Where does the Theology of Messiah ben Joseph versus Messiah ben David come from? If we are supposed to have only one Messiah, where did the idea of these two Messias come from?


It's mentioned in the Gemara, Sukkah 52a-b. The Gemara there explains that the mourning described in Zech. 12:10ff is for Moshiach ben Yosef's death; it further identifies the "four smiths" (ibid. 2:3-4) as including "Moshiach ben David and Moshiach ben Yosef."

It is true, though, that the Rambam, in his description of Moshiach, his prerequisites, accomplishments, etc. (Laws of Kings chs. 11-12) omits the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef. This indicates that he considers this to be one of those aspects of the Final Redemption that are possible but not essential. Which means that if there is a person who fits his criteria for a potential Moshiach ("a king from the House of David who delves into Torah and observes mitzvos like his ancestor David...," ibid. 11:4) - then the fact that there wasn't a (known) Moshiach ben Yosef beforehand is immaterial.

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    There is a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe that was written in 1943, two years after he came to the United States, which was reprinted as facsimile in a booklet called, "Torato Shel Moshiach" which gave a detailed analysis of this particular Rambam. The Rebbe wrote at the bottom of this letter that from the analysis of the Rambam's wording, it appeared to indicate that Rambam held Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben David would be the same person. – Yaacov Deane Jan 14 '16 at 16:39
  • @YaacovDeane where can I find this letter? – Dude Apr 13 '16 at 18:52
  • @Dude In the booklet that I mentioned. At the time, it was for sale in the Kehot bookstore on Kingston and Eastern Parkway. I don't know if it is still in print, but I still have the copy I purchased back then. Misholovin's or Bigeleisen may still have a copy laying around. – Yaacov Deane Apr 13 '16 at 19:05
  • is there a reference number for the letter to be found in ingrois? – Dude Apr 13 '16 at 20:00

Ovadya HaNavi seems to clearly emphasis a plurality of "saviors" in the Messianic encounter with Edom (Obadiah 1:21). Therefore while there is ultimately one king, there are others involved in the messianic redemption. Furthermore verse 18 had already emphasized the participation of the House of Yosef in the redemption.

Likewise, as Alex noted, the Gemara understands the four craftsman of Zechariah 2:4 as Moshiach ben Dovid and Moshiach ben Yosef, Eliyahu, and as the "Kohen Tzedek" (Sukkah 52b).

It is also interesting to note that while G-d had already promised Dovid HaMelech an eternal ("messianic") dynasty, when G-d gave kingship of the Northern Kingdoms to Jeroboam (who was from the tribe of Ephraim) he indicated that he too could have such a dynasty if he was obedient (1 Kings 11:38). Had Jeroboam (or other kings of the Northern Kingdom perhaps) been worthy we may really have "Two Messiahs".

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    This week's Haftarah (Ezekiel chpt. 37) is all about this. Keep in mind that Jeraboam/northern is represented by the twig of Ephraim, and David/southern is by the twig of Judah. Ephraim was one of the sons of Joseph, hence BEN YOSEF. – Adam Mosheh Dec 30 '11 at 5:48

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