Ephraim and the Messiah son of Joseph, Extracts from Commentary to VaYechi (posted on 15 December, 2013, 12 Tevet, 5774)
2. Rabbinical Sources
3. Samson Raphael Hirsch
4. The Protecting Angel and Names of the Forefathers.
5. Joseph as the Future Redeemer of his Brothers?
6. Ephraim as an Empowering Influence for all Israel
7. Messiah son of Joseph.
The Lost Ten Tribes are amongst Western Peoples. Amongst these tribes it was predicted that the descendants of Joseph would be especially important. The Blessing given to Joseph by his father Jacob are described in Genesis 48 and 49. S.R. Hirsch, a foremost Rabbinical Commentator noted points of great value to our studies in his Commentary to the Pentateuch which is the name given to the First Five books of the Bible. These explanations are consistent with the Hebrew text and add another dimension to our understanding of Scripture.
Rabbinical Sources consist of Talmud, Midrashim, Aramaic Translations and Paraphrases and later Rabbinical Commentaries.
A common denominator is that they are accepted by mainstream Orthodox Judaism as opposed to Apocryphic and other works.
Rabbinical Sources are usually written in Hebrew or Aramaic.
There are exceptions.
S.R. Hirsch for instance lived in Germany of the 1800s and wrote his commentaries in a flowery literary German that was fashionable in his time. He too would be considered a Rabbinical source.
Rabbinical Sources usually date from the Common Era but some pre-date it.
Sometimes Talmudic sources are distinguished from Rabbinical ones.
For our purposes however they may be considered as one.
Rabbinical Sources often contradict each other.
Unlike the Bible we do not have to accept all of them.
Rabbinical opinion is only binding on Jews when it comes to a practical application of the given Law.
Otherwise they are optional.
Nevertheless all these opinions need to be treated with respect. Despite the differences that may appear amongst them an overall consensus usually emerges.
We use Rabbinical opinions to tell us where the Ten Tribes may be or to confirm our own understanding of the Hebrew text.
An advantage of Rabbinical sources is that they are not prejudiced. Once explaining Biblical text, they tell it as it seems to be even when from their point of view it must have been perplexing.
We do not know if any of them ever suspected the Lost Ten Tribes to be amongst West European peoples.
They may have done so but there is nothing definite and unequivocal in that direction.
When therefore they give interpretations that are consist with our own understanding then they become for us a source of reassurance.
Rabbinical Sources are also, in our opinion, often inspired.
How this works it is difficult to say since they do not always agree with each other. Neither do we constantly agree with them.
Even so, when reading their works this is the feeling one gets. Inspiration.
It should also be noted that in our time bringing Rabbinical writings to the attention of non-Jews is usually not encouraged. If it were not for their relevance to Ten Tribe studies we probably would not speak of them.
Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808 -1888)
is a source we have used on several occasions.
His insights into the meaning of Biblical Passages and the etymology of Hebrew words have been invaluable.
[The extracts below from the Commentary of S.R. Hirsch have been translated from the Hebrew which in turn is a translation from the original German. Minor discrepancies may therefore exist when compared to other versions.]
Jacob blessed Joseph that his sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) would be redeemed by the same angel who had redeemed him and that the sons should be named after himself and their forefathers. The last points was fulfilled by the Celtic and English-Speaking peoples in the west. The Celts referrred to themselves as Iberi meaning Hebrew and Abraham had been known as "The Hebrew". Later Isacon (i.e. Isaac) would be the name given to their primal ancestor. The Scythians, Scots, and Saxons were also named after Isaac. The Americans are nick-named Yanks which is another form of Jake which in turn is short for Jacob.
See: Israelite Name-Sakes
The question remains, Where does the angel come into this? Why mention an angel at all? Why not just the Almighty?
The verse says:
16 the angel who has redeemed me from all harm, bless the boys;
and in them let my name be perpetuated, and the name of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac;
and let them grow into a multitude on the earth.
