Numbers 12:10
And 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.
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(10) And the cloud departed . . . —The withdrawal of the cloud was the visible token of the Divine displeasure. The word sar, departed, which is here used, is an entirely different word from that which occurs in Numbers 9:17 : “When the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle.” The lifting up of the cloud was the signal for the breaking up of the camp and the resumption of the march; the withdrawal of the cloud was the token of the withdrawal of the Divine presence and direction.

Leprous, white as snow.—Better, was leprous as snow, as in Exodus 4:6, where the same words occur; or, a leper (as white), as snow, as in 2Kings 5:27. In an ordinary case of leprosy, when the disease covered the whole body, and the whole of the flesh had turned white, the man was to be pronounced clean. It was otherwise in cases in which persons were smitten with leprosy by the immediate hand of God, as in the case of Moses and in that of Gehazi.

And Aaron looked upon Miriam . . . —Or, and Aaron turned towards Miriami.e., directed his attention to her, &c. This may have been the first case in which Aaron was required to carry into execution the laws laid down in Leviticus 13, 14, respecting the inspection of the leper; and the duties which devolved upon him must have been doubly painful from the fact that the leper stood in a near relationship to himself, and that he had been a participator in the sin which had called for so severe a punishment.

Numbers 12:10. From off the tabernacle — Probably not the whole tabernacle, but from that part to which it had come, to that part which was directly over the mercy-seat, where it constantly abode. Or, perhaps, it quite disappeared, or stood at a great distance till Miriam was removed from the tabernacle, and carried out of the camp. Miriam became leprous — The original expresses the fact here recorded with much more spirit and force. The cloud departed — and behold, Miriam became leprous — She, and not Aaron, either because she was chief in the transgression, or because God would not have his worship interrupted or dishonoured, which it must have been if Aaron had been leprous. White — This kind of leprosy was the most virulent and incurable of all. It is true, when the leprosy began in a particular part, and thence spread itself over all the flesh by degrees, and at last made it all white, that was an evidence of the cure of the leprosy, (Leviticus 13:12-13,) but it was otherwise when one was suddenly smitten with this universal whiteness.

12:10-16 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.Mouth to mouth - i. e. without the intervention of any third person or thing: compare the marginal references.

Even apparently - Moses received the word of God direct from Him and plainly, not through the medium of dream, vision, parable, dark saying, or such like; compare the marginal references.

The similitude of the Lord shall he behold - But, "No man hath seen God at any time," says John (John 1:18 : compare 1 Timothy 6:16, and especially Exodus 33:20 ff). It was not therefore the Beatific Vision, the unveiled essence of the Deity, which Moses saw on the one hand. Nor was it, on the other hand, a mere emblematic representation (as in Ezekiel 1:26 ff, Daniel 7:9), or an Angel sent as a messenger. It was the Deity Himself manifesting Himself so as to be cognizable to mortal eye. The special footing on which Moses stood as regards God is here laid down in detail, because it at once demonstrates that the supremacy of Moses rested on the distinct appointment of God, and also that Miriam in contravening that supremacy had incurred the penalty proper to sins against the theocracy.

Nu 12:10-16. Miriam's Leprosy.

10. the cloud departed from the tabernacle—that is, from the door to resume its permanent position over the mercy seat.

Miriam became leprous—This malady in its most malignant form (Ex 4:6; 2Ki 5:27) as its color, combined with its sudden appearance, proved, was inflicted as a divine judgment; and she was made the victim, either because of her extreme violence or because the leprosy on Aaron would have interrupted or dishonored the holy service.

From off the tabernacle; not from the whole tabernacle, for then they must have removed, but from that part of the tabernacle whither it was come, to that part which was directly over the mercy-seat, where it constantly abode.

Miriam became leprous; she, and not Aaron, either because she was first or chief in the transgression, or because God would not have his worship either interrupted or dishonoured, which it must have been if Aaron had been leprous.

White as snow: this kind of leprosy was the most virulent and incurable of all. See Exodus 4:6 2 Kings 5:27. It is true, when the leprosy began in a particular part, and thence spread itself over all the flesh by degrees, and at last made it all white, that was an evidence. of the cure of the leprosy, Leviticus 13:12,13; but it was otherwise when one was suddenly and extraordinarily smitten with this universal whiteness, which showed the great corruption of the whole mass of blood, as it was here.

