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Old Jewish Commentaries on the Song of Songs I

The Commentary of Yefet ben Eli- Edited and translated from Judeo-Arabic by Joseph Alobaidi


Edited By Joseph Alobaidi

The commentary of Yefet ben Eli the Karaite (second half of the tenth century) on The Song of Songs is example of an exegetical work obeying two imperatives: The explanation of the divine message of Salvation mixed with the assiduous Karaite effort to prove wrong their adversaries, the Rabbanites, with the help of the Bible. In so doing Yefet ben Eli wrote a thoughtful and original commentary on the very symbolic Song of Songs. Indeed, according to Yefet ben Eli nothing in the Book should be taken realistically. The ability of Yefet to replace symbols by historical events is one of the many marks that show Yefet’s mastery and the originality of his commentary.


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The Manuscript XI


The Manuscript The identity of the only complete Manuscript known to date of the commentary of Yefet ben Eli on the Song of Songs is as follow: BIBLIOTHEQUE NATIONAL PARIS DEPARTMENT DES MANUSCRITS Hébreu 293 Hº 1 à 111 R 6181 65.433:9 It first page starts by the sixteen lines in Hebrew: םשב ןיאו דחא לא ותלוז הולא ותלב רוצ ןיאו יכ בותככ וניהלא יתלוז רוצ ימו יוי ידעלבמ יהלא ימ)זמ '18:32( רשא כה תא היחמו ודבל לכה ארוב אוה ךדבל יוי אוה התא בותככ ורמאמב ל )שי '37:20(. את תיֹשע הגו םימשה תא ')שי '37:16 ( ימלועל םיקו יח םימלע)ע 'נד '6:27(. םינוילע תורוד לבוס ינב וימע יטעמ םע וידסח גהונ םימאה לכמ הלוגס בקעי םימורמ יבכוככ םינוילע םימימתה ויריחב רצונ לכ ליכֹשמ תרזעב ליחתא םירזאנ זועב םירקי תראפתלו הלהתלו םשל רשא םירתופ יפמ ינזא העמש םירישה ריש רפס רותפל םירומה ודמלו ורו ה ינביש ןעמל הלוגיוי ירבד תואלפנ ועד תי לאו ויאיבנ ירבדוע רפסב וקש םלועה ימכחירבדמה]ן [ רתויו בותככ םהמ ונריהזה ידשו העות יוי לע הברה םירפס תוֹשע רהזה ינב המהמ )הק '12:12( This could be rendered as follow: In the name of God the only one. There is no other God but him; no other rock except him, following what is written: Who is God unless the Lord? Who is a roc, unless our God (Ps 18:32.) Because he alone is the creator of all, the giver of life to all by his command, as it is written: You alone are God (Is 37:20); you have made the Heavens… (Is 37:16); living and subsisting for eternity (Cf. Dn 6:27); sustaining the early XII Song of Song generations, leading his devout with the humble of his people, the children of Jacob; a cluster more precious that the totality of the nations; protector of his elects, the righteous; angels like stars, heroic and magnificent figures, are ready to praise and to glorify. He provide the help of a master for all those looking to interpret the Song of Songs [and] my ear has heard from the interpreters who taught and instruct the exiled, so they may know the wonders of God’s words and the words...

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