Ben C. Smith wrote: ↑
Tue Aug 27, 2019 3:10 pm
The article was certainly better than the advertisement made it out to be.
I am still looking through its ancient (mainly rabbinical) sources, but I can already spot a few potential flaws. The connection of Simon bar Kokhba to Ephraim is weak, for example, and at first blush the discussion of the Ephraimite Exodus legend does not appear to do much to salvage it, partly (but not entirely) because of the flimsiness of the "pop psych" method used to date both stages of that legend. As another, even more obvious example, the assumption that the triumphant version of the Messiah ben Ephraim must have preceded the defeated version (which the author presents as obvious) has little to commend it; the Targum pseudo-Jonathan, for example, turns the Suffering Servant in Isaiah into a conquering hero, and it is his enemies
who suffer, not he. (This assumption may not, in fact, be wrong in the end; I am not sure; but it is hardly obvious on its face.)
But I have a lot more research to do in this area.
The twin weaknesses of the proposition that the Messiah ben Ephraim was ascribed a noble death on the basis of Simon bar Kokhba's failed revolution against Rome are obvious:
- I can find no association (yet?) of Simon bar Kokhba with the tribe of Ephraim.
- I can find no instance (yet?) of anybody after the Second Revolt who thought that the Messiah ben Ephraim had already arrived (unless some of the church fathers predicated this of Jesus Christ in mystical ways).
In fact, with respect to #1, the rebel leader appears to be associated with David, at least symbolically:
Jerusalem Talmud, Ta'anit 4.5: 5 .... R. Simeon b. Yohai taught, “Aqiba, my master, would interpret the following verse: ‘A star [kokhab] shall come forth out of Jacob’ (= Numbers 24.17), as ‘a disappointment [kozeba] shall come forth out of Jacob.’” R. Aqiba, when he saw Bar Kozeba, said, “This is the King Messiah [דין הוא מלכא משיחא].” Said to him R. Yohanan ben Toreta, “Aqiba! Grass will grow on your cheeks, and the son of David [בן דוד] will not vet have come!” Said R. Yohanan, “Upon orders of Caesar Hadrian in Betar they killed 80,000 myriads.” Said R. Yohanan, “There were 80,000 pairs of trumpeters that surrounded Betar. Each one was in charge of a number of troops. Ben Kozebah was there, and he had 200,000 troops who had cut off their little finger. Sages sent word to him, ‘How 'How long are you going to turn Israel into a maimed people?’ He said to them, ‘How otherwise is it possible to test them?’ They replied to him, ‘Whoever cannot uproot a cedar of Lebanon while riding on his horse will not be registered in your army.’ So there were 200,000 who qualified in one way, and another 200,000 who qualified in another way.” ....
The King Messiah is another name for the Messiah ben David: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3591&p=79848#p79848
. No similar association that I can find attaches bar Kokhba to Ephraim. Heinemann, however, attempts to leverage the legend of the premature Ephraimite Exodus from Egypt:
Psalm 78.9-16 (OG 77.9-16):
9 The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows,
Yet they turned back in the day of battle.
10 They did not keep the covenant of God
And refused to walk in His law;
11 They forgot His deeds
And His miracles that He had shown them.
12 He wrought wonders before their fathers
In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through,
And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
14 Then He led them with the cloud by day
And all the night with a light of fire.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths.
16 He brought forth streams also from the rock
And caused waters to run down like rivers.
Targum, Psalm 78.9: 9 While they were living in Egypt, the sons of Ephraim became arrogant; they calculated the appointed time, and erred; they went out thirty years before the appointed time, with weapons of war, and warriors bearing bows. They turned around and were killed on the day of battle.
1 Chronicles 7.20-29: 20 The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah and Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead whom the men of Gath who were born in the land killed, because they came down to take their livestock. 22 Their father Ephraim mourned many days, and his relatives came to comfort him. 23 Then he went in to his wife, and she conceived and bore a son, and he named him Beriah, because misfortune had come upon his house. 24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built lower and upper Beth-horon, also Uzzen-sheerah. 25 Rephah was his son along with Resheph, Telah his son, Tahan his son, 26 Ladan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, 27 Non his son and Joshua his son. 28 Their possessions and settlements were Bethel with its towns, and to the east Naaran, and to the west Gezer with its towns, and Shechem with its towns as far as Ayyah with its towns, 29 and along the borders of the sons of Manasseh, Beth-shean with its towns, Taanach with its towns, Megiddo with its towns, Dor with its towns. In these lived the sons of Joseph the son of Israel.
Targum pseudo-Jonathan, Exodus 13.17: 17 And it was when Pharoh bad released the people, that the Lord did not conduct, them by the way of the land of the Phelishtaee though. that was the near one; for the Lord said, Lest the people be affrighted in seeing their brethren who were killed in war, two hundred thousand men of strength of the tribe of Ephraim, who took shields, and lances, and weapons of war, and went down to Gath to carry off the flocks of the Phelishtaee; and because the transgressed against the statute of the Word of the Lord, and went forth from Mizraim three years before the (appointed) end of their servitude, they were delivered into the hand of the Phelishtaee, who slew them. These are the dry bones which the Word of the Lord restored to life by the ministry (hand) of Yechezekel the prophet, in the vale of Dura; but which, if they (now) saw them, they would be afraid, and return into Mizraim.
