Numbers 12:10
As the cloud lifted from above the Tent, suddenly Miriam became leprous, white as snow. Aaron turned toward her, saw that she was leprous,
God the Vindicator of His Calumniated ServantsE.S. Prout Numbers 12:1-16
The Humbling of the Proud and the Exaltation of the MeekD. Young Numbers 12:4-15
God's Vindication of MosesBp. Babington.Numbers 12:5-10
Miriam and MosesF. B. Meyer, B. A.Numbers 12:10-16
Miriam Smitten with LeprosyW. Jones.Numbers 12:10-16
Miriam's DegradationS. S. ChronicleNumbers 12:10-16
Miriam's Punishment HumiliatingS. Robinson, D. D.Numbers 12:10-16
Moses' GenerosityBp. Hall.Numbers 12:10-16
Shame for the EnviousS. Robinson, D. D.Numbers 12:10-16
Such as have the Chief Hand in SinW. Attersoll.Numbers 12:10-16
The Leprosy of MiriamHomiletic MonthlyNumbers 12:10-16
The Prayer of Moses for MiriamR. A. Griffin.Numbers 12:10-16
The Punishment of Miriam and AaronW. Jones.Numbers 12:10-16
The Punishment of Wrong DoersHomilistNumbers 12:10-16
The best commentary on these verses is supplied by the comparison instituted between Moses and our blessed Lord in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 3:1-6). The Hebrews are reminded that of all the servants whom the Lord raised up to minister in the ancient Church, there was not one who approached Moses, in respect either to the greatness and variety of the services performed by him, or the greatness of the honours bestowed upon him. Moses was set over all God's house, and in this eminent station he was conspicuously faithful. In these respects Moses was the most perfect figure of Christ. Christ's priesthood was foreshadowed by Melchisedec, his royalty by David and Solomon, his prophetical office by Samuel and the goodly company of prophets who followed him. But in Moses all the three offices were foreshadowed at once. Of these two men, Moses and Christ, and of no other since the world began, could it be affirmed that they were "faithful in all the Lord's house." No doubt there was disparity as well as a resemblance. Both were servants. But Moses was a servant in a house which belonged to another, in a household of which he was only a member, whereas Christ is such a servant as is also a son, and serves in a household of which he is the Maker and Heir. This is true. Nevertheless it is profitable to forget occasionally the disparity of the two great mediators, and to fix attention on the resemblance between them, the points in which the honour of Christ the Great Prophet was prefigured by the singular honour of Moses. Hence the interest and value of this text in Numbers.

I. AS A FOIL TO BRING OUT THE SINGULAR HONOUR OF MOSES, THE LORD PUTS ALONGSIDE OF IT THE HONOUR BESTOWED ON OTHER PROPHETS. a Consider the prophets that have been or yet are among you. How has my will been made known to them?" Two ways are specified.

1. "In a vision." There was a memorable example of this in the case of Abraham (Genesis 15). Visions continued to be the vehicles of revelation during the whole course of the Old Testament history. Isaiah (6, 13, &c.), Jeremiah (50, &e.), Ezekiel and Daniel (everywhere). Peter's vision at Joppa is a familiar example of the same kind under the New Testament.

2. "In a dream." This was a lower way of revelation. The stories of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar remind us that the dreams (I do not say the interpretations of them) were not seldom vouchsafed to men who were strangers to God. We shall see immediately that these ways of making himself known to men through the prophets, were inferior to the ways in which the Lord was wont to reveal himself through Moses. But let us not so fix our attention on the points of difference as to lose sight of or forget the bright and glorious feature which they have in common. "I, the Lord, do make myself known in a vision, and do speak in a dream." For reasons we can only guess at, the Lord was pleased to suffer the nations to walk in their own ways. But in Israel he revealed himself. At sundry times and in divers manners he was pleased to speak to the fathers by the prophets. The Scriptures of the Old Testament are oracular. In them we inherit the most precious part of the patrimony of the ancient Church. For this was the chief advantage which the Jews had above the Gentiles, that "unto them were committed the oracles of God." It is our own fault if, in reading the Old Testament, we fail to hear everywhere the voice of God.

