|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:10-16 The cloud departed, and Miriam became leprous. When God goes, evil comes: expect no good when God departs. Her foul tongue, as Bishop Hall says, was justly punished with a foul face. Aaron, as priest, was judge of the leprosy. He could not pronounce her leprous without trembling, knowing himself to be equally guilty. But if she was thus punished for speaking against Moses, what will become of those who sin against Christ? Aaron, who joined his sister in speaking against Moses, is forced for himself and his sister, to beseech him, and to speak highly of him whom he had so lately blamed. Those who trample upon the saints and servants of God, will one day be glad to make court to them. It is well when rebukes produce confession of sin and repentance. Such offenders, though corrected and disgraced, shall be pardoned. Moses made it appear, that he forgave the injury done him. To this pattern of Moses, and that of our Saviour, who said, Father, forgive them, we must conform. A reason is given for Miriam's being put out of the camp for seven days; because thus she ought to accept the punishment of her sin. When under the tokens of God's displeasure for sin, it becomes us to take shame to ourselves. This hindered the people's progress in their march forward towards Canaan. Many things oppose us, but nothing so hinders us in the way to heaven, as sin.
Verse 14. - The Lord said unto Moses. Presumably in the tabernacle, whither Moses would have returned to supplicate God. If her father had but spit in her face. The "but" is superfluous, and obscures the sense; the act mentioned is referred to not as something trifling, but as something in its way very serious. The Septuagint renders it correctly εἰ ὁ πατὴρ... πτύων ἐνέπτυσεν. The Targums have, "if her father had corrected her." Probably they used this euphemism from a sense of a certain want of dignity and propriety in the original expression, considered as coming from the mouth of God. The act in question was, however, not uncommon in itself, and in significance clearly marked (see Deuteronomy 25:9). It was the distinctive note of public disgrace inflicted by one who had a right to inflict it. In the case of a father, it meant that he was thoroughly ashamed of his child, and judged it best (which would be only in extreme cases) to put his child to shame before all the world. So public a disgrace would certainly be felt in patriarchal times as a most severe calamity, and entailed by ordinary custom (as we learn here) retirement and mourning for seven days at least. How much more, when her heavenly Father had been driven to inflict a public disgrace upon her for perverse behavior, should the shame and the sorrow not be lightly put away,, but patiently endured for a decent period! (cf. Hebrews 12:9).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord said unto Moses,.... By a voice out of the cloud, though at a distance; unless it was by a secret impulse upon his spirit, darting such words into his mind as if he heard an audible voice:
if her father had but spit in her face; or, "in spitting spitted" (l); spit much, and continued spitting till he had covered her face with spittle; which, as it would have been a token of anger and displeasure in him, an earthly father, who is meant, and of shame and disgrace to her; so there is some likeness in spittle to leprosy, both being white, and in such a case to the abundance of it, her thee being covered with leprosy; and which came as it were from the mouth of the Lord, by his order and appointment, immediately, as spittle from a man, and like that, in a way of detestation and contempt, and to make abhorred and despised:
should she not be ashamed seven days? hide herself, and never appear in the family, and especially in her father's presence, because of the shame she was put unto, for the space of seven days; how much more ashamed then should she be, now her heavenly Father did spit in her face, and covered it with a white leprosy and for as long a time at least, or indeed longer? fourteen days, say the Targum of Jonathan, and Jarchi, but no more than seven are required, when more might have justly been, for her separation and shutting up from company and conversation:
let her be shut out from the camp seven days; for so long the leper was to be shut up at the trial of his leprosy, and so long he was to be out of his tent at the cleansing of him, Leviticus 13:5,
and after that let her be received again; into the camp and into society with her relations and friends.
(l) "spuendo spuisset", Pagninus, Montanus, Fagius, Drusius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
14. her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days?—The Jews, in common with all people in the East, seem to have had an intense abhorrence of spitting, and for a parent to express his displeasure by doing so on the person of one of his children, or even on the ground in his presence, separated that child as unclean from society for seven days.
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