will be as great as the weeping of the people at Hadad Rimmon. Hadad Rimmon is in the valley of Megiddo. They were weeping over Josiah’s death. Everyone in the land will mourn. Each family will mourn by themselves and their wives by themselves. That will include the family lines of David, Nathan, Levi, Shimei and all the others. At that time a fountain will be opened for the benefit of David’s family line. It will also bless the others who live in Jerusalem. It will wash away their sins. It will make them pure and ‘clean.’” Zechariah 12:7-13:1 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
Here are several other renderings of v. 10:
“… They will look to me, the one they stabbed…” Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
“… They will look at me, the one they have ·stabbed [pierced]…” Expanded Bible (EXB)
“…They will look at me, whom they have stabbed…” GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
“… They will look at me, the one they have stabbed…” International Children’s Bible (ICB)
“…They will look at me, whom they have stabbed…” Names of God Bible (NOG)
“… They will look at me, the one they have stabbed…” New Century Version (NCV)
“… and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced [dakar, “pierce through” cf. Yeshayah 53:5; Targum HaShivim Tehillim 22:17]…” Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)
The only way that Israel could ever pierce God who is Spirit is if God actually took on a tangible physical body. Otherwise, how can anyone kill a spirit? And since the rabbis interpreted this verse in respect to the slaying or killing of Messiah son of Joseph, this provides implicit and indirect support that the Messiah would actually be God himself manifesting in human flesh!
What makes this all the more amazing is that the NT identifies the Lord Jesus as being both of these Messiahs, since he is the Son of Joseph, his legal, adoptive father, whose father’s name was Jacob. And he is also the Son of David!
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham… and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ… Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emman′u-el’(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:1, 16, 18-25
“And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimae′us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae′us, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” Mark 10:46-48
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.’” Luke 1:26-33
“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli,” Luke 3:23
“Philip found Nathan′a-el, and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” John 1:45
“They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’” John 6:42
“Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Acts 2:29-32
“And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king; of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” Acts 13:22-23
“the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 1:3-4
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel,” 2 Timothy 2:8
“I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:16
Just as amazing is the fact that Jesus perfectly fulfills the role of the Messiah son of Joseph since he was killed for our sins at the instigation of his own people, the Jews, thereby fulfilling Zechariah 12:10:
“But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of him shall be broken.’ And again another scripture says, ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced.’” John 19:34-37
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it… Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:22-24, 36
“The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Acts 3:13-18
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51-53
“Brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you that fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets which are read every sabbath, fulfilled these by condemning him. Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.’” Acts 13:26-33
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!” 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25
And he also perfectly fulfills the task assigned to the Messiah son of David who was to raise Messiah son of Joseph from the dead, since the NT teaches that Jesus personally raised himself back to life (in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit)!
“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will YOU raise it up in three days?’ But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” John 2:19-22
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17-18
We thus have the Messiah Son of David resurrecting the Messiah Son of Joseph since Jesus happens to be both Messiahs in one!
In other words, there aren’t two Messiahs but one single Messiah, who was/is both the (adoptive, legal) Son of Joseph and the (biological) Son of David and who then raised himself back to life after being put to death for the sins of God’s people.
It appears as if God has a sense of humor since it seems like God, who knows all things, and therefore knew that the Jews would come up with two Messiahs, one of whom would be called the son of Joseph, chose to deliberately orchestrate events in such a way that Jesus ended up being born to a virgin maiden whose husband’s name just so happened to be Joseph, and whose father happened to be a man named Jacob, thus making Jesus the Son of Joseph, the Son of Jacob!
With the foregoing in perspective, what further proof does a person need to be fully convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is Israel’s long awaited Messiah, the unique divine Son of God and Savior of the world?
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural citations taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.