MIDRASH mĭd’ răsh (מִדְרַ֖שׁ, derived from דָּרַשׁ, H2011, meaning to search, investigate; therefore, a study, a homiletical exposition).
The word “midrash” occurs only twice in the OT. Reference is made to the midrash of the prophet Iddo (
The primary occurrence of this term is found in rabbinic lit. where the rabbis sought to elucidate and expound upon the content of the Bible. This type of exegesis is dated back to Ezra, who “had set his heart to study (לִדְרֹ֛ושׁ) the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel” (
There are two types of midrashim: הֲלָכָה, “law,” “rule,” “tradition,” which sought to explain more fully the Biblical law, making application of the principle of the Biblical legislation to particulars; and הֲגָדָה, “narration,” which sought to interpret the Bible in terms of ethics and devotion. The latter is more like homiletics in that it seeks to exhort rather than legislate. These Midrashim were transmitted orally for generations before they were written down. The earliest collection of Halachic Midrashim was compiled c. the second cent. a.d., and the earliest Haggadic Midrashim in the 3rd cent. The most important Halachic Midrashim are Mechilta (מְכִלְתָּא, an Aram. term meaning “treatise”) to Exodus, the Sifra (book) to Leviticus and the Sifra to Numbers and Deuteronomy. The most important Haggadic Midrashim are Midrash Rabboth to the whole Pentateuch and the five scrolls (S of Sol, Ruth, Lam, Eccl, Esth), the Tanhuma (homilies to the whole Pentateuch) and the Pesikta de-Rav Kanana (homilies concerning the holy days and other special occasions). These writings became source books of preaching for the rabbis. As a method of teaching the Midrash was later rivaled and to a large extent replaced by the Mishnah (i.e., teaching the oral law without reference to Scripture).
H. Strack, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrash (1921) (Eng. tr., 1931); H. Danby, The Mishnah (1933), xiii-xxxii; J. Z. Lauterbach, “Midrash and Mishnah,” Rabbinic Essays (1951).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
The Hebrew word corresponding to the