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Mashiach ben Yosef - Joseph as a Picture of Messiah

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Mashiach ben Yosef

Joseph as a picture of the Messiah

by John J. Parsons

Jewish tradition sometimes refers to two redeemers, each being called "Messiah" (i.e., Mashiach: מָשִׁיחַ). Both of these redeemers are involved in delivering the Jewish people from galut (exile) and ushering in the long-awaited Messianic era. These two Messiahs are called Mashiach ben David (מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן־דָוִד), "the Messiah the descendant of David," and Mashiach ben Yosef (מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן־יוֹסֵף), "the Messiah the descendant of Joseph," respectively.

When Jews typically think of "the" Messiah (i.e., ha-mashiach: הַמָּשִׁיחַ), however, they generally have in mind Mashiach ben David of the tribe of Judah who shall rule in the Messianic age. Mashiach ben Yosef is said to be of the tribe of Ephraim (son of Joseph), and is also sometimes called Mashiach ben Ephraim (Bavli Sukah 52b). Mashiach ben Yosef will come first, before the advent of Mashiach ben David, to prepare the world for the coming of the kingdom of the LORD. He will fight God's wars (against "Edom," collectively understood as the enemies of Israel) in a time preceding the fulfillment of the Messianic Kingdom (this is sometimes referred to as Ikvot Mashiach, the "footsteps of the Messiah").

The Rabbis derive this understanding of Mashiach ben Yosef from their exegesis of Obadiah 1:18: "The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the LORD has spoken." Moreover, they understand the confrontation between Joseph and Esau to be prefigured in the birth of Joseph himself, where Rachel indicated that God would "add a son" (i.e., ben acher: בֵּן אַחֵר) who would be anointed for battle in the End of Days (midrash on Gen. 30:23).

However, Mashiach ben Yosef will be killed during the war against evil, as described in the prophecy of Zechariah, who says of this tragedy that "they shall mourn him as one mourns for an only child" (Zech. 12:10, Bavli Suk. 52a). His death would be followed by a period of great calamities and tribulations for Israel, and shortly after this Mashiach ben David would appear to avenge his death and inaugurate the Messianic kingdom on earth (yemot hamashiach).

Fascinatingly, R' Saadiah Gaon (among other sages) has said that the Jewish people may be redeemed immediately if they simply repent - even before the appearance of Mashiach ben David. But if they do not repent, Chevlei Mashiach (Great Tribulation) will come upon them: "The Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a ruler over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman's, thus causing Israel to repent, and thereby bringing them back to the right path" (Sanhedrin 97b).

As for Rambam's view of Mashiach ben David (i.e., the traditional Jewish view), it is said that he will restore the Bet Hamikdash (Temple), regather the exiles of Israel, cause all goyim (nations) of the earth to be subjected (i.e., "united in peace"), put an end to sin and evil, raise the dead (techiyat hametim), and set up a blissful utopia headquartered in Jerusalem. In that day, 'the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea' (Habakkuk 2:14)


Two Messiahs or One?

Does the Tanakh give evidence of two Messiahs or just one? Is it possible that the portrayal of the Messiah as riding a donkey, lowly and humble (Zech. 9:9) and the portrayal as one coming in great triumph "in the clouds" (Dan. 7:13) refer to the same person? Could it be that one Messiah would come twice: first as ben Yosef to atone for the sins of Israel and the nations (i.e., the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53), and second as ben David to bring judgment upon the unjust and to 'restore the kingdom back to Israel'?

Yeshua as ben Yosef indeed came first and suffered and died for the sake of Israel (and the nations) in the war against ultimate evil. Moreover, after his death, great calamity and tribulation indeed broke out in Israel, as the Second Temple was destroyed and the nation was forced into the long period of galut (exile). In fact, ever since he was pierced for Israel, no Temple has ever stood on Mount Moriah, the place of the original Akedah, and the place where He was offered up to make atonement for their sins.

Yet Yeshua as ben David will completely fulfill the Messianic expectation as anticipated by Maimonides and the other Jewish sages. He will come again to restore the Bet Hamikdash (Temple) and set up his kingdom upon the earth. Moreover, he will unite all the goyim (nations) in peace, raise the dead (techiyat hametim), and set up his throne in Jerusalem. In that day, 'the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea' (Hab. 2:14).

