Eliyahu according to Midrash Rabah


Part 2 in a series exploring the widely held belief that Eliyahu ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet) is synonymous with the character of Pinchas, grandson of Aharon (Aaron).

Sh’moth Rabah 40:

[Betzalel] was one of seven people who were called [several] names. Eliyahu (Elijah) was called four names… Rabbi Elazar ben Pedath said: [Eliyahu] was a Jerusalemite, and one of those who sat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone (i.e. a member of the Great Sanhedrin, or High Court), and he was from a city of Judah, and his portion was in two tribes (Benjamin and Judah).

The Midrash proceeds to cite verses demonstrating Eliyahu’s several names. Notably, not of these names are Pinchas. Secondly, the names cited are all individuals belonging to the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin), which would not allow Eliyahu to be Pinchas since Pinchas was a Kohen, a grandson of Aharon (Aaron), the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). Furthermore, since Eliyahu appears to possess a portion of land, this would seem to preclude him from being a Kohen since the Kohanim (priests) were not granted a portion of land, rather, “the Almighty is their portion.”

One of the cities the Midrash cites as belonging to the “portion” of Eliyahu is called Migdal Gad. The Midrash asks why the city was called by this name. The Midrash answers that it is from there that one would go forth who would cut down (megaded) the foundation of the idolators. This is a reference to Eliyahu himself. Therefore, the name of the town was given in accordance with Eliyahu’s destiny. This will become significant when we explore another source that contends that Eliyahu is from the tribe of Gad, offering a similar linguistic connection between the tribe’s name and Eliyahu’s role in history.

Summary thus far:

Source 1: Pirkey d’Rabi Eliezer — Compares Pinchas and Eliyahu but implies they are too unique individuals, just with great similarities.

Source 2: Shemoth Rabah — Clearly indicates Eliyahu derives from the Tribe of Benjamin, precluding the possibility that he is the same person as Pinchas, the Kohen.

So that makes two strikes against the view that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same.


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