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Ibn Balʿam, Judah ben Samuel


IBN BAL ʿAM, JUDAH BEN SAMUEL (Ar. Abu Zakariyyā Yaḥyā ; second half of the 11th century), biblical commentator and Hebrew grammarian. Ibn Balʿam came from Toledo from a respected family and settled later in Seville. Moses ibn Ezra, in his poems, extols his critical faculty, his wide knowledge, and his precise style, but criticizes his irritable temper in polemics. According to Ibn Ezra, Ibn Balʿam in his old age devoted himself to the study of the halakhah (Shirat Yisrael, ed. by B. Halper (1924), p. 73). Ibn Ezra's words are borne out by Ibn Balʿam's works: they present vehement polemics, especially against Moses b. Samuel ha-Kohen *Gikatilla, and, in marked opposition to the Spanish biblical commentators of his age, apply halakhic hermeneutics. In accordance with the Spanish school of exegesis, he analyzes the Bible text grammatically and makes comparisons with Arabic. He exerted great influence on later commentators, especially on Abraham ibn Ezra.

The following works by him, all composed in Arabic, are known: (1) Kitāb al-Tārjiḥ ("The Book of Decision"), a commentary on the Pentateuch, a considerable portion of which was edited by S.A. Poznański (to Lev. in zhb, 4 (1900), 17ff.) and S. Fuchs (to Num. and Deut., in Studien…, iii–xxiii); (2) Nuqat al-Miqra ("Glosses to the Scripture"), a commentary on the Prophets and Hagiographa, parts of which were published in various places (see bibliography, Abramson, p. 55, notes 6–11); (3) Kitāb Taʿdīd Iʿjāzāt al-Tawrāt wa-al-Nubuwwa ("The Book of the Enumeration of the Wonders of the Pentateuch and the Prophets"), quoted by Moses ibn Ezra (Shirat Yisrael, 188) and by Ibn Balʿam himself in Nuqaṭ al-Miqra; (4) Kitāb al-Irshād ("The Book of Guidance"), quoted by Moses ibn Ezra (ibid., 110). Steinschneider was wrong in identifying it with the Horayat ha-Kore, which apparently was not composed by Ibn Balʿam; the same applies, it seems, to the Sefer Ta'amei ha-Mikra; (5) Kitāb al-Tajnīs ("The Book of Homonyms," also called Kitāb al-Muṭābiq wa-al-Mujānis); the Arabic original was edited by Kokowzoff (p. 69 Heb. pt.), and again by Abramson; (6) Hurūf al-Maʿānī, on Hebrew particles (see Kokowzoff, p. 203 Russ. pt. and pp. 109ff., Heb. pt.); (7) al Afʿal al-Mushtaqqa min al-Asmāʾ, on denominative verbs (see Kokowzoff, p. 203 Russ. pt. and pp. 133ff. Heb. pt.).

It is supposed that some poems with the acrostic of the name Balʿam were composed by Ibn Balʿam.


S. Fuchs, Studien ueber Abu Zakaria Jachja… (1893); W. Wickes, A Treatise on the Accentuation of the Three So-Called Poetical Books of the Old Testament… (Oxford, 1881), 102ff.; P. Kahle, in: zdmg, 55 (1901), 175; Poznański, ibid., 70 (1916), 449–76; 71 (1917), 270 (mainly corrections by I. Goldziher); B. Kohlbach, Jehuda ibn Balan (Hung., 1888); P. Kokowzoff, K istorii srednevekovoy yevreyskoy filologii i yevreysko-arabskoy literaturi, 2 (1916); M. Zobel, in: ej, 8 (1931), 316–21; S. Abramson, in: H. Yalon Jubilee Volume (1963), 51–149; Schirmann, Sefarad, 2 (1956), 298–300; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 388.

[Joshua Blau]

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