The Biblical Exegesis of Abraham ibn Ezra as a Hermeneutical Device: A Literary Riddle as a Case Study

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Biblical exegesis and poetry are two separate and distinct domains. Only rarely do we find artists who produce acclaimed works in both of these realms. The most successful example of such a scholar is Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1167). This unusual combination justifiably led researchers to elucidate Ibn Ezra's poems according to his biblical exegesis. One of Ibn Ezra's favorite genres was the riddle, and he composed numerous riddles of all types and categories: grammatical riddles, onomastic riddles, and long literary riddles on various subjects. The literary riddle, by its very nature, requires at least two stages in its reading: decipherment followed by interpretation. In this article I seek to demonstrate how Ibn Ezra's biblical exegesis serves as an effective tool for both decoding and interpreting his literary riddles. I also attempt to elucidate the hermeneutical essence (doctrine of interpretation) of the literary riddle; when the artistic work being considered is a literary riddle, readers must shift their attention from decipherment to interpretation. I discuss this process in Ibn Ezra's most popular riddle, which has been published and deciphered numerous times but has not yet been a subject of literary interpretation.

Original languageEnglish GB
Title of host publicationExegesis and Poetry in Medieval Karaite and Rabbanite Texts
EditorsJoachim Yeshaya, Elisabeth Hollender
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9789004335110
ISBN (Print)9789004335110
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameEtudes sur le Judaisme Medieval
ISSN (Print)0169-815X

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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