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It appears that there's a clear trend of our forefathers, Avraham, Tzhak, and Jacob, to dwell in tents in the Holy Land, wandering from one place to another, instead of settling down, taking hold of the land and building houses, despite the fact that the Land was promised to be theirs.

For example Avraham:

...וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח־הָאֹהֶל ... וַיְמַהֵר אַבְרָהָם הָאֹהֱלָה אֶל־שָׂרָה

Or Itzchak:

...וַיְבִאֶהָ יִצְחָק הָאֹהֱלָה שָׂרָה אִמּוֹ...

IIRC, they were sitting in one place for years - Hebron, Kiryat Arbah, Avraham even bought a graveyard and Yakov bought a piece of land in Shechem (for Yossef's grave?), but the Torah does not mention them dwelling in houses*. (There's only one place in Succot where Yaakov mentioned "building a house for himself", however many interpret it metaphorically - he built Beis Midrash, he built Beis Israel, etc, and the Torah itself does not mention him actually living in a house).

On the contrary, we can see that in parallel many Biblical figures lived in houses:

For example Lot:

וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֶּה נָּא־אֲדֹנַי סוּרוּ נָא אֶל־בֵּית עַבְדְּכֶם ...:
וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל־בֵּיתוֹ... ׃
... אַנְשֵׁי הָעִיר אַנְשֵׁי סְדֹם נָסַבּוּ עַל־הַבַּיִת...

Or Betuel and Lavan:

...וְאָנֹכִי פִּנִּיתִי הַבַּיִת וּמָקוֹם לַגְּמַלִּים... and many many others in the same Parasha

Or Pharaoh:

... וַתֻּקַּח הָאִשָּׁה בֵּית פַּרְעֹה...

As the Torah does mention very explicitly all other characters living in houses and doesn't mention the forefathers doing so, I think this can not be attributed to simple omissions.

What might be a reason for such strange behavior?


I found it interesting that this behavior is consistent with some historical theories that present the Israelites as nomads and wanderers even in "their own country", unlike all other surrounding nations - Egyptians (Pharaoh) or Babylonian (Betuel) that lived in fixed settlements.


*Except for one place (I could find): "וַתִּקַּח רִבְקָה אֶת־בִּגְדֵי עֵשָׂו בְּנָהּ הַגָּדֹל הַחֲמֻדֹת אֲשֶׁר אִתָּהּ בַּבָּיִת"

  • 1
    The verse regarding Esav's clothes is an interesting exception, seemingly. However, it's possible that, here, using the term for "house" may be a "generic" term similar to "household" and may not imply a physical house structure. – DanF Nov 14 at 17:39
  • Accordingly, G-d dwelt in the Tabernacle before dwelling in the Tiemple(s). Of course, G-d does not dwell. It is a figure of speech. The point was if G-d can metaphorically dwell in a tent, why not humans? The real answer is that they were probably nomads or humbly lived in a tent. It could have been a way of life for a long time, too. – Jonathan Nov 14 at 17:41
  • Jacob built a HOUSE. Bereishis (33:17) וְיַעֲקֹב נָסַע סֻכֹּתָה וַיִּבֶן לוֹ בָּיִת וּלְמִקְנֵהוּ עָשָׂה סֻכֹּת – IsraelReader Nov 19 at 18:39
  • @IsraelReader I mentioned that in the question - please read the parenthesis – Al Berko Nov 19 at 19:47
  • @AlBerko In truth, didn't notice it, since you didn't quote the actual text of the verse, as you did with the other verses. I also question why you focus on those who interpret the verse metaphorically, and almost ignore the פשוטו של מקרא. – IsraelReader Nov 20 at 13:28

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