Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak (Rashi) 1 in his Perush ‘al ha-Torah on the Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy) 33:2, wrote:
וזרח משעיר למו שפתח לבני עשו שיקבלו את התורה ולא רצו ספרי :
הופיע להם מהר פארן שהלך שם ופתח לבני ישמעאל שיקבלוה ולא רצו ספרי :ואתה לישראל
(“And He rose from Seir unto them. He offered the Torah to the children of Esau, and they did not desire my scripture. He shined forth to them from mount Paran because He went there and offered the Torah to the children of Ishmael, that they should accept it but they did not desire my the scripture. And You came unto Israel”).
This piece of commentary is really interesting because it shows that jewish scholarship understand that God speaks not only to the Israelites at mount Sinai but God also speaks to Edomites at Seir, and God too speaks to the Arabs at mount Paran. God therefore blessed the children of Israel through Moses at Sinai but God also blessed the children of Esau through Job and likewise the same God also blessed the children of Ishmael.
Sinai revelation allude to the religion of Israelites, Seir revelation refers to the religion of Edomites, while Paran revelation allude to the faith of the Ishmaelites. Moses was one of Israelites who received the the words of God at mount Sinai; and Job was one of Edomites who received the words of God at Seir.
Another great rashonim rabbi Moshe Maimonides or RAMBAM wrote a letter in Judeo-Arabic to Yamanite Jews (אגרת תימן Iggerot Teyman) on the origin of Job.
לאן איוב וצופר ובלדד ואליפז ואליהוא כלהם ענדנא אנביא ואן כאנו ליס מן ישראל
Lianna Ayyub wa Shofar wa Bildad wa Elifaz wa Elihu kulluhum ‘indana Anbiya’ wa in kanu laysa min Yisroil (Iggerot Teyman)
“For Job, and Zophar, and Bildad, and Eliphaz and Elihu are all considered prophets and are non-Jews.” 2.
Clearly Rambam understood that Job and his confidants: Zophar, Bildad, Elifaz and Elihu received prophecy even though they were not of Jewish stock. Raymond P. Scheindlin, a Professor of Medieval Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America elaborate that Job was a non-Israelite, probably as an Edomite, since Utz, Job’s homeland is connected elsewhere in the Bible with Edom, the desert territory to the Southeast of the Dead Sea; so also his friends, Zophar, Eliphaz Elihu and Bildad were non-Israelites 3.
God sent Moses as a prophet from among the children of Israel, and God also sent Job as a prophet from among the children of Esau, but the question was who was the one sent as a prophet among the children of Ishmael?
In his commentary Rambam quoted the text of Psalms of David, and he explained it (also written in Judeo-Arabic) according to the Midrashic methodology 4.
קאל אויה לי כי גרתי משך שכנתי עם אהלי קדר. ואעתברוא תכציצה קדר מן בני ישמעאל לאן משגע תאול אנמא הו בני קדר כמא הו משהור פי נסבה
Qola “אויה לי כי גרתי משך שכנתי עם אהלי קדר” (Ps 120:5). Wa’tibaru takhshishiha Qedar min bani Yismail li anna mesuga’ ta’wilu innama huwa min bani Qedar kama huwa masyhur fi nasabihi.
Said (David): “Woe is me, that I sojourn with Meschech, that I dwell beside the tents of Kedar.” (Psalms 120:5). Notice the distinction of Kedar from the children of Ishmael, because the mesuga is meant only from the children of Kedar of which well-known in their lineage 5.
Rambam mentioned that there was a mesuga’ 6 of God from among the children of Ishmael, from one of the children of Kedar. Note how the verse sets apart Kedar from the other children of Ishmael. This is the “locus classicus” for ecumenically minded rabbis, since even before Christian times, that there are obscure passages from the testament of Moses (Sefer Devarim 33:2. Talmud Bavli, Avodah Zarah 2b and Sifrei 343) whose meaning can be explained by this text. We can say that the text of Deuteronomy 33:2 is not only referring to a historical fact, but it is also referring to a prophecy.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says:
“Seir (שעיר) is Esau, Paran (פרן) is Ishmael (Genesis XXI:21). What it could want to say here would be – the promise to Abraham could have been fulfilled on Ishmael and Esau; but when Paran developed from Ishmael and still more when Seir was later formed by Esau, their characteristics showed that the realisation of God’s promise would have to wait for a later generation until finally Israel by accepting the Torah offered an entry for the glory of G-d on earth” 7
- A medieval French rabbi (1040 – 1105 CE.) renown as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud as well as a comprehensive commentary of the Torah. He is considered the father of all commentaries post Talmud.
- See Abraham S. Halkin. Moses Maimonides’ Epistle to Yemen. The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions. Edited from Manuscripts with Introduction and Notes (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1953), pp. 50-52
- See Raymon P. Scheindlin. “The Book of Job. Translation, Introduction and Notes (New York – London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998), pp. 11-13.
- See Abraham S. Halkin. Moses Maimonides’ Epistle to Yemen. The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions. Edited from Manuscripts with Introduction and Notes (New York: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1952), pp. 94-96
- “kama huwa masyhur fi nasabihi” ( כמא הו משהור פי נסבה) is clearly an arabic sentence which must be based on genealogical records but there was never a mention from Jewish and Islamic history any denial from the Arabs that prophet Muhammad ﷺ was from Ishmael lineage throuh Kedar. This can be read from Tarikh AtThabari, he list the prophet genealogy to Kedar through Nabit bin Ismail, and through Khaidar bin Ismail.
- Rambam’s use of the word mesuga’ was NOT intended in any negative sense like in modern hebrew usage, but to indicate or confirm that Muhammad ﷺ , was indeed God messenger, that he was indeed the ish ha-Elohim of the TaNaKH, the man of God/ rasulullah. Why Rambam referred to a prophet as mesuga’? because that is how it describes the experience of prophets receiving prophecy: “Their limbs tremble, their physical powers become weak, they lose control of their senses, and thus, their minds are free to comprehend what they see.” (Rambam’s Yesodei haTorah 7:12). Rambam did not use the word “nabi” because the prophet Malachi was supposed to be the last Jewish prophet to the Jewish people. But of course he is not the last prophet to the non-Jews and the jews know that that could be an unlimited number of non Jewish prophets after Malachi.
- See Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. Chamisha Chumshe Torah. Sefer Devarim. The Pentateuch. Translated & Explained. vol. V. Deuteronomy (London – New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1962), p. 664