Talmud, Sanhedrin 92b: 92b .... R. Eliezer the son of R. Jose the Galilean said, "The dead whom Ezekiel revived went up to Palestine, married wives and begat sons and daughters." R. Judah b. Bathyra rose up and said, "I am one of their descendants, and these are the tefillin which my grandfather left me [as an heirloom] from them." Now, who were they whom Ezekiel revived? Rab said, "They were the Ephraimites, who counted [the years] to the end [of the Egyptian bondage], but erred therein, as it is written, 'And the sons of Ephraim; Shuthelah, and Bared his son, and Tahath his son, and Eladah his son, and Tahath his son. And Zabad his son, and Shuthelah his son, and Ezzer, and Elead, whom the men of Gath that were born in that land slew.' And it is written, 'And Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him.'" ....
Heinemann lays out this legend as having two stages: (A) a first in which the Ephraimite Exodus was viewed as wicked and (B) a second in which it was viewed merely as misguided, based upon a prophetic miscalculation. With this second stage he also associates the exegetical move which suggested that the resurrected skeletons in Ezekiel 37.1-14 were actually these unfortunate Ephraimites who attempted to take the Promised Land a bit too early. He may be right about these two stages; honestly, I am not sure. But, even if he is, he presents only "pop psych" arguments to tie the exegesis which produced this legend to the Second Revolt:
Joseph Heinemann, "Messiah of Ephraim and the Premature Exodus of the Tribe of Ephraim," in Harvard Theological Review 8.1 (January 1975), page 14: In view of these data [to the effect that both versions of the legend must have been available by the end of century II] it becomes extremely likely that the transformation of the story through the re-surrection motif must have some connection with the Bar Kokhba revolt. For it is impossible psychologically to ascribe the creation of the original version to the Tanna'im of the second half of the second century, i.e., to the very generation who had witnessed the failure of the revolt. We cannot possibly hold this generation responsible for the creation of a legend, which could have meant, at that particular time and in this particular situation, only one thing: an out-and-out condemnation of the rising of Bar Kokhba as an act of arrogance and rebellion against God, which was punished, rightly, by the total extermination of all concerned. Whatever the attitude of this generation to Bar Kokhba (and, by implication, to R. Akivah!) may have been, it cannot have been one of complacent, righteous condemnation. Hence we are forced to advance the date of the genesis of the original legend; it must have antedated the Bar Kokhba revolt.
But this is utterly unconvincing. Heinemann's admission ("[w]hatever the attitude of this generation") that we possess no direct evidence of the rabbinical or proto-rabbinical response to the revolt itself merely masks the fact that what in
direct evidence we have points in the direction of many/most of the rabbis being skeptical of Simon bar Kokhba or even opposing him outright. We have already seen that Akiva himself, if he did indeed endorse the revolt, was opposed by Yohanan ben Toreta; and there is this:
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 93b: 93b .... Bar Koziba reigned two and a half years, and then said to the Rabbis, "I am the Messiah [אנא משיח]." They answered, "Of Messiah it is written that he smells and judges. Let us see whether he can do so." When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent, they slew him. ....
Granted, these are later texts looking back on the situation, but we have nothing else to go on, and it makes my head hurt to have to assume
(for reasons which are perfectly opaque to me) that the generation which witnessed the failure of the Second Revolt would assuredly not
disown it. I would not want to assume either way, but if I were forced
to do so I would probably assume the opposite! I would assume that this wounded generation bore ill will toward bar Kokhba and disowned both him and his movement (even if they had previously been on board to some degree, and there is no reason to think that everybody was).
Furthermore, while Heinemann admits (on page 12) that the first stage of the legend of the Ephraimite Exodus could have been formulated purely for exegetical reasons, he has to argue that the version of the second stage which connected their failure to the skeletal remains in the valley described in Ezekiel 37.1-14 could not
have been exegetically motivated. His only argument for this proposition is that this exegesis is so extremely unexpected that it contradicts the narrative that the Ephraimites had fallen because of their own wickedness. Yet God himself, in 37.23, tells Ezekiel that the resurrected dead "will no longer defile themselves with their idols or with their detestable things," implying that, while living, they were wicked. Why cannot the rabbinical exegetes have borne much the same attitude toward the Ephraimite dead as Ezekiel (or Ezekiel's God) seems to have borne toward them? They have sinned against God, but they will be both forgiven and resurrected.
Furthermore, Heinemann also mentions (on page 13) that the connection of the fallen Ephraimites to the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel "offers a solution to another vexatious problem," this problem being: "who, in fact, were the dead revived by Ezekiel?" Well, if the legend of the Ephraimite Exodus solves that problem, then that solution in itself could easily be the motivation for the exegesis!
In short, there is no real evidence connecting either stage of the Ephraimite Exodus to the Second Revolt; and, even if the legend is connected, it is hardly certain that it is only the second stage of that legend. And, even so, apart from all of that, there is no real evidence connecting that legend to the envisioning of Simon bar Kokhba as an Ephraimite in any way. The narrative of the Exodus could be merely an object lesson rather than something by which to link the rebel leader to the tribe itself.
Furthermore, with respect to #2 on my list above, we would have to imagine (A) that the notion of a dying Messiah ben Ephraim arose precisely as a way of explaining bar Kokhba's failure, (B) that therefore at least certain members of the generation of the Second Revolt thought that the Messiah ben Ephraim had already come in his person, and (C) that afterward the information that this Messiah figure had already come was lost or suppressed, since none of the later rabbis thinks of the Messiah ben Ephraim/Joseph as a figure from the past. While such a sequence is not impossible, there is no actual evidence for it.
Needless to say, I remain unconvinced. The evidence that we do
possess, tenuous as it may be, suggests a Davidic (not an Ephraimite) connection for Simon bar Kokhba; it also suggests purely exegetical reasons both for narrating the premature Exodus and for resurrecting the fallen Ephraimites from it. The connection to the Second Revolt is based solely upon what I have been calling "pop psychology."