R. David Kimchi (Radak)

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Radak
Name
R. David Kimchi, Radak
ר' דוד קמחי, רד"ק
Datesc. 1160 – c. 1235
LocationNarbonne, Provence
WorksCommentaries on Bereshit, Nevi'im, Tehillim, Mishlei, and Divrei HaYamim, Sefer HaMikhlol and Sefer HaShorashim
Exegetical Characteristics
Influenced byR. Yosef Kimchi, R. Moshe Kimchi, Ibn Ezra, Rambam, Ibn Janach, Ibn Chiyyug
Impacted onRamban, Meiri

Background

Life

  • Name
    • Hebrew name – רבי דוד קמחי, acronym רד"ק
    • _ name – Rabbi David Kimhi, acronym Radak
  • Dates – c.1160 – c.1235
  • Location – Provence (Narbonne)
  • Education – Bible, rabbinics, philosophy, science, philology
  • Occupation – teacher of rabbinic texts to youths
  • Family – son of R. Joseph Kimhi, brother of R. Moses Kimhi
  • Teachers – brother R. Moses Kimhi
  • Contemporaries – most notably R. Samuel ibn Tibbon of Provence, purveyor of Maimonides' Arabic works
  • Time period
    • Radak's family migrated from Spain to Provence in the wake of the Almohade invasion of the mid-12th century, and this Spanish legacy influenced his work substantially, as did the works of Rashi (and to a lesser extent those of others) composed in Northern Europe. Accordingly, Radak's work features a relatively early fusion of Northern European and Spanish influences. Polemical components of his work reflect the influence of his Christian environment.
    • Translations of Maimonides' Arabic works began circulating during the early stages of Radak's exegetical career, and the Maimonidean component of his work (along with the writings of Samuel Ibn Tibbon and others) marks the beginning of the Maimonidean-Tibbonian philosophical-exegetical tradition that flourished in 13th-century Provence and beyond. Controversy over Maimonides' thought during Radak's time culminated in his efforts to defend the philosopher, as evidenced in Radak's exchange of letters with Judah Alfakhar in 1232.
  • World outlook – Maimonidean philosophy dominates Radak's thought, including, inter alia, his affirmations of creation de novo, the presence of a natural order and the limited role of miracles, and the necessity of resisting the draw of the material world in order to unite with the active intellect and achieve immortality.

Works

  • Biblical commentaries – Genesis, Former Prophets, Latter Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, Chronicles, Sefer Mikhlol on biblical grammar, biblical lexicon Sefer Hashorashim
  • Jewish thought – letters in defense of Maimonides
  • Misattributed works – Et Sofer on Masorah (according to recently adduced evidence), as well as some collections of material from the Shorashim mistaken to be independent commentaries

Torah Commentary

Characteristics

  • Verse by verse / Topical – verse by verse with periodic topical asides
  • Genre – explanatory commentary with partial emphasis on grammar and lexicography; periodic discussion of matters relating to philosophy, science, theology, and ethics
  • Language – Hebrew
  • Peshat and derash – primary emphasis on peshat, including rabbinic interpretations that accord with peshat principles or otherwise seen as authoritative, and inclusion of some homiletic midrash "for lovers of derash"

Methods

Radak's commentaries, beyond their emphasis on peshat exegesis and philology and their incorporation of some midrash, bespeak various methods and objectives:

  • Radak provides explanations for masoretic alternatives reflected by qere-ketiv disparities.
  • He displays considerable literary sensitivity of various kinds. He often attributes meaning to extraneous or otherwise distinctive biblical formulations, especially those found in the Pentateuch.
  • He provides motives for the actions of biblical characters.
  • He seeks to harmonize apparent biblical discrepancies, refusing to allow for the canonization of error on the part the inspired biblical author/editor.
  • He recognizes parallelism as a rhetorical ("intensifying") feature of biblical poetry.
  • He proposes historical contexts for individual Psalms.
  • He attributes didactic or theological objectives to Pentateuchal stories.
  • His exegesis of philosophically-charged material, especially on the opening chapters of Genesis and Ezekiel, bespeak an effort to apply a systematic Maimonidean approach, supplemented by his own exegetical and philosophical preferences.
  • Crucially, his relatively expansive elucidations of the biblical text mark an important departure from the more concise and atomistic exegesis of his predecessors.
  • Rationalism – although Radak was not an extreme rationalist there are some cases where he tries to minimize miraculous actions:
    • Smaller miracle – Yehoshua 6:5.
    • Miracle via natural means – Melakhim I 17:21, Melakhim II 6:6, Melakhim II 4:34.
    • Prophetic vision – Shofetim 6:38.

Themes

  • – 

Textual Issues

  • Manuscripts – five extant manuscripts of commentary on Genesis; varying numbers of manuscripts of other works
  • Printings – first printings in 15th and 16th centuries, chiefly in early Rabbinic Bibles; current best editions chiefly in Bar-Ilan's Mikra'ot Gedolot Haketer
  • Textual layers – several works reflect stages of revision by the author

Sources

Significant Influences

  • Earlier Sources – chiefly Talmud and Midrash, Rashi, R. Abraham Ibn Ezra, R. Jonah Ibn Janah, R. Joseph Kimhi, Maimonides
  • Teachers – R. Moses Kimhi

Impact

Later exegetes

Radak's Shorashim became the standard biblical lexicon for centuries; and his commentaries on the Prophets and Writings likewise became standard, heavily influencing commentators such as Abarbanel and forming the basis of others such as Metzudat David.

Supercommentaries

Editions of various commentaries are available with limited annotation, and a more expansive supercommentary is available on Chronicles.

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