The Torah says “And it was in those days that Moshe grew up and went out to his brothers and saw their burdens. He saw an Egyptian man strike a Hebrew man, (one) of his brethren. (Moshe) turned this way and that way and when he saw that no man (was watching), He smote the Egyptian and hid (his body) in the sand” (2:11-12).

Rashi Shemot 2:13-15 says that Datan and Aviram snitched to Pharaoh about what Moshe had done.

How could Datan and Aviram have seen the incident if Moshe was sure no one had seen him kill the Egyptian taskmaster?

  • 2
    Moshe could have been mistaken. He wasn't a navi yet, just a regular guy. Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 21:09
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt even if he was a navi he could have been mistaken.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 20:56

5 Answers 5


There is argument among the commentaries about exactly what happened. Some say (like Rashi on verse 14) that Moshe killed the Egyptian by saying the sacred name of God. Others (like the Ibn Ezra on verse 12) say that this is patently wrong and Moshe hit the Egyptian with a stone. The Ramban on verse 14 walks a middle route saying that Moshe might have outstretched his hand when he recited a curse which killed the man and the others might have seen the outstretched hand and (though Moshe figured they would not have connected that with the killing because he simply stretched his hand) jumped to the conclusion that he hit the Egyptian, or that others saw him bury the body and figured that he had the intent to kill and buried the body so that's enough proof.

There is also the explanation that "there was no man" (in Rashi on verse 12) that it wasn't that there was "no man watching" but that there would be no sufficient man who would have descended from this particular Egyptian so killing him was acceptable.


According to the medrash rabba 1: 28 the man getting beaten was in fact Dassan the husband of the woman who was tricked. The Radal there #41 wants to amend the text to say she was the sister of Dassan, but either way, he had personal knowledge of what transpired, and turned around and slandered Moshe, the man who saved him, or his relative.

See there also #29 when the Torah says that Moshe buried the mitzri in sand, it means the Jews who are compared to sand, and there was noone there besides Yisraelim so he told them you are compared to sand, and just like sand makes no sound when moved from one place to another so too bury this fact amongst yourselves and tell no-one. And so we find that this was made known only through the Yisraelim when he went out the next day and found two Ivrim fighting.

I would suggest another option is that the Jewish man getting beaten told them.


Rashi on "וירא כי אין איש" did not imply that there was no one who saw him kill the mitzri, but that there was no man would be descended from him. This would mean that probably someone saw him do that (e.g Datan and Aviram).


The Medrash Rabbah and Tanchumah explain that Jewish people saw and that ויטמנהו בחול means that he hid it among Jews. He told them, you are like sand and can keep a secret.


Shmoth 2.14 "And he retorted, "Who made you a man, a prince, and a judge over us? Do you plan to slay me as you have slain the Egyptian?" Moses became frightened and said, "Indeed, the matter has become known!""

Here, hadavar הַדָּבָֽר tells us that "the matter" is "the word" - "And Moshe became frightened ... The saying is known." v.14

2.15 "Pharaoh heard this saying, and he sought to slay Moses; so Moses fled from before Pharaoh. He stayed in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well. "

The narrative tells us first, that Moshe saved Datan from the Egyptian and then Moshe slew the Egyptian with the Ineffable Name! Verse 2.15 tells us again that "the saying" was then heard by Pharaoh who sought to slay Moshe.

When Moshe looked this way and that way, and he saw that there was no man, it implies that there were only Israelites (Hebrew slaves) present when he hid the Egyptian in the sand.

The Midrash tells us One Egyptian was task-master over ten Hebrew task-masters, who were over one hundred Hebrew slaves. Datan and Aviram were Hebrew task-masters! Not so nice of fellows. They reported to the Egyptian on a daily basis, except on the second day when Moshe found them fighting. Unaware of what they were fighting about, Moshe tries to make peace between them. Datan mockingly says to Moshe, "Who made you a man, a prince and a judge over us? Do you [literally] say to slay me as you have the Egyptian?"

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