And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
Miriam, as a prophetess (compare Exodus 15:20-21) no less than as the sister of Moses and Aaron, took the first rank among the women of Israel; and Aaron may be regarded as the ecclesiastical head of the whole nation. But instead of being grateful for these high dignities they challenged the special vocation of Moses and the exclusive authority which God had assigned to him. Miriam was the instigator, from the fact that her name stands conspicuously first Numbers 12:1, and that the punishment Numbers 12:10 fell on her alone. She probably considered herself as supplanted, and that too by a foreigner. Aaron was misled this time by the urgency of his sister, as once before Exodus 32 by that of the people.
The Ethiopian woman whom he had married - (Hebrew, "Cushite," compare Genesis 2:13; Genesis 10:6) It is likely that Zipporah Exodus 2:21 was dead, and that Miriam in consequence expected to have greater influence than ever with Moses. Her disappointment at his second marriage would consequently be very great.
The marriage of Moses with a woman descended from Ham was not prohibited, so long as she was not of the stock of Canaan (compare Exodus 34:11-16); but it would at any time have been offensive to that intense nationality which characterized the Jews. The Christian fathers note in the successive marriage of Moses with a Midianite and an Ethiopian a foreshadowing of the future extension to the Gentiles of God's covenant and its promises (compare Psalm 45:9 ff; Sol 1:4 ff); and in the complaining of Miriam and Aaron a type of the discontent of the Jews because of such extension: compare Luke 15:29-30.
And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.
Hath the Lord ... - i. e. Is it merely, after all, by Moses that the Lord hath spoken?
(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)
The man Moses was very meek - In this and in other passages in which Moses no less unequivocally records his own faults (compare Numbers 20:12 ff; Exodus 4:24 ff; Deuteronomy 1:37), there is the simplicity of one who bare witness of himself, but not to himself (compare Matthew 11:28-29). The words are inserted to explain how it was that Moses took no steps to vindicate himself, and why consequently the Lord so promptly intervened.
And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.
And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.
And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.
With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
Mouth to mouth - i. e. without the intervention of any third person or thing: compare the marginal references.
Even apparently - Moses received the word of God direct from Him and plainly, not through the medium of dream, vision, parable, dark saying, or such like; compare the marginal references.
The similitude of the Lord shall he behold - But, "No man hath seen God at any time," says John (John 1:18 : compare 1 Timothy 6:16, and especially Exodus 33:20 ff). It was not therefore the Beatific Vision, the unveiled essence of the Deity, which Moses saw on the one hand. Nor was it, on the other hand, a mere emblematic representation (as in Ezekiel 1:26 ff, Daniel 7:9), or an Angel sent as a messenger. It was the Deity Himself manifesting Himself so as to be cognizable to mortal eye. The special footing on which Moses stood as regards God is here laid down in detail, because it at once demonstrates that the supremacy of Moses rested on the distinct appointment of God, and also that Miriam in contravening that supremacy had incurred the penalty proper to sins against the theocracy.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.
And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.
And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.
Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb.
As one dead - leprosy was nothing short of a living death, a poisoning of the springs, a corrupting of all the humors, of life; a dissolution little by little of the whole body, so that one limb after another actually decayed and fell away. Compare the notes at Leviticus 13.
And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.
Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee - Others render these words: "Oh not so; heal her now, I beseech Thee."
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.
If her father ... - i. e. If her earthly parent had treated her with contumely (compare Deuteronomy 25:9) she would feel for a time humiliated, how much more when God has visited her thus?
And the Lord spake - The mission of the spies was first suggested by the Israelites themselves. See Deuteronomy 1:22.
And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.
And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.