Numbers 12

Listen to Numbers 12

Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses

1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.
2 And they said, "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? 1Has he not spoken through us also?" And 2the LORD heard it.
3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.
4 And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, "Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting." And the three of them came out.
5 And 3the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward.
6 And he said, "Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him 4in a vision; I speak with him 5in a dream.
7 Not so with 6my servant Moses. 7He is faithful in all my house.
8 With him I speak 8mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in 9riddles, and he beholds 10the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.
10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, 11Miriam was 12leprous,[a] like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous.
11 And Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my lord, 13do not punish us[b] because we have done foolishly and have sinned.
12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother's womb."
13 And Moses cried to the LORD, "O God, please heal her--please."
14 But the LORD said to Moses, "If her father had but 14spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be 15shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again."
15 So Miriam 16was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again.
16 After that the people set out from 17Hazeroth, and camped in 18the wilderness of Paran.

Numbers 12 Commentary

Chapter 12

God rebukes the murmuring of Aaron and Miriam. (1-9) Miriam struck with leprosy, and healed at the prayer of Moses. (10-16)

Verses 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, ( Hebrews 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 ( 2 Peter. 2:10 ) 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.

Verses 10-16 The cloud departed, and Miriam became leprous. When God goes, evil comes: expect no good when God departs. Her foul tongue, as Bishop Hall says, was justly punished with a foul face. Aaron, as priest, was judge of the leprosy. He could not pronounce her leprous without trembling, knowing himself to be equally guilty. But if she was thus punished for speaking against Moses, what will become of those who sin against Christ? Aaron, who joined his sister in speaking against Moses, is forced for himself and his sister, to beseech him, and to speak highly of him whom he had so lately blamed. Those who trample upon the saints and servants of God, will one day be glad to make court to them. It is well when rebukes produce confession of sin and repentance. Such offenders, though corrected and disgraced, shall be pardoned. Moses made it appear, that he forgave the injury done him. To this pattern of Moses, and that of our Saviour, who said, "Father, forgive them," we must conform. A reason is given for Miriam's being put out of the camp for seven days; because thus she ought to accept the punishment of her sin. When under the tokens of God's displeasure for sin, it becomes us to take shame to ourselves. This hindered the people's progress in their march forward towards Canaan. Many things oppose us, but nothing so hinders us in the way to heaven, as sin.

Cross References 18

  • 1. Micah 6:4
  • 2. Numbers 11:1; 2 Kings 19:4; Isaiah 37:4; Ezekiel 35:12, 13; [Malachi 3:16]
  • 3. Numbers 11:25; Numbers 16:19
  • 4. Genesis 46:2; Ezekiel 1:1; Daniel 8:2; Daniel 10:8, 16; Luke 1:11, 22; Acts 10:11; Acts 22:17, 18
  • 5. Genesis 20:6; Genesis 31:10, 11; 1 Kings 3:5; Job 33:15; Matthew 1:20; Matthew 27:19
  • 6. Psalms 105:26
  • 7. Hebrews 3:2, 5
  • 8. Numbers 7:89; [Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10; 1 Corinthians 13:12]
  • 9. Psalms 49:4; Psalms 78:2; Proverbs 1:6
  • 10. [Exodus 33:20, 23]
  • 11. Deuteronomy 24:9
  • 12. See Leviticus 13:10
  • 13. [2 Samuel 19:19; 2 Samuel 24:10; Proverbs 30:32]
  • 14. Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 30:10
  • 15. See Leviticus 13:46
  • 16. [2 Kings 15:5; 2 Chronicles 26:20, 21; Luke 17:12]
  • 17. Numbers 11:35; [Numbers 33:18]
  • 18. See Numbers 10:12

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
  • [b]. Hebrew do not lay sin upon us

Chapter Summary


In this chapter we have an account of Aaron and Miriam speaking against Moses, and for what reason, whose amiable character is given, Nu 12:1-3; and of the Lord's calling them to him, and rebuking them for it, giving an excellent testimony to Moses, and then departing in anger, Nu 12:4-9; and of Miriam's being smitten with leprosy, and Aaron's entreating Moses on his and her account, who prayed to the Lord to heal her, Nu 12:10-13; and of her being ordered to be shut out of the camp seven days, during which time the Israelites stayed at Hazeroth, and then removed to the wilderness of Paran, Nu 12:14-16.

Numbers 12 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.