Numbers 12:1-16 … GOD RESPONDS TO AN ATTACK ON MOSES AND HIS WIFE.
Q.1. What were the two areas of attack on Moses? How did Moses and God respond to these complaints? How do we reconcile the accusation that she was Ethiopian? –(Num.12:1-5) =
Q.2. On what basis did God defend His servant, Moses? What action did God take? –(Num.12:6-10) =
Q.3. Why did Aaron make his appeal through Moses? What was the outcome? Why is undermining leadership so unacceptable? – (Num.12:11-16) =
Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses
12 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. 4 And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5 And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.
10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous,[a] like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us[b] because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” 14 But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15 So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. 16 After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
Q.1. What were the two areas of attack on Moses? How did Moses and God respond to these complaints? How do we understand the accusation that Zipporah was Ethiopian? –(Num.12:1-5) = This was a racially motivated attack by Miriam and Aaron against the wife of Moses. Zipporah was the daughter of the priest of Midian (c.f. Ex.2:16). How do we reconcile the claim that she was Ethiopian? – for he had married a Cushite woman (Num.12:1). (i) The fact that Zipporah lived in the arid parts of Midian, could have meant that she had darker skin. The attack seems to have been a racial slur against Zipporah. (ii) It is possible that Jethro, her father, though he was a Midianite, had married an Ethiopian wife. (iii) It is unlikely that Moses had married a second wife from Ethiopia. Moses sent Zipporah to stay under the protection of Jethro, during his confrontation with Pharaoh. Then at some time Jethro took her and her children back to join the wilderness journey (c.f. Exo.18:1-5; 1 Chron.23:15). Gershom and Eliezer were mentioned as the only children of Moses. It seems that Miriam felt that her elevated status as the sister of Moses, had been upstaged by his wife. This led to a sinister attack on Moses and His leadership – and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the Lord heard it (Num.12:2). It was a nasty attack against Moses who was unable or unwilling to defend himself. This was especially so because – the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth (Num.12:3). God heard the older sister and brother of Moses and responded decisively.
Q.2. On what basis did God defend His servant, Moses? What action did God take? –(Num.12:6-10) = It is true that God had spoken through both Aaron and Miriam. However, to consider themselves as having the same level of relationship with God that Moses had, was arrogance that God would not tolerate – 6 He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. 7 “Not so, with My servant Moses, he is faithful in all My household; 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings. He beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” (Num.12:6-8). God gave Moses His Word face to face. This was unlike the other prophets who received dreams and visions. Since Miriam was the instigator, God struck her with leprosy as punishment.
Q.3. Why did Aaron make his appeal through Moses? What was the outcome? Why is undermining leadership so unacceptable? – (Num.12:11-16) = Aaron was horrified with God’s rebuke, and immediately asked Moses to forgive him. After God’s display of anger, Aaron felt he could not directly make his plea to God, so asked Moses to intervene. God heard the request of Moses, but Miriam was still shut out of the camp for seven days (Num.12:13-15). Leaders should be affirmed and treated with respect, because disunity does much damage to the impact of the Gospel (c.f. 1 Tim.5:17-19; Heb.13:17)
(Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)
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