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Jonah ibn Janah, also known as Abu al-Walīd Marwān ibn Janāh, (c. 990 – c. 1050), was a Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer of the Middle Ages.


He was born in Córdoba, Spain, and studied in Lucena after leaving his native city in 1012. After wandering the Iberian Peninsula, he finally settled in Saragossa.

He was trained as a physician and is mentioned elsewhere as the author of a medical text, but seems to have found his true calling in the investigation of the Hebrew language and in rabbinical literature scriptural exegesis. Although he wrote no actual commentary on the Hebrew Bible, his philological works exercised the greatest influence on Judaic exegesis and form the basis of many modern interpretations. His work is considered to have laid the foundations for scholarly Biblical exegesis Harv Glatzer 1964.

Jona's first work, al Mustalha Complement, is a critique and expansion of the work of Judah ben David Hayyuj, the founder of systematic Hebrew grammar studies. He is best known for the Kitab al-Anqih ("Book of Exact Investigation"), which is divided into two parts the Kitab al-luma ("Book of the Many Coloured Flower Beds") and the Kitab al usul Book of the Roots. The first focuses on the grammar of Hebrew, the second its lexicon. Rabbi Jonah's last work, his Kitab al Tashwir Book of Refutation, is largely lost.

He was a contemporary of Solomon ibn Gabirol and Bahya ibn Paquda

As with most Spanish Jews of the time, his works were written in Arabic.

He died at Zaragoza around 1050.

See also[edit]


  • Nahum M., Glatzer (1964), "The beginnings of modern Jewish studies", in Altmann, Alexander, Studies in Nineteenth-Century Jewish Intellectual History, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 27–45 
  • W. Bacher, Leben und Werke des Abulwalid Merwan ibn Ganach, (Leipzig, 1885)
  • "Ibn Janah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006.
  • Ibn Janah, Abu al-Walid Merwan, Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901–06

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Thu, 31 Jul 2014 06:17:15 -0700

The medieval Hebrew lexicographer Jonah ibn Janah wrote that the stones name comes from the fact that they glow like fire. And the Jewish scholar Rashi, wrote a generation later that “They are a kind of precious stones that burn like torches and they ...


Mon, 05 May 2014 22:52:58 -0700

What caused the word to shift in meaning was instead Jonah ibn Janah, whose 11th century dictionary Kitab al usul - (“Book of the Roots”) has degel defined as flag. It is possible that ibn Janah was influenced by St. Jerome, but unlikely. Perhaps what ...


Tue, 29 Oct 2013 00:11:16 -0700

On the other hand, the French rabbi and great commentator on the Bible, Rashi, just described these mysterious agartalim as “various dishes”, but his contemporary Jonah ibn Janah, explained that they were “vessels used to wash ones hands.” In the 19th ...

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