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As far as I have been told, there are a few different descriptions of the Jewish messiah. All of these have a few things in common: The messiah is sent by G-d. He is divinely inspired, but mortal. He will usher in the kingdom of G-d, restore the Temple, and raise Israel to her proper place as the greatest of all nations.

I'm confused about the different descriptions of the messiah, and whether these descriptions refer to a single person. As far as I have come to understand the issue, the descriptions vary somewhat, but include a warrior King, a Priest King, and possibly a Prophet King. I know that the word "messiah" means "anointed one", and is a reference to the ritual of anointing the head of a newly crowned King with oil.

The idea I understand the best is the warrior King - I assume that this is basically a reference to someone like David. The Priest King and Prophet King are less clear to me.

Are these simply different ways of describing the same person, or is it possible that the messiah will be one of these things? And is my overall understanding mostly correct?

  • perhaps relevant: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Craftsmen – Daniel Aug 19 '15 at 10:21
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    If you'd edit to indicate what Jewish sources portray the messiah as a "prophet king" and "priest king" (i.e. clarify your first sentence), that'd improve your question vastly. (Incidentally, if "priest" has its usual meaning in Judaism, then the messiah won't be one: he'll be a male-line descendant of David, not Aaron.) – msh210 Aug 19 '15 at 12:50
  • @msh210 - I don't have access to my books right now m but here's a start: "The Old Testament Book of Zechariah already makes mention of two messianic figures, the high priest and the messianic king." jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/… – Wad Cheber Aug 19 '15 at 14:56
  • "Thus in the Dead Sea Scrolls there are three messianic figures which correspond to the three main functions of the ideal Jewish state, in which kingdom, priesthood, and prophecy shall exist (see I Macc. 14:41). The three eschatological figures of the Dead Sea Scrolls are therefore based upon a broader ideological concept." – Wad Cheber Aug 19 '15 at 14:57
  • Also: worldofthebible.com/Bible%20Studies/… – Wad Cheber Aug 19 '15 at 14:59
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Jewish law on this subject

Mishneh Torah» Sefer Shoftim » Melachim uMilchamot -Melachim uMilchamot - Chapter 11

Halacha 1

In the future, the Messianic king will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel.

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Halacha 3

One should not presume that the Messianic king must work miracles and wonders, bring about new phenomena in the world, resurrect the dead, or perform other similar deeds. This is definitely not true.

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Halacha 4

If a king will arise from the House of David who diligently contemplates the Torah and observes its mitzvot as prescribed by the Written Law and the Oral Law as David, his ancestor, will compel all of Israel to walk in (the way of the Torah) and rectify the breaches in its observance, and fight the wars of God, we may, with assurance, consider him Mashiach.

If he succeeds in the above, builds the Temple in its place, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, he is definitely the Mashiach.

He will then improve the entire world, motivating all the nations to serve God together, as Tzephaniah 3:9 states: 'I will transform the peoples to a purer language that they all will call upon the name of God and serve Him with one purpose.'

If he did not succeed to this degree or was killed, he surely is not the redeemer promised by the Torah. Rather, he should be considered as all the other proper and complete kings of the Davidic dynasty who died. God caused him to arise only to test the many, as Daniel 11:35 states: 'And some of the wise men will stumble, to try them, to refine, and to clarify until the appointed time, because the set time is in the future.'

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Chapter 12

Halacha 1

Do not presume that in the Messianic age any facet of the world's nature will change or there will be innovations in the work of creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern.

Although Isaiah 11:6 states: 'The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the young goat,' these words are a metaphor and a parable. The interpretation of the prophecy is as follows: Israel will dwell securely together with the wicked gentiles who are likened to a wolf and a leopard, as in the prophecyJeremiah 5:6: 'A wolf from the wilderness shall spoil them and a leopard will stalk their cities.' They will all return to the true faith and no longer steal or destroy. Rather, they will eat permitted food at peace with Israel as Isaiah 11:7 states: 'The lion will eat straw like an ox.'

Similarly, other Messianic prophecies of this nature are metaphors. In the Messianic era, everyone will realize which matters were implied by these metaphors and which allusions they contained.

Halacha 2

Our Sages taught: "There will be no difference between the current age and the Messianic era except the emancipation from our subjugation to the gentile kingdoms."

The simple interpretation of the prophets' words appear to imply that the war of Gog and Magog will take place at the beginning of the Messianic age. Before the war of Gog and Magog, a prophet will arise to inspire Israel to be upright and prepare their hearts, as Malachi 3:22states: 'Behold, I am sending you Elijah.'

He will not come to declare the pure, impure, or to declare the impure, pure. He will not dispute the lineage of those presumed to be of proper pedigree, nor will he validate the pedigree of those whose lineage is presumed blemished. Rather, he will establish peace within the world as ibid. 3:24 continues: 'He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children."

There are some Sages who say that Elijah's coming will precede the coming of the Mashiach. All these and similar matters cannot be definitely known by man until they occur for these matters are undefined in the prophets' words and even the wise men have no established tradition regarding these matters except their own interpretation of the verses. Therefore, there is a controversy among them regarding these matters.

Regardless of the debate concerning these questions, neither the order of the occurrence of these events or their precise detail are among the fundamental principles of the faith. A person should not occupy himself with the Aggadot and homiletics concerning these and similar matters, nor should he consider them as essentials, for study of them will neither bring fear or love of God.

Similarly, one should not try to determine the appointed time for Mashiach's coming. Our Sages declared: 'May the spirits of those who attempt to determine the time of Mashiach's coming expire!' Rather, one should await and believe in the general conception of the matter as explained.

Halacha 3

During the era of the Messianic king, once his kingdom has been established and all of Israel has gathered around him, the entire nation's line of descent will be established on the basis of his words and the prophetic spirit which will rest upon him, as Malachi 3:3 states: 'He shall sit as a refiner and purifier.'

He will purify the lineage of the Levites first, stating 'He is a priest of defined lineage. He is a Levite of defined lineage.' Those whose lineage he will not recognize will be lowered to the status of Israelites. This is implied byEzra 2:63: 'The governor said to them: 'They should not eat of the most holy things until a priest arises who will wear the urim vitumim.' From this verse, you can infer that the prophetic spirit will be used to define and notify the pedigree of lineage.

When he defines the lineage of the Israelites, he will make known their tribal lineage alone, stating: 'He is from this tribe and he is from another tribe.' He will not, by contrast, state concerning a person who is presumed to be of unblemished lineage: 'He is illegitimate or he is of slave lineage.' For the law is once a family has become intermingled with the entire Jewish people, they may remain intermingled.

Halacha 4

The Sages and the prophets did not yearn for the Messianic era in order to have dominion over the entire world, to rule over the gentiles, to be exalted by the nations, or to eat, drink, and celebrate. Rather, they desired to be free to involve themselves in Torah and wisdom without any pressures or disturbances, so that they would merit the world to come, as explained inHilchot Teshuvah.

Halacha 5

In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God.

Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential, as Isaiah 11:9 states: 'The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed."

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    This is a lot of halachot about mashiach, but not an attempt to answer the question. – Daniel Aug 19 '15 at 10:19

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