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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Numbers 12

 

 

Verses 1-16

MIRIAM AND AARON BECOME CRITICS

(vs.1-16)

Soon after God's dealing so seriously with Israel's complaints, both Miriam and Aaron are infected with a similar spirit of murmuring. It was plainly Miriam who led in this, but she influenced Aaron in the same way. they spoke against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman, but also used this occasion to question the fact that God had spoken through Moses, urging that He had also spoken through them. Scripture does not forbid marriages between whites and blacks, though 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 forbids a believer to marry an unbeliever. But to use an occasion like this to put the Lord's servant down in order that they may virtually take his place is wickedness in the sight of the Lord.

Moses did not fight for his own rights, however. We are told that he was more humble than any other on earth. Miriam was fighting for women's rights, but Moses did not fight back (v.3). He could fully leave this matter in the hands of the Lord, so that he left the scene clear for the Lord to act. The Lord suddenly spoke, calling all three to come to the tabernacle (v.4).

Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle. what manifestation they saw may be a question, but they knew the Lord was there. Then He called Aaron and Miriam. (Notice the order of their names is reversed from verse 1). They went forward to stand (as it were) in the prisoners' dock.

The Lord then spoke directly and solemnly to Aaron and Miriam, telling them that if there was a prophet among the children of Israel, He Himself would make Himself known to the prophet by a vision or a dream (v.6). Was this the case with either Aaron or Miriam? No, not even this. How then could they claim to be mouthpieces for the Lord?

But Moses, God's servant, had more than visions or dreams, and God commended him as being faithful in all God's house. God spoke to him plainly, not in dark or enigmatic words, but face to face, just as plainly as He was now speaking to Aaron and Miriam (v.8), and Moses even saw the form of the Lord. This form, or appearance, is not described, nor does it need to be. But the Lord adds the searching, solemn question, "Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?"

How could Aaron and Miriam ever forget such words spoken directly by the Lord? But this was enough for God to speak to indicate His anger. As He left, the cloud departed from above the tabernacle and Miriam was suddenly inflicted with the dread disease of leprosy, visible for all to see. Today, is God any less angry at the refusal of His authority by many (even believers) who are like "all those in Asia" who had turned away from Paul (2 Timothy 1:15)? No indeed! Let us not dare to think lightly of the authority of God declared by His chosen apostles and recorded clearly in the scriptures.

Miriam was older than both Aaron and Moses, and certainly ought to have known better than to question the authority God had given to Moses. Still, Aaron was both shocked and subdued at God's judgment against her and he appealed to Moses, confessing that he and Miriam had foolishly sinned, and desiring that Moses would intercede to God for her (vs.11-12). Actually, the leprosy was only a physical picture of the breaking out of evil. The actual breaking out of sinful rebellion in speaking against Moses was worse than the physical infliction which God gave in order to make Miriam (and Aaron) feel the seriousness of their sin.

The meekness of Moses is again evident when he prays that God might heal Miriam. He did not even tell Aaron that Miriam had brought this upon herself, so should face the consequences. However, while God showed great mercy in healing her, He told Moses that even if her father had only spit in her face she would be ashamed for seven days. Therefore, let her be put out of the camp for seven days. In other words, her restoration must be complete (as number 7 implies) before being received again into the camp.

Thus we are reminded that God, in showing mercy, does not ignore proper government. If He did so, we should not learn to rightly judge our sinful actions and would have little exercise to be kept from repeating the same evils. After this Israel moved from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Numbers 12:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/numbers-12.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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