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MARKAH (Heb. מרקה; fl. second half of fourth century c.e.), well known and venerated Samaritan poet who wrote in Aramaic. The great esteem in which he is held by Samaritan tradition is shown by his epithet "Founder of Wisdom" in the Samaritan chronicle Tolidah or "Fountain of Wisdom" (Yanbūʿal-Ḥikma) in that of *Abu al-Fat and by the legend that the name Markah (מרקה) was bestowed upon him because it has the same numerical value as the name Moses (משה), which no other human being is allowed to bear. Actually, Markah is an Aramaized form of the Latin name Marcus. According to the Samaritan chronicles, he was the son of the liturgical poet Amram Darah whose byname, Tūta, is explained as a development of the Latin name Titus.

Like his father, Markah wrote liturgical poems, part of which belong to the earliest portions of the Samaritan common prayer book, the Defter (see *Samaritan Language and Literature). His style is more elaborate than that of his father, and none of his poems is composed in the style of "Verses of Durran" (see *Amram Darah). The verses of his poems are arranged in an alphabetic acrostic and the number of lines in each verse is nearly always equal. Once his name is containedin the acrostic of the first four verses of a poem. Through his terse and polished style, he succeeds in conveying the fiery religious feelings of his soul. That is why many of his expressions became fixed figures of speech used by later Samaritan poets.

The work that established Markah's fame and gained him the epithet "Founder of Wisdom" is his great midrashic composition Meimar or Tevat Markah, a compendium of exegetical and theological teachings. It is divided into six books, the main subjects of which are the wonders revealed to Israel from Moses' call to Israel's victory at the Red Sea; a commentary on Exodus 15; a commentary on Deuteronomy 27:9–26; the commission of Joshua and instructions to various classes of the people, whereby priests are witnesses to Israel and to themselves; a commentary on Deuteronomy 32; Moses' death; speculations about the 22 letters of the alphabet. There are many thoughts and figures of speech shared by this work with Markah's poems. All extant manuscripts, the earliest dating from the 14th century, contain recognizable later additions.


Z. Ben-Ḥayyim, Ivrit va-Aramit Nosaḥ Shomron, 3 pt. 2 (1967), 15–16, 133–262; J.A. Montgomery, The Samaritans (1907), 294–5; A.E. Cowley, Samaritan Liturgy, 2 (1909), xx–xxi and index; J. Macdonald, Memar Merqah, 2 vols. (1963), incl. bibl.; J. Bowman, Transcript of the Original Text of the Samaritan Chronicle Tolidah (1955), 16b; Abū'l-Fath ibn Abi'l-Ḥassan al-Sāmirī, Annales Samaritani…, ed. E. Vilmar (1865).

[Ayala Loewenstamm]

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