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Who Was the Toshav?


The term תושב (tôšāb; toshav) appears in the Bible fourteen times, mostly in passages associated with the Holiness Code (H). It is typically interpreted as referring to an alien who resides in a foreign country on a long-term basis. I propose, instead, that it had an economic meaning, referring to “a rent-paying (farming) tenant,” that is, someone who cultivates land that he does not own and pays rent to the landlord. In the course of supporting this interpretation, I offer a framework for understanding the social structure envisioned by H and for appreciating H’s innovative social aspirations.

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