A Palestinian scholar of the fourth amoraic generation (fourth century), often quoted in conjunction with R. Aḥa (Lev. R. vi. 5; Cant. R. to v. 16), R. Judan (Gen. R. xlvii.; Cant. R. to i. 4), and R. Judah b. Simon (Gen. R. xv.; Cant. R. to i. 2). Although his name appears in connection with some Halakot (Yer. Shab. vii. 9b; Yer. Pes. i. 28a), it is doubtful whether he ever became interested in legal topics; and the halakic questions with which his name is associated probably belong to R. Ezra (compare Frankel, "Mebo," p. 120b). Nor can the names of his teachers be definitely ascertained. Azariah transmits Haggadot in the name of leading amoraim of earlier generations,such as Ḥanina (Johanan) b. Pappa (Gen. R. xlv.; Cant. R. to ii. 14), Simeon b. Laḳish (Yer. Ber. i. 2d; Tan., Bereshit, ed. Buber, 15), and Johanan (Gen. R. xcviii. 5); and he also quotes his own contemporaries. Nevertheless, the assumption that he was a disciple of R. Mana II. (compare Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." iii. 449, 458) is untenable, because both R. Cohen and R. Tanḥuma—the former a predecessor, the latter a contemporary, of R. Mana—report in the name of R. Azariah, which shows that he was a predecessor of both and of R. Mana (Ruth R. to i. 19; Esther R. to i. 2). For the same reason the identification of R. Ezra with R. Azariah (Bacher, l.c. 450) is inadmissible. The two names represent two distinct persons, who flourished in different generations, and, it seems, occupied themselves with different branches of rabbinic lore (compare Ezra).
R. Azariah was a versatile haggadist, to whom even single letters suggested ideas. Thus in the triliteral term "eshel" ( = the tamarisk; which, according to Gen. xxi. 33, Abraham planted at Beersheba), Azariah discovers three important duties connected with hospitality: the furnishing of the guest with meat (), with drink (), and with an escort () (Midr. Teh. cx. 1; see note in ed. Buber). According to him, the distinction conferred on the tribal princes of Ephraim and Manasseh at the consecration of the Tabernacle—the former offering his gifts on the Sabbath day and the latter immediately following him—was owing to the merits of their ancestor Joseph. The Lord said to Joseph: "Thou hast kept inviolate the seventh commandment and the eighth commandment, in that thou hast had no dealings with Potiphar's wife and hast not stolen of Potiphar's goods, nor dishonored his house; and a time will come when I shall reward thee; when the princes of the tribes shall come to consecrate the altar, the princes descended from thy two sons will approach one after the other with their offerings, and none will intervene between them, even as nothing intervenes between the two commandments thou hast kept." Therefore we find it written (Num. vii. 48), "On the seventh day . . . the prince of the children of Ephraim offered," and (ib. 54), "on the eighth day, . . . the prince of the children of Manasseh" (Num. R. xiv. 7; Tan., Naso, 28). The Biblical simile (Cant. ii. 3), "As the apple-tree is among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons," he thus explains (Cant. R. to l.c.): "As the apple-tree ripens its fruit only in the month of Siwan, so Israel emitted sweet savor (manifest ripeness for the reception of the Law) in the month of Siwan (Ex. xix. 1 et seq.); and as the apple-tree occupies fifty days between budding and ripening its fruit, so did Israel take fifty days between the exodus and the reception of the Torah." (Tan., ed. Buber, Index; Midr. Teh., ed. Buber, Index; Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, pp. 1a, 2b, 28b, 39a, 42a, 50a, 51a, 61a, 99a, 103b, 116b, 125a, 131b, 139a, 166a, 179b, 192b; Pesiḳ. R., ed. Friedmann, Index; see also Bacher, "Ag. Pal. Amor." iii. 458-465.)