Abstract

The pages of familiar printed editions of Midrash Rabba, including the Venice 1878 folio edition, teem with the commentaries of medieval and early-modern interpreters. This paper examines these abundant sources of information about the reception history of midrash by considering interpretations of a perplexing exposition in Genesis Rabbah (5:9 and 20:8). According to this midrash, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, God commanded the ground to bring forth cursed animals of four species – gnats, fleas, flies, and a camel. While medieval Ashkenazi commentators struggled to explain the presence of a camel, an animal unfamiliar to them, in a list of small insects, Joseph ben Shalom Ashkenazi (writing ca. 1300) explained the kabbalistic significance of the creatures. The sixteenth-century commentator Samuel Yafeh emended the text with reference to recently printed editions. By examining commentaries on the midrash of the insects and the camel, therefore, this study seeks to illuminate the modes of exegesis employed by successive interpreters of Genesis Rabba and the expository resources at their disposal, and thereby to deepen scholarly understanding of the reception history of rabbinic Bible interpretation.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0604
Print ISSN
0021-6682
Pages
pp. 157-181
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-24
Open Access
No
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