Numbers 12:8
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?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) With him will I speak.—Better, do I speak, mouth to mouth. Comp. Exodus 33:11.

Even apparently.—The noun mareh, which is here used, is cognate with that which occurs with the preposition in Numbers 12:6, and which is rendered “a vision.” It differs from it only in punctuation, and is sometimes identical in meaning. It appears, however, here to denote an objective reality, as in Exodus 3:3, where it is rendered sight. The clause might be rendered, and (as) an appearance, and not in riddles (or, enigmas).

And the similitude of the Lord . . . —Or, and the form of Jehovah doth he behold. The word which is here rendered similitude (temunah) is the same which occurs in Exodus 20:4; Deuteronomy 4:15-16; Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 5:8; Psalm 17:15. It is sometimes rendered likeness, and sometimes similitude. The noun mareh, which is here rendered “apparently,” and that which is rendered similitude, are found in conjunction in Job 4:16 : “I could not discern the form (or appearance), mareh, thereof: an image (or form), temunah, was before mine eyes.” (Comp. Exodus 33:20-23.)

Numbers 12:8. Mouth to mouth — In a most familiar manner, distinctly, and by an articulate voice, as one friend discourses with another, or as two friends in conversation hear and answer each other by turns. Moses enjoyed this singular privilege, which was vouchsafed to no other of the prophets, that God spoke to him immediately, and not by an interpreter, nor by shadows, and representations in his fancy, as in visions and dreams, but by a distinct audible voice, and that upon all occasions. Even apparently — Plainly and certainly, so that there was no difficulty to apprehend his meaning. Not in dark speeches — Not in parables, similitudes, dark resemblances; as by showing a boiling pot and an almond-tree to Jeremiah; a basket of summer fruits to Amos; a chariot with wheels, &c., to Ezekiel. The similitude — Not the face or essence of God, which no man can see and live, (Exodus 33:20,) but some singular manifestation of his glorious presence, as that spoken of Exodus 33:11-23. Yea, the Son of God, it seems, appeared to him in a human shape, which he assumed for a time, that he might give Moses a fore-token of his future incarnation. Against my servant Moses — Who is such in so eminent and extraordinary a manner and degree.

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.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.

8. with him will I speak mouth to mouth—immediately, not by an interpreter, nor by visionary symbols presented to his fancy.

apparently—plainly and surely.

not in dark speeches—parables or similitudes.

the similitude of the Lord shall he behold—not the face or essence of God, who is invisible (Ex 33:20; Col 1:15; Joh 1:18); but some unmistakable evidence of His glorious presence (Ex 33:2; 34:5). The latter clause should have been conjoined with the preceding one, thus: "not in dark speeches, and in a figure shall he behold the Lord." The slight change in the punctuation removes all appearance of contradiction to De 4:15.

Mouth to mouth, i.e. distinctly, by an articulate voice; immediately, not by an interpreter, nor by shadows and representations in his fancy, as it is in visions and dreams; and familiarly. This is called speaking face to face, 2Jo 1:12 3Jo 1:14.

Apparently; plainly and certainly. Not in dark speeches; not in parables, similitudes, riddles, dark resemblances; as by showing a boiling pot, an almond tree, &c. to Jeremiah, a chariot with wheels, &c. to Ezekiel.

The similitude of the Lord; not the face or essence of God, which no man can see and live, Exodus 33:20; it being invisible, Colossians 1:15, and never seen by man, John 1:18; but some singular manifestation of his glorious presence, as Exodus 33:11,20, &c.; Exodus 34:5, &c.; Deu 34:10. Yea, the Son of God appeared to him in a human shape, which he took up for a time, that he might give him a foretaste of his future incarnation.

My servant; who is so in such an eminent and extraordinary manner.

