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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 12

Verses 1-16

  1. INTRO:
    1. Announce: Communion 7am; Cross Walk 11am, Temeku; Easter 8am.
    2. There is a fable of an eagle which could outfly another, and the other didn’t like it. The latter saw a sportsman one day, and said to him: “I wish you would bring down that eagle.” The sportsman replied that he would if he only had some feathers to put into the arrow. So the eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but didn’t quite reach the rival eagle; it was flying too high. The envious eagle pulled out more feathers, and kept pulling them out until he lost so many that he couldn’t fly, and then the sportsman turned around and killed him. [If you’re jealous the only 1 you can hurt is yourself]
  2. PRIDE & PREJUDICE!
    1. MIRIAM & AARON’S COMPLAINT! (1-3)
    2. If you’re in a place of leadership expect criticism, even from members of your own family
      1. Happened to Moses, David(Mical/dance)& Jesus(own family He’s out of his mind Mr3:21)
      2. Here we have a family quarrel that effects the whole camp.
    3. Ethiopian/Cushite - Interracial? The Cushites were not necessarily a different color since people of that name existed in early times in Arabia as well as Cush proper (what is today southern Egypt, Sudan, and northern Ethiopia).
      1. Zipporah, Moses’ 1st wife, had probably died, & no legal restrictions prohibited Hebrews from marrying Cushites (Ex.34:11-16).
      2. But Miriam & Aaron apparently disapproved of the union. Miriam in particular might have felt that her leadership position among the women was threatened by this newcomer’s status, as Moses’ wife.
    4. Keep in mind Moses was 80 at the exodus from Egypt; Aaron was 83; this would make Miriam in her 90’s, as she was old enough to watch over Moses when floating in the Nile.
      1. This is no squabble among youth. These siblings should know better.
      2. Miriam, has led a tremendous life, with tremendous authority – but apparently that is not enough anymore!
      3. She has been part of a leadership team that has led a people who faced no chance of survival in the desert, but instead has led them through peril to the land promised them by God. But she sees what her brother has and wants that too.
        1. Q: Have you ever looked past all that you we’re blessed with? [We all have!]
        2. She had contracted an inward stain. But the bible is a strange book. It puts a blot upon all its portraits (except Christ) & it does so not by mistake but by design. Its blots are as much a bit of the art as are its beauties.
    5. But who exactly was Miriam? - See Ex.15:20,21
      1. Miriam leads the woman in song and dance worshiping God for saving them all from certain death.
      2. 1st Prophetess; musician; leader; dancer; singer; poet.
        1. You could say Moses was Law; Aaron is Religion; & Miriam was Art.
      3. Single whole life, in an age where female celibacy wasn’t a consecrated thing.
      4. Micah 6:4 I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.
      5. Miriam isn’t just another Hebrew, and she isn’t just the sister,...Miriam is one of the three leaders of Israel.
    6. Was Moses’ wife the real problem? Nope, see vs.2.
      1. Their question gets to the heart of the matter.
      2. If there be a hidden evil, circumstances will sooner or later occur in which it will be outwardly manifest.
      3. You will find that, as a rule, those who complain about the way the ball bounces are usually the ones who dropped it.
    7. Miriam & Aaron had a very special place & standing...but it did not entitle them to criticize & rebel against Moses, the one called to lead Israel & to receive divine revelation.
      1. Miriam & Aaron were jealous of the authority God had given Moses, & they wanted him to share it.
      2. Was this a reaction to what God did for the 70 elders? (Spirit coming upon them)
    8. (3) In their self-importance, they accused Moses of arrogance appointing himself as leader, which was the furthest thing from his humble mind.
    9. GOD’S WOODSHED! (4-10)
    10. Taken to the woodshed.
    11. Moses didn’t defend himself; he waited for God to act.
      1. Ps.37:1,7 Do not fret because of evildoers,...Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
      2. If we defend ourselves, we may hinder the Lord from defending us.
      3. When we hand our cause over to God...He comes down!
    12. (6) God informs them of who Moses is…
    13. (8) By challenging Moses’ authority, they were really challenging the Lord’s choice & the work He was doing through His servant.
    14. He sees the form of the Lord - This was fulfilled on the Mount of the Transfiguration. Prior to that he, & others, saw Jehovah in angelic form.
      1. He(Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, Col1:15
    15. (10) So God vindicated Moses & rebuked Miriam & Aaron, laying the punishment on Miriam because she had apparently incited this rebellion. [Note her name preceded Aaron’s]
      1. God’s irony: Miriam’s prejudice - skin color; God’s justice - skin color. ;-)
    16. MIRIAM IS INTERCEDED FOR! (11-13)
    17. How often people turn for help to the very ones they have criticized!
    18. In his meekness, Moses did not rejoice at his sister’s punishment; instead, he prayed for her. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you & persecute you
    19. MIRIAM IS RESTORED! (14-16)
    20. (14) God would heal her...but she would have to bear the shame of her sin for 7 days.
      1. Our intercession may bring pardon & healing; but sin leaves its mark.
      2. You are shut out of the enjoyment of the camp & the march is delayed.
    21. (15) The people didnt journey - For 1 week whole camp waited, sin delaying them again.
      1. The sin of criticism is far more serious than most people realize.
      2. James 3:5,6 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
      3. Criticism - Lord, deliver me from the lust of vindicating myself. Augustine
      4. “If you are a Christian, you can expect folks to criticize, but you ought to live so nobody will believe them!”
      5. I like the fact they don’t leave her behind. “No child(of God) left behind!”
        1. She is thought very highly among the people, in fact they love her so much, the people wait for her, until she is healed and able to travel with them.
    22. Everyone learned that God had provided for them adequately & that it was their job to accept His will for their lives.
    23. Illustration: Back in Ontario when the apples ripened, Mom would sit all seven of us down, Dad included, with pans and paring knives until the mountain of fruit was reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars. She never bothered keeping track of how many we did, though the younger ones undoubtedly proved more of a nuisance than a help: cut fingers, squabbles over who got which pan, apple core fights. But when the job was done, the reward for everyone was the same: the largest chocolate-dipped cone money could buy. A stickler might argue it wasn’t quite fair since the older ones actually peeled apples. But I can’t remember anyone complaining about it. A family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom. In fact, when the store ran out of ice cream and my younger brother had to make do with a popsicle, we felt sorry for him despite his lack of productivity (he’d eaten all the apples he’d peeled that day - both of them).
      1. God wants all his children to enjoy the complete fullness of eternal life.
      2. No true child of God wants it any other way.

Poem: Author Unknown

As I watched them tear a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town,

With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell,
They swung a beam and the side wall fell.

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
And the men you’d hire if you wanted to build?”

He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.”

“I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken years to do.”

​​​​​​​And I thought to myself, as I went my way,
Which of these roles have I tried to play?

Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by rule and square?

Am I shaping my work to a well-made
plan, Patiently doing the best I can?

Or am I a wrecker who walks to town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?

“O Lord let my life and my labors be,
That which will build for eternity!”

Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Numbers 12". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/numbers-12.html. 2017.