Numbers 12: Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses
1 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:
“When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8 With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
to speak against my servant Moses?”
9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.
Crab Mentality is a way of thinking that is associated with the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you“. It is a habit of bringing other people down, especially those who are succeeding or progressing in life. If you think you have never experienced this kind of mentality, I urge you to think again. Think about your social media accounts and the daily feed you get from it. Think about the news, ads, and shows on television. All of which stir your thoughts towards gossip and desire, convincing you of needing otherwise unnecessary things, creating a society of green-eyed monsters.
We have all become needy people, dazzled by technology – high-tech gadgets, revolutionary beauty enhancements – and because there’s just too much to have and we can’t own it all, we envy and even “hate” those who have it. The hard truth is that we’ve all become egoistic people. With information available everywhere, we convince ourselves that we know better than others. So we resent those who get recognized and we magnify their flaws. Let’s try to have a deeper look at this kind of mentality as we study Aaron and Miriam’s example.
In the bible story we just read, we see Aaron and Miriam beginning to talk against Moses, targeting his marriage with his Cushite wife. They planted doubts about Moses’ character and questioned his authority. First, we need to recognize that they had a choice. They “began to talk” means they chose to act as such. They chose to talk “against” Moses, which became an act of opposition. But why would they do that? They could have chosen to talk about how Moses helped them and how they could support him, instead, they chose to bring him down. What drove them to backbite and criticize Moses instead of being grateful or supportive? To further understand their actions, let’s take a look at the characters in the story.
1Aaron was Moses’ older brother and God used both of them as instruments to free the Israelites from Egypt. At first, God gave them equal rights to enter into God’s Holy Presence. But while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving instructions from the Lord, Aaron committed a grave offense. He gave in to the people’s demands of creating a golden calf and lead them into worshipping Baal. God forgave Aaron through the intercession of Moses, demonstrating His grace and compassion by restoring Aaron’s position as High Priest.
2Miriam was Moses’ and Aaron’s sister, the eldest child of Amram and Jochebed. When she was still about 12 years old, her mother had to place Moses in a small basket to avoid his untimely death. Jochebed left Miriam nearby to watch it float safely. When the Pharoah’s daughter took the baby in her arms, Miriam was wise enough to step in and volunteer as the baby’s nurse. 3Miriam was also a gifted poetess and prophetess. She led the Israelite women in a song and dance of praise and victory after they had crossed the red sea, seeing the Egyptians’ defeat.
4Moses is described in our story as a very humble man, more than anyone else on the earth. The Lord further shows us how much He favors Moses by telling us that with prophets, He reveals Himself through visions and speaks through dreams, but only with Moses does He speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles.
Looking at their backgrounds, it could have been sibling rivalry between Aaron and Moses. His pride must have been hurt being the older brother and seeing Moses have more authority than him. He must have envied how his brother seemed “perfect” while he committed mistakes. It must have felt good to criticize and find fault in Moses’ marriage for once. On the other hand, Miriam could have been driven by jealousy towards the youthfulness and beauty of this “Cushite wife” who is believed to be a foreigner. Seeing a considerably younger woman so close to her brother could have tarnished her thoughts with insecurities.
But what drives us into bad-mouthing celebrities, politicians, church leaders, co-workers or classmates, and just about anybody? Probably the same things – envy/jealousy, pride/ego, and our own insecurities. Bad-mouthing others becomes an easy self-defense that we run to for fear of being seen as the weaker person. By zooming-in on their mistakes, even if it’s founded by nothing but hearsay or faulty judgment, we feel entitled and think that we have this false sense of power over them. Yes. I admit. It truly feels good – at least at the moment – until God confronts you and you finally suffer the consequences, just as Aaron and Miriam did.
In the story it is important to note that Moses did not run to God for help, nor did anyone tell God about what had happened. God saw everything and He called all three of them to face Him. If Moses had already heard the gossips, we do not know. All we know is that God favored and loved Moses because of his humility and faithfulness and God saw to it that his servant was given justice. God spoke to Aaron and Miriam first in verses 6-8, reminding them how He evidently favored Moses and asked them why they were not afraid to speak against Moses. In verse 9, God was greatly angered and left. Here we find that God clearly saw it as an act of disrespect and rebellion, not just against Moses, but against Him, thus resulting to His great anger. Miriam was now left with leprous skin, white as snow.
Pausing on this part of the story, I am reminded not just about how wrong it is to be driven by envy and overcome by insecurities, but by the fact that when we speak ill about someone, we could easily be instigating our own rebellion against God. And I’m not just talking about avoiding gossip against church leaders, rather it is with anyone – avoiding gossip at all costs. Because God allowed those people to have what they have, bringing them down would mean we are questioning God’s plans. I know that it’s a quite black and white and that there’s more to this issue that we can talk about. But in essence, it is what it is. God only requires that we trust His plans and be content and grateful with what we have – leaving the rest to Him.
Going back to our story, Aaron now turns to Moses acknowledging his sin and foolishness in verse 11 and pleads for Moses’ help in verse 12. Moses once again demonstrates his humility as he intercedes and asks God to heal Miriam. God grants his request but still gives Miriam due punishment by confining her outside the camp for 7 days. This is a clear reminder that although God forgives, our mistakes will still yield consequences – and it’s not going to be fun. What’s also worth noting here is that, if not for Moses’ intercession, Miriam would have died. This is just proof of how God is the prefect judge of character, seeing us for who we truly are.
But what about Aaron? Why do we not hear about his punishment? It sounds unfair, doesn’t it? In my opinion, seeing God’s wrath fall upon his sister was punishment in itself. Being a High Priest, it was his responsibility to rebuke Miriam in the first place. He would have lived to suffer the guilt forever. I could be wrong, but nonetheless, we know that God had other plans for Aaron, just like God has for all of us. Let us not be enslaved by Crab Mentality. Let us not allow media to corrupt our hearts and dictate our thoughts. Let us not be insecure, covetous people. Trust in God’s plans and desire Him, everything else will follow.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
1 Aaron’s Background: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/aaron/
2 Miriam’s Background: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/all-women-bible/Miriam-No-1
3 Miriam’s Background: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/miriam/
4 Moses’ Background: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/moses/