With him will I speak mouth to mouth,.... And face to face, as he had done, Exodus 33:11; in a free, friendly, and familiar manner, as one friend speaks to another, without injecting any fear or dread, and consternation of mind, which was sometimes the case of the prophets; or without a middle person, a mediator, as Aben Ezra, not by means of an angel, as in some cases, but the Lord himself spake to him:

even apparently, and not in dark speeches; the word "apparently", or "vision", being opposed to "dark speeches", shows that this is not to be understood of the appearance or vision of an object presented to the sight, or to the mind, which is denied of Moses, though usual with other prophets; but of the vision, or plain sense and meaning of words, which are so plainly expressed, that the sense is easily seen and understood; it was not under figures and allegories, and parables and dark representations of things, that the law of the decalogue, and other laws, statutes, and ordinances, and the proclamation the Lord made of himself, as the Lord gracious, merciful, &c. were delivered unto Moses, but in plain words and clear expressions; not in such enigmatical, parabolical, and allegorical terms as many of the visions and prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Amos, and Zechariah, were exhibited to them; See Gill on Numbers 12:6,

and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: as he had at the burning bush, and at Mount Sinai, with the elders of Israel, and when the Lord proclaimed his name before him; at which several times it is highly probable he beheld the Lord, even the Lord Christ, in an human form, as a presage of his future incarnation, and as he might also after this: the Targum of Jonathan is,"the similitude which is after my Shechinah (or divine Majesty) he saw;''that is, his back parts, as Jarchi, and other Jewish writers, interpret it; but Bishop Patrick thinks the word not should be repeated from the preceding clause, and that the sense is, that he did not behold him in similitudes, nor did the Lord speak to him by them, as to other prophets, see Hosea 12:10,

wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? or against my servant, against Moses; against any servant of mine, but especially against Moses, so faithful in my house, so much approved of and honoured by me, and so superior to all other prophets.

With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he {e} behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

(e) As far as any man was able to comprehend, which he calls his back parts, Ex 33:23.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. even manifestly] This is not a translation of the Heb., which is corrupt. It is the sort of meaning required, but no satisfactory emendation has been proposed. The versions suggest בְּמַרְאֶה (for וּמַרְאֶה), which could perhaps mean ‘in appearance,’ i.e. in a personal manifestation.

and not in riddles] A reference to the enigmatical utterances of oracles.

Verse 8. - Mouth to mouth. Equivalent to face to face in Exodus 33:11. What the exact facts of the case were it is not possible to know, scarcely to imagine; but the words seem to imply a familiar speaking with an audible voice on the part of God, as distinguished from the internal voice, inaudible to the ear, with which he spake "in" the prophets. To assert that the revelations accorded to Moses were only subjective modifications of his own consciousness is to evacuate these strong words of any meaning whatever. Apparently. מַרְאֶה (Septuagint ἐν εἴδει) is an accusative in apposition to what goes before by way (apparently) of further definition. It is the same word translated "vision" in verse 6; but its meaning here must be determined by the expression "in riddles," which stands in antithesis to it. It was confessed]y the case with most prophetic utterances that the language in which they were couched was quite as much intended to conceal as to express their full meaning; but to Moses God spake without any such concealments. The similitude of the Lord shall he behold. מַרְאֶה. Not the essential nature of God, which no man can see, but a form (wholly unknown and unimaginable to us) in which it pleased him to veil his glory. The Septuagint has τὴν δόξαν Κυρίου εῖδε, referring, apparently, to the vision promised in Exodus 33:22; and the Targum Palestine speaks here of the vision of the burning bush. The motive for this alteration is no doubt to be sought in a profound jealousy for the great truth declared in such texts as Deuteronomy 4:15; Isaiah 40:18, and afterwards in John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16. But the statement in the text is a general one, and can only mean that Moses habitually in his intercourse with God had before his eyes some visible manifestation of the invisible God, which helped to make that intercourse at once more awfully real and more intensely blessed. Such manifestation to the sense of sight must be distinguished both from the visionary (or subjective) sight of God in human figure accorded to Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:26), to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1), to St. John (Revelation 4:2, 8), and perhaps to others, and also from such theophanies in angel guise as are recorded in Genesis 32:30; Judges 13:9, 2, and elsewhere. On the other hand, the seventy elders seem to have seen the "Temunah" of the Lord upon that one occasion when they were called up into Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:10, 11). Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses! No doubt it was the double fact of their relationship to Moses after the flesh, and of their sharing with him in certain spiritual gifts and prerogatives, which made them oblivious of the great distinction which lifted him above their rivalry, and should have lifted him above their contradiction. That contradiction, however, served to bring out in the clearest way the singular and unapproached position of the mediator of Israel; and it serves still to enable us to estimate aright the peculiar dignity of his legislation and his writings. The substance of prophetic teaching may be of deeper interest and of wider import titan "the law," but this latter will still rank higher in the scale of inspiration, as having been more directly communicated front on high. Thus "the law" (as the Jews rightly taught) remained the body of Divine revelation until "that Prophet" came who was "like unto" Moses in the fact that he enjoyed constant, open, and direct communication with the Godhead. Numbers 12:8Jehovah summoned the opponents of His servant to come at once before His judgment-seat. He commanded Moses, Aaron, and Miriam suddenly to come out of the camp (see at Numbers 11:30) to the tabernacle. Then He Himself came down in a pillar of cloud to the door of the tabernacle, i.e., to the entrance to the court, not to the dwelling itself, and called Aaron and Miriam out, i.e., commanded them to come out of the court,

