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DAVID BEN ABRAHAM (Arabic name, Abu Sulaiman Da'ud al-Fasi):

Karaite lexicographer of the tenth century. His surname "al-Fasi" shows that he came from Fez. From a reference by Abu al-Faraj Harun ("Rev. Et. Juives," xxx. 252; compare Pinsker, "Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot," i. 183), and from the fact that Saadia is quoted by him, it is concluded that he flourished in the second half of the tenth century. During that century Fez produced two other authorities on Hebrew philology; namely, Dunash b. Labrat and Judah b. David Ḥayyuj. It was to the congregation of Fez, also, that Judah b. Kuraish, about the beginning of the tenth century, directed his epistle embodying the first systematic application of comparative philology to the elucidation of Biblical Hebrew, a method largely followed by David b. Abraham and the two previously mentioned philologists.

David's lexicon, written in Arabic, of which two manuscript copies are extant, is called "Agron," as Abu al-Faraj Harun and Ali b. Sulaiman attest. One of Saadia's works bears the same title. According to the somewhat defective introduction, the Arabic title, "Kitab Jami' al-Alfaẓ" (Book Containing a Collection of Words), is a translation of the Hebrew title "Agron."

The "Agron."

The copious extracts which Pinsker and Neubauer have furnished from this book afford a definite idea of its nature and contents. The introduction contains general rules on Hebrew word-formation and on the functions of the various letters. The roots are classified according to the number of letters which they contain. The lexicon is divided into twenty-two parts, each part being introduced by a brief essay on the functions of particular letters where their use is functional, and on their importance as single-letter roots where they are so used. Neither his views on grammar nor the grammatical terms given go beyond those found in the works of Saadia and Ibn Ḳuraish (for David's grammatical terminology see the notes to Bacher, "Die Grammatische Terminologie des Jehuda Ḥajjug"). The comparison of the Hebrew and the Arabic is an important part of the lexicon, and agrees generally with the "Risalah" of Ibn Ḳuraish, a work with which David was familiar, although he makes no special reference to its author. A peculiarity of David's work is his view that words explainable by the Arabic are in reality Arabic words which have been taken into the Biblical vocabulary (see Bacher, "Die Hebräisch-Arabische Sprachvergleichung des Abu al-Walid," pp. 71-78).

In his other etymological analyses the interchange of consonants occupies a very important place. He rarely quotes the Aramaic for comparison, but gives the preference to the Neo-Hebraic words of the Mishnah and the Talmud. The Targum he refers to frequently, but in a polemic spirit, mentioning Onkelos the Proselyte as author of the Targum to the Pentateuch, and Jonathan b. Uzziel as author of that to the Prophets. He also refers to the Masorah, and mentions a number of accents. As to the Biblical text, he accepts the traditions of the college of Tiberias as authoritative, and applies to their pure and elegant language the expression "goodlywords," found in the blessing of Jacob (Gen. xlix. 21).

Karaite Tendencies.

David's Karaite proclivities are evident from the fact that in a number of passages he indulges in polemics against the Rabbis, quoting Saadia simply as the "Fayyumite." He cites no other author, alluding only in a general way to the Biblical exegetes ("mufassirin") and the grammarians ("diḳduḳiyyin"). On one occasion, in connection with an explanation of a Biblical passage, he makes an attack upon Mohammed and Mohammedanism, which attack, however, is judiciously made in Hebrew. In addition to critical comments on Biblical passages, the lexicon of David contains numerous exegetical discussions not directly bearing upon his etymological analyses. On one occasion he refers to a commentary on the Psalms, and on another to a commentary on the Song of Solomon, neither being elsewhere mentioned by him. In the "Introduction to the Decalogue," falsely ascribed to Solomon b. Yeruḥam, a work on punctuation ("tanḳiṭ") by David b. Abraham is cited.

A compendium of David's lexicon is said to have been prepared by Abu Sa'id b. al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri (Levi b. Japheth) at the close of the tenth century. This is the view of Ali b. Sulaiman, who employed this edition for his own lexicon; but according to Abu al-Faraj Harun, David himself prepared a compendium ("Rev. Et. Juives," xxx. 252).

  • Pinsker, Liḳḳute Ḳadmoniyyot, i. 117-167, 206-216;
  • Neubauer, Notice sur la Lexicographie Hébraïque (Extrait du Journal Asiatique, 1861), pp. 25-155;
  • Appendix to Neubauer's edition of Abu al-Walid's Kitab al-Uşul;
  • Steinschneider, Die Arabische Literatur der Juden, p. 86.
J.W. B.
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