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Jacob, at the end of his life, had a vision of the future, saw Samson's might, and momentarily thought that Samson was the Messiah (Genesis 49:17-18).

Breishit Raba 98:

יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ רוֹאֶה אוֹתוֹ וְסָבוּר בּוֹ שֶׁהוּא מֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ,Jacob saw him [Samson] and thought he was Messiah ...

But per the Talmud it was obviously too early, historically, during Samson's lifetime, for the Messiah to come ....

תנא דבי אליהו ששת אלפים שנה הוי העולם שני אלפים תוהו שני אלפים תורה שני אלפים ימות המשיח one of the Sages of the school of Eliyahu taught: The world is destined to exist for six thousand years. For two thousand years the world was waste. The next set of two thousand years are the time period of the Torah. The last set of two thousand years are the period designated for the days of the Messiah.

The Maharal understands this Talmudic selection to mean that it is impossible for Messiah to come before the final two thousand years of creation:

ספר נצח ישראל פרק כז וכן 'ב' אלפים ימי המשיח', רוצה לומר שהם מיוחדים למשיח, אבל קודם לכן אי אפשר שיבוא המשיח בשום אופן, בכל תשובה ומעשים טובים בעולם. רק באלו ב' אלפים אחרונים הם ימי המשיח "and so it is for the two thousand years of days of Messiah - meaning that they are designated for Messiah, but before then it is impossible for Messiah to come in any way, even with an infinite amount of repentance and good deeds. Only these latter two thousand years are days of Messiah.

Per the Maharal, how could Jacob think that Samson was the Messiah?

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    Perhaps during the vision his sense of time was altered ??!!
    – GratefulD
    Dec 28, 2023 at 12:44
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    From the end of that midrash, it seems Yaacov wasn't confused about time: יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ רוֹאֶה אוֹתוֹ וְסוֹבֵר בּוֹ שֶׁגְּאֻלָּה מַגַּעַת בְּיָמָיו
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 28, 2023 at 12:51
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    Hashem confused him about when moshiach would come: בקש לגלות את הקץ ונסתלקה ממנו שכינה
    – shmosel
    Dec 28, 2023 at 12:56
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    You could ask the same question on Rabbi Akiva regarding Bar Kochba. I think only after the 2000 years of Moshiach arrived have we realized that it couldnt' have been ealier.
    – robev
    Dec 28, 2023 at 14:40
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    I still hold by my comment. Nevertheless, an interesting fact is Rav Daniel Glatstein brings from the Chozeh MiLublin that Shimshon HaGibbor was the first Moshiach ben Yosef. They appear in every generation.
    – robev
    Dec 28, 2023 at 14:53

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As @shmosel pointed out, we have a tradition that Hashem kept it all a big secret even from the Avot. Nothing more really needs to be said, but here's a guess at a resolution between the Maharal and the Midrash:

The reason that Moshiach couldn't come sooner than the 2000 years is related to the fact that those 2000 years had a purpose: to capture the sparks that have fallen to the 50th gate of Tumah. See this Ohr HaChaim for example. This point brings with it a possible answer to this question: the only reason we were not able to "finish the job" in Egypt was because if we had fallen to the 50th gate of Tumah back then, we wouldn't be able to get out.

Therefore, it is conceivable that Yaacov didn't expect that we weren't going to finish the job in Mitzrayim, or conceive that whatever we wouldn't be able to achieve there would take a minimum amount of time far beyond the life of Samson.

I haven't learned Netzach Yisrael, so apologies if there is a very different answer in there. I hope this was still informative.

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  • I'm not sure if it was generally a big secret. It sounds like Yaakov knew and it was only concealed for the moment to prevent him from revealing it to his sons.
    – shmosel
    Dec 29, 2023 at 3:57
  • @shmosel that might seem like it fits with this pasuk, but there are other statements in Chazal about how little they knew about Moshiach and how it was kept secret from them. I'll try to find some bli neder
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 29, 2023 at 11:40

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