(Note: The discrepancy discovered by Knobel, in the fact that, according to the so-called Elohist, no one but Moses, Aaron, and the sons of Aaron were allowed to enter the sanctuary, whereas, according to the Jehovist, others did so, - e.g., Miriam here, and Joshua in Exodus 33:11, - rests entirely upon a groundless fancy, arising from a misinterpretation, as there is not a word about entering the sanctuary, i.e., the dwelling itself, either in the verse before us or in Exodus 33:11.)

and said to them (Numbers 12:6.): "If there is a prophet of Jehovah to you (i.e., if you have one), I make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream (בּו, lit., "in him," inasmuch as a revelation in a dream fell within the inner sphere of the soul-life). Not so My servant Moses: he is approved in My whole house; mouth to mouth I speak to him, and as an appearance, and that not in enigmas; and he sees the form of Jehovah. Why are ye not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?" נביאכם equals לכם נביא, the suffix used with the noun instead of the separate pronoun in the dative, as in Genesis 39:21; Leviticus 15:3, etc. The noun Jehovah is in all probability to be taken as a genitive, in connection with the word נביאכם ("a prophet to you"), as it is in the lxx and Vulg., and not to be construed with the words which follow ("I Jehovah will make Myself known"). The position of Jehovah at the head of the clause without a preceding אנכי (I) would be much more remarkable than the separation of the dependent noun from the governing noun by the suffix, which occurs in other cases also (e.g., Leviticus 6:3; Leviticus 26:42, etc.); moreover, it would be by no means suited to the sense, as no such emphasis is laid upon the fact that it was Jehovah who made Himself known, as to require or even justify such a construction. The "whole house of Jehovah" (Numbers 12:7) is not "primarily His dwelling, the holy tent" (Baumgarten), - for, in that case, the word "whole" would be quite superfluous, - but the whole house of Israel, or the covenant nation regarded as a kingdom, to the administration and government of which Moses had been called: as a matter of fact, therefore, the whole economy of the Old Testament, having its central point in the holy tent, which Jehovah had caused to be built as the dwelling-place of His name. It did not terminate, however, in the service of the sanctuary, as we may see from the fact that god did not make the priests who were entrusted with the duties of the sanctuary the organs of His saving revelation, but raised up and called prophets after Moses for that purpose. Compare the expression in Hebrews 3:6, "Whose house we are." נאמן with בּ does not mean to be, or become, entrusted with anything (Baumgarten, Knobel), but simply to be lasting, firm, constant, in a local or temporal sense (Deuteronomy 28:59; 1 Samuel 2:35; 2 Samuel 7:16, etc.); in a historical sense, to prove or attest one's self (Genesis 42:20); and in an ethical sense, to be found proof, trustworthy, true (Psalm 78:8; 1 Samuel 3:20; 1 Samuel 22:14 : see Delitzsch on Hebrews 3:2). In the participle, therefore, it signifies proved, faithful, πιστός (lxx). "Mouth to mouth" answers to the "face to face" in Exodus 33:11 (cf. Deuteronomy 34:10), i.e., without any mediation or reserve, but with the same closeness and freedom with which friends converse together (Exodus 33:11). This is still further strengthened and elucidated by the words in apposition, "in the form of seeing (appearance), and not in riddles," i.e., visibly, and not in a dark, hidden, enigmatical way. מראה is an accusative defining the mode, and signifies here not vision, as in Numbers 12:6, but adspectus, view, sight; for it forms an antithesis to בּמּראה in Numbers 12:6. "The form (Eng. similitude) of Jehovah" was not the essential nature of God, His unveiled glory, - for this no mortal man can see (vid., Exodus 33:18.), - but a form which manifested the invisible God to the eye of man in a clearly discernible mode, and which was essentially different, not only from the visionary sight of God in the form of a man (Ezekiel 1:26; Daniel 7:9 and Daniel 7:13), but also from the appearances of God in the outward world of the senses, in the person and form of the angel of Jehovah, and stood in the same relation to these two forms of revelation, so far as directness and clearness were concerned, as the sight of a person in a dream to that of the actual figure of the person himself. God talked with Moses without figure, in the clear distinctness of a spiritual communication, whereas to the prophets He only revealed Himself through the medium of ecstasy or dream.

