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Eliezer of Beaugency


ELIEZER OF BEAUGENCY (fl. 12th century), biblical commentator from N. France. Nutt was of the opinion that Eliezer was a student of *Samuel b. Meir but there is no clear-cut evidence in support of this view. Few biographical details are known of him. He had a knowledge of Latin and often cited the Vulgate in his commentaries. Three of his commentaries have been preserved: on Isaiah (publ. by Nutt, 1879), on Ezekiel, and on the minor prophets (both publ. by S. Poznański, 1907–13). From references in these works and in those of other exegetes, however, it appears that Eliezer also wrote commentaries on the Pentateuch, Jeremiah, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Daniel. It is possible that he covered all the books of the Bible. Generally speaking Eliezer followed the literal method of interpretation of the Bible adopted by his French predecessors Rashi, Samuel b. Meir, and Joseph Kara. Although he did not cite these commentators frequently, it is quite clear that he relied upon them. Eliezer held Rashi in great esteem and called him simply "our teacher" or "our illustrious teacher."

In his attempts to give a literal exegesis of the Bible Eliezer ignored rabbinic exegesis to an even greater degree than his French colleagues. He occasionally referred to the Midrashim but adds that he would not utilize them since they were not in accordance with the plain sense of the verse (cf. his comments on Zech. 7:3; Ezek. 43:17). His comments on certain verses conflicted with the halakhah (e.g., Isa. 9:6). Nevertheless, he did concur at times with the homiletical interpretation. Eliezer attempted to identify the historical events alluded to by the prophets and their significance, sometimes interpreting the events to apply to the prophets' own times; on other occasions he applied them to the future. In his identifications he was greatly influenced by the Sefer*Josippon. He also placed greater emphasis than did his French predecessors on the problems of dating the prophecies and the editing of the books (cf. his introduction to Isaiah). Like his contemporary, Joseph *Bekhor Shor, Eliezer attempted to give a rational explanation of the supernatural miracles (e.g., Isa. 30:26; Zech. 4:3). On the other hand he believed that the constellations influenced man's fate. Orion and the Pleiades controlled the movements of the planets and at their command the world was destined for good or evil, war or peace, famine or plenty, everything in its season (Amos 5:8 and in greater detail in Isa. 38:1). His comments were usually brief and to the point, but his comments on the building of the Temple in Ezekiel constitute an exception which he justified because of the farfetched interpretations given by other exegetes.

In its simplicity and clarity Eliezer's style was similar to that of his French colleagues. His language was studded with biblical and talmudic phrases and expressions, but he also coined new terms and expressions. Eliezer paid little attention to questions of grammar. Like Rashi, he followed the system of *Menahem b. Saruq and *Dunash ibn Labrat. In his exegesis he was usually guided by the cantillation signs (e.g., Isa. 6:3), though occasionally he disregarded them. On occasion he drew upon the Targum, but here also he did not hesitate to disagree when he felt that its interpretation was contrary to the literal meaning. In order to determine the exact biblical text Eliezer examined various manuscripts which were available to him in France. There were instances when the spelling in his text differed from the present masoretic text (e.g., Ezek. 8:16; Micah 6:7). Many of the French words (* la'azim) of which he makes use are derived from Rashi's commentary. Eliezer resorted to the Vulgate, which he attacked together with Christological interpretations of the Bible (cf. Isa. 7:14; 9:5). At times his remarks reflect the conditions of his own times. For instance, in his commentary on Ezekiel 37:12, "I shall bring you to the land of Israel," he stated: "This verse is a great comfort to all those who die a martyr's death and even to those who do not make the supreme sacrifice since they constantly suffer shame, disgrace, and physical abuse when they refuse to acknowledge false gods."


S. Poznański (ed.), Perush al Yeḥezkel u-Terei Asar le-Rabbi Eli'ezer mi-Belganzi (1913), introduction.

[Avraham Grossman]

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