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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Numbers 12

Verses 1-4

NUMBERS - TWELVE

Verses l-4:

"Ethiopian," Cushite, a descendant of Ham.

This cannot refer to Zipporah. She was a Midianite, a descendant of Abraham by Keturah, Ge 25:1-6. No mention is made of Zipporah after Ex 18. The inference is that Zipporah had died, and that Moses had remarried. There is nothing in Scripture which tells where she came from, what was her name, nor when and where Moses married this woman.

There is no Scripture record that God condemned Moses for his marriage to the Cushite woman. The only condemnation came from his sister and brother.

Moses’ marriage displeased Miriam. Scripture does not record how long this displeasure festered before it erupted into open rebellion against Moses. The text implies that Miriam influenced Aaron to join her sedition.

Miriam was a prophetess, Ex 15:20. Her opposition to Moses’ marriage may have stemmed from a spirit of nationalism. She may have regarded Moses’ choice of a wife as demeaning to his role as Israel’s leader. Her protest implies that she considered herself as well-qualified as Moses to be the leader of God’s people.

There is a sense in which Jehovah hears all. And there is another sense in which He chooses not to hear, and thus not to act, as in the case of Moses’ complaint, Nu 11:10-15. In the present text, He did hear the contention against Moses, and He moved swiftly to act before the rebellion could spread to others in the camp.

Verse 3 describes the character of Moses, as being meek above all other men. "Meek," anav, "humble," meaning "to have a proper opinion of one’s self." Another definition: "to see one’s self as God sees." It does not mean servile, or self-denigrating.

This definition of Moses’ character shows there was no basis for the opposition of Moses and Aaron.

Jehovah summoned Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to "come out" from their place before the Tabernacle, to appear before the Lord.

"Suddenly," pithom, quickly or unexpectedly. The voice likely came before they thought there would be Divine intervention.

Verses 5-9

Verses 5-9:

Jehovah came down in the visible manifestation of His presence, the pillar of cloud, and confronted Miriam and Aaron. This must have taken place at the entrance to the courtyard, since Miriam (a woman) was not permitted inside the Tabernacle itself.

God revealed His will to prophets either in visions, or in dreams. This was by an inner voice, one which others could not hear. Moses occupied a unique role, as not only a prophet, but as the intimate friend of God, with whom God spoke face to face.

God regarded Moses as "faithful in all (His) house." The term does not refer only to the Tabernacle, but to the entire "household" of Israel, e.g. Heb 3:1-6.

God’s obvious choice of Moses to this special role should have been evident both to Miriam and Aaron. They should have feared to speak against him, which in effect was to speak against God who had chosen him.

This illustrates the importance of the role of those today whom God chooses to serve as spiritual leaders. It is dangerous to speak against those whom God chooses, as they minister in their sphere of service, Heb 13:17.

Verses 10-13

Verses 10-13:

God demonstrated his displeasure by the judgment imposed upon Miriam. She became leprous, a case fully developed, as opposed to the beginning stages of the disease. All who beheld her could see this was an obvious instance of Divine judgment.

The leprosy did not affect Aaron, but Miriam only. The reasons:

(1) Aaron was not the instigator of this sedition; Miriam was.

(2) Aaron was easily led and influenced by others, and was of an affectionate nature, Le 10:19. His punishment consisted of witnessing that of others.

(3) Aaron was the high priest, and any disgrace upon him would be disgrace upon the office.

Aaron interceded with Moses for Miriam’s healing. Moses in turn interceded with God on her behalf.

Moses’ humility is evident in his intercession. He held no grudge against Miriam and Aaron for their resentment of him. This illustrates the attitude God’s child today should have toward those who mistreat them, Mt 5:10-12; 21-26; 38-48; 18:21, 22; Eph 4:32.

Verses 14-16

Verses 14-16:

"If her father had. . .spit in her face" refers to a custom of that time, which dealt with a serious matter, De 25:9. It marks an act of public disgrace inflicted by one who had the legal right to do so. For a father publicly to spit in the face of his child meant that he was thoroughly ashamed of what that child had done. This subjected the child to public shame, and was a serious matter. It required the child to spend seven days in public mourning, isolated from friends and loved ones.

Miriam’s conduct was highly offensive to Jehovah. He had found it necessary to shame her publicly. Therefore it was only fitting that she should spend the required seven days in public mourning and repentance. It may be implied it was necessary that she submit to the public rites required for ceremonial cleansing, Le Nu 14.

Miriam’s punishment was humiliating to her, as a prophetess, and as the sister of Israel’s leader and law-giver.

Israel remained in camp until Miriam’s period of cleansing was fulfilled. They then removed from Hazeroth to the next station.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Numbers 12". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/numbers-12.html. 1985.