Numbers 12:2
And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses?—There is probably a reference in these words to the facts related in Exodus 4:10-16, where Moses speaks of his own slowness of speech (Numbers 12:10), and where it is said of Aaron, “And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people” (Numbers 12:16). Miriam also is spoken of in Exodus 15:20 as “the prophetess.” “Such is the depravity of human nature,” writes Calvin, “that they not only abuse the gifts of God towards the brother whom they despise, but by an ungodly and sacrilegious glorification extol the gifts themselves in such a manner as to hide the Author of the gifts.”

Numbers 12:2. By us — Are not we prophets as well as he? So Aaron was made, (Exodus 4:15-16,) and so Miriam is called, Exodus 15:20. And Moses hath debased and mixed the holy seed, which we have not done. Why then should he take all power to himself, and make rulers as he pleaseth, without consulting us? The Lord heard — Observed their words and carriage to Moses.

12:1-9 The patience of Moses was tried in his own family, as well as by the people. The pretence was, that he had married a foreign wife; but probably their pride was hurt, and their envy stirred up, by his superior authority. Opposition from our near relations, and from religious friends, is most painful. But this is to be looked for, and it will be well if in such circumstances we can preserve the gentleness and meekness of Moses. Moses was thus fitted to the work he was called to. God not only cleared Moses, but praised him. Moses had the spirit of prophecy in a way which set him far above all other prophets; yet he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he; and our Lord Jesus infinitely excels him, Heb 3:1. Let Miriam and Aaron consider whom it was they insulted. We have reason to be afraid of saying or doing any thing against the servants of God. And those are presumptuous indeed who are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, 2Pe 2:10. The removal of God's presence is the surest and saddest token of God's displeasure. Woe to us, if he depart! he never departs, till by sin and folly we drive him from us.Hath the Lord ... - i. e. Is it merely, after all, by Moses that the Lord hath spoken?2. Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not also spoken by us?—The prophetical name and character was bestowed upon Aaron (Ex 4:15, 16) and Miriam (Ex 15:20); and, therefore, they considered the conduct of Moses, in exercising an exclusive authority in this matter, as an encroachment on their rights (Mic 6:4). Are not we prophets as well as he? so Aaron was made, Exodus 4:15,16, and so Miriam is called, Exodus 15:20. See also Micah 6:4. And Moses hath debased and mixed the holy seed, which we have not done. Why then should he take all power to himself, and make rulers as he pleaseth, without consulting us in the case? The Lord heard it, i. e. observed their words and carriage to Moses.

And they said, hath the Lord, indeed spoken only by Moses?.... They own he had spoken by him; this was so notorious that it could not be denied:

hath he not spoken also by us? are we not prophets as well as he? the Lord spake to Aaron while he was in Egypt, and had made him a good spokesman in his name, and bore this testimony of him, that he could speak well, and Miriam is expressly called a prophetess, Exodus 4:14 Exodus 15:20; and this being the case, they stomached it that they should have no concern in the choice and appointment of the seventy elders:

and the Lord heard it; for perhaps this was said secretly between themselves; but God, that sees, and hears, and knows all things, took notice of what was spoken by them, and resented it; for it was ultimately against himself, who had ordered Moses to do what he did.

And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. They do not deny Moses’ prophetic capacity, but they claim an equality with him. If Numbers 12:1 is not a fragment of a separate narrative, as some think, we must suppose that Moses’ marriage was the particular case which gave rise to their claim.

indeed spoken only] The Heb. is emphatic by the use (not found elsewhere) of the two synonyms—spoken only and solely.

with Moses] R.V. marg. ‘by Moses’ is a possible rendering, implying that Jehovah makes use of His prophet as a channel of communication with other men. But in Numbers 12:6 the poetic parallelism shews that ‘with him (in a dream)’ is equivalent to ‘unto him (in a vision).’ It is better, therefore, to retain that meaning here.