As Messianic Jews, we believe that Yeshua is both Mashiach Ben Yosef (the suffering servant - at His first coming) and Mashiach Ben David (the reigning King - at His second coming) [see Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:12, Psalm 22]). He is also the Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King as foreshadowed by other meshichim (מְשִׁיחִים) in the Tanakh. Like so many other prophecies given in the Scriptures, the prophecies concerning the Mashiach are "dual aspect" - with both a near and a far meaning, an "already but not-yet" fulfillment.

David Brown writes:

    It is common for Jewish objectors to point that "Jesus has not fulfilled all the prophecies," and to scorn the suggestion that some prophecies are for a later time and are to be fulfilled at the "second coming." The fact is, however, that prophecies about Messiah are of two seemingly mutually-exclusive types, as though they were talking about two different Messiahs. Jewish scholarship refers to Messiah ben-David and Messiah ben-Yosef. One is the positive, victorious Messiah who ushers in a kingdom of peace, the other is a suffering servant (as in Isaiah 53). The  popular tendency is to think only of ben-David and ignore ben-Yosef, but the Messianic/Christian view accounts for both in one person. Interestingly, these two prophetic strains are named for David and Joseph, both of which suffered first and emerged victorious in the end. Joseph is introduced to us with dreams of grandeur, but he was lost to Israel actually considered dead before his dreams came true. Eventually however, he had a "second coming" when he came back into the lives of his brothers who once rejected him. Then they bowed down to him and he became the savior of his people by providing for them in a time of famine. David also, though anointed as King in his youth as far as God was concerned, was rejected by the current King and lived as a fugitive for many years before he finally became the quintessential King of Israel. Both of these historic figures, which Jewish tradition has recognized as being prototypes of Messiah, arrive amid promises, are pushed down, and finally emerge in glory. Shouldn't the ultimate Messiah follow the same pattern?
     


48 ways Joseph Prefigures Jesus

In this connection, it is helpful to consider the life of Joseph as the archetypical pattern for the "other son" (ben acher) who would be the fulfillment of Mashiach ben Yosef. The following list in not exhaustive, but here are 48 ways in which the life of Joseph pictures the life of Yeshua our Redeemer:

 

1

Joseph was "beloved of his father" (Gen. 37:3). He was ben yachid (בֵּן יָחִיד) as Isaac was regarded by Abraham (see the Akedah).

 

"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Yeshua is also described as ben yachid, "only begotten" of the Father (John 1:14).

2

Joseph was a shepherd (רוֹעֶה)
(Gen. 37:2).

 

Yeshua the Messiah is called the "Good Shepherd" (הָרעֶה הַטּוֹב) (John 10:11).

3

Joseph brought a bad report of his brothers to his father (Gen. 37:2).

 

Yeshua testified that the world hated Him because its works were evil (John 7:7).

4

Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons (Gen. 37:3).

 

God loves Yeshua His Son in a unique way (John 3:35; 5:20; Matt. 17:5; Luke 9:35).

5

Joseph was "anointed" by his father with a tunic of many colors (i.e., ketonet passim: כְּתנֶת פַּסִּים). (Gen. 37:3)

 

Yeshua was anointed as Mashiach ben David (Heb 1:9; Psalm 45:7; see below).

6

Joseph's brothers hated him and could not speak kindly to him (Gen. 37:4).

 

Yeshua was hated without a cause and repeatedly "tested" by the religious authorities (John 1:11; 15:25).

7

Joseph was a dreamer and a prophet who was despised by his brothers (Gen. 37:5-10).

 

Yeshua preached the message of salvation through His vision of the kingdom - and was despised (John 5:18; 7:1; 8:6; Matt. 16:1, etc.).

8

Joseph's brothers refused his rule
(Gen. 37:8).

 

Yeshua likened His rejection by the religious leaders to mean, "We do not want this man to rule over us" (Luke 19:14).

9

Joseph's brothers envied him
(Gen. 37:11).

 

It was out of envy (קִנְאָה) that the chief priests handed him over to be killed (Mark 15:10).

10

Joseph was "sent forth by his father" (Gen. 37:12-14).

 

Yeshua sent forth by His Father
(John 5:30-36; 6:57; 8:18,42; Gal. 4:4; 1 John 4:9, etc.).

