Rabbi Meir Lebush Malbim composed and published his monumental commentary on the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) between 1845 and 1870. It was the first work of its kind since medieval times. Not since the likes of Rashi, Gersonides and Abrabanel had a biblical commentary of comparable size and scope been written; and not since the golden age of Jewish philosophy had such a far ranging Jewish theology been formulated. Nor, since that enlightened era, had such a determined and focused attempt been made to grapple with the challenges presented by secular learning and mores to the loyalties of contemporary Jews. On the narrative level, Malbim's interpretation of Job is quite straightforward; it is all a matter of tests and trials. The person Job is being tested; first by prosperity and then by adversity. It is, however, on other levels that Malbim's Job really comes into its own. Malbim believed the Massoretic (Hebrew) text to the Book of Job to be a coherent whole, that faithfully records what the book's original author, Moses, actuallly wrote. As such, its standing in matters of moral and natural philosophy must be on a par with that the Torah has in matters of Halachah. Just as the whole of Halachah is inherent in the text of the Torah, so must all the wisdom of philosophy and metaphysics be present in the Book of Job, there in its poetry and imagery. Moreover, Malbim asserted, whereas previous commentators had failed to show how the text of Job supported the philosophical affinities they had attributed to Job and his friends, or how these designations helped to elucidate the text, he claims to do both. Exhibiting an originality of interpretation and a love of the Hebrew language that matched the Haskalah of his contemporaries, Malbim finds support for all his ideas in the actual words of the Book of Job itself. Whether of not his interpretation is truly the sense of Job, what Malbim produced is undoubtedly a masterpiece of theology and exegesis.
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