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(1437-1508). Scholar, philosopher, and statesman. Don Isaac was an illustrious member of one of the most distinguished Sephardic Jewish families that traced its origin to King David. Born in Lisbon, Abravanel served as treasurer to King Alfonso V of Portugal. When Alfonso died, his successor accused Don Isaac of conspiring against the king, forcing Abravanel to flee to Spain in 1483. There he served King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in state financial affairs. When a decree expelling Jews from Spain was issued in 1492, he and other influential Jews pleaded before the court for its withdrawal, but to no avail. Abravanel was offered personal exemption from the decree, but chose to flee to Naples, where he again entered royal service.

Abravanel’s Jewish scholarship is shown in his commentaries on the Bible. Despite his firm faith in the divine revelation of the Bible, he saw clearly the importance of historical background in biblical exposition. Stirred by Jewish suffering, he wrote three works to perpetuate belief in the coming of the Messiah (See also Messianism). As a philosopher, he supported the principle of free will, and opposed the influence of Aristotle and Plato on Jewish thought. Abravanel was survived by three distinguished sons: Joseph, a physician and scholar; Judah Leon, also a physician; and Samuel, scholar and patron of Jewish learning.

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