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What Else Did King Manasseh of Judea Discover in the Torah? / מה עוד גילה מנשה בן חזקיה בתורה?

חננאל מאק and Hananel Mack
Meghillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls / מגילות: מחקרים במגילות מדבר יהודה
כרך ב‎ (תשס"ד), pp. 105-111
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23437935
Page Count: 7
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What Else Did King Manasseh of Judea Discover in the Torah? / מה עוד גילה מנשה בן חזקיה בתורה?
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Abstract

Both the tannaitic midrash Sifre Numbers (112) and the Babylonian Talmud (Sanh. 99b) relate how the evil king of Judea, Manasseh, used to proclaim "contemptuous commentaries" about Timna, Lotan's sister (Gen. 32:12, 22), and about the tale of the mandrakes (Gen. 30:14). In his contribution to this volume, Aaron Shemesh submits that this rabbinic aggadah presents the evil king Manasseh as a Sadducean commentator and that the exegetical comments about Timna must be viewed as halakhic criticism of the pharisaic stance and, particularly, as evidence in support of the Sadducean interpretation of certain issues in family law. I would like to suggest that Manasseh's commentary on the mandrakes as reported in the Talmud must similarly be considered a sectarian aggadic commentary. In the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Issachar tells the story of his conception and birth as a result of the matriarchs' quarrel over the mandrakes. As told there, the description of the events in this "testimony" is remarkably repellent and ridicules Issachar himself. Rabbinic aggadic literature from the tannaitic period on portrays the tribe of Issachar as Torah scholars; thus, the aim of Manasseh's factional commentary is to dispute the origins and scholarship of the pharisaic-tannaitic Torah scholars. Based on Chronicles, the descendants of the tribe of Issachar were considered particularly knowledgeable in calendrical calculations: "Of the Issacharites, men who knew how to interpret the signs of the times, to determine how Israel should act... and all their kinsmen followed them" (1 Chron. 12:33). Calendrical calculations were a central disputed point during the Second Temple period; therefore, by defaming the tribe of Issachar the talmudic story served the purposes of the opposition party to the pharisaic scholars and their decrees, including their calendar.

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