Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ibn Ezra on Lower Biblical Criticism, part i

In Sefer Tzachot, Ibn Ezra writes at length against a grammarian [מדקדק] who proposed more than one hundred words which should be replaced in Scriptures. Ibn Ezra writes that the book is fit to be burned. (Elsewhere, in his commentary to Shemot 19:12, he labels this fellow a meshuga.) I've seen it asserted, but alas, as I write now can't find the source [update: see here] , that this grammarian is the same as Yitzchaki (whom people identify as Isaac Ibn Castar Ben Yashush of Toledo), who claimed fairly late authorship of a lengthy passage in sefer Bereishit, about whose book Ezra said that it deserved to be burned.

Ibn Ezra's opposition seems somewhat grounded in religious sensibilities --
"Forfend, forfend, for this is not correct, not in non-sacred words and certainly not in the words of the Living God. And his book is fit to be burnt." 
Further, this grammarian describes difficulties in the text which can only be resolved by emending the text. Ibn Ezra argues that with a bit of deeper thought and analysis, many of these difficulties are readily resolved, such that the radical course of emending the Biblical text is unwarranted.

I am going to separate Ibn Ezra's words into several posts, each tackling a different difficulty / proposed change from this grammarian. His words follow:

"Beware and guard your soul exceedingly, that you do not believe the words of the grammarian who mentioned in his book more than one hundred words and said that all of them need replacing. Forfend, forfend, for this is not correct, not in non-sacred words and certainly not in the words of the Living God. And his book is fit to be burnt.

And behold I will explain to you a few of the difficulties he mentioned, due to which he was unable to explain them in their straightforward manner. And they are:

1) [Yirmeyahu 33:26]

כו  גַּם-זֶרַע יַעֲקוֹב וְדָוִד עַבְדִּי אֶמְאַס, מִקַּחַת מִזַּרְעוֹ מֹשְׁלִים, אֶל-זֶרַע אַבְרָהָם, יִשְׂחָק וְיַעֲקֹב:  כִּי-אשוב (אָשִׁיב) אֶת-שְׁבוּתָם, וְרִחַמְתִּים.  {פ}

26 then will I also cast away the seed of Jacob, and of David My servant, [so that I will not take of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for I will cause their captivity to return, and will have compassion on them.'] {P}
[Note: Ibn Ezra writes יעקב as chaser but it should be malei.]

He says that in place of "Yaakov" [at the beginning of the verse] should be "Aharon", because it states earlier [in verse 24] two families


כד  הֲלוֹא רָאִיתָ, מָה-הָעָם הַזֶּה דִּבְּרוּ לֵאמֹר, שְׁתֵּי הַמִּשְׁפָּחוֹת אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר יְהוָה בָּהֶם, וַיִּמְאָסֵם; וְאֶת-עַמִּי, יִנְאָצוּן, מִהְיוֹת עוֹד, גּוֹי לִפְנֵיהֶם.  {ס}24 'Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying: The two families which the LORD did choose, He hath cast them off? and they contemn My people, that they should be no more a nation before them. {S}

and the reference should be therefore be to two distinct families, not one within the other, and those should be the Davidic dynasty and the Aharonic priesthood.]

And the correct explaination is to leave it in its simple implication [of Yaakov], and the proof is [the continuation of pasuk 26]

מִקַּחַת מִזַּרְעוֹ מֹשְׁלִים
so that I will not take of his seed to be rulers

and its explanation is as follows: 'how shall I [אֶמְאַס] cast away one who is of the seed of Yaakov, after it is stated in the Torah that there shall be no ruling king in Israel except Yaakov? And further, that he is of the family of David.' And so, there are two positives.

And behold, I will show him the like, against his will, which he will not be able to swap out at all, namely [Tehillim 77:16]:

טז  גָּאַלְתָּ בִּזְרוֹעַ עַמֶּךָ;    בְּנֵי-יַעֲקֹב וְיוֹסֵף סֶלָה.16 Thou hast with Thine arm redeemed Thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

See also Ibn Ezra's interpretation of this verse in Tehillim, where he also makes mention that this is a good response to Yitzchaki:
[עז, טז]
גאלת, עמך -
הוא הפעול כאילו כתוב: גאלת עמך בזרוע נטויה.וטעם להזכיר יוסף עם יעקב כי הוא החיה ישראל, ככתוב משם רועה אבן ישראל. 
והטעם: כי בזכות יעקב ויוסף פדית בניהם וכמוהו גם זרע יעקב ודוד עבדי אמאס, שהטעם מי שהוא מבני נדיבים והעד שאמר מקחת מזרעו מושלים והאומר כי יעקב תחת אהרן, לא דבר נכונה.


WFB said...

"for this is not correct, either in the words of Chazal"
it seems to me that this says דברי חול, not דברי חז"ל.

joshwaxman said...

Ah that makes sense! Thanks. I'll review and then correct.

joshwaxman said...

thanks again. stealth-edited.

AK said...

Heads-up: You still left the latter instance translated as Chazal.

joshwaxman said...

thanks. now fixed further.


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