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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 12

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-9

The Sin of Miriam and Aaron

v. 1. And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses, they also became infected with the virus of discontent, because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman, a Cushite, his first wife, Zipporah, apparently having died in the wilderness. Marriage with an Egyptian woman was not forbidden, but Miriam, and under her leadership Aaron also, took this opportunity of registering their jealousy of their brother's position among the people of the Lord, since the prestige of Moses had been established more firmly than ever by reason of the recent happenings.

v. 2. And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath He not spoken also by us? Miriam, as the prophetess, Exodus 15:20, thought herself and her brother Aaron, as the high priest and the bearer of the mysterious light and truth, Exodus 28:30, entitled to a share in the teaching of the people; they wanted to have equal rights with their younger brother. And the Lord heard it; He took note of the complaint, for it was His intention to adjust matters with all possible speed.

v. 3. (Now the man Moses -was very meek, willing to subordinate himself to others, fully satisfied with a position of less importance, above all the men "which "were upon the face of the earth. ) He was ever ready to endure in silence and to commit his justification to the Lord. This note is not a specimen of self-glorification, but a simple statement of fact, and thereby a defense of himself, for he swallowed the insult in silence. Not so, however, the Lord, whose honor and authority was at stake.

v. 4. And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses and unto Aaron and unto Miriam, Come out, ye three, unto the Tabernacle of the Congregation. He wanted to set an example at once. And they three came out.

v. 5. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, which here again sank down from its position above the Tabernacle, and stood in the door of the Tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forth, the cloud separating them from Moses. Moses was thus on the inside, at the very door of the Holy Place, while Miriam and Aaron stood out in the court, probably on the east side of the altar of burnt offering.

v. 6. And He said, Hear now My words: If there be a prophet among you, any ordinary person endued with prophetic gifts in some form, as was the case with Miriam, I, the Lord, will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. Those were the forms of communication which the Lord used with ordinary prophets.

v. 7. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all Mine house, having approved himself in his entire service, in all the worship connected with the Tabernacle as the Sanctuary of Jehovah in the midst of His people. To him God had entrusted His house, His people, to him He had given the leadership of the children of Israel.

v. 8. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, and not merely in obscure visions, even apparently, so that Moses could see God in some clear manifestation, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude, the form, of the Lord shall he behold; wherefore, then, were ye not afraid to speak against My servant Moses? Reverential awe of God, whose minister and representative Moses was, should have kept Miriam and Aaron from uttering a single word against his authority.

v. 9. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and He departed. Having called them to account, having rebuked them for their presumption, the Lord removed His presence from them, preparatory to inflicting some form of punishment upon them. The entire worship was thus interrupted, the entire machinery of the cultus came to a standstill. God Himself is the Judge between His servants and those that dare to oppose their own notions to the precepts of the Lord. It is a dangerous thing to challenge the authority of such as have the Word of the Lord on their side.

Verses 10-16

Miriam's Leprosy Breaks out and is Healed

v. 10. And the cloud departed from off the Tabernacle, it mounted aloft, in token of the fact that the relations between God and His people were severed; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow; instead of being acknowledged by God as a leader of the people by the side of Moses, she was cursed with the plague, which would exclude her from the midst of the congregation as an unclean person, an outcast; and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous; her whole body was seized with the terrible sickness in a moment of time.

v. 11. And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, this form of humble address showing that he had learned his lesson and was ready to acknowledge the authority of Moses without question, lay not the sin upon us wherein we have done foolishly, literally, "wherewith we have played the fool," acted without decent consideration, and wherein we have sinned.

v. 12. Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb, a still-born child, half rotted. The loathsome picture gives some idea of the condition in which Miriam found herself in consequence of her folly.

v. 13. And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee. Far from retaining a grudge and carrying any resentment to the point where he would have refused an intercession, Moses at once pleads with the Lord to heal the repentant sinner.

v. 14. And the Lord said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? Let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again. To this humiliation Miriam had to submit, like any ordinary leper at the time of his cleansing, Leviticus 14.

v. 15. And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days, pronounced clean indeed by Jehovah Himself, but bound to observe the full ceremony of cleansing, with the prescribed sacrifice; and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.

v. 16. And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the Wilderness of Paran, on the south border of Canaan. As Miriam was healed from her external leprosy, when she proved her change of heart, so the Lord will heal us from the leprosy of sin, if we but confess our trespasses freely. He is the Lord that heals us.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 12". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/numbers-12.html. 1921-23.
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