Verse 2. - And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? This is evidently not the "speaking against Moses" mentioned in the previous verse, for that is distinctly said to have been on the score of Moses' marriage. This is their justification of themselves for daring to dispute his judgment and arraign his proceedings; a thing which clearly required justification. Moses himself, or more likely others for him, had remonstrated with them on the language they were using. They retorted that Moses had no monopoly of Divine communications; Aaron also received the revelation of God by Urim and Thummim, and Miriam was a prophetess. They were acknowledged in a general sense as sharing with him the leadership of Israel (see Micah 6:4); upon this they meant to found a claim to coordinate authority. They would have had perhaps all matters settled in a family council in which they should have had an equal voice. It was hard for them both to forget that Moses was only their younger brother: for Miriam that she had saved his life as an infant; for Aaron that he had been as prominent as Moses in the original commission from God to the people. And the Lord heard it. In one sense he hears everything; in another sense there are many things which he does not choose to hear, because he does not wish to take judicial notice of them. Thus he had not "heard" the passionate complaints of Moses himself a short time before, because his will was then to pardon, not to punish (cf. Isaiah 42:19; Malachi 3:16). Numbers 12:2Miriam and Aaron said, "Hath Jehovah then spoken only by Moses, and not also by us?" Are not we - the high priest Aaron, who brings the rights of the congregation before Jehovah in the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30), and the prophetess Miriam (Exodus 15:20) - also organs and mediators of divine revelation? "They are proud of the prophetic gift, which ought rather to have fostered modesty in them. But such is the depravity of human nature, that they not only abuse the gifts of God towards the brother whom they despise, but by an ungodly and sacrilegious glorification extol the gifts themselves in such a manner as to hide the Author of the gifts" (Calvin). - "And Jehovah heard." This is stated for the purpose of preparing the way for the judicial interposition of God. When God hears what is wrong, He must proceed to stop it by punishment. Moses might also have heard what they said, but "the man Moses was very meek (πραΰ́ς, lxx, mitis, Vulg.; not 'plagued,' geplagt, as Luther renders it), more than all men upon the earth." No one approached Moses in meekness, because no one was raised so high by God as he was. The higher the position which a man occupies among his fellow-men, the harder is it for the natural man to bear attacks upon himself with meekness, especially if they are directed against his official rank and honour. This remark as to the character of Moses serves to bring out to view the position of the person attacked, and points out the reason why Moses not only abstained from all self-defence, but did not even cry to God for vengeance on account of the injury that had been done to him. Because he was the meekest of all men, he could calmly leave this attack upon himself to the all-wise and righteous Judge, who had both called and qualified him for his office. "For this is the idea of the eulogium of his meekness. It is as if Moses had said that he had swallowed the injury in silence, inasmuch as he had imposed a law of patience upon himself because of his meekness" (Calvin).

The self-praise on the part of Moses, which many have discovered in this description of his character, and on account of which some even of the earlier expositors regarded this verse as a later gloss, whilst more recent critics have used it as an argument against the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, is not an expression of vain self-display, or a glorification of his own gifts and excellences, which he prided himself upon possessing above all others. It is simply a statement, which was indispensable to a full and correct interpretation of all the circumstances, and which was made quite objectively, with reference to the character which Moses had not given to himself but had acquired through the grace of God, and which he never falsified from the very time of his calling until the day of his death, either at the rebellion of the people at Kibroth-hattaavah (ch. 11), or at the water of strife (at Kadesh (ch. 20). His despondency under the heavy burden of his office in the former case (ch. 11) speaks rather for than against the meekness of his character; and the sin at Kadesh (ch. 20) consisted simply in the fact, that he suffered himself to be brought to doubt either the omnipotence of God, or the possibility of divine help, in account of the unbelief of the people.

(Note: There is not a word in Numbers 20:10 or Psalm 106:32 to the effect, that "his dissatisfaction broke out into evident passion" (Kurtz). And it is quite a mistake to observe, that in the case before us there was nothing at all to provoke Moses to appeal to his meekness, since it was not his meekness that Miriam had disputed, but only his prophetic call. If such grounds as these are interpolated into the words of Moses, and it is to be held that an attack upon the prophetic calling does not involve such an attack upon the person as might have excited anger, it is certainly impossible to maintain the Mosaic authorship of this statement as to the character of Moses; for the vanity of wishing to procure the recognition of his meekness by praising it, cannot certainly be imputed to Moses the man of God.)

No doubt it was only such a man as Moses who could speak of himself in such a way, - a man who had so entirely sacrificed his own personality to the office assigned him by the Lord, that he was ready at any moment to stake his life for the cause and glory of the Lord (cf. Numbers 11:15, and Exodus 32:32), and of whom Calmet observes with as much truth as force, "As he praises himself here without pride, so he will blame himself elsewhere with humility,"-a man or God whose character is not to be measured by the standard of ordinary men (cf. Hengstenberg, Dissertations, vol. ii. pp. 141ff.).

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