When the people of Israel left Egypt they did not leave alone. They left with a mixed multitude of many people (Exodus 12:38). What happened to the mixed multitude in the desert and, specifically, after the giving of the Torah? We hear of all the tribes, where they camped in the wilderness, etc., but I do not recall hearing again about the mixed multitude. What might have become of them? Do we have a tradition on this? Beyond a place in the camp layout, should they not have raised the issue of conversion or intermarriage - for the first time after receiving the Torah?

(This question is different from a similar question, What happened to the Eirev Rav?, which discusses what happened to the mixed multitude after the people entered Canaan.)

  • Don't have direct sources for this one, but I recall some points: 1) The Eirev Rav were the major force behind the golden calf 2) Converts are not given a tribe, they acquire land through marriage into the rest of tribes so 3) they resided outside the tribal boundaries established in the desert, but weren't restricted to a specific "place" in the formation. – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 11 '15 at 17:16
  • Yeah, I learned that they all(?!) died after the Golden Calf :( – SAH Jun 29 '18 at 1:44
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    Possible duplicate of What happened to the Eirev Rav? – ertert3terte Jun 29 '18 at 6:11
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    @ShmuelBrin This question is about what happened to the mixed multitude in the desert, not after coming to Israel (it was already marked as a duplicate and reopened a few years ago) – b a Jun 29 '18 at 8:19
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According to B'midbar 11.1 a fire broke out amongst them.

Rashi comments: the extremes of the camp: Heb. בִּקְצֵה הַמַּחֲנֶה. Those untouchable because of their baseness-these were the mixed multitude (See Exod. 12:36). R. Simeon ben Menassia says, The most distinguished (קְצִינִים) among them and the prominent ones. — [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:1]

"The people were looking to complain, and it was evil in the ears of the Lord. The Lord heard and His anger flared, and a fire from the Lord burned among them, consuming the extremes of the camp."

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    OK. But 11-4 says the mixed multitude was still active, leading Israel to ask about meat. – Yehuda W Jun 1 '18 at 15:13
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    Are you saying that they were all wiped out? – Alex Jul 24 '18 at 2:49

So there are two main episodes that the Eiruv Rav (mixed multitude) were instrumental in:

1) Sin of the Golden Calf

In Shemos 32:4 we are told:

וַיִּקַּ֣ח מִיָּדָ֗ם וַיָּ֤צַר אֹתוֹ֙ בַּחֶ֔רֶט וַֽיַּעֲשֵׂ֖הוּ עֵ֣גֶל מַסֵּכָ֑ה וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ אֵ֤לֶּה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֶעֱל֖וּךָ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם׃

This he took from them and cast in a mold, and made it into a molten calf. And they exclaimed, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

Rashi writes:

אלה אלהיך THESE ARE THY GODS, [O ISRAEL] — It does not state that they said “these are our gods, [O Israel]”; hence we may learn that it was the mixed multitude which came up from Egypt that gathered themselves together against Aaron, and it was they who made it and afterwards led Israel astray after it (Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Tisa 19).

This Midrash as well as the Chizkuni note that they didn't just force through the construction of the golden calf but the sorcerers amongst them made it look that it was communicating back to the people thereby making it all the more believable that it was a suitable replacement for Moshe.

2) They were the מתאוננים - The Complainers

In Bamidbar 11:4 we're told:

וְהָֽאסַפְסֻף֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּקִרְבּ֔וֹ הִתְאַוּ֖וּ תַּאֲוָ֑ה וַיָּשֻׁ֣בוּ וַיִּבְכּ֗וּ גַּ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מִ֥י יַאֲכִלֵ֖נוּ בָּשָֽׂר׃

And the gathering that was among them fell a lusting; and the children of Israel also wept on their part, and said: ‘Would that we were given flesh to eat!

Rashi qualifies that this gathering was the Eiruv Rav:

והאספסף AND THE THRONG — This was the mixed multitude that had gathered themselves unto them when they left Egypt (the word is from the root אסף, “to gather”) (Sifrei Bamidbar 86)...

Their complaining then triggered a domino effect on the rest of the Jewish people. Chizkuni asserts:

וישובו ויבכו גם בני ישראל, “and in due course even the elite of the people, the בני ישראל, also joined the weeping of discontent that had been started by the mixed multitude. This is when they expressed their urge to be given meat to eat.

Furthermore, they weren't just asking and complaining for meat. According to Sforno there was a more deep-seated desire:

מי יאכלנו בשר?, They said this in order to test if He would permit incestuous relations to His people (compare Psalms 78:18 where Assaph says וינסו א-ל בלבבם לשאל אוכל לנפשם, they asked openly for meat, and in their hearts for sexual gratification other than by their wives).

  • This answer only sums up the (possible) sins and mistakes, i.e. what they might have done wrong according to some of the sages, but this doesn’t really answer the question. What have become of them after Matan Torah / Sinai. Were all wiped out or erased. Where there any ‘good’ spared, did they became Jews, did they left adventually? What’s the reason who don’t really read anything about them anymore afterwards... – Levi Jan 15 at 6:52

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