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The Rambam writes (in his Introduction to Mishneh Torah):

ואחיה השילוני מיוצאי מצרים היה ולוי היה ושמע ממשה והיה קטן בימי משה והוא קיבל מדוד ובית דינו.

Achiah of Shiloh was one of those who experienced the exodus from Egypt. He was a Levite and heard [teachings] from Moses. He was, however, of low stature in Moses' age. Afterwards, he received the tradition from David and his court.

I can understand why Achiya wouldn't be considered a student of Moshe, if he was 1 year old when he left Egypt, he would be just a 39 year old when Moshe passed away.

But by Dovid Hamelech's time he was several hundred years old! Did he have to be that old before he matured into a full fledged scholar? Or was he simply not learning the whole time (kind of like Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai who was a businessman for 40 years, learned for 40 years, and was on the Sanhedrin for 40 years)?

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This question is addressed by R. Yosef Karo in his commentary to this statement of Rambam. He says that according to Rambam it is possible that Achiyah was a greater scholar than Dovid, but the chain of transmission of the tradition is not necessarily determined by the greatest scholar. In terms of the order of transmission, Achiyah comes after Dovid:

ולדעת רבינו יש לומר שאע"פ שנאמר שהיה חכם גדול מדוד יצדק לומר קיבל מדוד לומר שנשאר ראש קבלה במקומו

R. Karo does note that Ra'avad disagrees with Rambam, and says that Ra'avad's disagreement is probably for this very reason – it would not be correct to refer to such an elderly scholar who may have been wiser than Dovid as "receiving from Dovid". Therefore, Ra'avad instead says that Achiyah was a member of Dovid's rabbinical court:

נראה שטעמו לומר שכיון שהיה זקן מופלג ביותר אין נכון לומר שקבל מדוד שהיה צעיר לימים ממנו וגם בחכמה אפשר שהיה אחיה גדול ממנו אי משום דבישישים חכמה ואי משום דקבל ממשה אבל מה שאפשר לומר הוא שהיה מבית דינו של דוד שדוד היה ראש הסנהדרין

  • (I haven't looked up the sources, so am basing this on only your quotes.) I think you've omitted a crucial point of the כ"מ. You say only that "In terms of the order of transmission, Achiyah comes after Dovid" without explaining why. The reason seems to be "יצדק לומר קיבל מדוד לומר שנשאר ראש קבלה במקומו", i.e. that אחיה survived דוד, took his place, so is later in the chain. As for the ראב"ד, I'm not sure "was a member of Dovid's court" is the best translation, since that usually (in the context of a king) refers to a royal court, not what's meant here. – msh210 Sep 2 '18 at 20:43
  • @msh210 I'm not sure that the Kessef Mishneh's point is that he survived longer. (The secondary literature that I saw did not explain it that way, though to be honest they didn't really explain much other than to say that this shows that the mesorah and chochmah are two different things.) I'm not averse to your explanation, and perhaps I will edit accordingly. As to your point about "court" I agree that needs to be clarified, and I will edit to do so. – Alex Sep 2 '18 at 21:53
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One possibility: the Talmud (Eruvin 47b) says:

a person does not merit to learn from everyone

Rashi (loc. cit., my translation):

A person doesn't succeed in learning from all of his teachers, some Rabbis have their teaching ready at hand and can teach their students very briefly

It's possible that until the time of David, Achiya didn't find someone he could learn from.

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