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Old Jewish Commentaries on «The Song of Songs» II

The Two Commentaries of Tanchum Yerushalmi- Text and translation


Joseph Alobaidi

This book contains two commentaries on The Song of Songs by Tanchum Yerushalmi (c. 1220-1291), one of the best representatives of rational exegesis in the Middle Eastern rabbinical school of thought. His in depth knowledge of the Bible as well as his acquaintance with Greek philosophy, added to familiarity with his own Jewish tradition allowed him to write rich biblical commentaries. In so doing he showed himself as a worthy disciple of Saadia Gaon, Hai and Ibn Janah whom he mentions in his commentary on The Song of Songs. The extent of his knowledge can easily be seen in both his philological and philosophical commentaries on one of the most intriguing books of the Bible.
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Chapter 1



[…] As to the metaphorical discourse addressed to the beloved woman, some people think that [the text] refers to Wisdom, according to what it is written in the Book of Proverbs: A loving hind and graceful mountain goat, let her breasts satisfy you at all time (Pr 5:19).1 It is also said in her name: I am counsel and stability,2 understanding belongs to me and courage is in me, through me kings reign and rulers give right laws, through me princes rule, noble men and all the righteous judges. I love those who love me and those who look for me will find me (Pr 8:14-16); to give existence to those who love me and to fill their treasures (Pr. 8:21). It is also written: The Lord created me at the beginning of his way; he had chosen me from eternity; at the beginning… He fashioned me while there was no depth (Pr 8:22-24); I was there when He gave form to the heavens (Pr. 8:27). It was also said in the name of Wisdom:3 With him I was an architect,4 his delight, day after day, rejoicing before him at all times (Pr. 8:30) according to the meanings that we have explained in their passages. ← 93 | 94 →

Some people believe that the author means5 the assembly of Israel, in other words, their multitude. According to their interpretation the Israelites in Egypt were in a distressful condition...

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