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The Messiah of Ephraim and the Premature Exodus of Ephraim / משיח בן אפרים ויציאת מצרים של בני אפרים בטרם קץ

יוסף היינימן and Joseph Heinemann
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ
כרך מ‎, חוברת ד‎ (תמוז-אלול תשל"א), pp. 450-461
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23593252
Page Count: 12
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The Messiah of Ephraim and the Premature Exodus of Ephraim / משיח בן אפרים ויציאת מצרים של בני אפרים בטרם קץ
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Abstract

Many theories claiming to explain the origin of the legend about the Messiah of Ephraim (or Joseph), who is destined to fall in battle, have been suggested. The multiplicity of messianic figures as such must now be accepted as a fact, especially in view of the material from the DSS. As regards the strange motif of the Messiah's death, some scholars hold that it may have emerged in consequence of the defeat of Bar Kokhba; yet we know of no connection of the latter with the tribe of Ephraim. One decisive fact about this legend has been generally ignored, viz. that it has come down to us in two opposed versions, only one of which speaks of the death of the Messiah of Ephraim in battle, while the other glorifies him as the victor in the eschatological wars against the Roman empire. Obviously, the version which knows nothing of his death must be the earlier one; and any attempt to account for the genesis and evolution of the legend must take note of this radical change in its tendency, which took place at some time or other. The legend of the premature Exodus of the tribe of Ephraim has reached us in a number of versions. According to some, the Ephraimites in their pride and arrogance presumed to redeem themselves without divine assistance or sanction; others speak of a tragic error, caused by a mistake in calculating the time of redemption. Yet another version expresses a highly complex and ambivalent attitude towards the attempt at self-redemption on the part of the Ephraimites: the account of their Exodus is followed by the surprising statement that the same Ephraimites, who had fallen in battle with the Philistines, were the dead re-surrected by Ezekiel. It is more than likely, that this sequel to the legend was added in the period following the defeat of Bar Kokhba. The original legend must have seemed to Bar Kokhba's contemporaries and to the survivors of his revolt to mirror the events of their own time; hence the attempts to evaluate the tragic attempt at premature redemption less negatively and less harshly. In consequence of this association of Bar Kokhba with the leader of the Ephraimites he was also identified, eventually, with the Messiah of Ephraim, of whom tradition had it that he would defeat the Romans; by adding the motif that this militant Messiah would fall in battle, it became possible to uphold the belief in Bar Kokhba as a true messianic figure in spite of his failure and death.

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