Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Joseph Ha-Nagid

(1035 - 1066)

Joseph Ha-Nagid was the vizier of Granada, son of Samuel ha-Nagid. In his youth he already displayed superior talents. His distinguished father supervised his education, and was particularly concerned that his son have a perfect knowledge of the Arabic language and literature. While still a little boy, Jehoseph copied and edited his father's poems. His father arranged his marriage to the daughter of his friend, the famous Rabbi Nissim from Kairouan, who came to Granada with his daughter for the wedding. His father thought that a wife from a deeply religious family would have strengthened his son religiously. Jehoseph was in his 21st year when his father died and, despite his youth, was appointed by Bādīs, king of Granada, as chief vizier of the kingdom. He did not disappoint the king's hopes. Because of his great talents he succeeded in fulfilling his assignments, of which the most important were the efficient collection of the taxes and the running of an orderly administration. Even his contemporary Muslim writers, who exhibit an attitude of hatred toward him, admit to this. He was also successful in conducting the foreign policy of the Berber kingdom of Granada in its struggle with the Arab kingdom of Seville. He established connections with other Muslim countries, also hostile to the Arab king of Seville, and gave them active support. At the same time he did not neglect his occupation with Torah, but gave instruction and composed Hebrew poems.

In 1044, (according to his own testimony) he began collecting and arranging his father's poems. Fragments of Jehoseph's poems were published by A.M. Habermann (see bibl.). As in the case of his father, Jehoseph's poems record and reflect events from his stormy life. Jehoseph was arrogant and not liked. While his father's wisdom and the respect shown him sufficed to silence the dissatisfaction of the Arabic-speaking Andalusian population with the Berbers and their Jewish viziers, Jehoseph was openly censured. He surrounded himself with wealthy Jews, agents, and officers of the king, to their great benefit. He tried unsuccessfully to avert the consequences, but had the misfortune to become entangled in a harem intrigue. In 1064 the crown prince Bolougin died after having participated in a feast in the home of Jehoseph, who was then accused of poisoning him. Meanwhile, the struggle between the kings of Granada and Seville became more acute; the Berber Bādīs, fearing plots by his Arab subjects, planned to slaughter them, but Jehoseph warned the Arabs. This step harmed his relations with the king himself. Abu Isḥāq al-Ilbībī a disgruntled and fanatic Muslim theologian, composed a provocative poem against Jehoseph, in which he protested about his great wealth and the enrichment of the other Jews. There were also Muslims who accused Jehoseph of killing Bādīs secretly, since the latter avoided making any public appearance. As a consequence of this provocation he was murdered, and a bloody slaughter befell the Jews of Granada.


Ashtor, Korot, 2 (1966), 98–117; A.M. Habermann, ibid., 4 (1961), 44-58; Allony, in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad, 3 (1960), 16-22; H. Schirmann, Sefarad, 7 (19592), 292f.; idem, Shirim Ḥadashim min ha-Genizah (1965), 185f., 190; idem, in: Moznayim, 8 (1939), 48-58; Akavya, in: Tagim, 1 (1969), 75; S. Katz, in: Sinai, 96 (1984-5), 114-34.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.