Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.3. The Rebellion of Miriam and Aaron
1. Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses (Numbers 12:1-3)
2. The interference of the Lord (Numbers 12:4-9)
3. Miriam leprous (Numbers 12:10)
4. Aaron’s confession and intercession (Numbers 12:11-12)
5. Moses’ prayer and Miriam’s restoration (Numbers 12:13-16)
Open rebellion against Moses by his own brother and sister is the next step in the story of failure. Envy was at the bottom of it. The words Miriam and Aaron spoke reveal that they aimed at Moses’ position. Miriam was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20). Aaron had the dignity of the priesthood. Pride, the crime of the devil (1Timothy 3:6), lead them to speak against their own brother. Miriam was the leader in this rebellion, for her name stands first and the judgment falls upon her. She may have been moved to jealousy by the elders having received the Spirit and exercising the gift of prophecy among the people. And Aaron reveals the weakness of the flesh. It is the second time he failed in this manner. He could not resist the clamoring of the people when they demanded the golden calf and here he cannot resist his sister, who became the willing instrument of Satan, like the first woman (1Timothy 2:14). Moses had a Cushite woman for wife. This typifies the great truth of the union of Christ and the church, that Gentiles were to be joint-heirs and joint-members of the same body. But it seems that the Cushite wife of Moses was only a subterfuge and an attempt to reflect upon the moral character of the man of God, whose position they envied.
(If this thought is followed out in its dispensational meaning, it becomes very interesting. The natural relations objected to this union, as the Jews were moved with jealousy when the gospel was preached to the Gentiles and the Gentiles believed. The book of Acts bears abundant testimony to this fact.)
“And the Lord heard it.” Magnificent words these! and the Lord also said, “Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” It is a serious thing to speak against any servant of God. The Lord will always guard those who serve Him and vindicate their character. Moses did not take the case in his own hands. He did not answer back. His gracious character stands out in majestic greatness. How hard it is for a man who holds a high and honored position to bear any attack in silence and not to open his mouth! Moses kept silent, for he was very meek above all the men which were upon the face of the earth. In this he is a blessed type of Him who was meek and lowly; who reviled not when He was reviled, who opened not His mouth.
But did Moses really write the third verse? And if he did, does this not prove that he spoke well of himself? Some claim that this is an addition to the text. “The self-praise on the part of Moses which many have discovered in this description of his character, and on account of which some even of the earlier expositors regarded this verse as a later gloss, whilst more recent critics have used it as an argument against the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, is not an expression of vain self display, or a glorification of his own gifts and excellences which he prided himself upon possessing above all others. It is simply a statement which was indispensable to a full and correct interpretation of all the circumstances and which was made quite objectively with reference to the character which Moses had not given to himself, but had acquired through the grace of God.” (Keil and Delitzsch, The Pentateuch.) This fully meets the difficulty.
And Jehovah speaks well of His servant Moses. He is declared faithful. With him He speaks and the similitude of Jehovah he is to behold. Compare with Hebrews 3:5-6. A greater than Moses is here! Christ is faithful as Son over God’s house. Aaron confesses his sin and Miriam’s sin. She is leprous and excluded from the congregation of Israel, where she tried to be the leader, but graciously restored at the appointed time as the result of the prayer of Moses. And may we not read here Israel’s story, leprous now, but some day healed and restored?