Messiah ben Joseph

Messiah ben Joseph

Messiah ben Joseph (Hebrew: משיח בן יוסף), also alternatively known as Messiah ben Ephraim (Hebrew: משיח בן אפרים), is a Messianic figure peculiar to the rabbinical apocalyptic literature. One of the earliest known mentions of him is in (Sukkah52a, b), where three statements occur in regard to him, for the first of which Rabbi Dosa (c. 250) is given as authority. Rabbi Dosa reads Zechariah 12.10-12.12 as lamenting the death of Messiah ben Joseph. In the last of these three statements only his name is mentioned, but the first two speak of the fate which he is to meet, namely, to fall in battle (as if alluding to a well-known tradition).



Details about the Messiah ben Joseph are not found until much later, but he has an established place in the apocalypses of later centuries, such as the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel, and in the midrash literature—in Saadia's description of the future (Emunot we-De'ot, ch. viii.) and in that of Hai Gaon (Ṭa'am Zeḳenim, p. 59). According to these, Messiah b. Joseph will appear prior to the coming of Messiah ben David. He will gather the children of Israel around him, march to Jerusalem, and there, after overcoming the hostile powers, reestablish the Temple-worship and set up his own dominion. Thereupon Armilus, according to one group of sources, or Gog and Magog, according to the other, will appear with their hosts before Jerusalem, wage war against Messiah ben Joseph, and slay him. His corpse, according to one group, will lie unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; according to the other, it will be hidden by the angels with the bodies of the Patriarchs, until Messiah ben David comes and resurrects him (comp. Jew. Encyc. i. 682, 684 [§§ 8 and 13]; comp. also Midr. Wayosha' and Agadat ha-Mashiaḥ in A. Jellinek, B. H. i. 55 et seq., iii. 141 et seq.).

The Messiah ben Joseph, according to Rabbi Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michael Weiser (“MALBIM”) (1809-1879 CE), will be the future leader of the Lost Ten Tribes when they return (see Malbim on Ezekiel 37 and Micah 5). The Messiah ben Joseph will initiate union with Judah who will be led by Messiah son of David. Later The Messiah son of Joseph is killed and Messiah son of David rules over all Twelve Tribes. Prior to the Malbim, it has been claimed, Messiah son of Joseph was not considered the future leader of the Ten Tribes, although twice it is mentioned that a part of the Ten Tribes will be found among those who will gather about his standard. The Book "Kol HaTor," attributed to followers of Eliyahu of Vilna, deals at length with Messiah son of Joseph and his role in bringing back the exiles and rebuilding the Land.

Apocryphally, prophecy about the Messiah son of Joseph is reported in one place to have been given first by the mother of Joseph of Egypt,[1] and also by Joseph, who stated that the Messiah of his lineage would restore true worship. [2] There is a possibility, however, as has been repeatedly maintained, that there is some connection between the Alexander saga and the Messiah b. Joseph tradition, for, in the Midrash, on the strength of Deut. xxxiii. 17, a pair of horns, with which he will "strike in all directions," is the emblem of Messiah b. Joseph (comp. Pirḳe R. El. xix.; Gen. R. lxxv.; Num. R. xiv.; et al.), just as in the apocalyptic Alexander tradition in the Koran (referred to above) the latter is called "The Double-Horned" (Dhu al-ḲQarnain).

Some religious entities have attempted to transpose their beliefs into the conception of Messiah ben Joseph, particularly on the basis of some Midrashim that seem to allude to his death and resurrection. Among those who choose to employ such imagery in their attempts to theologically justify their position include Christians who wish to use Jewish texts in their evangelism who believe the term "Moshiach ben Yosef" to refer to the "First Coming of Jesus"[3] and lately Messianic factions of Lubavitch Hasidism who believe that the deceased Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the Messiah'[4]

Jews considered the Messiah ben Joseph

  • Bar Abba (1st century CE).
  • Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) in his cosmogony thought of himself as being the Messiah ben Joseph and Rabbi Hayyim Vital as his heir.[5]
  • Hayyim Vital (1543–1620) was claimed to be Messiah ben Joseph in a 1574 letter of Abraham Shalom.
  • Joshua Heschel Zoref (b.1633): Claimed to be the Messiah ben Joseph, with Shabbetai Zvi as the Jewish Messiah.
  • Judah Leib Prossnitz (c.1670-1730): Claimed to be the Messiah ben Joseph, with Shabbetai Zvi as the Jewish Messiah.

See also


  1. ^ Legends of the Jews 5:299
  2. ^ [1] Legends of the Jews, 2:7
  3. ^ Hebrew For Christians Moshiach ben Yosef - The First Coming of Jesus?
  4. ^ Rabbi Yess Menachem Mendel the Resurrected Moshiach
  5. ^ Lenowitz, Harris. The Jewish Messiahs: From the Galilee to Crown Heights [New York, N.Y. Oxford University Press, 1998], 127.


  • This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Bibliographical entries are cited in chronological order, beginning with the most recent.
    • D.C. Mitchell, “A Dying and Rising Josephite Messiah in 4Q372”, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 18.3 (2009) 47-70.
    • I. Knohl, 'The Messiah Son of Joseph: “Gabriel’s Revelation” and the Birth of a New Messianic Model', Biblical Archaeology Review 34:05 (Sep/Oct 2008).
    • D.C. Mitchell, “Messiah ben Joseph: A Sacrifice of Atonement for Israel”, Review of Rabbinic Judaism 10 (2007).
    • D.C. Mitchell, “Messiah bar Ephraim in the Targums”, Aramaic Studies 4.2 (2006) 221-241.
    • D.C. Mitchell, “Firstborn Shor and Rem: A Sacrificial Josephite Messiah in 1 Enoch 90.37- 38 & Deuteronomy 33.17”, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 15.3 (2006) 211- 28”.
    • D.C. Mitchell, “The Fourth Deliverer: A Josephite Messiah in 4Q175”, Biblica 86.4 (2005) 545-553."
    • R. Smend, Alttestamentliche Religionsgesch.;
    • W. Nowack, Die Zukunftshoffnung Israels in der Assyrischen Zeit;
    • Hühn, Die Messianischen Weissagungen;
    • Fr. Giesebrecht, Der Knecht Jahwe's in Deutero-Jesaia;
    • Emil Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 29;
    • Wilhelm Bousset, Die Religion des Judentums im Neutestamentlichen Zeitalter, part 3, ch. ii.-v.; part 6, pp. 474 et seq.;
    • P. Volz, Jüdische Eschatologie von Daniel bis Akiba, §§ 34-35;
    • H. J. Holtzmann, Lehrbuch der Neutestamentlichen Theologie, i. 68-85;
    • W. Baldensperger, Die Messianisch-Apokalyptischen Hoffnungen des Judentums;
    • F. Weber, Jüdische Theologie auf Grund des Talmud, etc., ch. xxii.-xxiii.;
    • Gustaf H. Dalman, Der Leidende und der Sterbende Messias;
    • idem, Die Worte Jesu, pp. 191 et seq.;
    • Kampers, Alexander der Grosse und die Idee des Weltimperiums in Prophetie und Sage;
    • B. Beer, Welchen Aufschluss Geben die Jüdischen Quellen über den "Zweigehörnten" des Korans? in *Z. D. M. G. ix. 791 et seq.

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