Moshe Rabbeinu was raised in Pharaoh's house. Yet when Dasan and Aviram claimed that Moshe killed an Egyptian taskmaster, Pharaoh tried to kill him (Shemot 2:13-15).

Why would an all powerful tyrant kill his adopted son for killing a taskmaster (especially when the witnesses were slaves)?

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    This is not a sourced answer, but have you ever read a history book? This happened. All. The. Time.
    – Seth J
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 21:23
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    What is the source for this midrash? (Not doubting, but I'd like to be able to look it up.) Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 21:27
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    @MonicaCellio Rashi, at least, to Shemot 2:13-15 identifies the informants as Datan and Aviram. The rest is pretty explicit in the text.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 21:31
  • @DoubleAA, thanks. Yeah, it was the identification of Datan and Aviram I was wondering about, and whether the same midrash that gave us that would have any other interesting details. Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 1:05
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    To make matters more confusing, Datan and Aviram might not even have seen Moshe commit the crime, only bury the body (according to opinions that Moshe killed the Egyptian by saying the sacred name, not by physically hitting anyone). So Pharaoh would be passing an immediate death sentence on an adopted royal based on the circumstantial evidence proffered by two slaves. He would be siding with Hebrews more than Moshe was!
    – rosends
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 1:26

3 Answers 3


Exodus Rabbah 1:26 brings this midrash: one day when Moshe was a child he grabbed Paro's crown and the court magicians counselled Paro to have him killed lest he usurp the throne. Ultimately a test was proposed and Moshe passed (with Gavriel's help), so he was allowed to live. But it's not unreasonable to think that the magicians would continue to caution Paro about this, and he might have worried about it even without their encouragement.

So, if he's already worried about his adopted grandson challenging him some day, and then he hears that he's attacked one of Paro's officials (albeit a very minor one), he might well decide that this challenge is dangerous and must be stopped, no matter how much he enjoyed playing with him as an infant.

Finally, as SethJ noted in a comment, this is not unusual for rulers.

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    Not only that, but it meant that Moshe was thereby siding with the Jewish slaves against the king (where the original state policy of enslaving them was precisely because the Pharaoh of that time feared that they might revolt - Ex. 1:10). It's even quite possible that Pharaoh had realized by that time that Moshe was of Semitic stock (albeit perhaps not that he was Jewish), which would make him all the more dangerous an enemy.
    – Alex
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 16:56

No source, but something I thought of when we learned the portion this year.

It was because Datan and Aviram publicized it that Pharaoh needed to take action. Once word got out that a public servant had been murdered while/for doing his job, there would have been a call for justice from the rest of Pharaoh's court.

Pharaoh gave into the public pressure and made an example out of Moshe, showing that even his own (adopted) grandson was not above the law.


Bat Pharoah identified Moshe as being a Israely baby (See Shemot 2:6). The Ramban also states that Moshe was told he was an Israelite (See Ramban 20:11). Perhaps Pharaoh knew that his daughter had brought in a Jewish child into their home to raise as an Egyptian. Perhaps until this point Pharaoh watched Moshe to see which side he would align his loyalties. In Pharaoh's mind the event of killing the Egyptian reflected that Moshe chose to align himself with Israelites and not the Egyptians. This was a slap in the face of Pharaoh.

  • Did you invent this all, or get part or all of it from somewhere? For example, I've never heard that Par'o had known before then that Moshe was Jewish.
    – msh210
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 4:46
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    @msh210 Thank you for the comment. I added two sources to the answer to bring partial support. However, it is a bit speculative. I could not find my source for Pharaoh knowing that Moshe was an Israelite directly. It is an assumption for the answer to work.
    – RCW
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 5:24

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