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Ecclesiastes Rabbah


ECCLESIASTES RABBAH (Heb. קׁהֶלֶת רַבָּה, Kohelet Rabbah), *aggadic Midrash on the book of *Ecclesiastes, called "Midrash Kohelet" in the editio princeps. (On the term "Rabbah," see Ruth* Rabbah.)

The Structure

Eccelesiastes Rabbah is an exegetical Midrash which gives a chapter by chapter and verse by verse exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes. In the editio princeps, it is divided into three sedarim ("orders"): (a) Chapters 1–6; (b) 6:1–9:6; (c) 9:7–the end of the book of Ecclesiastes. In later editions however it is also divided into 12 sections, corresponding to the biblical chapters. The Midrash opens with an anonymous proem of the classical type found in amoraic Midrashim. It begins with an extraneous verse from the Book of Proverbs which is then connected with the opening words of the Book of Ecclesiastes. It bears, however, a few signs of lateness, including its (introductory formula): "This is what the Scripture declared in the holy spirit by Solomon king of Israel."

The Language

Ecclesiastes Rabbah is written for the most part in mishnaic Hebrew. Galilean Aramaic is also used, and there are numerous Greek words.

The Date of its Redaction

The redactor used tannaitic literature, the Jerusalem *Talmud, *Genesis Rabbah, *Leviticus Rabbah, *Lamentations Rabbah, and *Esther Rabbah. The work also incorporates material taken from the Babylonian *Talmud, some of which, however, was added later. Several factors indicate that Ecclesiastes Rabbah is of a comparatively late date, having been redacted apparently not earlier than the eighth century c.e. It was used by the paytan*Solomon b. Judah ha-Bavli, who flourished in the second half of the tenth century c.e., and it is quoted by *Nathan b. Jehiel in his Arukh (c. 1100). Ecclesiastes Rabbah contains much important material of the tannaitic and amoraic periods, and also numerous aggadot of a polemical character, some with anti-Christian references.


Ecclesiastes Rabbah was first published at Pesaro in 1519, together with Midrashim on the four other scrolls (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, and Esther) to which, however, it is entirely unrelated. The many subsequent ones are based on this edition. Although several manuscripts of Ecclesiastes Rabbah are extant (the earliest dating from the 14th century), a complete scholarly edition has yet to appear. M. Hirshman edited the four first chapters of the book in his dissertation (1983). An English translation by Abraham *Cohen appeared in the Soncino Midrash (1939).


Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 128–9. add bibliography: J. Wachten, Midrasch-Analyse: Strukturen im Midrasch Qohelet Rabba (1978); M. Hirshman, in: Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, 3 (1982), 7–14; G. Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1996), 317f.

[Moshe David Herr]

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