Malkah Shenvald, Beit Mikra vol. 60 (2015), No. 2, An abstract
|The Bialik Institute|
The phenomenon of repetition in the Bible is discussed from various perspectives in the classic commentaries. Ramban adopted fundamental axioms of his predecessors and formulated an organized and updated doctrine. This article examines four methodological axioms, which exemplify the basics of Ramban’s approach to repetition.
The first axiom – “The text does not generally repeat itself, only… for such things as are always thus” (Ramban, Exodus 30:34) – relates to parallelism in poetry, as is common in a “play on words”. In this regard, Ramban followed the path of his predecessors, with one caveat: the repetition, as voiced by Moshe, was a Heavenly revelation (and not Moshe’s own formulation).
The second axiom – “it is common for many Biblical texts to repeat phrases – to intensify and enhance their significance” (Ramban, Exodus 4:9) – Ramban taught that words are repeated for emphasis. Ramban adopted his predecessor’s words (Ibn Janah and Radak), but here too he delimited this explanation of repetitionin the case of revelation verses, which open with the familiar formula: “And the Lord said… saying….”
The third axiom, Ramban addresses repetition “for the sake of a lengthy passage” and explains that such duality is intended to link sentences that are separated, so as to create a single flowing syntax. Upon this claim he added a very weighty declaration against excessive emphasis on homiletic meanings. Ramban was consistent in this, even when it required distancing himself from conclusions reached by the sages in the Gemara (Babylonian Talmud 18a).
The fourth and final axiom addresses the reiteration of lengthy passages. A detailed list of examples demonstrates that Ramban’s approach to reiteration intended to preserve the unified flow of a story; especially after the order of events was complicated (in order to complete a parenthetical passage, important in its own right). This chapter complements Y. Gottlieb’s research, as it appears in his book Order in the Bible (2009), and expands the understanding of Biblical chronology according to the Ramban.