Who was Dathan in the Bible?


Dathan is a fascinating and often overlooked character in the Bible, whose story unfolds within the larger narrative of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. As a leader of the tribe of Reuben, he played a significant role in the events that took place during this time. In this blog post, we will explore the life of Dathan, his defiance against Moses and Aaron, and the lasting consequences of his actions as recorded in the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible.

The story of Dathan provides valuable insights into the challenges faced by the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, as well as the importance of obedience and faith in God. By delving deeper into Dathan’s narrative, we can glean valuable lessons and reflections for our own spiritual journeys today.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Dathan was a leader from the tribe of Reuben who challenged Moses’ and Aaron’s authority.
  2. He conspired with three other men, Abiram, On, and Korah, in a rebellion against Moses and Aaron.
  3. The rebellion led to God’s judgment and the subsequent death of Dathan and his followers.
  4. The story of Dathan highlights the importance of obedience to God and His appointed leaders.
  5. It serves as a reminder that pride and self-interest can lead to disastrous consequences.
Who was Dathan in the Bible?

Dathan’s Background and Family

Dathan was a descendant of Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob and Leah. As a member of the tribe of Reuben, he held a prominent position within the Israelite community. The Bible provides information about his lineage, stating, “Now Dathan and Abiram were the sons of Eliab, the son of Pallu, the son of Reuben” (Numbers 26:9, NKJV).

Dathan had a brother named Abiram, and together, they would play a critical role in challenging the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Their actions would have severe consequences, not only for themselves but also for their families and followers. This story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of disobedience and rebellion against God’s chosen leaders.

The Rebellion Against Moses and Aaron

Dathan, along with his brother Abiram, his cousin On, and a Levite named Korah, led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. These men questioned the authority of Moses and Aaron, accusing them of elevating themselves above the congregation of the Lord (Numbers 16:3, NKJV). In doing so, they sought to undermine the leadership that God had established.

Moses, in response to the challenge, proposed a test to determine whom the Lord had chosen. He instructed the rebels to bring censers with incense before the Lord, and God would reveal His chosen leader. This test would ultimately lead to a divine intervention that would settle the dispute once and for all.

The Judgment of God

The following day, Dathan, Abiram, Korah, and their followers gathered before the Lord with their censers. As they did so, the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, instructing them to separate themselves from the congregation so that He could consume the rebels (Numbers 16:20-21, NKJV). Moses, however, interceded on behalf of the congregation and pleaded with God not to punish the entire assembly for the sins of a few individuals (Numbers 16:22, NKJV).

God then commanded Moses to warn the people to stay away from the tents of Dathan, Abiram, and Korah. As the people heeded Moses’ warning, the ground opened up beneath the rebels and swallowed them, along with their households and possessions (Numbers 16:31-33, NKJV).

The Aftermath of the Rebellion

The divine judgment did not end with the swallowing up of Dathan, Abiram, and their households. God also sent fire to consume the 250 men who had followed Korah in offering incense (Numbers 16:35, NKJV). This dramatic display of God’s power and judgment served as a clear warning to the Israelites about the dangers of challenging His appointed leaders.

Despite these events, the Israelite community continued to grumble against Moses and Aaron, accusing them of killing God’s people (Numbers 16:41, NKJV). As a result, God sent a plague upon the congregation, which caused the death of 14,700 people before Aaron, following Moses’ instruction, offered incense to atone for the people and halt the spread of the plague (Numbers 16:46-50, NKJV).

Lessons from Dathan’s Story

There are several important lessons that we can learn from the story of Dathan and his rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Firstly, it highlights the importance of obedience to God and His appointed leaders. Dathan’s actions were a direct challenge to the leadership that God had established, and his defiance resulted in severe consequences for himself and his followers.

Secondly, the story serves as a reminder of the dangers of pride and self-interest. Dathan and his co-conspirators sought to elevate themselves above the rest of the Israelite community, which ultimately led to their downfall. As believers, we must always be mindful of the dangers of pride and strive to maintain a spirit of humility and submission to God’s will.

Lastly, Dathan’s story underscores the need for faith in God’s provision and guidance. The Israelites’ journey through the wilderness was fraught with difficulties, and it was during these challenging times that Dathan chose to rebel against God’s chosen leaders. As we face our own trials and tribulations, we must remain steadfast in our faith and trust in God’s plan for our lives.


The story of Dathan is a powerful reminder of the importance of obedience, faith, and humility in our walk with God. As a leader from the tribe of Reuben, Dathan had a unique opportunity to guide and support his people during their journey to the Promised Land. Instead, he chose to challenge God’s chosen leaders and paid a heavy price for his defiance.

In examining Dathan’s life, we are reminded of the critical need to submit to God’s authority and to trust in His divine guidance, even during difficult times. As we face our own challenges, let us learn from the example of Dathan and strive to walk in obedience and faith, always keeping our hearts humble before the Lord.

Ultimately, the story of Dathan serves as a sobering reminder of the consequences of pride and disobedience. By reflecting on his narrative and applying its lessons to our lives, we can grow in our faith and deepen our relationship with God.

According to the Bible, Dathan was a Levite from the Kohathite family and the son of Eliav. He was found in the Old Testament book of Numbers.

Dathan was a contemporary and a strong supporter of Korah, who led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, the two appointed leaders of the Israelites. He and two others, Korah and Abiram, publicly challenged Moses’ leadership in front of the whole congregation. Dathan and Abiram argued that, since all the Israelites were the children of God, why should they be under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. When they refused to repent, they went down alive into the depths of the earth in a huge earthquake.

The Bible described Dathan in Numbers 16:1-3 “Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with 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 is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?”

Dathan’s actions in challenging Moses’ authority were a sign of his disobedience to the Lord and his willingness to advance his own personal ambitions. His actions were a sign of his pride and angered the Lord. This is why the Lord punished the three men so harshly and made them an example of the consequence of rebelling against Him.

In hindsight, Dathan can be seen as a flawed man with ambitions but also of great courage and tenacity. His story and fate serve as a warning to us all against straying away from God and obeying His commands. Although we may want to pursue our own goals, we must remember that only God can determine our path in life.