S. R. Hirsch says:
The ongoing continuous redemption from disaster and destruction... is a pre-condition for the very existence of a person... It derives from the slot that Divine Providence bestowed on a man or a nation in the bustle of the world... this aspect of redemption is to be considered as an angel [Hebrew, "malackh"], an emissary of Divine Providence... It is possible that the word malakh [angel, emissary] derives from melekh [monarch] that is a power that works and keeps going. It does not work on its own initiative but bears within itself the hidden quality of another personality that guides it...
In Hebrew the word translated as angel is malakh which may also sometimes simply mean "emissary, messenger". Hirsch applies the term in the case of Jacob to the special protective influence the Almighty had bequeathed him as a natural attribute, a concomitant accompaniment that would always be with him. This is what he bequeathed to the sons of Joseph.
In Genesis chapter 34 we are told how after Jacob came to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan (Genesis 33:18), Dinah the daughter of Jacob was abducted and raped and abused by Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the region. The sons of Jacob tricked the inhabitants of Shechem to circumcise themselves. After that Simeon and Levi killed all the males of the city and took the females captive.
Subsequently in Genesis chapter 35 we are told how Jacob commanded his household to purify themselves of idolatry which they did. Then they moved away in the direction of Beth-el to the south.
The Bible tells us that after that:
5 As they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities all around them, so that no one pursued them.
It would seem from this that the neighboring peoples had not interfered.
There is a Midrash that before moving away the Canaanite-Amorite kinfolk of Schechem had indeed attacked Jacob and family. Jacob rallied his sons and defeated the Amorites aggressors. After that they moved off and the terror of God fell upon the surroundings. Nachmanides discusses this at length.
The city of Schechem therefore became the portion [also called "schechem" in Hebrew] that Jacob had taken with his sword and bow from the Amorites (Genesis 48:22).
Hirsch takes the above as a given situation but adds something else.
He seems to re-interpret the verse (Genesis 48:22) as saying,
I now give to you one portion over your brothers whom I took from the hand of the Amorites with my sword and with my bow.
The verse is now re-read (alongside the original reading ) to also be saying that Jacob rescued the brothers from the Amorites! It was this role that Jacob was giving to Joseph.
S.R. Hirsch says:
That which I have to give to you [i.e. to Joseph] I have already given to you: The task and role of filling my place in guiding the family, to be the first amongst your brothers, my sons, this is my conquest and my victory that I took from the hands of the Amorites.
Jacob prayed that his grandsons [Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph] would receive the same blessing from the hand of the angel who redeemed him from evil, through whom Jacob ensured his continued existence and development... [Jacob was saying that] so would they be called by my name and by the name of my forefathers.
Will it be, as Prophesy indicates, that Joseph will rescue his brother Tribes from foreign oppressors in the End Times?
19 But his father [Jacob] refused, and said, I know, my son, I know; he [Manasseh] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall fill the nations.
S.R. Hirsch says:
The descendants of Ephraim will complement the Tribes of Israel. They shall be their weapons of war towards outsiders... His descendants will supplement what is lacking in the external affairs of the other Tribes. The dreaded awe of Ephraim shall be on the other nations. The Ephraimites shall intensify the power of the Tribes and be their Force of Arms against foreigners...
The Kingdom of Ephraim was similar in its characteristics to a non-Jewish polity. ..
The Messiah son of Joseph is a figure who will precede the Messiah son of David. This concept was known from the earliest times but recently has aroused increased interest. In some sources MBJ represents a coming leader of the Ten Tribes who will save them and begin the process of reconciliation with Judah. He will help Judah rebuild the Land and ingather Exiles.
26 The blessings of your father
are stronger than the blessings of the eternal mountains,
the bounties* of the everlasting hills;
may they be on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.
S.R. Hirsch says:
Judah and Joseph are the two central points in the blessing of Jacob. .. this would continue till the last generation in the Latter Days. ..
The House of Joseph and the House of Judah, according to the Prophets, encompass all the Israelite People...
We have a tradition that in the Last days there shall arise an heir to the House of Joseph to prepare the ground for a chosen scion from the House of Judah :
The Messiah son of Joseph and the Messiah son of David... The relationship between the two is not clear...
Nevertheless, there is certainly reason for the emphasis of Jacob that Future hope and Blessings would converge on Joseph, no less than on Judah.