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Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש‎; plural midrashim, lit. "to investigate" or "study") is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible.

Midrash is a way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal or moral teachings. It fills in many gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at. [1]



According to the Pardes system of exegesis (interpretation), the approach to understand Biblical texts in Judaism is realized through peshat (literal or plain meaning, lit. "plain" or "simple"), remez (deep meaning, lit. "hints"), derash (comparative meaning, from Hebrew darash—"to inquire" or "to seek") and sod (hidden meaning or philosophy, lit. "secret" or "mystery"). The Midrash concentrates somewhat on remez but mostly on derash (Some thinkers divide PaRDeS into pshat, remez, din (law) and sod. In this understanding, midrash aggada deals with remez and midrash halakha deals with din).

Many different exegetical methods are employed to derive deeper meaning from a text. This is not limited to the traditional thirteen textual tools attributed to the Tanna Rabbi Ishmael, which are used in the interpretation of halakha (Jewish law). Presence of apparently superfluous words or letters, chronology of events, parallel narratives or other textual anomalies are often a springboard for interpretation of segments of Biblical text. In many cases, a dialogue is expanded manifold: handfuls of lines in the Biblical narrative may become long philosophical discussions. It is unclear whether the Midrash assumes these dialogues took place in reality or if this refers only to subtext or religious implication.

The "classical" Midrash starts off with a seemingly unrelated sentence from the Biblical books of Psalms, Proverbs or the Prophets. This sentence later turns out to metaphorically reflect the content of the rabbinical interpretation offered.

Some Midrash discussions are highly metaphorical, and many Jewish authors stress that they are not intended to be taken literally. Rather, other midrashic sources may sometimes serve as a key to particularly esoteric discussions. Later authors maintain that this was done to make this material less accessible to the casual reader and prevent its abuse by detractors.

Forms of Midrashic literature

In general the Midrash is focused on either halakha (legal) or Aggadic (non-legal and chiefly homiletical) subject matter. Both kinds of Midrashim were at first preserved only orally; but their writing down commenced in the 2nd century, and they now exist in the shape chiefly of exegetical or homiletical commentaries on Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). Midrashic literature is worthwhile reading not only for its insights into Judaism and the history of Jewish thought, but also for the more incidental data it provides to historians, philologists, philosophers, and scholars of either historical-critical Bible study or comparative religion.

Halakhic midrashim

Rabbinic Literature

Talmudic literature

Jerusalem TalmudBabylonian Talmud
Minor tractates

Halakhic Midrash

Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael (Exodus)
Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon (Exodus)
Sifra (Leviticus)
Sifre (Numbers & Deuteronomy)
Sifre Zutta (Numbers)
Mekhilta le-Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy)
Baraita of Rabbi Ishmael

Aggadic Midrash

—— Tannaitic ——
Seder Olam Rabbah
Alphabet of Akiba ben Joseph
Baraita of the Forty-nine Rules
Baraita on the Thirty-two Rules
Baraita on Tabernacle Construction
—— 400–600 ——
Genesis RabbahEichah Rabbah
Pesikta de-Rav Kahana
Esther RabbahMidrash Iyyov
Leviticus RabbahSeder Olam Zutta
Midrash TanhumaMegillat Antiochus
—— 650–900 ——
Avot of Rabbi Natan
Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer
Tanna Devei Eliyahu
Alphabet of Ben-Sira
Kohelet RabbahCanticles Rabbah
Devarim Rabbah • Devarim Zutta
Pesikta RabbatiMidrash Samuel
Midrash ProverbsRuth Rabbah
Baraita of SamuelTargum sheni
—— 900–1000 ——
Ruth Zuta • Eichah Zuta
Midrash TehillimMidrash Hashkem
Exodus RabbahCanticles Zutta
—— 1000–1200 ——
Midrash TadsheSefer ha-Yashar
—— Later ——
Yalkut ShimoniYalkut Makiri
Midrash JonahEin Yaakov
Midrash ha-GadolNumbers Rabbah
Smaller midrashim

Rabbinic Targum

—— Torah ——
Targum Onkelos
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan
Fragment Targum • Targum Neofiti

—— Nevi'im ——
Targum Jonathan

—— Ketuvim ——
Targum Tehillim • Targum Mishlei
Targum Iyyov
Targum to the Five Megillot
Targum Sheni to Esther
Targum to Chronicles

Midrash halakha are the works in which the sources in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) of the traditionally received laws are identified. These Midrashim often predate the Mishnah. The Midrash linking a verse to a halakha will often function as a proof of a law's authenticity; a correct elucidation of the Torah carries with it the support of the halakhah, and often the reason for the rule's existence (although many rabbinical laws have no direct Biblical source). The term is applied also to the derivation of new laws, either by means of a correct interpretation of the obvious meaning of scriptural words themselves or by the application of certain hermeneutic rules.


After the return of Jewish refugees from their diaspora in Babylon, some argue that the Torah was central to Jewish life at home and abroad. This is certainly the case in some strains of Judaism, although scholars agree the period was marked by wide diversity, so the centrality of Torah would vary greatly for different groups. A significant concern of Jewish authorities was to ensure compliance with the Torah's commandments, the enactments of the Mosaic Law; yet, as these laws had been written in circumstances of the past, they seemed to call for adaptation or explication if they were to fit the circumstances of contemporary life. Explanations of the terms of the Mosaic legislation are legal, or halakhic Midrashim. Relatedly, the Mishnah does not generally cite a scriptural basis for its laws; connecting the Mishnaic law with the Torah law is also undertaken by the later Midrash (and Talmuds).

Aggadic midrashim

Homiletic midrashim embraces the interpretation of the non-legal portions of the Hebrew Bible. These midrashim are sometimes referred to as aggadah or haggadah, a loosely-defined term that may refer to all non-legal discourse in classical rabbinic literature.

Aggadic explanations of the non-legal parts of Scripture are characterized by a much greater freedom of exposition than the halakhic Midrashim (midrashim on Jewish law.) Aggadic expositors availed themselves of various techniques, including sayings of prominent rabbis. These aggadic explanations could be philosophical or mystical disquisitions concerning angels, demons, paradise, hell, the messiah, Satan, feasts and fasts, parables, legends, satirical assaults on those who practice idolatry, etc.

Some of these midrashim entail mystical teachings. The presentation is such that the Midrash is a simple lesson to the uninitiated, and a direct allusion, or analogy, to a Mystical teaching for those educated in this area.

An example of a Midrashic interpretation:

"And God saw all that He had made, and found it very good. And there was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day." (Genesis 1:31)—Midrash: Rabbi Nahman said in Rabbi Samuel's name: "Behold, it was good" refers to the Good Desire; "And behold, it was very good" refers to the Evil Desire. (It only says "very good" after man was created with both the good and bad inclinations, in all other cases it only says "and God saw that it was good") Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the Evil Desire, however, no man would build a house, take a wife and beget children; and thus said Solomon: "Again, I considered all labour and all excelling in work, that it is a man's rivalry with his neighbour." (Kohelet IV, 4) (Genesis Rabbah 9:7, translation from Soncino Publications).

