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Num 12:1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman-
Moses "took" (not married) another woman, an Ethiopian- probably a  slave woman, or possibly a cheap woman. Moses' brother and sister were ashamed that their brother was involved with a woman like this. Whoever she was, Moses was under the one man: one woman standard of the garden of Eden. At the time of Num. 10:11,29, Moses asks Jethro ["Hobab"] to remain with the people as a guide through the desert. I have suggested that the events of Ex. 18 should be inserted after Num. 10:10 and before Num. 10:11. In this case the argument between Moses, Aaron and Miriam about Zipporah in Num. 12:1 would have occurred after Zipporah had been accepted again by Moses as his wife. But "Cushite" is a strange term for Zipporah. Perhaps this Cushite was one of the "mixed multitude" who left Egypt, and was taken after his divorce with Zipporah. For the Israelite leader to marry a black woman would have been rather like an apartheid era white South African premier marrying a black servant woman. It demonstrated Moses' humility, and also his attraction to the idea of non-Israelites entering the community of God's people. This would have made Moses a case of divorce and remarriage. It was certainly no barrier to his public service.

But it seems to me that they were using his marriage as an opportunity to bring him down, as they had their own agenda regarding the leadership of the nation. If you feel you have been slandered by gossip in the church, remember that almost every servant of God has been through this at the hands of those they counted as their brethren: Joseph, Moses, Job, David, Jeremiah, Nehemiah, Paul, and above all the Lord Himself. Miriam and Aaron implied Moses (their own brother!) was immoral (Num. 12:1). The comment that Moses was the humblest man on earth is made in the very context of his enduring unjust criticism in a spiritual way (Num. 12:3). The way Paul commanded Timothy not to even consider a complaint against an elder unless another two or three had been eye-witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19) is proof enough that he expected elders to be slandered from within the ecclesia. The more you read between the lines of Paul's letters, the more evident it is that his very own brethren almost unbelievably slandered him.


Num 12:2 They said, Has Yahweh indeed spoken only with Moses? Hasn’t He spoken also with us? And Yahweh heard it-
It is a theme of the record of the wilderness journeys that God heard the thoughts and secret complaints of His people. His total knowledge and sensitive awareness of every word and thought of our wilderness journey should have an abiding impression on how we think and talk.

Num 12:3 Now the man Moses was very humble, above all the men who were on the surface of the earth-
The Hebrew for "meek" means one brought down; he was made meek. The word can also mean 'depressed'. His struggles with depression were used by God to bring him to this acme of humility. Thus the man Moses was made very meek, until he was the meekest man alive on earth (Num. 12:3 Heb.). Moses appears to have been very angry at times, but this may be understandable in terms of his depression, and this great commendation, that he was the humblest person, must be allowed its full weight in our interpretation of his character. True greatness is in humility, as the New Testament often teaches. Moses was the leader because he was the most humble.

 “A stuttering shepherd, shy of leadership and haunted by his crime of passion” in slaying the Egyptian… these things developed this in him. Remember that Moses himself wrote this. It's an autobiographical comment, reflecting of course the Spirit of Him who knows every heart, and could make such a statement. And yet he writes it in recording how God had rebuked Aaron and Miriam for criticizing him, and how He had told them that He spoke with Moses alone face to face. We can imagine Moses blushing, with hung head. And then he makes the comment, that he was made the most humble man… Appreciating the honour of seeing so much of God, when he himself was a sinner, was part of that humbling process. All Israel will ultimately go through this when they face up to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ: " Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day" (Is. 2:10,11). This certainly reads like an allusion to Moses' cowering in the rock, humbling himself in the dust, before the glory of Yahweh. Our glimpses of the wonder of the Father's character should have the same effect upon us, just beholding the glory of God, i.e. the manifestation of His perfect character is Christ, should change us into the same image (2 Cor. 3:18- another invitation to see ourselves as Moses). What a compliment! The most humble man that was then alive; and humility is of great value to God, according to the Proverbs and 1 Pet. 3:4. That the leader of possibly 3 million people for forty years could be the meekest man is a sure wonder. Perhaps this comment is made at this point because Moses weakness in the previous chapter had perhaps further developed his humility. He truly cries unto God to heal Miriam of the punishment she was given for criticizing him. 

God’s comment on Moses was: “the man Moses was very great” (Ex. 11:3). Yet it is also written here that “the man Moses was very meek” (Num. 12:3). Putting the two passages together we have the clear lesson that he who humbles himself is made great. Miriam and Aaron try to humiliate Moses because of the Ethiopian woman he had palled up with in earlier days. But his response was humility itself; so much so that the record comments: "The man Moses was very meek (some suggest the Hebrew implies 'made very meek', as a process), above all the men which were upon the face of the earth". 