II. OVER AGAINST THE HONOUR VOUCHSAFED TO ALL THE PROPHETS, THE LORD SETS FORTH THE SINGULAR HONOUR OF MOSES. It is denoted by the loving title by which the Lord here and elsewhere names him: "My servant Moses." "Were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? "(verses 7, 8; cf. Joshua 1:2; also Deuteronomy 34:5). The word here translated "servant" is a word of honourable import; and in the singular and emphatic way in which it is applied by the Lord to Moses, it is applied by him to no other till we come to Christ himself (see Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11, &c.). The singular honour of Moses is indicated, moreover, by this, that he was called and enabled to do faithful service "in all God's house." Aaron served as a priest, Miriam as a prophetess, Joshua as a commander, each being intrusted with one department of service; Moses was employed in all. More particularly, Moses was singularly honoured in regard to the manner of the Divine communications granted to him. With him the Lord spoke "mouth to mouth," even apparently, i.e., visibly, and not in dark speeches, and he beheld the similitude of the Lord.

1. When prophets received communications in dreams and visions they were very much in a passive state, simply beholding and hearing, often unable to make out the meaning of what they saw and heard. Moses, on the contrary, was admitted as it were into the audience chamber, and the Lord spoke to him as a man speaks with his friend (cf. Numbers 7:89).

2. A few of the prophets, specially honoured, had visions of the Divine glory (Isaiah 6, &c. ). But in this respect Moses was honoured above all the rest (Exodus 33, 34). In these respects he prefigured the great Prophet, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, knows the Father even as the Father knows him, and has fully declared him. It has seemed to some learned men a thing unlikely, a thing incredible, that the vast body of doctrine and law and divinely-inspired history contained in the last four books of the Pentateuch should have been delivered to the Church within one age, and chiefly by one man. But the thing will not seem strange to one who believes and duly considers the singular honour of Moses as described in this text, especially if it is read in connection with the similar testimony borne elsewhere to Christ. Moses, and the Prophet like unto Moses, stand by themselves in the history of Divine revelation in this respect, that each served "in all God's house;" each was commissioned to introduce the Church into a new dispensation, to deliver to the Church a system of doctrine and institutions. In harmony with this is the patent fact that, as at the bringing in of the gospel dispensation the stream of Holy Scripture expands into the four gospels, even so at the bringing in of the ancient dispensation the stream of Holy Scripture originated in the Books of the Law. - B.

Miriam became leprous.

1. The punishment was inflicted by the Lord.

2. The punishment was appropriate to the sin.

3. The punishment fell most severely upon Miriam.

(1)She was the instigator of the sin.

(2)Aaron's office of high priest also probably helped to shield him.Had he been smitten with leprosy he would have been disgraced in the eyes of the people, and his holy office would probably have been brought into disesteem amongst them.(3) Yet Aaron was not altogether exempted from punishment.As priest he had to examine Miriam and pronounce her leprous. Again he had to examine her and pronounce her clean before she was readmitted to the camp. That he deeply realised his painful position is evident from the narrative (vers. 10-12). Let us remember that there is judgment with God.


1. Humble acknowledgment to Moses.

2. Confession of sin.

3. Entreaty for the removal of the judgment from Miriam.


1. In the manner in which he was addressed by Aaron.

2. In the appeal which was made to him by Aaron. This appeal implies on the part of Aaron —(1) Faith in the magnanimity of Moses — that he would not retaliate upon them for their attack upon him; that he was forgiving and generous.(2) Faith in the influence which Moses had with God.

IV. THE DISTINGUISHED MAGNANIMITY AND GRACE OF MOSES. "And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee." There was no resentment in his heart, but fullest forgiveness and sincerest pity. His prayer for Miriam is an anticipation of the precept of our Lord, "Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).