Classical compilations

Rabbinical Eras


  • Mekhilta. The Mekhilta essentially functions as a commentary on the Book of Exodus. There are two versions of this midrash collection. One is Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, the other is Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai. The former is still studied today, while the latter was used by many medieval Jewish authorities. While the latter (bar Yohai) text was popularly circulated in manuscript form from the 11th to 16th centuries, it was lost for all practical purposes until it was rediscovered and printed in the 19th century.
    • Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael. This is a halakhic commentary on Exodus, concentrating on the legal sections, from Exodus 12 to 35. It derives halakha from Biblical verses. This midrash collection was redacted into its final form around the 3rd or 4th century; its contents indicate that its sources are some of the oldest midrashim, dating back possibly to the time of Rabbi Akiva. The midrash on Exodus that was known to the Amoraim is not the same as our current mekhilta; their version was only the core of what later grew into the present form.
    • Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai. Based on the same core material as Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael, it followed a second route of commentary and editing, and eventually emerged as a distinct work. The Mekhilta de Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai is an exegetical midrash on Exodus 3 to 35, and is very roughly dated to near the 4th century.
  • Sifra on Leviticus. The Sifra work follows the tradition of Rabbi Akiva with additions from the School of Rabbi Ishmael. References in the Talmud to the Sifra are ambiguous; It is uncertain whether the texts mentioned in the Talmud are to an earlier version of our Sifra, or to the sources that the Sifra also drew upon. References to the Sifra from the time of the early medieval rabbis (and after) are to the text extant today. The core of this text developed in the mid-3rd century as a critique and commentary of the Mishnah, although subsequent additions and editing went on for some time afterwards.
  • Sifre on Numbers and Deuteronomy, going back mainly to the schools of the same two Rabbis. This work is mainly a halakhic midrash, yet includes a long haggadic piece in sections 78-106. References in the Talmud, and in the later Geonic literature, indicate that the original core of Sifre was on the Book of Numbers, Exodus and Deuteronomy. However, transmission of the text was imperfect, and by the Middle Ages, only the commentary on Numbers and Deuteronomy remained. The core material was redacted around the middle of the 3rd century.
  • Sifre Zutta (The small Sifre). This work is a halakhic commentary on the book of Numbers. The text of this midrash is only partially preserved in medieval works, while other portions were discovered by Solomon Schechter in his research in the famed Cairo Geniza. It seems to be older than most other midrash, coming from the early 3rd century.


  • Midrash Qohelet, on Ecclesiastes (probably before middle of ninth century).
  • Midrash Esther, on Esther (A.D. 940).
  • The Pesikta, a compilation of homilies on special Pentateuchal and Prophetic lessons (early eighth century), in two versions:
  • Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer (not before eighth century), a Midrashic narrative of the more important events of the Pentateuch.
  • Tanchuma or Yelammedenu (ninth century) on the whole Pentateuch; its homilies often consist of a Halachic introduction, followed by several poems, exposition of the opening verses, and the Messianic conclusion. There are actually a number of different 'Midrash Tanhuma' collections. The two most important are Midrash Tanhuma Ha Nidpas, literally the published text. This is also sometimes referred to as Midrash Tanhuma Yelamdenu. The other is based on a manuscript published by Solomon Buber and is usually known as Midrash Tanhuma Buber, much to many students' confusion, this too is sometimes referred to as Midrash Tanhuma Yelamdenu. The fact is even though the first one is the most widely distributed today, when the Medieval authors refer to Midrash Tanchuma, they usually mean the second one.
  • Midrash Shemuel, on the first two Books of Kings (I, II Samuel).
  • Midrash Tehillim, on the Psalms.
  • Midrash Mishlé, a commentary on the book of Proverbs.
  • Seder Olam Rabbah (or simply Seder Olam). Traditionally attributed to the tannaitic Rabbi Yose ben Halafta. This work covers topics from the Creation of the universe to the construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
  • Yalkut Shimoni. A collection of midrash on the entire Hebrew Scriptures (Tanakh) containing both halakhic and aggadic midrash. It was compiled by Shimon ha-Darshan in the 13th century CE and is collected from over 50 other midrashic works.
  • Tanna Devei Eliyahu. This work that stresses the reasons underlying the commandments, the importance of knowing Torah, prayer, and repentance, and the ethical and religious values that are learned through the Bible. It consists of two sections, Seder Eliyahu Rabbah and Seder Eliyahu Zuta. It is not a compilation but a uniform work with a single author.
  • Alphabet of Akiba ben Joseph, a midrash on the names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet
  • Midrash Tadshe (called also Baraita de-Rabbi Pinehas ben Yair):

Midrash Rabbah

  • Midrash Rabbah. Widely studied are the Rabboth (great commentaries), a collection of ten midrashim on different books of the Bible. However, despite the similarity in their names, these are not a cohesive work. They were written by different authors, in different locales, in different historical eras. The ones on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are chiefly made up of homilies on the Scripture sections for the Sabbath or festival, while the others are rather of an exegetical nature.
    • Bereshith Rabba, Genesis Rabbah. This text dates from the sixth century CE. A midrash on Genesis, it offers explanations of words and sentences and haggadic interpretations and expositions, many of which are only loosely tied to the text. It is often interlaced with maxims and parables. Its redactor drew upon earlier rabbinic sources, including the Mishnah, Tosefta, the halakhic midrashim the Targums. It apparently drew upon a version of Talmud Yerushalmi that resembles, yet was not identical to, the text that survived to present times. It was redacted sometime in the early 5th century.
    • Shemot Rabba, Exodus Rabbah (eleventh and twelfth century)
    • Vayyiqra Rabba, Leviticus Rabbah (middle seventh Century)
    • Bamidbar Rabba, Numbers Rabbah (twelfth century)
    • Devarim Rabba, Deuteronomy Rabbah (tenth century)
    • Shir Hashirim Rabba, Song of Songs Rabbah (probably before the middle of ninth century)
    • Ruth Rabba, (same date as foregoing)
    • Eicha Rabba, Lamentations Rabbah (seventh century). Lamentations Rabbah has been transmitted in two versions. One edition is represented by the 1st printed edition, 1519 Pesaro; the other is the Buber edition, based on manuscript J.I.4 from the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome. This latter version (Salomon Buber) is quoted by the Shulkhan Arukh, as well as medieval Jewish authorities. It was probably redacted sometime in the 5th century.

Contemporary Midrash

A wealth of literature and artwork has been created in the 20th and 21st centuries by people aspiring to create "Contemporary Midrash". Forms include poetry, prose, Bibliodrama (the acting out of Bible stories), murals, masks, and music, among others. The Institute for Contemporary Midrash was formed to facilitate these reinterpretations of sacred texts. The institute hosted several week-long intensives between 1995 and 2004, and published eight issues of Living Text: The Journal of Contemporary Midrash from 1997 to 2000.

See also


External links

Full text resources

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MIDRASH, a very common term in Jewish writings for " exposition " and a certain class of expository literature. The word also occurs twice in the Old Testament (2 Chron. xiii. 22, xxiv. 27; R.V. rather poorly "commentary ").

1. Introduction. - The term (Heb. midrash from darash "to search out, enquire ") denotes some explanation or exposition, which, in contrast to the more literal exegesis (technically called peshat " simple "), endeavours to reach the spirit lying below the text. It may be defined as a didactic or homiletic development of some thought or theme, characterized by a more subjective, imaginative and ampliative treatment. Jewish Midrash falls broadly into two classes: Halaka (q.v.) or Heilakd (walking, way, conduct) and Haggadah (narrative [with a purpose], homily; Aramaic equivalent Aggadah; the incorrect form Agadah rests upon a mistaken etymology). The former dealt with legal and ritual matters; it flourished in the schools and developed into the most subtle casuistry. The latter covered all non-halakic exposition and was essentially popular. It embraced historical and other traditions; stories, legends, parables and allegories; beliefs, customs and all that may be called folk-lore. It fed itself, not upon the laws, but upon the narrative, the prophetical and the poetical writings of the Old Testament, and it had a more spiritual and ethical tone than the Halaka. In both classes, accepted tradition (written or oral) was reinterpreted in order to justify or to deduce new teaching (in its widest sense), to connect the present with a hallowed past, and to be a guide for the future; and the prevalence of this process, the innumerable different examples of its working, and the particular application of the term Midrash to an important section of Rabbinical literature complicates both the study of the subject and any attempt to treat it concisely.' Apart from the popular paraphrastic translations of the Old Testament (see Targum), the great mass of orthodox Rabbinical literature consists of (1) the independent Midrashim, and (2) the Mishna which, with its supplement the Gemara, constitutes the Talmud. Both contain Halaka and Haggada, although the Mishna itself is essentially Halaka, and the Midrashim are more especially Haggadic; and consequently further information bearing upon Midrash must be sought in the art. Talmud. These two articles 1 For a careful study of the meaning of the term, see W. Bacher, Jew. Quart. Rev. IV. 406-429.

