Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David

Anciently, when scholars and Rabbis studied the Scriptures, they found that there was a contradiction, or so they thought. They saw that the Messiah was going to be a conquering King who would defeat Israel’s enemies and bring peace to the world (Psa 2; Jer 23; Zech 14). On the other hand, they saw the Messiah was going to be hated, despised and even die for the sins of the people (Isa 52 and 53; Psa 22). As a result, they concluded that there would be two Messiahs, one called the Messiah ben David (conquering King) and the other was called Messiah ben Joseph (the suffering Messiah, using Joseph as a picture).

This idea of several Messiahs was not limited to just two. The Talmud in Sanhedrin 98a and 98b put forward the concept of a “Leprous Messiah” and the Essenes believed in a “priestly Messiah” called “Messiah ben Aaron” (Manual of Discipline, Community Rule 1qs, Col 9, lines 10-11) and a “Warrior Messiah” (4Q Florilegium 1.7-13,18-19; 4Q458,fr.2,col 2). By the first century, the most common view was that there would be two Messiahs, a Messiah ben Joseph and a Messiah ben David.

There was a great expectancy for the coming Messiah by the first century based on the prophecies of Daniel 9.24-27, and this was spoken about in Luke 3.15-15. This expectation by the people of Israel is the back-round for a question that John the Baptist (Yochanon ha Matvil) asked Yeshua in Matt 11.3 when he asked “Are you the Coming One, or should we look for another?” Many have preached from the pulpit that John was doubting and they go into a sermon about that, but that was not the case. John knew that Yeshua was the Messiah because the Lord told him (Matt 3.13; Luke 1.39-41). His ministry was based on the fact that the Lord was going to identify who the Messiah was to the people (Luke 1.16-17). He was far from being in doubt, he was asking an eschatological (prophecy) question and wanted some clarification. He was asking whether Yeshua was going to fulfill all the prophecies about the Messiah or were the scholars and Rabbis right and there were going to be others coming after him.

Yeshua’s answer (Matt 11.4-6) to John clearly showed that he was going to fulfill all the prophecies of the suffering servant (John had already called him the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” or Messiah ben Joseph) and all the prophecies of the conquering King (Messiah ben David).

You see, when Yeshua said that “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them” it was a clear, eschatological answer to John. In Jewish thought, a healing or the dead being raised along with the Gospel being preached was seen as prophetic and that the Kingdom of God was coming upon you.

To have the Kingdom of God you need a Messiah (the King) and so John was answered with Scripture concerning the King of Israel, in other words, Yeshua was going to fulfill the role of suffering servant and the conquering King. These roles will be accomplished in two comings.

We know now by looking back that this is the case because Yeshua suffered, died and was raised during the Spring Festivals of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost as Messiah ben Joseph and he said he was coming again as Messiah ben David, the conquering King, during the Fall Festivals of Rosh ha Shannah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, Questions, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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