11

Joseph's brothers conspired to kill him (Gen. 37:18).

 

The chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death (Matt. 27:1).

12

Joseph's brothers disbelieved in him (Gen. 37:19-20).

 

Yeshua's brothers did not believe in Him
(John 1:11; 3:18, John 3:36, etc.).

13

Joseph's brothers stripped him of his tunic and mocked him (Gen. 37:19,23).

 

They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him (Matt. 27:28).

14

Joseph's brothers cast him into a pit, a symbol of the tomb (Gen. 37:24).

 

Yeshua was cast into a pit (Zech. 9:11; Matt. 12:40; Matt. 27:59-60).

15

Joseph's brothers callously ate a meal while he was suffering in the pit (Gen. 37:25).

 

Israel ate the Pascal meal while Yeshua was in the pit (John 13:1).

16

Judah promoted the idea that Joseph's life should be ransomed (Gen. 37:26-27).

 

Yeshua was born of the tribe of Judah and became the Redeemer of the world.

17

Joseph's brothers sold him for shekels of silver (Gen. 37:28).

 

"They paid him (Judas) thirty pieces of silver" (Matt. 26:15).

18

Joseph was raised from the pit
(Gen. 37:28).

 

Yeshua was raised from the dead
(Matt. 28:6; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:6; John 20:1-17; etc.).

19

Joseph was sold as a slave before he was promoted to glory (Gen. 37:28).

 

Yeshua took upon Himself the form of a suffering servant before His exaltation
(John 13:12-17; Matt. 20:25-26; Mark 10:43; Phil. 2:6-9, etc.).

20

Joseph was taken into Egypt to avoid being killed (Gen. 37:28).

 

Yeshua was taken into Egypt to avoid the insane wrath of "Herod the Great" (Matt. 2:13-14).

21

Joseph's tunic was covered with blood (Gen. 37:31)

 

Yeshua's robe was covered with blood.
(Mark 15:17-20; Matt. 27:28-31). Yeshua redeemed us from judgment by shedding His blood for our sins (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Acts 5:31; 1 Pet. 3:18; Rom. 5:6-8, 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13, etc.).

22

Joseph became a slave in Potiphar's house (Gen. 39:1)

 

Yeshua took upon Himself the form of a suffering servant before His exaltation
(John 13:12-17; Matt. 20:25-26; Mark 10:43; Phil. 2:6-9, etc.)

23

The LORD was with Joseph in his humiliation and prospered him (Gen. 39:2).

 

Yeshua grew in wisdom and favor (Luke 2:40); He always did those things that pleased the Father (John 8:29).

24

Joseph was made an overseer
(Gen. 39:4).

 

Yeshua is the Shepherd and Overseer (מַשְׁגִּיחַ) of our souls (1 Pet. 2:25; John 3:35; Matt 28:18).

25

Joseph was tempted but did not sin (Gen. 39:7-10).

 

Yeshua was tempted in every way yet was without sin (Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 3:5).

26

Joseph was falsely accused
(Gen. 39:11-20; 40:15).

 

Yeshua was false accused by the religious authorities (Luke 23:4;14-15; John 18:38; 19:4; Heb. 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 Pet. 3:18).

27

Joseph made no defense
(Gen. 39:19-20).

 

"He questioned him at some length, but he made no answer" (Luke 23:9; Matt. 27:14; Acts 8:32; Isa 53:7; etc.).

28

Joseph was imprisoned with two other criminals (Gen. 40:2-3).

 

"Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him."
(Luke 23:32; Matt. 27:38; Mark 15:27; John 19:18).

29

Joseph was a prophet who could interpret dreams (Gen. 40:5-41:32).

 

Yeshua was a prophet who could reveal what was hidden in the heart (John 4:19,29).

30

Joseph was filled with the Spirit of God (רוּחַ אֱלהִים) and great wisdom (Gen. 41:38-39).

 

God anointed Yeshua with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10:38; Matt. 3:16-4:1; Luke 4:1; etc.). He was full of wisdom and truth.

31

Joseph was finally vindicated and exalted over the entire world (Gen. 41:40-42).

 

"The Son of Man is seated at the right hand of Power" (Matt. 26:64; Acts 7:56; 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 1:18-20, etc.).

