Kimḥi, David

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KIMI, DAVID (c. 1160c. 1235), known by the acronym RaDaK (Rabbi David Kimi), was a biblical exegete. David was the son of Yosef Kimi and the brother of Mosheh Kimi, exiles from Almohad Spain to Narbonne, where David was born. Both Yosef and Mosheh, David's principal teacher, were grammarians and exegetes of note, heavily influenced by contemporary Hispano-Jewish rationalism. David was the best-known graduate of the school of exegetes that the elder Kimis founded in Narbonne, a city whose tradition of biblical studies had been established by the eleventh-century Mosheh the Preacher.

Kimi was the author of a masoretic guide, the ʿEt sofer (Scribe's pen); the Sefer ha-shorashim (Book of roots), a dictionary of biblical Hebrew; and the Mikhol (Compendium), the most authoritative Hebrew grammar of the Middle Ages. However, he is chiefly known for his biblical commentaries, which include expositions on Genesis, the Former and Latter Prophets, Psalms, Proverbs, and Chronicles. He also wrote two allegorical commentaries, employing Maimonidean philosophical concepts, on the Hexaemeron (chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis ) and the chariot vision of Ezekiel.

Kimi's commentaries evince great interest in masoretic questions, and he traveled considerable distances to consult reliable manuscripts such as the Sefer Yerushalmi in Saragossa and the Sefer Hilleli in Toledo. His avowed aim was to follow the twelfth-century Andalusian grammarian Avraham ibn ʿEzraʾ and his own father and brother in establishing a pesha ("plain sense") based on philological and contextual analysis. His extensive knowledge of rabbinic Hebrew, Aramaic, and Provençal, as well as his acquaintance with Arabic, contributed to his explication of the text. Concern for internal syntax within verses and for the general sequence of the biblical narrative became the hallmark of his commentaries. Yet despite Kimi's emphasis on pesha, he cited abundant midrashim, or rabbinic interpretationssome because he felt them useful in explicating the plain sense, some as a foil against which he could highlight the pesha, and some to add interest and liveliness to his text. His rationalism frequently comes to the fore in brief digressions on the nature of providence, prophecy, epistemology, and the rationales for observance of the commandments. He generally explained miracles naturalistically. Although the influence of Saʿadyah Gaon, Avraham ibn ʿEzraʾ, and Yehudah ha-Levi can clearly be felt, the dominant tone of his work was set by Maimonides.

Kimi demonstrated his loyalty to Maimonides when, in his seventies, he journeyed across Languedoc and Spain to defend Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed when that work came under attack by traditionalist Jews during the so-called Maimonidean controversy. He engaged in external polemics as well, and a number of anti-Christological and anti-Christian remarks can be found in his writings. Many of these were censored and survive only in manuscript. Kimi's depiction of exile and redemption in terms of darkness and lighta theme he developed at lengthwas prompted by his sensitivity to the tribulations of Israel brought about by internal division and external oppression.

Because of its accessibility, Kimi's work left an indelible mark on that of the Hebraists and humanists of the Renaissance and Reformation, and its influence on the King James Version of the Bible is unmistakable.


An intellectual biography and analysis of Kimi's exegesis is my David Kimhi: The Man and the Commentaries (Cambridge, Mass., 1975), which contains a complete bibliography up to the date of publication. His philological work is analyzed in David Kimchi's Hebrew Grammar (Mikhlol ), translated and edited by William Chomsky (Philadelphia, 1952). Specific themes are treated in the following articles by me: "R. David Kimhi as Polemicist," Hebrew Union College Annual 38 (1967): 213235; "David Kimhi and the Rationalist Tradition," Hebrew Union College Annual 39 (1968): 177218; and "David Kimhi and the Rationalist Tradition: 2, Literary Sources," in Studies in Jewish Bibliography, History, and Literature in Honor of I. Edward Kiev, edited by Charles Berlin (New York, 1971), pp. 453478. Much detailed data in tabular form can be found in Ezra Zion Melamed's Mefarshei ha-miqraʾ: Darkheihem ve-shitoeihem, vol. 2 (Jerusalem, 1975), pp. 716932.

New Sources

Bartelmus, Rüdiger. "'Prima la Lingua, Poi le Parole': David Kimchi und die Frage der hebräischen Tempora: sprachwissenschaftliche und exegetische Überlegungen zu IISam 14,5b und 15,34a." Theologische Zeitschrift 53 (1997): 716.

Grunhaus, Naomi. "The Dependence of Rabbi David Kimhi (Radak) on Rashi in His Quotation of Midrashic Traditions." Jewish Quarterly Review 93 (2003): 415430.

Katz, Ben Zion. "Kimchi and Tanhum ben Joseph Hayerushalmi on Chronicles." Jewish Bible Quarterly 26 (1998): 4551.

Frank Talmage (1987)

Revised Bibliography