And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle,.... Not from off the door of the tabernacle, as Aben Ezra, for that is implied in the last clause of Numbers 12:9, but from off that part of the tabernacle, the most holy place, where it had used to abide; but now it went up higher in the air, or removed at some distance from thence, which was a further indication of the sore displeasure of God; that as he would not stay with Aaron and Miriam at the door of the tabernacle, so neither would he suffer the cloud to continue over it, as it was wont to do, so long as they were there:

and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow; was smote immediately with a leprosy by the Lord, as the hand of Moses was in a miraculous way, Exodus 4:6; and as Gehazi was, who was smitten of God in like manner, 2 Kings 5:27; in an ordinary and gradual leprosy, when it was all white, the man was clean, Leviticus 13:13; but in an extraordinary one, and which was immediately from God, and at once, in this case it was a sign it was incurable. Miriam only, and not Aaron, was smitten with a leprosy; though Chaskuni says, that some of their Rabbins were of opinion, that Aaron was; but this does not appear, nor is it likely that he should be thus defiled and dishonoured, being the priest of the Lord, and since he was not so deep in the transgression as Miriam, and was drawn into it by her, and also repented of it:

and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous; he not only cast his eye upon her, as it were accidentally, and saw what was her case; but, as the priest of the Lord, looked upon her, as it was the business of his office to do, and perceived she was leprous, and was obliged to pronounce her so; and perhaps she was the first, after the law of the leprosy, that he was called to look upon, and pronounced her unclean, which must be a great mortification to him.

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

(f) From the door of the tabernacle.

10. the cloud removed] Jehovah shewed His anger by departing from Aaron and Miriam in the cloud, not previously to its removal.

leprous as snow] Cf. 2 Kings 5:27, Exodus 4:6 (J ). There were different kinds of leprosy—the White Leprosy (Leviticus 13:13) and two forms of elephantiasis. The former, which is the milder kind, is here thought of. (See Driver and White, Leviticus, p. 76.)

Aaron received no punishment, possibly because Miriam took the lead in the complaint against Moses. See Deuteronomy 24:9.

lay not … sin upon us] Do not bring upon us the consequences of our sin.

Verse 10. - The cloud departed from off the tabernacle. During this awful interview the cloud of the Presence had rested on the tabernacle, as if it were the Divine chariot waiting for the King of Israel while he tarried within (cf. Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1; Revelation 11:12). Now that his work is done he ascends his chariot again, and soars aloft above the host. Miriam became leprous. The Hebrews had become familiar with this terrible disease in Egypt. The Levitical legislation had made it more terrible by affixing to it the penalty of religious and social excommunication, and the stigma, as it were, of the Divine displeasure. Before this legislation Moses himself had been made partially and temporarily leprous, and that solely for a sign, and without any sense of punishment (Exodus 4:6). In Miriam's ease, however, as in all subsequent cases, the plague of leprosy was endued with moral as well as physical horror (cf. 2 Kings 5:27). As snow. This expression points to the perfect development of the disease, as contrasted with its earlier and less conspicuous stages. Aaron looked upon Miriam. If we ask why Aaron himself was not punished, the answer appears to be the same here as in the case of the golden calf.

1. He was not the leader in mischief, but only led into it through weakness.

2. He was, like many weak men, of an affectionate disposition (cf. Leviticus 10:19), and suffered his own punishment in witnessing that of others.

3. He was God's high priest, and the office would have shared in the disgrace of the man. Numbers 12:10Jehovah summoned the opponents of His servant to come at once before His judgment-seat. He commanded Moses, Aaron, and Miriam suddenly to come out of the camp (see at Numbers 11:30) to the tabernacle. Then He Himself came down in a pillar of cloud to the door of the tabernacle, i.e., to the entrance to the court, not to the dwelling itself, and called Aaron and Miriam out, i.e., commanded them to come out of the court,

(Note: The discrepancy discovered by Knobel, in the fact that, according to the so-called Elohist, no one but Moses, Aaron, and the sons of Aaron were allowed to enter the sanctuary, whereas, according to the Jehovist, others did so, - e.g., Miriam here, and Joshua in Exodus 33:11, - rests entirely upon a groundless fancy, arising from a misinterpretation, as there is not a word about entering the sanctuary, i.e., the dwelling itself, either in the verse before us or in Exodus 33:11.)

