Numbers 12:1-16


I.        The complaint against Moses is two fold.

A.     Because of the Ethiopian woman he had married.  See my comments on Exodus 2:16,  See my comments on Exodus 4:24-26. 

1.       The word “Ethiopian” means “Cushite,” or a descendent of Cush, who is a son of Ham.  (Gen. 10:6)

2.       Some believe Moses married a second time to a Negro.  But there is no evidence at all in the Bible to prove this.  There is no proof that Moses married a second time, or that he married a Negro.

3.       It would not be wrong for Moses to marry a second time and continue leading Israel.  Moses is a political leader, not a religious leader.  Since Zipporah was unwilling to be an obedient wife, she went back to her parents home while Moses did God’s will.

4.       It is not fitting for a pastor or a leader in the church to have more than one living wife, because they are a spiritual leader.

5.       The probable reason the Ethiopian wife (Zipporah) is complained about is because she is acting toward the people of Israel like she did in Exodus 4:24-26.  Zipporah has not traveled with Israel or helped her husband.  It is likely her absence is not complained about, but her presence.

a.      According to Numbers 9:1 Moses prepares the people to take the Passover for the second time.

b.      According to Numbers 10:29 Jethro, Zipporah and the two sons of Moses are present with Israel.

c.      This means that Jethro brought Zipporah to Moses in the second year after Israel came out of Egypt.

6.       For a short example of the rebellion of Zipporah see Ex. 4:24-26.  The only reason she submitted to the commands of God was to save her husband’s life.

7.       It was not wrong for Moses to marry the Ethiopian woman for Israel was not yet completely formed as a nation, and Moses was not included in the promises of God as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Moses is not in the “Christ line,” or a leader of Israel.  He is a Levi.

B.     Because of his leadership.

1.       Moses had always lead Israel to do those things commanded by God.

2.       He had always included the people.  He didn’t ask their advice, for the commands all came from God.

3.       Verse 2 - We know and understand that all of God’s children are able to listen to God through the reading of His Word, and pray to Him and receive an answer.  But this is not what Miriam and Aaron are talking about.  They are talking about leadership.

4.       God still speaks to His people today through the Written Word.  His people can still pray to Him and receive an answer.  But today, as in days of old, God still has His leaders.  Today, these men are called “pastors.”  (Eph. 4:11-16)

5.       Today’s world is a lot like it was in Moses day.  People refuse to accept the pastors God has called, yet will follow some self appointed leader from the congregation.  This is not God’s way!


II.     The people who complain.  (Miriam and Aaron)

A.     Miriam is mentioned first.

1.       It may be that she was the one that started the whole affair.

2.       At any rate, she was the only one struck leprous.

B.     Aaron is mentioned next.

1.       It is likely that Aaron followed the leadership of his sister.

2.       Note this characteristic of Aaron.  He is a good follower, but he will follow anybody.

3.       Remember Ex. 32:22-24 - When Moses was on Mt. Sinai and the golden calf “appeared”, Moses blamed the people.  He followed them instead of them following him.

4.       If Moses had obeyed the Lord in Ex. 4:10-17, Aaron wouldn’t have been in a position of authority.  Instead of being grateful for God’s leadership through Moses, Aaron now wants more authority.  And he’s already out of his place.

5.       This same thing happens today in many churches.  The pastor is not the pastor, he is the preacher, and does anything and everything the people want him to do.  The preacher must listen to God, become the pastor and do what God wants him to do.  In this way he can lead the people to a closer walk with God.  He can truly be an example to the flock.

C.     They are family.

1.       Sometimes the close family members are the hardest to witness to.

2.       They know all our faults.

3.       They remember Moses when he was a child, while he was growing up, and when he killed that fellow in Egypt and how he ran from Pharaoh.

4.       They feel they have so much involved and have given so much of themselves that Moses is no better than they are.  They are right, Moses isn’t any better than they are, but he is God’s chosen man.


III.   Moses reaction.

A.     Moses said or did nothing.

1.       He was very meek.  The most meek man on the earth.

2.       The word “meek” means humble, gentle, and teachable.

3.       Some would say that these are not very good qualities for a minister, or leader.

4.       Some believe a leader (pastor) should be loud, noticeable, and always trying to get his own way.

5.       But these are not the qualities God wants in His people, or in His leaders.

B.     Pastors today ought to follow the example of Moses.

1.       I do not mean that we ought to sit by and let people say anything they want to say about us.

2.       But if we are very busy doing what God want us to do, people will see this and know that God is with us.  Then we can truly be the example God wants us to be.


IV.  God’s reactions (And this is the one that gets things done).

A.     God calls out Miriam and Aaron.

1.       I imagine Miriam and Aaron were terrified to think that God had heard their complaints against His man.

2.       God always hears our complaints even if men do not.

3.       When God called out Miriam and Aaron, they come.  They might not have come if Moses had called them, but they cannot refuse God’s call.

4.       Nobody refuses God’s call.  Whether it’s a call to judgment or a call to salvation.

5.       God comes down in a pillar of cloud.  This shows to all that He is present.  This is not done in private, but in public.  A public offense is settled in public, a private offense is settled in private.

B.     God established the qualifications of a prophet.

1.       These qualifications remain throughout the Bible.

2.       God doesn’t have any prophets today, for the Bible is complete.

C.     God also teaches us the difference between Moses and his followers.

1.       In those days, God spoke to his leaders face to face (this fact is noticed in the entire Old Testament, and some of the New Testament).

2.       Today, God speaks to all of His people through His Word, but to His pastors, he speaks the same thing in a clearer way, for they need special leadership, in order to lead the people of God.

3.       Moses was a special servant of God.  So close that God would speak to him face to face, and not through visions and dreams.

4.       People today ought to be afraid to speak against God’s men.  But many people aren’t because there are so many men who say they are God called preachers, but are not.  They live such ungodly lives that it hurts the true preachers of God.

5.       Note:  I do not believe God speaks to preachers today face to face.  He speaks to them through His Written Word.

D.     The Lord was angry.

1.       It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

2.       The Lord departed.  This is a sure sign of the coming judgment of God.

3.       It was a sign of the soon coming judgment of God when God didn’t speak to Israel during the 400 silent years.

4.       Today’s “silent” God is a sure sign that His return is soon.

5.       See Ps. 50:3.

E.      Miriam became leprous.

1.       She didn’t speak - probably scared to death and couldn’t speak!

2.       Aaron was also scared, as he looked upon Miriam.

3.       He turned to Moses (as he recognized his leadership and their mistake of rebellion) asking for his help from God.

F.      Moses prayed for Miriam.

1.       He asked for God to heal her now.

2.       Notice that Moses is not glad Miriam (his enemy in this thing) is struck down by God.  We should never be glad our enemies are touched by God’s judgment.  We should be willing to pray for them.

G.     Miriam’s punishment.

1.       God gives her the lightest punishment possible for the offense.

2.       It is a very terrible thing Miriam and Aaron have done, yet because of Moses’ prayer, their sentence is light.

3.       It is very terrible thing for a person to spit in their fathers face (a sign of disrespect).

4.       She is shut out of the camp for seven days.


V.     The result of all this.

A.     I wish I could say that the people all learned their lesson and this ended forever all rebellion against God’s leaders.

B.     But this just isn’t so.

1.       We will find in chapter 13 and 14 that Israel goes one step farther and rebels against God!

2.       In chapter 16, another group of people rise up in rebellion against Moses and Aaron.

3.       When these people are swallowed up by the earth, all should be well, but the very next day, Moses is accused of “killing the Lord’s people.”