handle one of the most famous bodies of ancient literature, which, in its turn, has given rise to innumerable Jewish and nonJewish works, and has many points of value and interest which cannot be adequately discussed here. It must suffice, therefore, to deal rather broadly with the subject, and to refer for fuller details to the special encyclopaedias, viz.: Hamburger's RealEncyc. fiir Bibel and Talmud, and the very elaborate articles in the Jewish Encyclopedia. 2. Narrative Midrash. - Of the three different kinds of historical writing - the genetic or scientific, the purely narrative and the pragmatic - it is the last which has prevailed among religious historians. It is extremely difficult to avoid the subjective element in dealing with matters of fact, and the religious treatment of history is influenced, however unconsciously, by the mental environment of the writers. In giving greater prominence to events of religious importance and to their bearing upon the spiritual needs of contemporaries they view and interpret the past in a particular light, and will see in the past those growths which only in their own time have become mature. A latent significance is found, a particular connexion is traced, and a continuity is established, the true nature of which must be tested by critical students. Now, it is subjective history which we find in the earliest references to Midrash. The Midrash of the prophet Iddo (2 Chron. xiii. 22) like the Visions and the Histories of Iddo and Shemaiah (ix. 29, xii. 15) which are quoted for the lives of Solomon, Abijah and Jeroboam, are evidently quite distinct from the sources cited in the parallel portions of the earlier compilation, and the entire spirit of the narratives is different. Similarly, there is a conspicuous difference of treatment of the life of Joash in 2 Kings xi. seq., compared with 2 Chron. xxiii. seq., which refers to some Midrash of the Book of the Kings (xxiv. 27). Although it is uncertain whether this comprehensive Midrash also included the " books of the Kings " (xvi. II, xxvii. 7, &c.), and the Midrash of Iddo and other related works, it is clear that the Book of Chronicles (q.v.) marks a very noteworthy advance upon the records in the (canonical) Book of Kings (q.v.). It is now recognized that the compiler of the former has used many novel narratives of a particular edifying and didactic stamp, and scholars are practically unanimous that these are subsequent to the age of the Israelite monarchy and present a picture of historical and religious conditions which (to judge from earlier sources) is untrustworthy. At the same time various details (as comparison with the Book of Kings shows) are relatively old and, on a priori grounds, it is extremely unlikely that the unhistorical elements are necessarily due to deliberate imagination or perversion rather than to the development of earlier traditions. The religious significance of the past is dominant, and the past is idealized from a later standpoint; and whether the narratives in Chronicles are expressly styled Midrash or not, they are the fruit of an age which sought to inculcate explicitly those lessons which, it conceived, were implied in the events of the past. The value of the book lay not in history for its own sake, but in its direct application to present needs. But the tendency to reshape history for the edification of later generations was no novelty when Chronicles was first compiled (about 4th cent. B.C.), Pragmatic historiography is exemplified in the earliest continuous sources (viz. of the " Deuteronomic " writers, i.e. allied to Deut., especially the secondary portions); and there are many relatively early narratives in which the details have been modified, and the heroes of the past are the mouthpiece for the thought of a later writer or of his age. Numerous instructive examples of the active tendency to develop tradition may be observed in the relationship between Genesis and the " Book of Jubilees," or in the embellishments of Old Testament history in the Antiquities of Josephus, or in the widening gaps in the diverse traditions of the famous figures of the Old Testament (Adam, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Ezra, &c.), as they appear in noncanonical writings. In such cases as these one can readily perceive the different forms which the same material elements have assumed, and one may distinguish the unreliable accretions which are clearly later and secondary. Accordingly, when there are narratives which cannot be tested in this manner, should they show all the internal marks of didactic expansion and date from an age much later than the times with which they deal, their immediate value will not necessarily lie in the details which appear to be of historical interest, but in their contribution to later forms of tradition and phases of thought. So far then, Midrash tends to include moralizing history, whether we call it narrative or romance, attached to names and events, and it is obviously exemplified whenever there are unmistakable signs of untrustworthy amplification and of some explicit religious or ethical aim colouring the narrative. This, however, is only one of the aspects which have to be taken into consideration when one advances to the Rabbinical Midrash.

For Old Testament " Midrash " see further K. Budde, Zeitschr. f. alt-test. Wissenschaft, xii. 37, seq., and commentaries on Chronicles (q.v.). The elaborate study by the Jewish scholar Zunz (Die gottesdienstlichen Vortrdge, ch. viii.) is also valuable for bridging the gulf between the canonical and the non-canonical traditions and for its just attitude to the criticism of historical traditions. The rigid line between fact or fiction in religious literature, which readers often wish to draw, cannot be consistently justified, and in studying old Oriental religious narratives it is necessary to realize that the teaching was regarded as more essential than the method of presenting it. " Midrash " which may be quite useless for historical investigation maybe appreciated for the light it throws upon forms of thought. Historical criticism does not touch the reality of the ideas, and since they may be as worthy of study as the apparent facts they clothe, they thus indirectly contribute to the history of their period. In any case, while the true historical kernel of the Midrashic narrative (e.g. dealing with Adam, Moses or Isaiah) will always be a matter of dispute, the teaching to which it is applied stands on an independent footing as also does the application of that teaching to other ages.

3. Continuity of Literature and Material. - Amid obscure vicissitudes in the 7th to 5th centuries, B.C., the Canonical books of the Old Testament gradually began to assume their present shape (see Palestine: History). The internal peculiarities show that the compilations are the much edited remains of a larger body of literature, and it may reasonably be supposed that the older sources did not at once perish. There is literary critical evidence for late insertions by exilic or later compilers; 1 the compiler of Chronicles apparently refers to accessible works; and there is a close material relationship between the Old Testament and later literature. All this suggests that Old Hebrew writings, apart from those preserved in the Canon, persisted to a relatively late period. No a priori distinction can be made and no precise chronological line can be drawn between the books of the Canon (Canticles, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Ezekiel and Proverbs had been at one time or another subjects of debate among the Rabbis) and the Apocrypha (Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Maccabees and Tobit, were " allowed "); and the intimate relation between them appears in the character of the " Wisdom Literature " (e.g. Proverbs, and the Wisdom of Solomon), in the treatment of the stories of Esther and Daniel (the history of Susanna), and also in the twofold recensions Ezra and i Esdras. Historical or narrative Midrash is exemplified in the " canonical " books Daniel, Esther, Jonah and Ruth, and in the " apocryphal " stories of Daniel (viz. Susanna, where the point lies in the name Daniel " God is judge "), Esther, Judith, Tobit (and the Ahiqar cycle of stories), the story of Zerubbabel (i Esd. iii. seq., the sequel of which belongs to the canonical Ezra), and the martyrdom of Eleazer (2 Macc. vi. seq., compare 4 Macc.). This is not the place to notice the course of Jewish literary activity in Palestine or Alexandria, whether along the more rigid lines of Pharisaic legalism (the development of the canonical " priestly " law), or the popular and less scholastic phases, which recall the earlier apocalyptical tendencies of the Old Testament and were cultivated alike by early Jewish and Christian writers. But after the fall of Jerusalem, partly through the need for systematizing the traditional post-biblical law, and partly through disputes with the Christians, orthodox Rabbinism received the stamp which has since characterized it. The traditional or oral law was codified in the Mishna (see Talmud, § i seq.), the Canon was 1 E.g. Judg. i. (see G. F. Moore, Ency. Bib. " Historical Lit.," col. 2085, middle), 2 Sam. ix. - xx., &c.

