The verb ריב is often translated as quarrel, dispute, murmer, strife or argument, which seems quite logical when looking at Bereshit 13:7 when the herdsmen were bickering about land because it couldn't bear them all in order to dwell together with all their animals.

But in Shemot people seem to ask for reasonable stuff, basic needs, life essential things like water and food. And although the people sighing and show their tempers, does this mean they really had a 'fight' with Moshe? I don't see much discussion, debate or contra-arguments comming from Moshe.

In Shemot 15:24 it is as if the people queried Moshe. A query is a question, often expressing doubt about something or looking for an answer from an authority.

In Shemot 16:3 as if the people sigh and are longing for something

Shemot 17:2 as if they require, or demanding something. (p.s. in 17:3 another word is used for murmering).

Is seems more like the feeling people had in Shemot 15 is growing into what adventually turns into the expression: Is G-d in our midst or not? (Shemot 17:7).

Does the verb ריב really always defines discussion, dispute, strife, fuss or is it also used in other ways? What is it's definition? In which ways is this verb used and does it show different meanings?


1 Answer 1


Rav Hirsch in Beshalach 17:2 explains the difference between וירב and וילן as the difference between a claim for something as a right and a complaint because of actual suffering. The ריב means that the Bnai Yisrael here (and the shepherds in Bereishis) were making claims that something was coming to them. It is similar to what in modern times is caused lawfare and may or may not be justified.

וירב is not תלונה as וילן in verse 3, which we found (from the meaning of לון) to mean seeking relief from some privation or distress that one is beginning to feel, but וירב is chiefly used for establishing a supposed or real claim to something to which one has a right, as in the dispute over the wells (Gen. XXVI, 20). Here they were not yet making any reproaches, did not refer to their requirements, but as a justified claim, demanded water. Where we camp, there must be water:

  • Did they made a claim or arrogate then in the story of Exodus? When using Hirsch his definition; what would M'rivah mean in such a case?
    – Levi
    Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 10:11
  • @user4762 Rav Hirsch tranlates 17:7 masah u'mrivah as Testing and Contending. Commented Jan 29, 2018 at 14:21

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