(W. Jones.)



(W. Jones.)


1. God, in many ways.(1) Providential afflictions.(2) Moral remorses.

2. Man, also, in many ways.(1) Sometimes in his personal, capacity, by denunciatory language and physical chastisement.(2) Sometimes in his corporate capacity, as a member of the State, by pains and penalties.


1. Most irrational.

2. Most impious.

3. Most perilous.


Homiletic Monthly.
1. We should humbly submit to the will of Heaven.

2. We should remember that in the distribution of gifts, what is best for one may be destruction for another.

3. To covet the gift of a neighbour is a wrong to him and an offence to God.

4. Each man's duty is to develop the gift that is in him.

(Homiletic Monthly.)

Was this weakness, as some would say? Nay, verily, it was the exhibition of colossal spiritual strength. It is the weak man who gives blow for blow, who blurts out his wrath, who cannot control the passion of his spirit. It may be well to give some closing rules as to the attainment of this meek and quiet spirit, which in sight of God is of great price.

1. Let us claim the meekness of Christ. This, of course, was not possible for Moses in the direct way in which it is for us. And yet there was no doubt in his case also a constant appeal for heavenly grace. And in moments of provocation there is nothing better than to turn to Him and claim His calm, His sweet silence, His patience and meekness, saying, "I claim all these, my Lord, for the bitter need of my spirit."

2. It is acquired, next, by cultivating the habit of silence. Express a thought, and you give it strength; repress it, and it will wither and die. You will often hear it said that the best way of getting rid of an importunate passion is to let it out and have done with it. It is, however, a very mistaken policy. Silence will kill it as ice kills fish when there are no ventholes by which they can come up to breathe. Learn to be still, to keep the door of the lips closed.

3. Next, by considering the harm done by the aggressors to themselves. The cloud removed from over the tent, as if it must leave the very spot where the culprits stood; and behold, Miriam was leprous, white as snow. There is a profound piece of instruction here; you cannot say unkind or bitter things about another without hurting yourself more than you hurt him. Like the boomerang of the savage, curses come back to the spot from which they start.

4. In allowing God to vindicate our cause. Moses let God vindicate him, and the Almighty God rode upon a cherub and did fly, and flew on the wings of the wind. This is the secret of rest, to cultivate the habit of handing all over to God, as Hezekiah did, when he spread out Sennacherib's letter in the house of the Lord. Commit yourself to Him that judgeth righteously.

5. Also in intercessory prayer. Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, "Heal her, O God, I beseech Thee." When we pray for those who have despitefully used and persecuted us, it is marvellous how soon the soul gets calm and tender. And the Lord heard His servant's prayer, and healed Miriam; but the whole host was delayed a week through her sin. We may be forgiven, but these outbreaks of sin always entail disaster and delay. Neither we nor others can be where we might have been had they not occurred.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The punishment was as humiliating as it was public. Her tongue, so free upon her brother's conduct, is mute enough now, except to cry if any approached her, "Unclean! Unclean!" She who aspired to be Queen of Israel is cast forth as an unclean thing from the camp. When the dreadful punishment was finished, she came back to the camp humbled, and no doubt strengthened in her soul by the correction she had received.

(S. Robinson, D. D.)

The lesson here has a very close application to all who engage as the Lord's instruments and agents in the work of building up Christ's kingdom. When those so engaged forget the nature of their calling, and fall into contentions and bickerings about their relative position as agents for Jehovah, the result must in the end be shame and humiliation for the envious and jealous, and damage to the cause of Christ, about which He will surely make inquisition. How much of the strifes and bickering between Christians of the same Church, and between different sects comes not from earnestly contending for the faith, but from the narrow jealousies and envyings wholly personal with those who indulge them! How often is it simply the Miriams and Aarons giving way to their petty jealousy under cover of scruples of conscience!

(S. Robinson, D. D.)