fixed, and the fluctuations in the MSS. of the Old Testament (which, like the numerous variations in the Septuagint, complicated exact exegesis) gave way to what was virtually a single text. Moreover, the important body of apocalyptical and pseudepigraphical literature, with all its links between Christianity and Judaism, fell into disfavour on both sides. This literature is especially valuable because it illustrates contemporary Halaka and Haggada, and it illuminates the circle of thought with which Jesus and his followers were familiar; it thus fills the gap between the Old Testament and the authoritative Rabbinical Midrashim which, though often in a form several centuries later, not rarely preserve older material.' A few miscellaneous examples of related Midrashic details may be cited: i. The book of Jubilees (a haggadic and halakic Midrash on Genesis, about 2nd century B.C.), contains the story of the war between Amorite Kings and Jacob (ch. xxxiv.). This is known to the probably contemporary Testament of Judah and to much later Midrashim (Mid. Wayyisa`u, Yalqut Shimeoni, also the apocryphal " book of Jashar "), and is evidently connected with the cryptic allusion to the capture of Shechem in Gen. xlviii. 22 (R.V. marg.). Unless we suppose that the latter was suddenly expanded into the stories which thenceforth persisted, it may be inferred that an old extra-canonical tradition (for which a case can be made) continued to survive the compilation of Genesis (q.v.) and ultimately assumed the various exaggerated forms now extant. Naturally the probability of such a tradition - the merest hint of which happens to be preserved in Gen. loc. cit. - does not prejudice the problem of its origin or accuracy; in Jub. the story is useless for Jacob's history, and is probably influenced by a recollection of more recent events in the Maccabaean age.

ii. A curious account of war between Egypt and Canaan after Joseph's death recurs in Jub. xli., Test. of Simeon, viii., and Benjamin vii., and is connected with details (burial of Jacob's sons at Hebron) recorded by Josephus (Ant. ii. 8). Josephus in turn has another story wherein Moses leads the Egyptians against Ethiopia (Ant. ii. o, for parallels see Moore, Ency. Bib. col. 2089 seq.), and this is found in the late chronicles of Jerahmeel and the Book of Jashar (cf. also Mid. Dibre ha-yamim shel-Mosheh; see Jew. Ency. viii. 573 seq.). The former may be linked with Gen. 1.9 (where the concourse of chariots and horsemen would invite speculation), and the latter with the Cushite wife of Moses; but although one may grant that the canonical sources do not by any means preserve all the older current traditions, the contents of the latter cannot be recovered from the later persisting Midrashim.2 iii. The allusion in Jude v. 9 to the contention of the archangel Michael for the body of Moses belongs to a group of traditions which have been collected by R. H. Charles (Assumption of Moses, pp. 105 seq.), and it appears that the incident was familiar to Clement of Alexandria, Origen and other early writers. Moreover, Jude v. 16 agrees very closely with the Latin version of the Testament of Moses, which has other parallels in Matt. xxiv. 29; Acts vii. 36, 38 seq. (ibid. pp. lxii. seq.). Here may be added Jannes and Jambres, who withstood Moses (2 Tim. iii. 8); these or related names were known to the elder Pliny (xxx. i. It), Apuleius (first half of 2nd century), Origen (who refers to a book of Jannes and Mambres), and various earlier and later Jewish sources; see I. Abrahams, Ency. Bib. col. 2327 seq.; H. St J. Thackeray, Relation of St Paul to contemporary Jewish thought (London, 1900), pp. 215 sqq.

iv. Jewish traditions of Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees recur in the Targums, Midrashic works, and earlier in the book of Jubilees (ch. xii., ed. Charles, p. 91; cf. also Judith v. 6 seq.). The legends of his escape from a fiery furnace may have a philological basis (Ur interpreted as " fire "), but the allusion to the redemption of Abraham in Isa. xxix 22 seems to indicate that older tradition was fuller than the present records in Genesis, and supplies another example of the link connecting the Old Testament with Rabbinical thought.

v. Not to multiply examples further, it may suffice to refer to (a) the apparent belief that the serpent tempted Eve to unchastity (2 Cor. xi. 2 seq., see Thackeray pp. 50 seq.); (b) the descent of the angels upon earth (Gen. vi. t seq.; Jude 6, 14 seq., see Charles, Jub. p. 33 seq., Clermont-Ganneau, Quart. Statements of the Pal. Explor. Fund, 1903, pp. 2 33 seq. and the Midr. Abkir. see Jew, Ency. viii. 57 2); (c) the relationship between the Midrashic developments of the story of Esther in Josephus, the Greek and Old Latin Versions, the Targums and later Jewish sources (see L. B. Paton, Comm. on Esther, pp. 20, too and passim); and finally (d) the numerous minor miscellaneous parallels noticed in recent annotated editions of the ' On the history of his intermediate stage see E. Scharer, Hist. of Jew. People (Edinburgh, 1886), Germ. Gesch. Jud. Volkes; M. Friedlander, Relig. Bewegungen innerhalb des Judentums im Zeitalter Jesu (Berlin, 1905); W. Fairweather, Background of the Gospels (Edinburgh 1908). See also Apocalyptic Lit. and Apocryphal Lit.

Note also the allusion to the wisdom of Moses in Acts vii. 22, upon which contemporary writings are pretty well informed.

pseudepigraphical literature (especially those of R. H. Charles). (See further Talmud, § 5.) 4. Midrashic Exposition. - The Talmud poetically describes Midrash as a hammer which wakes to shining light the sparks which slumber in the rock; and the simile is a happy one when one considers the exegetical implements, the workmen and their workmanship. For the expository or interpretative Midrash was bound up with rules and methods which often appear crude and arbitrary, they are nevertheless those of the age and they helped to build up lasting monuments. 3 It was believed that the Written Word had an infinite fulness; according to the Midr. Bemidbar Rabbah every word of the Law had seventy different aspects, and Philo of Alexandria held that there are no superfluous words in Scripture. Consequently an exaggerated emphasis is often laid upon single words; as, for example, in the school of Rabbi `Agiba, where even individual letters were forced to reveal their meaning. Thus, since the Hebrew eth, which marks the accusative, is also the preposition " with," Deut. x. 20 (" thou shalt fear [eth-] Yahweh thy God ") was interpreted to include the veneration of the doctors of the law along with Yahweh. 4 Many examples of literal interpretation can of course be found,. but arbitrary cases of the kind just noticed are due either to an obviously far-fetched interpretation or to the endeavour to find some authoritative support for teaching which it was, desired to inculcate. Thus faulty proof rather than faulty inference is illustrated when the word " in-number " (Ex. xii. 4) was used to confirm the Halaka that the man who killed the Passover Lamb must know how many people were about to share it (Jew. Ency. viii. 570). Often the biblical text cannot be said to supply more than a hint or a suggestion, and the particular application in Halaka or Haggada must be taken on its merits, and the teaching does not necessarily fall because the exegesis is illegitimate. To take another specimen: the Mekilta on Ex. xx. 25 infers from the unusual form of the word "it," that the prohibition of iron applies only to it, i.e. the altar, and not to stones used in building the temple. This Halaka is followed by a haggadic explanation of the prohibition: " iron abridges life while the altar prolongs it; iron causes destruction and misery, while the altar produces reconciliation between God and man; and therefore the use of iron cannot be allowed in making the altar." 5 Such were the sparks that could be hammered out of the rock, and it is instructive to observe similar exegetical methods in the New Testament. Emphasis upon a single word is illustrated by Gal. iii. 16, where the argument rests upon the word " seed " (and not the plural " seeds ") in the proof-text, and the same word in Rabbinical writings is used to support other arguments. 6 By identical kinds of exegesis Lev. xix. 14 (not to put a stumbling block before the blind) is the ground for cautioning a father against striking an adult child, and Deut, xxv. 4 (the law of the muzzled ox) is used to show that God's labourer is worthy of his hire.' Again, since through Eve sin entered into the world, woman must be subordinate to man (I Tim. ii. 11-14), or, she who has thus extinguished " the light of the world " should atone by lighting the festal candles on the sabbath (Talm. Shabb. 5b). By the allegorical method Isa. lxi. is interpreted as applying to Jesus (Luke iv. 16-22), and frequently passages which originally had another application have a Messianic reference in 3 For the Rabbinical " rules " and examples of their working see F. Weber, Aid. Theologie (Leipzig, 1897), pp. 109-125; C. A. Briggs Study of Holy Scripture (Edinburgh, 1899), ch. xviii.; Jew. Ency. xii. 30-33; S. Schechter, Hastings's Dict. Bible, v. 59, 63; and H. L. Strack, Einleitung in den Talmud (Leipzig, 1908), pp. 119-131.

