Ibn Ezra's Torah Commentary


Unique Aspects of the AlHaTorah.org Edition

AlHaTorah.org's edition of Ibn Ezra's initial Torah commentary (authored in Italy, c.1145, and sometimes referred to as "Ibn Ezra's Short Commentary") is unique in that it utilizes many manuscripts (primarily, though not exclusively) of Byzantine provenance,1 and particularly MS Paris 177, to present a more complete and accurate version of the commentary than previous editions. This new edition is now available in AlHaTorah.org's online Mikraot Gedolot, and it includes:

  • Approximately 7002 of Ibn Ezra's own updates and additions to his commentary,3 missing from all of the heretofore published editions.4 These additions are enclosed in square brackets to enable their ready identification.5
  • Hundreds of additional textual variants which allow for improved textual readings and facilitate a better understanding of Ibn Ezra's interpretations.6
  • Many cases of restored text which was missing in earlier editions due either to homeoteleutons (השמטות על ידי הדומות) or censorship of the manuscripts upon which they were based.7

Evidence for Ibn Ezra's Updates

In order to establish that the 700 passages (or at least the vast majority of them) found in these manuscripts are, in fact, Ibn Ezra's updates to his commentary, we must demonstrate both that:

  • Their presence in these manuscripts results from their being later insertions (הוספות) rather than merely scribal omissions (השמטות) in other manuscripts.
  • Their contents were penned by Ibn Ezra himself and not added by a different person.

The evidence for the passages being insertions rather than omissions consists of several factors:8

  • In virtually all cases, the manuscripts in which the passages are absent read smoothly, and very few cases can be attributed to homeoteleutons9 (arguably the most common cause of scribal omission). Had these been simply the product of scribal omissions, we would have expected that the opposite would be true on both counts.
  • In many cases, the manuscripts missing these passages instead contain an extra word or phrase, without which the text would not read smoothly.10 It is difficult to assume that the scribe while making an inadvertent omission also took care to add a word to ensure that the text would still be readable.
  • The additional passages are missing in the vast majority of Ibn Ezra manuscripts. For this to be the result of scribal omissions, one would need to postulate that they were all omitted in a very early transcription of the commentary which had an inordinate influence on the commentary's transmission.
  • In some cases, the additional passages appear in a location which is close, yet slightly off.11 The most likely explanation for this is that they were originally written as marginal glosses which were then incorporated in the slightly wrong place.
  • Of the manuscripts containing the additional passages, most include only some, but not all, of the passages. This would also be more readily explained by the assumption that these were marginal glosses, which were frequently incorporated, but not always.
  • Some manuscripts incorporate only parts of the additional passages.12 This would also be much more easily explained by the assumption that these passages originated as marginal glosses.

The evidence for these passages being Ibn Ezra's own updates also combines a number of factors:13

  • Self references – Over twenty of the additional passages use first person language (such as "כאשר אמרתי"‎, "וכבר זכרתי"‎, "פירשתיו"‎, "וכבר רמזתי לך"‎, "וכבר הודעתיך") to cross-reference interpretations found in the rest of Ibn Ezra's Torah commentary.14 Another group of additional passages (also using first person language) cites other commentaries15 and works16 of Ibn Ezra. The author of all of these additional passages could only be either Ibn Ezra himself or an impersonator.
  • Other cases of first person language – A distinctive example is Devarim 14:1 ("וכן ראינו ברומי רבתא‎").17
  • Acerbic language mocking the opinions cited from other commentators – There are at least ten examples of this in the additional passages.18 Such remarks are typical of Ibn Ezra, and it would be surprising if a different person adding marginal glosses felt the need to add ad hominem attacks to the commentary.19 There is also one case20 where the additional passage may reflect a tempering of Ibn Ezra's original critique of an interpretation, as a result of subsequently finding support for it in the Targum Yerushalmi.21
  • Similarities to Ibn Ezra's Second Commentary – There are a handful of cases in which the additional passages parallel content found in Ibn Ezra's subsequent commentaries on Bereshit and Shemot22 (written in France and commonly referred to as "Ibn Ezra's Long Commentary").23
  • Characteristic features – See below that the additional passages contain certain features that are consistent with Ibn Ezra's exegesis, such as use of Arabic and citations of early Andalusian commentators.
  • Require editing of original text – As noted above, there are many cases in which the author of these additional passages felt that he had editorial license to not only add, but also modify (or delete from) the original text, to enable the smooth incorporation of the addition. Such editorial license would be consistent with authorial revision rather than glosses of an external party.
  • Citations by others – In several cases, the additional passages are found in the text of Ibn Ezra cited by the צפנת פענח in his supercommentary on Ibn Ezra.24

