When the great Moses Maimonides, known in Hebrew as the Rambam, died in 1204, his only son Abraham—then merely nineteen years old—succeeded him as the spiritual leader of Egyptian Jewry, and spent much of his life defending his father’s teachings as they became the subject of fierce theological controversies. A great scholar in his own right, Abraham wrote a Judeo-Arabic commentary on the books of Genesis and Exodus, which for centuries was unavailable to most scholars. Moshe Maimon, who recently produced an annotated Hebrew translation of this work, discusses it in an interview by Eliezer Brodt:
The Rambam wrote many works, covering all aspects of [rabbinic teachings]. Yet, he never wrote on Scripture itself. (The work attributed to him on book of Esther is more than likely spurious; it is reminiscent of other Judeo-Arabic midrashic compendiums that were popularly, if falsely, attributed to the Rambam’s school). . . . Abraham’s commentary, hewn from the almost forgotten geonic [i.e., 8th-through-11th-century Mesopotamian] and Andalusian sources and permeated entirely with the spirit of the Rambam’s original thought, fills this void perfectly.
The Rambam’s influence on [his son’s] commentary is readily apparent from even a cursory acquaintance with it. Besides the various explanations that Abraham cites in his father’s name, and the many references to his father’s works, numerous individual exegeses are presented in obvious accordance with the Rambam’s own ideas—such as the assertion that Jacob’s encounter with the angel [in Genesis 32] occurred in a dream.
One of the unique features of Abraham’s commentary, which has almost no parallel in the writings of medieval rabbis, and was only popularized in [the late 19th century], is the view that the various individuals in Tanakh whom we view as evil in accordance with their depiction in midrashim were actually not entirely wicked. According to this opinion, Lot, Ishmael, Esau, Laban, and even Koraḥ and his cadre all possessed higher spiritual capacities and inclinations that at times straddled the boundaries between good and evil.