4 So Aquila, the disciple of `Agiba, translates the accusative particle by ow; see W. R. Smith, Old Test. in the Jew. Church, p. 63.

' Oesterley and Box, Religion and Worship of the Synagogue (London, 1907), p. 80; pp. 44-97 deal with Midrashic and other Jewish literature.

Mish. Sanhed. iv. 5, see A. Geiger, Zeit. f. morgenland. Gesellschaft, 1858, pp. 307 sqq.; S. R. Driver, Expositor, ix. (1889), p. 18 seq.

The Talmud Mo'ed Qatan, 7a, and New Testament (1 Cor. ix. 9, I Tim. v. 18) respectively.

Christian and Rabbinical teaching. Similarly the application of Hos. ii. 23, not to the scattered tribes of Israel, but to the Gentiles, is common to the Mishna and to Romans ix. 25 seq. (Sanday and Headlam, Comment. ad loc.) The Apostle Paul, once a disciple of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel, uses in i Cor. x. 4 (" the spiritual rock that followed them ") a familiar Jewish Haggada which, however, he reinterprets, even as, when he identifies the " rock " with Christ, he diverges from the Alexandrian Philo who had identified it with Wisdom or the Word of God. Moreover, not only are passages thus taken out of their context, but they are combined, especially when they contain the same words or phrases, or appear to have the same or similar thoughts or aims. The Talmud, with a reference to Prov. xxxi. 14 (" she bringeth her food from afar "), says " the words of the Torah are poor (or deficient) in one place but rich in another." Hence in the Mid. Siphre on Numbers xv. 39, " ye shall not seek after ... your own eyes " is explained to refer to adultery, after the words of Samson " she is pleasing in my eyes " (Judg. xiv. 3); and on Deut. vi. 5 it charges man to love the Lord " with all thy soul. .. even if he should take away thy soul," the teaching being based upon Ps. xliv. 22.1. Similarly, in the New Testament, after the same method, Mal. iii. i and Is. xl. 3 (linked by the phrase " to prepare the way ") are combined in Mark i. 2 seq.; Abraham's faith (Gen. xv. 6) and temptation (xxii. 1) are associated in James ii. 21-23, as also in contemporary Jewish thought; and by other combined quotations Paul enunciates the universality of sin (Rom. iii. 1 0 sqq.) and the doctrine that Christians are God's temple (2 Cor. vi. 16 sqq). Proceeding upon such lines as these, the Jews wove together their Midrashic homilies or sermons where, though we may find much that seems commonplace, there are illuminating parables and proverbs, metaphors and similes, the whole affording admirable examples of the contemporary thought and culture, both of the writers and - what is often overlooked - the level of their hearers or readers. Like many less ancient discourses, the Midrashim are apt to suffer when read in cold print, and they are sometimes judged from a standpoint which would be prejudicial to the Old Testament itself. But they are to be judged as Oriental literature and if they contain jarring extravagances and puerilities, one may recall that even in modern Palestine it was found that the natives understood Robinson Crusoe as a religious book more readily than the Pilgrim's Progress (J. Robertson, Early Rel. of Israel, 1892, p. 66). In making allowance for the defects (without which they would probably not have appealed to the age) it must be remembered that some of the Rabbis themselves recognized that the Midrashic Haggada was not always estimable.

An interesting example of combined quotation is illustrated in Matt. xii. 4-8, where the teaching of Jesus on the law of the Sabbath rests upon 1 Sam. xxi. 1-6, Num. xxviii. 9 seq. and Hos. vi. 6. Apropos of this law the Rabbinical arguments are worth noticing. Apparently the severe rules laid down in Jubilees 1.8-12 (see R. H. Charles, ad loc.) were exceptional. It was allowed that the Sabbath need not be too rigorously kept, and this was justified by Exod. xxxi. 13, where the singular use of the restrictive particle ak (EV " verily ") supported the teaching that other Sabbaths need not be observed. Alsd, from the words " holy unto you " (v. 14) it was taught that " the Sabbath is given to you to desecrate in case of need, but thou art not given to the Sabbath." Hence the Sabbath might be broken when life was in danger. Moreover, it was argued that a battle need not be stopped from religious considerations, e.g. the Sabbath. This was justified by Deut. xx. 20 " until it fall " (Talm. Shabb. 19a). Also, the Passover Lamb could be sacrificed on the Sabbath, and justification for this was found in Num. ix. 2 " in its season" (Pesch. 66a). See further on this subject, and on the evasions of the Sabbath law, S. Shechter, Studies in Judaism, pp. 297 sqq.; ibid. in C. G. Montefiore, Hibbert Lectures (for 1892), Appendix; ibid. Hastings' Diet. Bib. v. 63, and also S. R. Driver, Hastings' Diet. iv. 320 seq. With the above interpretations, cf. A. H. McNeile on Matt. xii. 5, John vii. 23 : " the a priori element in them perhaps suggests that [these verses] were due to later reflexion on the part of Christians who had realized the inadequacy of the law " (Swete's Camb. Bibl. Essays, 1909, p. 226). For other examples illustrating Rabbinical methods of exegesis in the New Testament, see McNeile, pp. 221, sqq. (" Our Lord's use of the Old Testament "); Briggs, op. cit. pp. 436, 1 Cited by S. Schechter, Hastings, Diet. Bible, v. 64.

sqq., and Thackeray, op. cit. (ch. vii. " use of the Old Testament," ch. viii. " St Paul the Haggadist "). The latter observes (p. 203): " the arguments by which Paul tried to convince his opponents of the true meaning of the Old Testament as pointing forward to Christ, are those which they would themselves have employed for another purpose; and to some extent we need not doubt that they were selected for that very reason. They were the arguments which were best calculated to appeal to them." Quite in accordance with Rabbinical custom is the system of question and answer (Rom. x. 5, seq., 16 seq.), and the argument in the sequence: statement, objection and reply, appears already in the book of Malachi.

5. The Jewish Midrashim

The earlier stages in the growth of the extant Rabbinical Midrashim cannot be traced with any certainty. Although there are several allusions to early written works, other references manifest an objection to the writing down of Haggada and Halaka. Perhaps it was felt that to preserve uniformity of teaching in the schools it was undesirable to popularize the extant collections, or perhaps the references must be reconsidered in the light of those significant changes after the fall of Jerusalem which have been mentioned above (§ 3). 2 However this may be, the independent Halakoth (where the oral decisions are interpreted or discussed on the basis of the Old Testament) were gradually collected and arranged according to their subject in the Mishnah and Tosephta (Talmud, § 1), while in the halakic Midrashim (where the decisions are given in connection with the biblical passage from which they were derived) they follow the sequence of the text of the Old Testament. The Haggada was likewise collected according to the textual sequence of the Old Testament. But the sermons or discourses of the homiletic Midrashim are classified according to the reading of the Pentateuch in the Synagogue, either the three year cycle, or else according to the sections of the Pentateuch and Prophetical books assigned to special and ordinary Sabbaths and festival days. Hence the latter are sometimes styled Pesiqta (" section "). The homiletic Midrashim are characterized by (a) a proem, an introduction based upon some biblical text (not from the lesson itself), which led up to (b) the exposition of the lesson, the first verse of which is more fully discussed than the rest. They conclude (c) with Messianic or consolatory passages on the future glory of Israel. A feature of some Midrashim (e.g. nos. 4, 5d, e, and 7 below) is the halakic exordium which precedes the proems .3 Among the more important Midrashim are: i. - Mekilta (Aram. " measure," i.e. " rule ") best known as the name of a now imperfect halakic Midrash on Exod. xii. - xxiii. 19 (also xxxi. 12-17 and xxxv. 1-3). It represents the school of R. (Rabbi) Ishmael, is a useful source for old Haggadah (especially on the narrative portions of Exodus), and is interesting for its variant readings of the Canonical Massoretic text. 4 Edited by Blasius Ugolinus, Thes. Antiq. Sacr. xiv. (Venice, 1744, with a poor Latin translation), more recently by J. H. Weiss (Vienna, 1865) and M. Friedmann (ibid. 1870), Germ. trans. by J. Winter and A. Wiinsche Leipzig, 1909). See further J. Z. Lauterbach, Jew. Ency. viii. 444 seq.