Some Characteristics of the Additions

Below are some of the salient features of the updates to Ibn Ezra's commentary, almost all of which are consistent with the traits of the original layer of the commentary:

  • Sources cited – Aquilas,25 Targum (Onkelos),26 Targum Yerushalmi,27 Targum Yonatan b. Uziel,28 Rabbinic literature,29 R. Saadia,30 Dunash b. Labrat,31 R. Yehudah ibn Chayyug,32 R. Yonah ibn Janach,33 Rashi,34 anonymous commentators.35
  • Use of Arabic parallels.36
  • Additional prooftexts – This is by far the most common type of addition and it accounts for approximately a quarter of the total.
  • Elaboration on prooftexts – There are at least ten cases in which the addition elaborates not on the meaning of the verse itself but on the prooftext cited to support an interpretation.37
  • A small number of additions suggest alternatives or contradict the original interpretation.38
  • Numerous additions discuss and provide examples for lexical and grammatical phenomenon.39
  • Realia – A handful of additions remark on items of historical interest.40 Of particular interest is the addition to Devarim 25:9 which records that Ibn Ezra heard a report about the emerging French custom ("ושמענו כי בארצות אדום הנקראין פרנצא"‎)41 to favor חליצה over יבום and that he strongly opposed this new practice.42
  • Other interpretations of general interest – Bereshit 17:14, 22:19, 27:19, 31:7, 31:24, 31:39, 33:10, 38:23, Shemot 21:24, 31:16, 32:29, Vayikra 11:13, Bemidbar 12:16, Bemidbar 15:15, 16:14.

Manuscripts Utilized

AlHaTorah.org's edition of Ibn Ezra's initial Torah commentary utilizes MS Paris 17743 as its base text for the books of Bereshit, Vayikra, Bemidbar, and Devarim.44 For the book of Shemot, though, MS Paris 177 contains Ibn Ezra's second commentary (written in France, and commonly referred to as "Ibn Ezra's Long Commentary"), and it thus could not serve as our base text. Additionally, most manuscripts of Ibn Ezra's first Shemot commentary which contain his additions and updates are either very fragmentary or hybrids which conflate the first and second commentaries. Thus, for the book of Shemot, our edition uses MS Paris 182 (the oldest extant textual witness of the commentary) as a base, and supplements it with Ibn Ezra's updates cobbled together from what has survived in various other manuscripts.45

The following is a list of the manuscripts utilized in this edition. We gratefully acknowledge the libraries which house them for preserving these texts of Ibn Ezra for posterity:

  • Breslau 53 (Saraval 29) – now in Prague National Library
  • Cambridge Add. 1014,1 – Cambridge University Library
  • Columbia X893/5 (extant on Shemot 13 – Vayikra 25 and missing several chapters in the middle) – Columbia University, New York
  • Edition of privately owned manuscript (extant on Shemot 29-34) published by Naftali Ben-Menachem in אוצר יהודי ספרד ד'‏
  • Frankfurt 150 – Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg Frankfurt am Main
  • Lutzki 827 – Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Oxford Or 512 (Neubauer 2423) (extant on Shemot 31-32) – Oxford - Bodleian Library
  • Paris 176, 177, 182 – Bibliothèque nationale de France
  • St. Petersburg – Evr. I 24, Evr. II A 244/1 – (extant on Shemot 12), Evr. II A 418/05 – (extant on Shemot 27–29) – National Library of Russia
  • Vatican ebr.283, Neofiti 2 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana
  • Vienna Cod. Hebr. 39 (Schwarz #25) – Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek
  • Vienna Beit Midrash LaRabbanim – this manuscript is currently housed in a private collection and we had access to only the excerpts transcribed by Fleischer in the notes to his edition of Shemot HaKatzar

We also express our appreciation to the staff of the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts for all of their assistance.