Through this utterance on the part of Jehovah, Moses is placed above all the prophets, in relation to God and also to the whole nation. The divine revelation to the prophets is thereby restricted to the two forms of inward intuition (vision and dream). It follows from this, that it had always a visionary character, though it might vary in intensity; and therefore that it had always more or less obscurity about it, because the clearness of self-consciousness and the distinct perception of an external world, both receded before the inward intuition, in a dream as well as in a vision. The prophets were consequently simply organs, through whom Jehovah made known His counsel and will at certain times, and in relation to special circumstances and features in the development of His kingdom. It was not so with Moses. Jehovah had placed him over all His house, had called him to be the founder and organizer of the kingdom established in Israel through his mediatorial service, and had found him faithful in His service. With this servant (θεράπων, lxx) of His, He spake mouth to mouth, without a figure or figurative cloak, with the distinctness of a human interchange of thought; so that at any time he could inquire of God and wait for the divine reply. Hence Moses was not a prophet of Jehovah, like many others, not even merely the first and highest prophet, primus inter pares, but stood above all the prophets, as the founder of the theocracy, and mediator of the Old Covenant. Upon this unparalleled relation of Moses to God and the theocracy, so clearly expressed in the verses before us, the Rabbins have justly founded their view as to the higher grade of inspiration in the Thorah. This view is fully confirmed through the history of the Old Testament kingdom of God, and the relation in which the writings of the prophets stand to those of Moses. The prophets subsequent to Moses simply continued to build upon the foundation which Moses laid. And if Moses stood in this unparalleled relation to the Lord, Miriam and Aaron sinned grievously against him, when speaking as they did. Numbers 12:9. After this address, "the wrath of Jehovah burned against them, and He went." As a judge, withdrawing from the judgment-seat when he has pronounced his sentence, so Jehovah went, by the cloud in which He had come down withdrawing from the tabernacle, and ascending up on high. And at the same moment, Miriam, the instigator of the rebellion against her brother Moses, was covered with leprosy, and became white as snow.

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