Aaron was accessory to this mutiny against Moses, but Miriam was chief in the sin, and therefore is also chief in the punishment. Simeon and Levi were not the only murderers of the Sichemites and invaders of the city, but they were the chief ringleaders, and therefore are only named (Genesis 34:25), and punished (Genesis 49:5). Whosoever practiseth any evil, whether he be principal or accessory, is guilty in the sight of God, and therefore such as are ministers of other men's evils are oftentimes punished, whether they be reasonable or unreasonable creatures (Genesis 3:14; Leviticus 20:15; Exodus 21:28, 29, 32; Joshua 6:17; Isaiah 30:22). As God is just, so He punisheth the instruments of injustice. Notwithstanding, though the instruments do offend and not escape, the chief punishment is ever reserved for the chief offender.

1. For such as are chief in government ought to stay their inferiors from evil, as the head governeth the members. Eli is charged with the wickedness of his sons (1 Samuel 3:13). Such governors make themselves the tail and not the head, whereas they should order those of their house as the soul ruleth the body.

2. God will require the blood of those that perish at the hands of the governors; the magistrate is the watchman of the commonwealth; the minister is the watchman of the Church; the householder is the watchman of the family; all set as it were in their watch-tower, and all must give an account for such as are under them.

3. The sin of those that have the chiefest hand in it is greater than of others, so it deserveth the greater punishment; forasmuch as the sin and punishment shall be suitable one to the other.Uses:

1. It belongeth to all, especially to such as are superiors, to consider this; they think themselves absolute, and that they ought of right to command what they list to their inferiors. But as they are superior in place, so they shall also be superior in punishment, if they command anything against God and His Word.

2. It is the duty of all householders to be careful to order their families aright, and to compel them to serve the Lord.

3. Lastly, there cometh a great blessing upon their heads that are the chief in any good work, that encourage others in the ways of godliness, for they shall have a principal reward. Happy and blessed therefore are they that govern their charges as becometh them (Genesis 18:18). This is a notable commendation of Abraham, he was chief, and one that went before the rest in good things, and therefore he should chiefly be rewarded. This should stir us up, not only. to do good, but to be chief in doing good, to go before others, to lead them the way, that so we may have the greater and better reward in that great day,

(W. Attersoll.)

S. S. Chronicle.
A striking spectacle was once Witnessed in the Four Courts of St. Louis. A young man was under arrest for some crime. Before being committed to prison, he was taken to the photographer's rooms, and his picture taken to be sent to the various cities keeping "rogues' galleries," to be hung up on the walls with the faces of other criminals kept there. The description of the feeling manifested by the young man on this occasion is both touching and suggestive. "Big tears formed in his eyes and fell down on his cheeks. He dropped his head on his breast and cried. He was so overcome with emotion that he could not speak until he was again placed in his cell in the gaol. After swallowing great lumps in his throat, he said he now felt he had dropped from the role of a gentleman to that of the lowest criminal; and the thought of his picture being placed in the rogues' gallery was more than he could bear." How dreadful to be classed with the workers of iniquity, and to become the spectacle before man and angels of one who rejected light and truth, and basely sinned against a great and gracious God.

(S. S. Chronicle.)

Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee.

1. Explicit. Nothing vague.

2. Earnest.

3. Generous.

4. Well-timed.


1. Most gracious.

2. Most wise.

3. Most speedy.

(R. A. Griffin.)

Miriam would have wounded Moses with her tongue; Moses would heal her with his: "O Lord, heal her now." The wrong is the greater, because his sister did it. He doth not say, I sought not her shame, she sought mine; if God have revenged it, I have no reason to look on her as a sister, who looked on me as an adversary; but, as if her leprosy were his, he cries out for her cure. Oh, admirable meekness of Moses! His people, the Jews. rebelled against him; God proffers revenge; he would rather die than they should perish. His sister rebelled against him; God worlds his revenge; he will not give God peace till she be re-cured. Behold a worthy and noble pattern for us to follow!

(Bp. Hall.).

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