Gersonides on Providence, Covenant, and the Chosen People

A Study in Medieval Jewish Philosophy and Biblical Commentary

By Robert Eisen

Subjects: Jewish Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791423141, 257 pages, March 1995
Hardcover : 9780791423134, 257 pages, April 1995

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Table of contents


List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction

2. The Philosophical Background

Providence, Miracles and Inherited Providence in The Wars of the Lord


Inherited Providence


3. The Covenant with Abraham

Gersonides' Interpretation of Genesis 15

4. From Slavery in Egypt to the Conquest of Canaan

5. The Covenant at Sinai

The Torah as Philosophical Guidebook


The Prophecy of Moses
The Philosophical Content of the Torah
The Torah as Covenant


6. The Torah and Esoteric Discourse

7. From the Conquest of Canaan to the Present Exile


The Original Covenant with Abraham
The Extension of the Covenant
The Function of Inherited Providence after the Conquest
The Present Exile


8. The Messianic Era

9. The Language of Providence in Gersonides' Biblical Commentaries

10. Conclusions


Gersonides on Jewish Chosenness: Analysis and Assessment
The Place of the Biblical Commentaries in Gersonides' Philosophy


Appendix: The Pinnot Ha-Torah in Gersonides' Thought


This is a careful examination of the doctrine of Jewish chosenness in the light of Gersonides's thought on providential suffering and on inherited providence. Gersonides is one of the most interesting and important philosophers of the later Jewish Middle Ages.


Gersonides was one of the intellectual giants of the medieval Jewish world, a thinker of remarkable diversity and ingenuity. In the light of Gersonides' thought on providential suffering and on inherited providence, this book analyzes his position on one of the cardinal principles of Judaism: the concept of the Chosen People.

Robert Eisen is Assistant Professor of Religion and Judaic Studies at George Washington University.


"The book is a sober and careful examination of an important issue in Jewish thought: the doctrine of the chosen people. It advances the field of Gersonides' studies; it is the first in-depth treatment of Gersonides' biblical commentaries. " — Charles H. Manekin, University of Maryland

"It is an important study of a completely original sort. It is a pioneering work, not only in the specific topic which it treats, but especially in its bringing together the philosophical and exegetical works of one of the most important philosophers of the later Jewish Middle Ages. In so doing, it opens up a major area of study that has been seriously neglected. In the case of Gersonides, as with other medieval Jewish thinkers, there is a tendency to treat the exegetical works as having no philosophical value or interest. This book establishes the philosophical importance of the exegetical works and shows that they are of critical value for an understanding of the philosophy of Gersonides. " — Marvin Fox, Brandeis University