ii. Siphra (Aram. " the book ") or Torath Kohanim (" the law of the priests "), a commentary on Leviticus, mainly halakic, the text being a source for various maxims. (On Lev. xix. 17 seq., neighbourly love and abstinence from vengeance constitute, according to R. Aqiba, the great principle of the Torah.) It is useful for the interpretation of the Mishnah treatises Qbdashim and Teharoth. Latin trans. in Ugolinus, vol. xiv.; recent editions by I. H. Weiss (Vienna, 1862), and with the commentary of Shimshon (Samson) of Siens (Warsaw, 1866); see Jew. Ency. xi. 330 sqq.

iii. Siphre (Aram. " the books "), an old composite collection of Halaka on Numbers, after R. Ishmael's school; and on Deut. after that of R. Aqiqa, although the haggadic portions belong to the former. Latin in Ugol. xv.; recent edition, with good introduction by Friedmann (Vienna, 1864); see Jew. Ency. xi. 332 seq.

The above works, although of 5th century or later date in their present form, contain much older material, which was perhaps first redacted in the earlier part of the 2nd century, A.D. They are of I See, on this point, Jew. Ency. viii. 549 seq., 55 2, 57 6; Schechter, op. cit. p. 62; Strack, op. cit. pp. io sqq.

See more fully Jew. Ency. viii. 553. Cf. for the structure, the hopeful concluding notes in the prophecies (e.g. Amos) and the discourse after the reading of the lesson from the prophets in Luke iv. 17 sqq., Acts xiii. 15 sqq.

See I. Abrahams in Swete's Cambridge Bibl. Essays (1909), pp. 174 seq.

Palestinian origin, although the main redaction was made in Babylonia.' iv. Tanhuma, one of the oldest on the lessons of the Pentateuch, with many proems ascribed to R. Tanhuma ben (" ` son of ") Abba, one of the most famous haggadists of Palestine (4th century), who systematized and fixed the haggadic literature. This collection of 158-161 homilies is also known as T. Yelammedenu, from the opening words, Yel. Rabbenu, " our Rabbi teaches us "; on the critical questions connected with the titles and the present redaction (probably 5th century), see Jew. Ency. viii. 560 seq., xii. 44 sqq. Recent edition by Buber (Wilna, 1885).

v. Midrash Rabbah (or Rabboth), a large collection of very diverse origin and date, probably not completed before the 13th century. It covers the Pentateuch (1st ed., Constantinople, 1512) and the " Five Rolls " (Pesaro, 1519; the whole printed first at Venice, 1545); Germ. trans. by A. Wi nsche, Bibliotheca rabbinica (Leipzig, 1880-1885). The several portions are named after the ordinary Jewish titles of the Old Testament books with the addition of Rabbah " great." These are (a) Bereshith (" in the beginning," Gen. i. 1) Rabbah, on Genesis, the oldest and most valuable of haggadic Midrashim. Traditionally ascribed to R. Hoshaiah (3rd. century), but in the main a redaction of 6th century. Ed. J. Theodor; see Jew. Ency. iii. 62 seq.; viii. 557 seq. (b) Shemoth (" names " Exod. i. 1) R., a composite and incomplete work of i 1th and 12th century date, but valuable nevertheless for its Tanhuma homilies. Exod. i.-xi. is a commentary on the text in continuation of (a). 1 See Jew. Ency. viii. 562 (c.) Wayyigra (" and he called ") R., on Leviticus, perhaps 7th century, based upon sources in 2 and 5a above. It is characterized by its numerous proverbs (e.g. on xix. 6: " do not care for the good pup of a bad dog, much less for the bad pup of a bad dog "). See Jew. Ency. viii. 560, xii. 478 seq. (d) Bemidbar (" in the desert of. ") R., 33 homilies on Numbers, mainly derived from 4 above (though in an earlier text), with a later haggadic exposition, perhaps of 12th century, on Num. i.-vii. See Jew. Ency. ii. 669 sqq., viii. 562. (e) Debarim (" words ") R., independent homilies on Deuteronomy, of about A.D. 900, but with a good collection of Tanhumas and excerpts from the old sources. See Jew. Ency. iv. 487 seq. (f) Shir (" song ") R., or (after the opening words) Aggadath Hazith, a late compilation of haggadah on Canticles, illustrating the allegorical interpretation of the book in reference to the relation between God and Israel (so already in the exegesis of R. Aqiba, cf. also 2 Esd. v. 24, 26, vii. 26). For this and other Mid. on this popular book, see Jew. Ency. viii. 564 seq., xi. 291 seq. (g) Mid. Ruth or Ruth Rabbah, a compilation including an exposition of 1 Chron. iv. 21-23, xi. 13-15 and interesting Messianic references. For this and similar Mid. or Ruth, see Jew. Ency. viii. 565, x. 577 seq. (h) Ebah (" how ") Rabbathi, a compilation of about the 7th century on Lamentations, from sources cited also in the Palestinian Talmud. Thirty-six proems precede the commentary. See Jew. Ency. v. 85 seq. (i) Mid. Koheleth or Koh. Rabbah, on Ecclesiastes; see Jew. Ency. vii. 529 sqq.; viii. 565. (j) Mid. Megillath Esther, dating, to judge from its indebtedness to Josippon (the pseudo-Josephus), after 10th century. On this and other similar works dealing with this everpopular book, see Jew. Ency. v. 241, viii, 566, and Paton's Comment. on Esther, p. 104.

vi. Pesigta (" section ") or P. de-Rab Kahana, contains 33 or 34 homilies (on the principal festivals), the first of which opens with a sentence of R. Abba bar Kahana, who was confused with a predecessor, Rab Kahana. Although it goes back to early Haggada it has received later additions (as is shown by the technique of the proems). Edited by S. Buber (Lyck, 1868), Germ. trans. by A. Wiinsche (Leipzig, 1885); see Jew. Ency. viii. 559 seq. Not to be confused with this is: vii. Pesigta Rabbathi. - A very similar but larger collection of 51 homilies, of which 28 have a halakic exordium prefixed to the Tanhuma-proems, perhaps of 9th century. Edited by M. Friedmann (Vienna, 1880). Quite another and later work is the Pes. Zutarta or Legah Tob of Tobiah b. Eliezer of Mainz (trans. Ugolinus, vol. xv. seq.; ed. Buber, 1880); see Jew. Ency. viii. 561 sqq.

viii. In addition to the more prominent Midrashim mentioned above there are numerous self-contained works of greater or less interest. Some are connected with Old Testament books; e.g. Aggadath Bereshith, 83 homilies on Genesis, each in three parts connected with a section from the lectionary of the Pentateuch, and one from the Prophets, and a Psalm (ed. Buber, Cracow, 1903; see Jew. Ency. viii. 563); the Mid. Tehillim on the Psalms (Germ. trans. A. Wiinsche, Trier, 1892-1893), &c. Others are historical, e.g. Pirqe or Baraitha de-Rabbi Eliezer, a fanciful narrative of events i They contain (as I. Abrahams has pointed out to the present writer) a good deal of haggada, but far more halakic material than those which follow. The latter (nos. 4 sqq.) also contain halaka, but the chief contents are haggadic and homiletical.

