Miriam and Aaron
1-3 Although Moses was the most humble person in all the world, Miriam and Aaron started complaining, “Moses had no right to marry that woman from Ethiopia! Who does he think he is? The Lord has spoken to us, not just to him.”
The Lord heard their complaint 4and told Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the entrance of the sacred tent. 5There the Lord appeared in a cloud and told Aaron and Miriam to come closer. 6Then after commanding them to listen carefully, he said:
“I, the Lord, speak to prophets
in visions and dreams.
7 But my servant Moses
is the leader of my people.
8He sees me face to face,
and everything I say to him
is perfectly clear.
You have no right to criticize
my servant Moses.”
9The Lord became angry with Aaron and Miriam. And after the Lord left 10and the cloud disappeared from over the sacred tent, Miriam's skin turned white with leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened to her, 11he said to Moses, “Sir, please don't punish us for doing such a foolish thing. 12Don't let Miriam's flesh rot away like a child born dead!”
13Moses prayed, “Lord God, please heal her.”
14 But the Lord replied, “Miriam would be disgraced for seven days if her father had punished her by spitting in her face. So make her stay outside the camp for seven days, before coming back.”
15The people of Israel did not move their camp until Miriam returned seven days later. 16Then they left Hazeroth and set up camp in the Paran Desert.
Jane Austen published her famous novel “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813. Among other things, it explored the elaborate code of morals and manners upheld by the British landed gentry of the day. Austen’s world seems overly concerned about appearances and class distinctions to many of us today. But pride and prejudice are exhibited in every culture, in every age, and our story today illustrates this well.
Moses was a humble leader. In chapter 11 he shared his authority with others and rejoiced that a few had received the Spirit and prophesied. But Miriam and Aaron were offended by his marriage to a foreigner (prejudice!). His “mixed” marriage lowered their respect for Moses and his leadership. Their criticism must have hurt Moses and would have influenced public opinion – after all, Aaron was the High Priest and Miriam was a prophetess, so both did hear from God as they claimed (verse 3). Moses didn’t defend himself (humility!). But God surely defended him, reminding Miriam and Aaron that “Moses is the leader of my people,” and that while he spoke to prophets through visions and dreams, he communicated directly to Moses (“he sees me face to face”). God leaves no doubt that Aaron and Miriam had “no right to criticize my servant Moses.”
Apparently Miriam was the ringleader of the attack, for God punished her with leprosy. Moses graciously prayed for his sister, but God states that since she would have been separated from the community for seven days for a minor offense involving her father (if her “father had spit in her face”), she would be exiled for a week before she could be restored. The implication is that her offense was worthy of a longer punishment, but he will graciously shorten it.
How do pride and prejudice manifest themselves in my life? Do I have my own ideas about what builds standing before God and the community? Am I undermining the honour of other leaders?
O Lord, the One who is no respecter of persons, who sees the heart and all my hidden motives, would you help me to come to you in humility, to see you face to face, to reflect you in all humility to your people and to honour those you honour. This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen