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.

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 27

  • 1. S Exodus 15:20
  • 2. S Exodus 2:21
  • 3. Numbers 16:3
  • 4. S Numbers 11:1
  • 5. Matthew 11:29
  • 6. S Exodus 13:21; S Numbers 11:25
  • 7. 1 Samuel 3:7,21
  • 8. S Genesis 15:1; Genesis 46:2
  • 9. S Genesis 20:3; Genesis 31:10; 1 Kings 3:5; S Matthew 27:19; Hebrews 1:1
  • 10. Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1-2; Psalms 105:26
  • 11. Hebrews 3:2,5
  • 12. Deuteronomy 34:10; Judges 14:12; 1 Kings 10:1; Psalms 49:4; Proverbs 1:6; Daniel 5:12
  • 13. Exodus 20:4; Job 19:26; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 140:13; Isaiah 6:1
  • 14. Exodus 24:2
  • 15. S Exodus 4:14
  • 16. S Genesis 17:22
  • 17. Exodus 40:2
  • 18. S Exodus 4:6; Deuteronomy 24:9
  • 19. S Leviticus 13:11; 2 Kings 5:1,27; 2 Chronicles 16:12; 2 Chronicles 21:12-15; 2 Chronicles 26:19
  • 20. 2 Samuel 19:19; 2 Samuel 24:10
  • 21. Exodus 15:26; Psalms 6:2; Psalms 147:3; Isaiah 1:6; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 53:5; Jeremiah 17:14; Hosea 6:1
  • 22. Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 17:6; Job 30:9-10; Isaiah 50:6
  • 23. S Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2-3
  • 24. S Leviticus 14:8
  • 25. S Leviticus 13:4
  • 26. Numbers 11:35
  • 27. Genesis 21:21; Numbers 10:12; Numbers 15:32

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. The Hebrew for "leprous" was used for various diseases affecting the skin.

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