The Malbim - Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel(1809 – 1879) - wrote a commentary on most of Tanach. In his introduction (to Yeshayahu) he writes the assumptions with which he operates in his commentary:
:עמודי התוך אשר הפירוש נשען עליהם הם שלשה
א) לא נמצא במליצות הנביאים כפל ענין במלות שונות, לא כפל ענין, לא כפל מאמר, ולא כפל מליצה, לא שני משפטים שענינם אחד, לא שני משלים שהנמשל אחד, ואף לא שני מלות כפולות
ב) לא נמצאו במליצות הנביאים ובמאמריהם הפשוטים או הכפולים, מלות או פעלים הונחו במקרה מבלתי כונה מיוחדת, על שכל המלות והשמות והפעלים שמהם הורכב כל מאמר, לא לבד שהם מוכרחים לבא במאמר ההוא, כי גם לא היה אפשר להמליץ האלהי להניח תחתיהם מלה אחרת,כי כל מלות המליצה האלהית שקולה במאזני החכמה והדעת, ערוכים ושמורים מנוים וספורים במדת החכמה העליונה, אשר אך היא לבדה תשגיב בכחה לדבר כן
ג) לא נמצא במליצות הנביאים קליפה בלא תוך גויה בלא נשמה, לבוש בלא מתלבש, מאמר רק מרעיון נשגב, דבור לא תשכון תבונה בו, כי דברות אלהים חיים כולם אל חי בקרבם, רוח חיים באפם רוח איום אביר אדיר ונורא
To summarize in English:
- 1) There are no two phrases or even two words that mean exactly the same thing. There is no such thing as "repetition of the same idea with different wording".
- 2) All words and phrases in Tanach are necessary. Not only would the idea that the author is trying to get across be deficient without the specific phrase he uses, but also that no other phrase with different wording could take its place and convey the same idea.
- 3) No phrase, verse, or section in Tanach is pointless. Everything that is written has profound meaning.
Anyone who had read part of Malbim's commentary can see how these "axioms" are incorporated. What has always bothered me, though, is that Malbim seems to be saying with (1) and (2) that Tanach is devoid of poetic style. The author did not have a choice with his wording, but rather used the only phrasology available to convey the exact point he was trying to make. Not only is this uncomfortable for me to accept, but it also seems to be in direct opposition to the multitude of Rishonim that wrote commentaries on Tanach.
Radak seems to be especially fond of saying that certain wordings are "כפל ענין במלות שונות" - "repetition of the same idea with a different wording."
Ibn Kaspi is especially well-known for saying that the way the Torah writes many things is a matter of style, and that anyone who tries to learn things from the fact that the Torah wrote something one way and not another way is attributing meaning to something that has none. Now, perhaps Ibn Kaspi is an extreme example, but I cannot find a single Rishon that would agree with Malbim's axioms (1) and (2).
Now, I have thought of several options to explain this phenomenon:
- Malbim is an innovator. He effectively rejects the approach of all those that came before him to introduce a completely novel approach to Tanach. The problem with this is that in general, the religious Jewish community is not fond of commentaries with approaches that are "too novel". I have often heard that certain newer commentaries should not be learned because they strayed from the path of the earlier commentaries in their approach. Malbim, however, is so popular, that it is difficult to find a set of Mikraot Gedolot on Nach that does not include his commentary.
- Malbim is not a p'shat commentary. Being that most of the Rishonim under question were of the p'shat approach, the earlier discussion would not pose a problem. Also, this can be seen by the fact that one of Malbim's main tasks is to justify Chazal's midrashim based on the text, especially the midrash halacha, which seems to be his entire commentary to Shemos through Devarim. And midrash halacha has, for the most part, already been identified as part of the d'rash approach, in opposition to p'shat, by such commentators as Ramban and Ibn Ezra.
- Malbim himself didn't really believe what he wrote. Historically, Malbim had a lot of trouble with the reform movement. Perhaps he wrote this commentary in opposition to the maskil philosophy, which perhaps emphasized the poetic nature of Tanach over its technical nature (that is, the messages being conveyed in the text). Perhaps, even though Malbim agreed with the earlier approach of the Rishonim, he wrote his commentary stressing the other extreme particularly for his time and place. (Generally, I don't like saying these types of explanations.)
I apologize for writing such a long question, but my question, succinctly, is:
How do you explain the Malbim's deviation from earlier commentators in light of his unbelievable popularity in the modern religious community?