Who were Moses’ old opponents?


Korah and his company complained about the leadership role of Moses, or in other words, they challenged Moses and Aaron by saying:

“You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:3)

In the original Hebrew the word for ‘exalt yourselves’ is ‘Titnas’uo.’ {תתנשאו} This reflexive Hebrew verb does mean literally ‘exalt yourselves’ but bears another ‘hidden’ meaning which can be found in its root N-S-A {נ-ש-א} which also appears in the Hebrew word for ‘leader’ or ‘chief’ (‘Nasi’ {נשיא} in Hebrew).


The use of this specific Hebrew verb –’Titnas’uo’ – is a very sophisticated way to suggest that Moses and Aaron ‘were patronizing over the people’ (that is another meaning of this Hebrew verb). Due to the reflexive nature of this Hebrew verb, it also sounds as if Moses and Aaron appointed THEMSELVES to be the leaders of Israel.

Later on, when Moses sent a call out to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, they did not want to come and told Moses the following:

“Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you must also make yourself a prince over us?” (Numbers 16:13)

In the original Hebrew the phrase ‘that you must also make yourself a prince over us?’ appears as ‘Kee Tistarer Aleinu Gam Histarer.’ {כי תשתרר עלינו גם השתרר} One does not need to be fluent in Hebrew to see that the Hebrew root S-R-R {ש-ר-ר} appears TWICE in this verse. The meaning of the root S-R-R is ‘authority’ or ‘rulership’ and can be found in the Hebrew Bible many times. One of those of times appears in the Book of Exodus in the story of Moses and the two Hebrews:

“When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” He answered, “Who made you a PRINCE and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” (Exodus 2:14)

There the original Hebrew word for ‘prince’ is ‘SAR’ {שר} and it is derived from the same Hebrew root we just discussed. S-R-R means ‘rulership’
(interestingly, in Modern Hebrew this word means ‘minister’ as in a minister in a government). The old Jewish Bible commentators came to a fascinating conclusion when they drew a comparison between the two biblical references – the one from Numbers and the one from Exodus – and this conclusion is that the two unidentified Hebrews from the Book of Exodus are actually the same Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab from the story of Korah and his company!

In fact, Dathan and Abiram are ‘starring’ in a lot of old Jewish commentaries of the Torah as the ones who challenged Moses’ leadership in different situations.