Dathan In The Bible

Korah’s Reubenite allies Dathan and Abiram were also punished when God caused the ground to split open beneath their feet swallowing them, their families, anyone associated with Korah, and all their possessions.

Dathan In The Bible

Defying Moses’ summons, they accused him of having brought the Israelites out of the fertile land of Egypt in order to let them die in the wilderness (16:12–14). Moses then went to the tents of Dathan and Abiram and persuaded the rest of the community to dissociate themselves from them.

The name Dathan is primarily a male name of American origin that means Combination Of David And Nathan. Also a rare name found in the Bible, meaning ‘faith, law’.

Dathan was an Israelite mentioned in the Old Testament as a participant of the Exodus. He was a son of Eliab, the son of Pallu, the son of Reuben. Together with his brother Abiram, the Levite Korah and others, he rebelled against Moses and Aaron.

Dathan In The Bible

Dathan and Abiram, descendants of Reuben, are mentioned in the Torah in conjunction with Korah’s rebellion. According to Jewish tradition, however, that wasn’t their only rodeo. Midrash and Talmud tell us that their antagonism to Moses began at the very outset of Jewish slavery in Egypt and continued unabated until their premature passing.

The Maharal of Prague, Rabbi Judah Lowy, writes that in the fight between good and evil, the warring sides must be balanced. In order to keep things even, when G‑d created great leaders like Moses and Aaron, He chose to fashion equally compelling antagonists.1 The Midrash confirms that Dathan desired to usurp Moses, and Abiram to usurp Aaron.2

During the Egyptian slavery, Dathan and Abiram served as Israelite overseers who had to report each day’s work to Egyptian taskmasters. Many of the overseers were whipped in the Jews’ stead and were ultimately rewarded by being appointed as the first Jewish elders.3 Dathan and Abiram, however, were less noble;4 according to the Talmud they were wicked from beginning to end.5

We are first introduced to the brothers when Moses, who was raised in Pharaoh’s palace, ventured outside to witness his people’s suffering:

Moses grew up and went out to his brothers and looked at their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian man striking a Hebrew man of his brothers. 6

According to one opinion in the Midrash,7 the Hebrew victim was none other that Dathan. The Egyptian had been secretly assuming Dathan’s identity at night to be intimate with his wife. Now that Dathan had found out, the taskmaster intended to kill him.8 To save the unfortunate man’s life, Moses killed the Egyptian using G‑d’s four-letter name and buried him in the sand.9

The next day, Moses went out again and saw two Jews arguing.10 Midrash, once again, identifies Dathan and Abiram as the squabblers.11

Some commentators12 posit that the two stories above are connected. They say that Dathan wanted to end his marriage when he found out what the Egyptian had been doing with his wife. His brother Abiram13 vehemently disagreed and this led to the argument.

In the course of their skirmish, Dathan raised his hand to strike his brother, prompting Moses to admonish, “Why would you hit your fellow?!”14 Our sages teach us that although no blows were dealt, the verse calls Dathan “wicked” for the mere act of lifting his hand with the intent to hit.15

Dathan and Abiram were not pleased with the meddlesome youth.16 “Who made you a man, a prince, and a judge over us? Do you plan to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?” Moses, they fumed, was neither an appointed judge nor a minister with executive power.17

Intent on having Moses executed, Dathan and Abiram slandered him to Pharaoh.18 Moses miraculously survived the attempt on his life and escaped to Midian.

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