Dave Burnette's Commentary

Numbers Chapter 12

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Moses
Date Penned: (1450-1410 BC)
Overview: A Record of Israel's Unbelief (c 1-27)
Theme: The First Approach to the Promised Land (c 10-14)
Message: Miriam and Aaron Criticize Moses (v 1-16)

Numbers 12 Commentary

(12:1) A Reference to Moses Wives -  Moses didn't have a Hebrew wife because he had lived with the Egyptians for the first 40 years of his life and he was in the wilderness for the next 40 years. This woman may not have been Zipporah, his first wife, who was a Midianite (see Exodus 2:21). However, it could be that the term Ethiopian is here used loosely for "foreigner," which would easily work as a reference to Zipporah. Either way, there is no explanation given for why Miriam and Aaron objected to this woman.

(12:2) Moses is Criticized - People often argue over minor disagreements, leaving the deeper issues untouched. Such was the case when Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses. They represented the prophets and the priests, the two most powerful groups next to Moses. The real issue was their growing jealousy of Moses' position and influence. Since they could not find fault with the way Moses was leading the people, they chose to criticize his wife. Rather than face the problem squarely by dealing with their envy and pride, they chose to create a diversion from the real issue. When you are in a disagreement, stop and ask yourself if you are arguing over the real issue or if you have introduced a smoke screen by attacking someone's character. If you are unjustly criticized, remember that your critics may be afraid to face the real problem. Don't take this type of criticism personally. Ask God to help you identify the real issue and deal with it.

(12:11) Avoiding Foolish Ideas -  Aaron admitted that he and Miriam had acted foolishly. It is easy to look back at our mistakes and recognize their foolishness. It is much harder to recognize foolish plans while we are carrying them out because somehow they seem appropriate at the time. Getting rid of foolish ideas before they turn into foolish actions requires eliminating our wrong thoughts and motives. Failing to do this caused Miriam and Aaron much grief.

(12:14) Spitting at Someone - Spitting in someone's face was considered the ultimate insult and a sign of shame imposed on wrongdoers. The religious leaders spat in Jesus' face to insult him (Matthew 26:67). God punished Miriam for her smug attitude toward not only Moses' authority but also God's. He struck her with leprosy and then ordered her out of the camp for a week. This punishment was actually quite lenient. A week was the length of time she would have been excluded if her father had spit in her face. How much more she deserved for wronging God! As always, God was merciful while exercising effective discipline.

Dave Burnette's Life Application


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue the book of Numbers with Chapter 12 and in today's text we see the nation of Israel continues on their journey to the promise land. We have looked and learned from many character flaws from these people. We still have these flaws in our lives today. It would be wise to learn from their mistakes lest we to experience the judgments they experienced. Today we see the jealousy of Aaron and Miriam as it relates to Moses and his wife because God had placed them in charge. In making application we still deal with jealousy. Our leaders or people who have been placed over us can be the object of our jealousy. We tend to rationalize our jealousy with a judgmental attitude due to their weaknesses or short comings but the truth is that God has allowed them into that position so we should respect them as unto the Lord. How about you? Do you respect and obey authorities in your life? Let us learn from today's text to respect authority and avoid jealousy. 


Numbers 12

Numbers 12

 1And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.

 2And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.

 3(Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)

 4And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.

 5And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.

 6And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

 7My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.

 8With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

 9And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.

 10And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.

 11And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.

 12Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb.

 13And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.

 14And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.

 15And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.

 16And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.