 

Num 12:4 Yahweh spoke suddenly to Moses, to Aaron, and to Miriam, You three come out to the Tent of Meeting! The three of them came out-
The glory of the “similitude of the Lord” that Moses saw and reflected (Num. 12:4) is likened to “the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Like Moses, Jewish people have that glory, but they have it veiled; they potentially have it, but it is hidden, because their minds are veiled. This could possibly suggest that Paul saw more potential in the Jewish mind for Christ than other races; thus he speaks in Rom. 11 of how the natural branch which has been cut off [Israel] will be more effectively grafted back into the olive tree than the wild Gentile branches. This of course has similarities with the Lord’s teaching about Himself as the vine, whose unfruitful branches had been cut off (Jn. 15:2). Israel “much more” than the Gentiles can be grafted back in, whereas Gentile converts do this “against nature” (Rom. 11:24).


Num 12:5 Yahweh came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward-
"A pillar" rather than "the pillar" could suggest that this was an especially intense manifestation of God through an Angel. God is extremely sensitive to the slander of His people, and has an especial interest in preserving the truly humble.


Num 12:6 He said, Hear now My words. If there is a prophet among you, I Yahweh will make Myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream-
Heb. 1:1 states that God spoke to the prophets in various manners. We can understand by this that inspiration took various forms. Here God tells Moses and Aaron that [at that time] He reveals Himself to prophets by dreams and visions, but with His prophet Moses, He uses another method- He spoke with Moses “mouth to mouth”. Whilst all prophets spoke God’s word, they each had different processes of inspiration at work. God had indeed spoken to Miriam and Aaron, but in a one off sense. They are being told here that they are wrong to assume that they are regularly being given revelations from God. The fact they received God's word in the past at specific times didn't mean they were justified in their claims to leadership.


Num 12:7 My servant Moses is not so. He is so faithful in all My house-
Paul quotes this in Heb. 3:2,5, but making the point that Moses' technical obedience to all the commands about building the tabernacle, the house or dwelling place of Yahweh, was nothing compared to the work of the Lord Jesus. For He was not only legally obedient, He developed a character far beyond that. And on the basis of that utter perfection was able to build an eternal dwelling place of God in a group of redeemed persons. God appeared to prophets in visions regarding specific things at specific times (:6). But He spoke with Moses regularly, face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. That source of regular, ongoing revelation was infinitely higher than the occasional revelations to Aaron and Miriam in visions in the past.


Num 12:8 that with him I will speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in riddles; and he shall see Yahweh’s form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?-
God spoke to Moses "mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of Yahweh shall he behold" (Num. 12:8) is the basis of 1 Cor. 13:12: "Now (in the period of the Spirit gifts) we see through a glass darkly; but then (in the dispensation of the completed word) face to face: now I know in part (from the ministry of the gifts); but then shall I know, even as also I am known". The point of this connection is simply this: The close relationship between God and Moses is now available to us through the word. But do we feel God speaking to us face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Ex. 33:11)? For this is how close God and Moses came through the word. Yet it is possible. An urgent devotion to the word is needed by us as a community. This is what we really need exhortation about.

Paul speaks as if he has in one sense matured into "love", no longer a child but a man; yet he writes as if he is still in the partial, immature phase, seeing in a mirror darkly, waiting for the day when he would see "face to face". Likewise "Now I know in part, but then shall I know..." (1 Cor. 13:12). It's the 'now but not yet' situation which we often encounter in Scripture. In a sense we have attained to the mature state of love; in reality, we are still far from it. Paul is alluding to Num. 12:8 LXX, where God says that He spoke with Moses face to face and not in dark similitudes. Paul felt that he wasn't yet as Moses, encountering God 'face to face' in the life of mature love. He was still seeing through a glass darkly. But some time later, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he was now beholding the glory of the Lord's face [as it is in Christ] just as Moses did, "with unveiled face", and bit by bit, that glory was shining from him (2 Cor. 3:18 RV). And hopefully we feel the same- that bit by bit, we are getting there. So let's take Paul's urging seriously: to grasp the utter supremacy of the life of love, to "follow after love", to press relentlessly towards that state of final maturity which is love (1 Cor. 14:1).

The extent of inspiration is revealed by the way that God says He spoke with Moses "mouth to mouth"- not 'mouth to ear', as if Moses just sat and listened; but mouth to mouth in the sense that God placed His words inside the mouth of Moses (Num. 12:8). Thus what Moses spoke forth wasn't merely the memory of what his ears had heard from God's mouth; rather it was God's own words put somehow within him.

 
Num 12:9 The anger of Yahweh was kindled against them; and He departed-
The departure of Yahweh is parallel with the departure of the cloud (:10), again showing that there was an Angel within the cloud which ascended and descended. The implication of :10 could be that the conversation enveloped them all in the cloud, and when the cloud departed, Miriam stood there stricken white as snow.


Num 12:10 The cloud departed from over the Tent; and behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. Aaron looked at Miriam, and behold, she was leprous-
Leprosy was a symbol of sin. Moses had himself had the experience of being struck leprous "as white as snow" and then quickly healed from it (Ex. 4:6). He was thus shown that human sin and weakness were not going to stop God's purpose going forward. Moses would have been able to see her leprosy with the eye of faith, remembering his own experience; and Miriam likewise would have been encouraged by Moses' experience to believe that the affliction could quickly be healed. If she perceived the similarities between herself and her brother. And we likewise can take encouragement from others' experiences, insofar as we are thoughtful about life. And if we are familiar with the Biblical records and biographies of the lives of God's previous servants.


Num 12:11 Aaron said to Moses, Oh, my lord, please don’t count this sin against us, in which we have done foolishly, and in which we have sinned-
Aaron doesn't instinctively pray for his own self-preservation- that the leprosy didn't also break out upon him. Instead he prays for his sister's healing. "Don't count this sin..." is "lay not the sin upon us.... which we sinned". To carry sin therefore is not the same as the sin. To carry sin is to bear the result and consequence of sin. This was what Jesus bore on the cross. Therefore the consequence of every sin is crucifixion, death by torture. And Jesus took this for us. He knew from Isaiah 53 that He was to bear Israel's sins, that the judgments for their sins were to fall upon Him. Israel ‘bore their iniquities’ by being condemned for them (Num. 14:34,35; Lev. 5:17; 20:17); to be a sin bearer was therefore to be one condemned. To die in punishment for your sin was to bear you sin. There is a difference between sin, and sin being laid upon a person. Num. 12:11 brings this out: “Lay not the sin upon us… wherein we have sinned”. The idea of sin being laid upon a person therefore refers to condemnation for sin. Our sin being laid upon Jesus therefore means that He was treated as if He were a condemned sinner. He briefly endured within Him the torment of soul which the condemned will feel.

Often the Spirit points out that the sinner is only harming himself by his actions- and yet he earnestly pursues his course, in the name of self-interest and self-benefit (Num. 16:38; Prov. 19:8; 20:2; Hab. 2:20; Lk. 7:30). Sin is therefore associated by God with utter and derisible foolishness (e.g. Num. 12:11; 2 Tim. 3:9); but this isn't how man in his unwisdom perceives it at all. Indeed, to him self-denial is inexplicable folly and blindness to the essentials of human existence. "This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah (pause to meditate)" (Ps. 49:13). The folly of sin is only fully evident to God.

Num 12:12 Let her not, I pray, be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb-
The description of Miriam in Num. 12:12 LXX is quoting from Job 3:16 LXX; as if both Job and Miriam represented apostate Israel. This description of Miriam indicates that the "leprosy" was not Hansen's disease, leprosy as we now know it. For leprosy doesn't begin with such dramatic manifestations. See on :14. 


Num 12:13 Moses cried to Yahweh, saying, Heal her, God, I beg You!-
Faith is inculcated by an appreciation of the height of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus. He now has all power in Heaven and in earth, and this in itself should inspire us with faith in prayer and hope in His coming salvation. On the basis of passages like Ex. 4:7; Num. 12:10-15; 2 Kings 5:7,8, "leprosy was regarded as a "stroke" only to be removed by the Divine hand which had imposed it". The leper of Mk. 1:40 lived with this understanding, and yet he saw in Jesus nothing less than God manifest. Inspired by the height of the position which he gave Jesus in his heart, he could ask him in faith for a cure: "If you will, you can [as only God was understood to be able to] make me clean".


Num 12:14 Yahweh said to Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, shouldn’t she be ashamed seven days? Let her be shut up outside of the camp seven days, and after that she shall be brought in again-
I suggested on Lev. 13:1 that the plague of leprosy was not Hansen's disease as we now know it. See on :12. The Hebrew for "leprosy" is literally 'a stroke', and here we have an example of a person being struck down and then isolated for a period of repentance. Leprosy as we know it would not have been cured so quickly. Leprosy had no cure in the ancient world. And yet the legislation in Lev. 13,14 sounds as if after a relatively short time, the affliction could be lifted- and then a sin offering had to be made. The decisions and diagnosis of the affliction was to be made by the priests, not physicians. I conclude therefore that we should pay more attention to the Hebrew word here translated "leprosy". It is the same word as used for the "stroke" of Divine judgment. This makes more sense throughout the legislation. God could smite sinners with this affliction, mistranslated as "leprosy". If the sinner repented sufficiently, it would be lifted. But the priest would judge that, and therefore sin offerings were required to complete the cleansing process. It is no sin to get sick with leprosy; but if we understand this affliction as a Divine stroke, then it all makes so much more sense.   


Num 12:15 Miriam was shut up outside of the camp seven days, and the people didn’t travel until Miriam was brought in again-
The overall progress of God's people is hindered by the unresolved sin of their leadership. This isn't the same as the false notion of 'guilt by association'. There is also the idea present here that true spiritual progress of God's people towards His Kingdom will not be achieved by abandoning smitten sinners in the desert. They must be "brought in again". We think of how during Paul's final shipwreck, salvation was made conditional upon all abiding in the ship.


Num 12:16 Afterward the people travelled from Hazeroth, and encamped in the wilderness of Paran-
Num. 33:18 says that "They departed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah", whilst Num. 12:16 has "the people travelled from Hazeroth, and encamped in the wilderness of Paran". Rithmah was in the wilderness of Paran, which covered a large area. The intellectual desperation of Bible critics in raising this kind of supposed "contradiction" speaks more about them than anything else. Such intellectual desperation is symptomatic of a struggling, uneasy conscience.