The Midrash says that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same person. According to most of the Rishonim, I believe, this (as any other Midrash) should not be taken literally. Which are some of the non-literal interpretations of this particular Midrash?

  • 3
    They are both described as zealous servants of God. Connecting their ventures draws out a clear thematic connection between the stories.
    – Double AA
    Jul 9, 2015 at 15:51
  • To add to @Double AA's point, Reb Dovid Feinstein said that chazzal felt it was hard enough to accept one zealot in this religion, but two?! No way. Musta been the same person.
    – user6591
    Jul 9, 2015 at 17:01
  • @user6591 ...and hence the non-literal interpretation is the message that zealotry in Judaism is to be limited as much as possible.
    – Double AA
    Jul 9, 2015 at 17:03
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    which rishonim?
    – ray
    Jul 9, 2015 at 18:35
  • 1
    @DoubleAA made a good point. Rabbi Sacks writes a nice article based on that. rabbisacks.org/… Jul 10, 2015 at 0:07

1 Answer 1


Ralbag discusses this in several places. As one example, in his commentary to I Kings Chapter Seventeen he writes:

ולפי שמצאנו זה האורך הנפלא מן החיים לאליהו והנה מצאנוהו ג"כ לפנחס כמו שזכרנו ומצאנו בשניהם נשיאות רוח ה׳ אותם כאילו הם מלאכי ה' ומצאנו ברית החיים לפנחס כמו שזכרנו הנה מן הראוי שנא' כי פנחס זה אליהו כי יותר ראוי שיונח זרות אחד משיונחו שני זריות

And because we find this astounding length of life for Elijah, and we find it as well for Phineas as we have mentioned, and we find with both of them the resting of God's spirit on them as if they were angels of God, and we find a covenant of life for Phineas as we mentioned, it is proper to say that Phineas is Elijah. For it is more proper to assert one anomaly than to assert two anomalies.

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