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We read last Shabbat parshat Toldot in which we find the famous statement in Bereshit 25:27

וְיַעֲקֹב֙ אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים

The mefarshim deals with the meaning of ישב אהלים, some like Rashi focuses more on the word "tents":

ישב אהלים DWELLING IN TENTS — the tent of Shem and the tent of Eber (Genesis Rabbah 63:10).

Others like Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra and RaSHbaM focus their explanation more on the combination of the words ישב אהלים : Ibn Ezra comments as follow:

And Jacob "stayed in the tents:" And it seems likely that its meaning is like "those who dwell in tents and amidst herds." (Gen. 4:20)

RaSHbaM comments as follow:

ישב אהלים, tending his father’s flocks as we explained already in connection with 4,20 ישב אהל ומקנה.

After a quick look at the main other mefarshim, it seems that nobody exactly questioned the fact that the Torah says ישב אהלים and not ישב באהלים.

What is the difference of meaning between ישב אהלים and ישב באהלים in biblical Hebrew?

  • Frequently, verbs are used as nouns, in Hebrew. So the word ישב could mean either "sitting" (verb) or "one who sits" (noun). It would help if you could cite a verse that has ישב באהלים for Tanac"h. I'm unaware of one. If you cannot find one, that last question is not relevant. – DanF Nov 12 '18 at 23:31
  • @DanF, on Succos do you say לשב בסוכה or לשב סוכה? And I know it is not in Tanach but still it is relevant – Eli83 Nov 12 '18 at 23:58
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    Your comment ignored or misunderstood the first part of Dan's. Present-tense verbs are nouns (and can be in the construct state). "To" infinitives aren't. – msh210 Nov 13 '18 at 2:00
  • I still don't understand his point. How can we translate " sitting" or "one who sits" in tents from ישב אהלים since the ב which means in is missing? There are only 2 instances in the Torah for ישב אהלים and ישב אהל. Elsewhere in the Torah we find it with ב for instance בסוכות תשבו or יושב בהר... – Eli83 Nov 13 '18 at 3:45
  • msh210 makes a good point, and I'll leave you to discuss that further with him / her. But what I stated is similar in English. In English it's called a "gerund". An example - "Visiting professor" - Yes, it is ambiguous, but the point is "visiting" could be a verb or an adjective that describes the type of professor. – DanF Nov 13 '18 at 15:09

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