DATHAN. A great-grandson of Reuben (Num.16.1). He, with his brothers Abiram and Korah, rebelled against Moses (Num.16.1-Num.16.15), for which sin they were swallowed by the earth (Num.16.31-Num.16.35; see also Num.26.1-Num.26.65).

DATHAN dā’ thən (דָּתָ֥ן, meaning unknown).

Dathan with two other Reubenites joined the Levite Korah in leading a rebellion of 250 chosen men against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Numbers (16:1, 12, 24, 25, 27) says Moses prayed and the next morning said, “You have gone too far” (16:7). Dathan and Abiram were sent for, but would not come. They said Moses brought them into the wilderness to kill them, while he was a prince over them. Korah assembled all the congregation against Moses and Aaron, but the glory of the Lord appeared to them all, and Moses and Aaron prayed God would not be angry with all for one. The 250 leaders brought censers with incense. Then fire from the Lord consumed these would-be priests. Dathan and Abiram and their families were swallowed by the earth into Sheol, with Korah and his men.

The people resented this punishment. God threatened them, but Aaron made atonement for them, while 14,700 more died. Later Moses reminded Israel of this discipline of the Lord (Deut 11:2, 6).

The causes of the rebellion were wilderness weariness, envy of Aaron (Ecclus 45:6, 20), jealousy against divinely appointed leadership (Ps 106:16, 17; Jude 11). The penalty was as for treason, sin at the cost of their lives.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The son of Eliab the son of Pallu the son of Reuben (Nu 26:5 ff; De 11:6; Ps 106:17). He and his brother Abiram, with others, followed Korah the Levite in disputing the authority of Moses and Aaron in the wilderness (Nu 16-17; 26; De 11:6; Ps 106:17). Other followers of Korah perished by fire before the tent of meeting, but Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up by the earth, with their families and their goods, at their tents. See Korah.

Willis J. Beecher