2 1. Abrahams points out to the writer that the rest is more summary. This difference is accounted for by the fact that Exod. xii. onwards and the rest of the Pentateuch have independent Midrashim: the Law proper was held by the Rabbis to begin at Exod. xii.

selected from the Pentateuch, &c.; the eschatology is interesting. Though associated by name with a well-known 1st century Rabbi, it is hardly earlier than the 8th (Latin trans. by Vorstius, Leiden, 1644; see Jew. Ency. viii. 567). Further, the Megillath Ta'anith (" roll of fasts "), an old source with a collection of miscellaneous legends, &c.; Megillath Antiokhos, on the martyrdom under Hadrian; Seder`Olam Rabbah, on biblical history from Adam to the rebellion of Bar Kokba (Barcocheba); the " Book of Jashar "; the Chronicle of Jerahmeel," &c. Liturgical Midrash is illustrated by the Haggada shel Pesah, part of the ritual recited at the domestic service of the first two Passover evenings. In Mid. Ta'ame Ifdserdth weFitheroth, Hebrew words written " defectively " or " fully," and other Massoretic details, are haggadically treated. Finally Kabbalah is exemplified in Othiyyoth de R. Aqiba on the alphabet, and M. Tadshe (or Baraitha de-R. Phinehas b. Ya'ir), on groups of numbers, &c.; of some interest for its relation to the book of Jubilees.

ix. Of collections of Midrash the chief are (a) the Yalqut Shimeoni, which arranges the material according to the text of the Old Testament (extending over the whole of it), preserves much from sources that have since disappeared, and is valuable for the criticism of the text of the Midrashim (recent ed. Wilna, 1898) translation of the Yalqut on Zechariah by E. G. King (Cambridge, 1882; see further Jew. Ency. xii. 585 seq.). (b) Val. ha-Makiri, perhaps later, covers only certain books, is useful for older sources and their criticism; portions have been edited by Spira (1894, on Isaiah); Buber (1899, on Psalms); Gri nhut (1902, on Proverbs). (c) Midrash ha-Gadol (" the great "), an extensive thesaurus, but later (quoting from Ibn Ezra, Maimonides, &c.); the arrangement is not so careful as in (a) and (b). See further Jew. Ency. viii. 568 seq.

Of modern collections special mention must be made of A. Jellinek's Bet ha-Midrasch (Leipzig, 1853) and A. Wiinsche's valuable translations; to those already mentioned must be added his Aus Israels Lehrhallen (excerpts of a more miscellaneous character (Leipzig, 1907 sqq.).

Besides dictionary articles on this subject (S. Schiller-Szinessy, Ency. Brit., 9th ed.; H. L. Strack, Real-Ency. f. Protest. Theol. u. Kirche; and especially J. Theodor and others in the Jew. Ency), see D. Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung in die halachischen Midraschim (Berlin, 1888), and the great work by Zunz, Die gottesdienstlichen Vortreige der Juden, 2nd ed. by N. Briill (Frankfort on Main, 1892). These, as also the citations in the course of this article, give fuller information. (See further TALMUD.) (S. A. C.)

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From Hebrew מדרש.




Midrash (plural Midrashim)

  1. A Rabbinic commentary on a text from the Hebrew Scripture.
  2. The Rabbinic technique or tradition of such exegesis.
    • 2007, Karen Armstrong, The Bible: The Biography, Atlantic 2008, p. 82:
      Midrash was not a purely intellectual pursuit and study was never an end in itself: it had to inspire practical action in the world.


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A term occurring as early as 2Chr 13:22, 2Chr 24:27, though perhaps not in the sense in which it came to be used later, and denoting "exposition," "exegesis," especially that of the Scriptures. In contradistinction to literal interpretation, subsequently called "peshaṭ" (comp. Geiger's "Wiss. Zeit. Jüd. Theol." v. 244), the term "midrash" designates an exegesis which, going more deeply than the mere literal sense, attempts to penetrate into the spirit of the Scriptures, to examine the text from all sides, and thereby to derive interpretations which are not immediately obvious. The Talmud (Sanh. 34b) compares this kind of midrashic exposition to a hammer which awakens the slumbering sparks in the rock. The divergence between midrash and peshaṭ increased steadily; and, although the consciousness of this divergence may not have increased in a proportionate degree, contrary to the view of Geiger (l.c. pp. 53 et seq., 234 et seq.; comp. Weiss, "Dor Dor," i. 167 et seq.) and others, it was never wholly obscured. The confession of Rab Kahana (Shab. 63a), that although he knew the entire Talmud by the time he was eighteen, it was many years later before he learned the principle that a Bible verse can never lose its evident and literal meaning, is not to be taken as an indication of the general state of Bible study in his time; on the contrary, Rab Kahana wishes to indicate thereby that he was an exception to the rule. Raba's statement in Yeb. 24a likewise proves that a distinction was made between midrash and peshaṭ. At the most it can be proved that in some cases the Midrash was based on a peculiar interpretation of the literal meaning; thus, Sifra, Tazria', Neg. ix. 14 remarks in regard to the sentence "We-im be-'enaw 'amad ha-neteḳ" (Lev. xiii. 37), "En li ella be-'ene'aẓmo be-'ene beno," etc.; this shows that "be-'enaw" was explained as "in his eyes," an interpretation which certainly does not contradict the statement that the difference between midrash and peshaṭ, was recognized.

The Bible exegesis of the Rabbis which had a moralizing or edifying tendency must be distinguished from that which was of a legal nature: the former is known as Midrash Haggadah; the latter, as Midrash Halakah. Exegesis from an ethical or devotional point of view admits of more freedom than hermeneutics aiming at the determination of legal maxims. This is true not only because the imagination has freer play in the former, and reason in the latter, but also because halakic exegesis, since it is intended for practical guidance and is more far-reaching in its results, is bound more closely by certain laws and principles (comp. the different view of Hirschfeld in "Halachische Exegese," p. 13).

Origin of the Midrash.

As concerns the origin of the Midrash, Maimonides ("Sefer ha-Miẓwot," Hilkot "Shoresh" 2) held that the Midrash was a product of the Halakah; Naḥmanides, on the contrary, that the former was the source of the latter. It is impossible to decide whether either one was correct. Only this much can be saida priori, that there are certain expositions which could not have been evolved through mere theoretical speculation. Any other conclusions on the subject must be based on a consideration of the various circumstances which favored the origin and development of the Midrash. In the first place, any application of theory to practise demands a more recondite interpretation than does the mere explanation of the literal meaning. A general law demands special exposition in order to deal with the complications which frequently arise in daily life. Even Moses was obliged to seek instruction in several instances (Lev. x. 16, xxiv. 12; Num. xv. 34; the expressions "to expound unto them according to the mouth of the Lord" and "because it was not declared what should be done unto him" in the second and third of these passages respectively being especially noteworthy; see Krochmal, "Moreh Nebuke ha-Zeman," p. 13). But even if the Midrash gave rise to the Halakah in certain cases in which an "investigation" of the Law became necessary for a practical decision, there were in all probability many more instances in which a legal basis, often difficult to find, was sought for certain rules which had arisen from the exigencies of life. That there were many such cases in which the Halakah was a subsequent justification of an accomplished fact, though they are not always specifically noted, is shown by the well-known sentence of the Mishnah (Ḥag. 10a), "Miḳra mu'aṭ, halakot merubbot," by the sentence of R. Johanan (Yer. Ber. 4c), "Kol milla di-la meḥawwera mesammekin lah min atrin saggin," and by the remark "Ḳera asmakta be'alma," which is frequently found in connection with very important rules, such as the determination of weights (Ber. 41b; Yer. Pes. 15a). Retroactive justification is to be seen in many of the cases when one and the same halakah is variously deduced by different tannaim ("mishma 'ot dorshin"), and where the Amoraim feel themselves compelled to assume a material difference, as in Pes. 84a, where no less than eight explanations are attempted.

Great as was this twofold influence of actual practise on the origin and development of the Midrash, it must be borne in mind that speculation for its own sake in the obligatory study of the Law (Deut. vi. 7; Josh. i. 8) was likewise a factor; for this exclusive and continued study probably contributed much to the search for other interpretations than the merely literal one. The exegetes endeavored to find everything expressed in the Law; and Philo's view that there were no superfluous words in Scripture, and that everything had a meaning ("De Profugis," § 458), dominated not only the allegorical exegesis of Alexandria, but also to a large extent the Midrash, even though no other connection existed between the two. On the rules by which the exegetes were guided in making these deductions see Midrash Halakah and Talmud.