32

Joseph was raised from the pit and given fine linen and gold (Gen. 41:42).

 

Yeshua was clothed with his preincarnate glory after the resurrection (Matt. 17:1; Rev. 1:13-17; Dan. 10:5-6).

33

Every knee was made to bow before Joseph (Gen. 41:43)

 

Every knee shall bow to Yeshua the Messiah (Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:9-11).

34

Joseph was given a foreign bride (אָסְנַת) (Gen. 41:45).

 

Yeshua's followers are called the "Bride of Messiah," and are taken from every tribe and tongue (John 6:37; Rev. 22:17, etc.).

35

Joseph was called Tsofnat Pane'ach (צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ), i.e., "Decipherer of Secrets" (Gen. 41:45).

 

Yeshua revealed the Father (John 1:18); Revealer of parables and "hidden things" (Matt. 13:10-13;35). In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom (Col. 2:3).

36

Joseph was 30 years old when he began his public ministry in Egypt (Gen. 41:46).

 

Yeshua was 30 years old when He began His public ministry in Israel (Luke 3:23).

37

Joseph became the bread giver to the world (Gen. 41:55).

 

Yeshua is Lechem Ha-Chayim, the "Bread of Life" (John 6:35,48-58).

38

Joseph tested his brothers as a disguised Egyptian, and they did not recognize him (Gen. 42:8).

 

Yeshua is the Stumbling block and Rock of Offence (Isa. 8:14; Rom. 9:33). A "partial hardening" has come upon Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles are brought into the New Covenant (Rom. 11:25-26).

39

Judah interceded on behalf of Israel's son Benjamin before Joseph (Gen. 43:9; 44:16-34).

 

1) Yeshua will one day intercede (as Mashiach ben David) on behalf of Israel (the Yom Kippur connection of the End of Days); 2) The Jewish people will finally repent and turn to Yeshua as their Savior.

40

After testing his brothers to see if they underwent teshuvah, Joseph finally revealed himself (Gen. 45:1-4).

 

During the Great Tribulation, Yeshua will open the eyes of Israel so they finally recognize Him (Luke 13:35; Matt. 24-25).

41

Joseph was revealed to his brothers as Israel's savior (Gen. 45:1-15).

 

Yeshua is Israel's true Savior (Acts 13:23; 2 Tim. 1:10; Isa. 43:11). Israel will receive Yeshua at His Second coming (Zech. 12:10; John 19:37; Rom. 11:26; Isa. 59:20, etc.).

42

Joseph became the savior of the entire world (Gen. 45:7).

 

God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Salvation ultimately means redemption from the curse of sin and death.

43

Joseph was "alive from the dead" for Israel (Gen. 45:26-28).

 

"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."
(Matt. 28:6; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:6; John 20:1-17; etc.).

44

Judah led the way of Israel back to the promised land of Goshen (Gen. 46:28).

 

Yeshua as Mashiach ben David will lead Israel to the renewed land of promise.

45

Joseph brought Israel before Pharaoh and Jacob blessed the Pharaoh (Gen. 47:7).

 

Yeshua will one day bring Israel before the Father - and Israel will then bless the Name of the LORD in the truth (1 Cor. 15:28).

46

Through his faith, Joseph conquered the entire world (Gen. 47:23).

 

In the Millennial Kingdom, Yeshua will be the undisputed LORD of the world (Rev. 20:2-6; Zech. 8:3; 14:8; Isa. 2:3; Micah 4:2; etc.).

47

Joseph was crowned with glory and honor (Gen. 41:39-45).

 

Yeshua was crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of His death on behalf of His people (Heb. 2:9; Phil. 2:6-11, Matt. 28:18, etc.).

48

Joseph was given the blessing of the firstborn son. Israel irrevocably adopted Ephraim and Manasseh into the family (Gen. 48:3-6).

 

Yeshua foretold that there would be one shepherd over one flock (John 10:16). Ultimately there will be one olive tree that represents the redeemed people of God (Rom. 11:17-26).

Just as Joseph was finally revealed to the Jewish people as a type of Messiah and Savior (though they had initially betrayed him and rejected him), so will Yeshua be revealed as both Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David in the acharit haymim (End of Days). Then will come true the prophecy quoted by the Apostle Paul: "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer who shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:26; Isa. 59:20).

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