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Dathan was a Reubenite, a descendant of the Israelite patriarch Reuben (see Children of Jacob). After the Exodus, Dathan was among a group of men who rebelled against Moses' God-given leadership of the Israelite people of that time. Moses did not respond; he merely stood back from the rebels because knew what was coming for their rebellion, a rebellion that was not against Moses, but against The Lord's appointed servant.

"They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit"

Dathan's rebellion began out of envy of Moses' leadership. The irony of that is that Moses never sought to be the leader of the people - he was drafted (see also The Education Of Moses). Moses actually asked The Lord to choose someone other than him: "Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person" (Exodus 4:13 RSV). But nevertheless, when The Lord commanded Moses to lead the people, he obeyed. It was for that reality that when Dathan rebelled against Moses, he was actually rebelling against The Lord, from Whom Moses was merely an obedient servant.


"Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD] is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of The Lord?" (Numbers 16:1-3 KJV)

Moses made plain to the rebels Who it was that would respond to them:

"And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even to morrow The Lord will show who are His, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto Him: even him whom He hath chosen will He cause to come near unto Him. This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; And put fire therein, and put incense in them before The Lord to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom The Lord doth choose, he shall be holy" (Numbers 16:4-7 KJV)

Moses then warned the others to get clear of the rebels, not because of Moses' wrath that was about to come, but The Lord's wrath:

"And The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the congregation, saying, Get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram."

"And Moses rose up and went unto Dathan and Abiram; and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins. So they gat up from the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, on every side: and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, and their wives, and their sons, and their little children."

"And Moses said, Hereby ye shall know that The Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of mine own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men; then The Lord hath not sent me. But if The Lord make a new thing, and the earth open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down quick into the pit; then ye shall understand that these men have provoked The Lord."

"And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation." (Numbers 16:23-33 KJV)

Fact Finder: The "pit" that Dathan and the rest of the rebels went into was the Hebrew word (pronounced) "sheol." What does "sheol" mean?
See Sheol and Hades

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