Historical View.

The history of the Midrash may be divided into three periods: (1) of the Soferim; (2) of the Tannaim; and (3) of the Amoraim.


Midrashim ascribed to Biblical persons (Ber. 31b; Yeb. 77a et passim) are haggadic aphorisms and may be recognized as such. Noteworthy is Sheḳ. vi. 8, "Zeh Midrash she-darash Yehoyada' Kohen Gadol" (This is the Midrash which Jehoiada the High Priest taught), a statement which, however, can not lay claim to historical value. The real date of the origin of the Midrash in question appears to be the period of the Soferim, the writers or scribes (Ḳid. 31a; Yer. Sheḳ. 48c), whose activity is summed up in the sentence, "So they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly, and made them to understand" (Neh. viii. 8); however this verse is to be explained (Ned. 37b; Yer. Meg. 74d; "Responsen der Geonim," ed. Harkavy, p. 217), it certainly indicates that the Soferim were much more than mere translators. Alleged traces of their Midrash, closely based upon the Bible, are Neg. xii. 5 et seq.; Sotah viii. 1 et seq. ; Ma'as. Sh. v. 7 et seq. According to Krochmal. (l.c.), the Soferim indicated which were their interpretations by means of peculiar script and certain signs (dots, ḳere and ketib, full and defective writings); accordingly such midrashim as Sifra, Emor, ix. 3; ib. Shemini, v. 8; ib. Behar, iv. 4; Mek., Mishpaṭim, 3, would belong to them; and even though the later explanations of these signs and this peculiar script are not established by tradition, but are in general controvertible and doubtful (comp. Sanh. 4a), the great age of some of the interpretations is indicated by the Septuagint; e.g., Ex. xxii. 7; Lev. xxiii. 11, xxxiii. 40; Deut. xxv. 5 (comp. Frankel, "Ueber den Einfluss der Palästinensischen Exegese auf die Alexandrinische Hermeneutik," pp. 89 et seq.; Hoffmann, "Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim," p. 74).


The beginning of the second period likewise is shrouded in obscurity. Of the "zeḳenim harishonim," whose date can not be definitely determined, three midrashim have been preserved, Sifra, Wayiḳra, Ḥobah, xii. 1; ib. Meẓora', ix. 12; Mek., Amalek, 2; likewise a few midrashim by Judah b. Ṭabbai and Simon b. Sheṭaḥ, both of whom lived in the first century B.C. (Mek., Mishpaṭim, 20; Tosef., Sanh. viii. 3; Mak. 5b; Yer. Sanh. 22b). The opposition of the Sadducees, who rejected the oral law, and who were attacked by Ṭabbai and Sheṭaḥ, naturally led to an attempt to base the oral law on Scripture, thus encouraging midrashic exegesis. The well-known interpretation of the passage "an eye for an eye" (Ex. xxi. 24), contradicting the view of the Sadducees, who wished to apply the Law literally, gives evidence of a free and profound conception of the Biblical text even at that early date. In the following period Shemaiah and Abṭalion are mentioned as "darshanim gedolim" (Pes. 70; comp. Mek., Beshallaḥ, 3). The seven rules of exposition propounded by Hillel-of whom, as of his opponent Shammai, only a few midrashim, all simple in character, have been preserved (Sifra, Shemini, ix. 5; ib. Neg. ix. 16; Yer. Pes. 33a; Tosef., 'Er. iv. 7; Shab. 19a; Ḳid. 43a)-presuppose a very extensive Midrash; and a like inference is to be drawn from the attempt of Hananiah b. Hezekiah b. Garon to harmonize the contradictions between Ezekiel and the Pentateuch. The explanation in Sifre, Deut. 294, transmitted in the name of Hananiah's son, and also mentioned in the passage Mek., Baḥodesh, 7, is perhaps a fragment of thissame Midrash. On the Mishnah of R. Akiba see Jew Encyc. s.v.


In regard to the Midrash of the Amoraim the Babylonians employed more simple methods than the Palestinians, as Frankel correctly says ("Mebo," 31b), though Weiss objects to this view ("Bet ha-Talmud," i. 69, note 4). But the exegesis of the Palestinian Amoraim was more simple than the Palestinian. For the midrashim of this period which have been preserved see Midrash Halakah.

Bibliography: Abraham b. David, exposition of the Baraita de-Rabbi Yishma'el in his commentary on the Sifra; Abudarham, ib. pp. 35 et seq., Warsaw, 1877; Aaron ibn Ḥayyim, Middot Aharon; Algazi, Yabin Shemu'ah; B. Auerbach, Ha-Ẓofeh 'al Darke ha-Mishnah, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1861; Bacher, Die Aelteste Terminologie der Jüdischen Schriftauslegung, Leipsic, 1899; J. Ḥagiz, Teḥillat Ḥokmah, Amsterdam, 1709; Dobschütz, Die Einfache Bibelexegese der Tannaim, Halle-on-the-Saale, 1893; Derenbourg, Hist. pp. 393-395; Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah; idem, Ueber Palästinensische und Alexandrinische Schriftforschung, Breslau, 1854; idem, Ueber den Einfluss der Palästinensischen Exegese auf die Alexandrinische Hermeneutik; M. Plungian, Talpiyyot, 1849; Geiger, Wiss. Zeit. Jüd. Theol. v. 53 et seq., 234; Levi b. Gershon, Sha'are Ẓedeḳ, reprinted in Berit Ya'aḳob, Leghorn, 1840; Sefer ha-Peli'ah, pp. 74 et seq., Koret, 1784; Hamburger, R. B. T. s.v. Talmudische Schriften; D. Hoffmann, Zur Einleitung in die Halachischen Midraschim, Berlin, 1886-87; idem, in Jüdische Presse, 1892, Supplement, pp. 18 et seq.; idem, in Berliner Festschrift, 1903, pp. 55 et seq.; Hirschfeld, Die Halachische Exegese, 1840, reviewed in Orient, Lit. 1841; idem, in Monatsschrift, xxviii. 368-374; I. Horowitz, Torah she-be'al-Peh; A. L. J. Jehuda, Kiẓẓur Kelale ha-Gemarah; Ibn Musa, in the collection Me-Harare Nemerim, Venice, 1599; Joshua ha-Levi, Halikot 'Olam; J. S. Kaempf, Mamtiḳ Sod, Prague, 1861; S. Klein, Mi-Pene ḳoshṭ, Frankfort-on-the-Main 1861; J. Caro, Kelale ha-Gemarah; Ch. Kases, Ḳin'at Soferim, 1740; Königsberger, Die Quellen der Halacha, Berlin, 1890; N. Krochmal, Moreh Nebuke ha-Zeman, pp. 13 et seq.; Malbim, Ayyelet ha-Shaḥar, Introduction to his commentary on the Sifra; Malachi Cohen, Yad Mal'aki; J. Mecklenburger, Ha-Ketab weha-Ḳabbalah; S. Rapoport, Dibre Shalom we-Emet, Prague, 1861; Rashi, commentary on Middot; Kobak, Jeschurun, vi. 38 et seq.; Saadia, commentary on Middot, reprinted by Schechter in Bet Talmud, iv. 235 et seq.; by Müller, in Saadia's collected works, vol. ix., Paris; Samuel Valenci, in Me-Harare Nemerim; Scherschawski printed an old exposition to Middot in Ha-Karmel, viii. 213 et seq.; S. Serillo, Kelale Shemuel; Samson of Chinon, Sefer Keritot; Schwarz, Die Hermeneutische Analogie, reviewed in R. E. J. xxxvi.; idem, Der Hermeneutische Syllogismus; Moses Solomon, Netib Mosheh, Vienna, 1896; Strack, Midrash, in Herzog-Plitt, Real-Encyc. ix. 507 et seq.; Eliezer Trietsch, Sheb Shema'teta: Weber, System der Altsynagogalen Palästinischen Theologie, 1880, xix. et seq.; Weiss, Gesch. der Tradition; Zunz, G. V. pp. 37 et seq.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

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