Big Sister and Little Brother

Although Moses was the most humble person in all the world, Miriam and Aaron started complaining, “Moses had no right to marry that woman from Ethiopia! Who does he think he is? The LORD has spoken to us, not just to him.”

The LORD heard their complaint and told Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the entrance of the sacred tent. There the LORD appeared in a cloud and told Aaron and Miriam to come closer. Then after commanding them to listen carefully, he said:

“I, the LORD, speak to prophets
in visions and dreams.
But my servant Moses
is the leader of my people.
He sees me face to face,
and everything I say to him
is perfectly clear.
You have no right to criticize
my servant Moses.”

The LORD became angry at Aaron and Miriam. And after the LORD left and the cloud disappeared from over the sacred tent, Miriam’s skin turned white with leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened to her, he said to Moses, “Sir, please don’t punish us for doing such a foolish thing. Don’t let Miriam’s flesh rot away like a child born dead!”

Moses prayed, “LORD God, please heal her.”

But the LORD replied, “Miriam would be disgraced for seven days if her father had punished her by spitting in her face. So make her stay outside the camp for seven days, before coming back.” (Numbers 12:1-14)

Just who did Moses think he was? Zipporah had been Moses’ wife when he returned to Egypt. Whether she had died, whether Moses had divorced her, or whether Moses was adding a second wife to his household is unknown. For some reason, Miriam and Aaron thought Moses had no right to marry the Ethiopian woman. By claiming that God spoke to them, too, they meant to imply that God agreed with them.

God told Moses’ siblings that they had no business claiming to be speaking for God when they weren’t. God told them that he and Moses spent a lot of time together, the implication being that he didn’t spend that kind of time with them.

Moses’ sister Miriam was singled out for punishment. Perhaps she was the ringleader. In any case, God gave her leprosy which turned her as white as snow. Perhaps she had objected to Moses’ nuptials on the basis of his future wife’s skin color. So God turned her exceptionally white since she seemed so fond of that color. Her punishment was only temporary. God healed her within a week.
God will protect his own. If God is for us, who can be against us? Even our closest families members can’t stand in God’s way.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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