15 October 2007

Numbers 12:1-15

"Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses... and the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed. When the cloud went away from the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow". (v.1,9,10)


The book of Numbers tells the story of the Israelites during the nearly 40 years they wandered from Mount Sinai to the border of the land that God had promised to give them. The name of the book refers to the censuses which Moses took of the Israelites at Mount Sinai and other places during that period.

Numbers is an account of people who were often discouraged and afraid in the face of hardship, and who rebelled against God and against Moses. It is the story of God's faithful, persistent care for his people in spite of their weakness and disobedience. It also tells of Moses' steadfast, if sometimes impatient, devotion both to God and his people.

The heart of this passage is the challenge of Aaron and Miriam to the privileged position and uniqueness of Moses. It is one of a number of occasions when Moses' leadership was challenged as the people travelled through the wilderness.

Miriam and Aaron complain that Moses had married a Cushite woman (a foreigner), but the real challenge was 'Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?'

Whatever gifts Aaron and Miriam had, Moses was unique. But he was 'very humble' more so than anyone else (v.3). The suggestion is that he did not push his authority. The passage describes how God calls a meeting to support Moses.

After God had spoken, Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. This was not true leprosy but a milder skin complaint. She had to suffer public shame by being excluded from the camp for seven days (v.14).

To Ponder

Have you challenged the leadership in your church? In what circumstances might it be right to do so?

Miriam was punished for her actions - do you think God punishes people today and if so in what way?

Imagine you were Miriam; how would you feel about God, Moses, Aaron and yourself?

Bible notes author

Revd Anne Brown

Revd Anne Brown is Chair of the Beds, Essex and Herts District. She has served as a Methodist minister in Lancashire and Yorkshire before becoming Chair of the former London North West District..