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Midrash Samuel


MIDRASH SAMUEL (Heb. מִדְרַשׁ שְׁמוּאֵל, Midrash Shemu'el), the only Midrash to a book of the early prophets. It contains 32 chapters – 24 on i Samuel and eight on ii Samuel – which appear to be the contents original to the time of composition. The Midrash, a compilation chiefly from early works, contains tannaitic material from the Mishnah, Tosefta, Mekhilta, and Sifrei, as well as amoraic material from the early aggadic Midrashim: Genesis Rabbah, Leviticus Rabbah, Lamentations Rabbah, and the Pesikta de-Rav Kahana. The author also included material from later Midrashim: Song of Songs Rabbah, Ecclesiastes Rabbah, Ruth Rabbah, Esther Rabbah, Pesikta Rabbati, and the Tanḥuma Midrashim (the question of whether he made use of the Midrash Tehillim is still unresolved). The Midrash also contains original material, however, both early, dating from the tannaim and the first amoraim, and late. The state of the Midrash seems to indicate that it is based upon an earlier Midrash on Samuel, with additions by the editor, mostly from existing material but also some of his original interpretation. Among indications of the editing are the interlacing of exegetical and homiletical matter, which is uncommon in early Midrashim. The Midrash however is, in the main, homiletical. Other evidence of later editing is to be seen in the artificial character of most of its 14 proems, as well as the incorporation of homilies which are irrelevant to the scriptural verse or the subject matter under discussion – apparently resulting from routine copying of the sources (Albeck).

Nothing is known of the author. Zunz's assumption that the work is to be dated no earlier than the 11th century appears probable. There is overwhelming evidence, however, that it was edited in Palestine. Its sources, as has been stated, are Palestinian, as are all the amoraim mentioned in it. It contains no passages from the Babylonian Talmud. The language contains elements from the Palestinian Midrashim and it contains many Greek words such as are found in the Palestinian Midrashim. Both the conditions reflected by the Midrash and the problems dealt with point clearly to a Palestinian background. Rashi was the first to mention and quote the Midrash, and it is frequently mentioned by later authorities (Buber, introd., p. 28). It is referred to by many names: Midrash Samuel, Aggadat Samuel, Midrash Et La'asot (from its opening words, Ps. 119:126). It is also sometimes erroneously referred to as Shoḥer Tov, the name of Midrash Tehillim, together with which it was published (Venice, 1546). The book was first published in Constantinople in 1517, the Venice edition being the second. It was published a third time in Prague in 1613 with the commentary of Isaac b. Samson Katz, son-in-law of *Judah Loew b. Bezalel of Prague, and has been frequently reprinted since. The best edition is that of S. Buber (Cracow, 1893) based on the printed editions of the Parma manuscript. For a commentary to Avot of the same name see Samuel ben Isaac *Uceda.


Zunz-Albeck, Derashot, 133, 413–4; S. Buber, Midrash Shemu'el (1893), 7–40.

[Jacob Elbaum]

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