and said to them (Numbers 12:6.): "If there is a prophet of Jehovah to you (i.e., if you have one), I make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream (בּו, lit., "in him," inasmuch as a revelation in a dream fell within the inner sphere of the soul-life). Not so My servant Moses: he is approved in My whole house; mouth to mouth I speak to him, and as an appearance, and that not in enigmas; and he sees the form of Jehovah. Why are ye not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?" נביאכם equals לכם נביא, the suffix used with the noun instead of the separate pronoun in the dative, as in Genesis 39:21; Leviticus 15:3, etc. The noun Jehovah is in all probability to be taken as a genitive, in connection with the word נביאכם ("a prophet to you"), as it is in the lxx and Vulg., and not to be construed with the words which follow ("I Jehovah will make Myself known"). The position of Jehovah at the head of the clause without a preceding אנכי (I) would be much more remarkable than the separation of the dependent noun from the governing noun by the suffix, which occurs in other cases also (e.g., Leviticus 6:3; Leviticus 26:42, etc.); moreover, it would be by no means suited to the sense, as no such emphasis is laid upon the fact that it was Jehovah who made Himself known, as to require or even justify such a construction. The "whole house of Jehovah" (Numbers 12:7) is not "primarily His dwelling, the holy tent" (Baumgarten), - for, in that case, the word "whole" would be quite superfluous, - but the whole house of Israel, or the covenant nation regarded as a kingdom, to the administration and government of which Moses had been called: as a matter of fact, therefore, the whole economy of the Old Testament, having its central point in the holy tent, which Jehovah had caused to be built as the dwelling-place of His name. It did not terminate, however, in the service of the sanctuary, as we may see from the fact that god did not make the priests who were entrusted with the duties of the sanctuary the organs of His saving revelation, but raised up and called prophets after Moses for that purpose. Compare the expression in Hebrews 3:6, "Whose house we are." נאמן with בּ does not mean to be, or become, entrusted with anything (Baumgarten, Knobel), but simply to be lasting, firm, constant, in a local or temporal sense (Deuteronomy 28:59; 1 Samuel 2:35; 2 Samuel 7:16, etc.); in a historical sense, to prove or attest one's self (Genesis 42:20); and in an ethical sense, to be found proof, trustworthy, true (Psalm 78:8; 1 Samuel 3:20; 1 Samuel 22:14 : see Delitzsch on Hebrews 3:2). In the participle, therefore, it signifies proved, faithful, πιστός (lxx). "Mouth to mouth" answers to the "face to face" in Exodus 33:11 (cf. Deuteronomy 34:10), i.e., without any mediation or reserve, but with the same closeness and freedom with which friends converse together (Exodus 33:11). This is still further strengthened and elucidated by the words in apposition, "in the form of seeing (appearance), and not in riddles," i.e., visibly, and not in a dark, hidden, enigmatical way. מראה is an accusative defining the mode, and signifies here not vision, as in Numbers 12:6, but adspectus, view, sight; for it forms an antithesis to בּמּראה in Numbers 12:6. "The form (Eng. similitude) of Jehovah" was not the essential nature of God, His unveiled glory, - for this no mortal man can see (vid., Exodus 33:18.), - but a form which manifested the invisible God to the eye of man in a clearly discernible mode, and which was essentially different, not only from the visionary sight of God in the form of a man (Ezekiel 1:26; Daniel 7:9 and Daniel 7:13), but also from the appearances of God in the outward world of the senses, in the person and form of the angel of Jehovah, and stood in the same relation to these two forms of revelation, so far as directness and clearness were concerned, as the sight of a person in a dream to that of the actual figure of the person himself. God talked with Moses without figure, in the clear distinctness of a spiritual communication, whereas to the prophets He only revealed Himself through the medium of ecstasy or dream.

Through this utterance on the part of Jehovah, Moses is placed above all the prophets, in relation to God and also to the whole nation. The divine revelation to the prophets is thereby restricted to the two forms of inward intuition (vision and dream). It follows from this, that it had always a visionary character, though it might vary in intensity; and therefore that it had always more or less obscurity about it, because the clearness of self-consciousness and the distinct perception of an external world, both receded before the inward intuition, in a dream as well as in a vision. The prophets were consequently simply organs, through whom Jehovah made known His counsel and will at certain times, and in relation to special circumstances and features in the development of His kingdom. It was not so with Moses. Jehovah had placed him over all His house, had called him to be the founder and organizer of the kingdom established in Israel through his mediatorial service, and had found him faithful in His service. With this servant (θεράπων, lxx) of His, He spake mouth to mouth, without a figure or figurative cloak, with the distinctness of a human interchange of thought; so that at any time he could inquire of God and wait for the divine reply. Hence Moses was not a prophet of Jehovah, like many others, not even merely the first and highest prophet, primus inter pares, but stood above all the prophets, as the founder of the theocracy, and mediator of the Old Covenant. Upon this unparalleled relation of Moses to God and the theocracy, so clearly expressed in the verses before us, the Rabbins have justly founded their view as to the higher grade of inspiration in the Thorah. This view is fully confirmed through the history of the Old Testament kingdom of God, and the relation in which the writings of the prophets stand to those of Moses. The prophets subsequent to Moses simply continued to build upon the foundation which Moses laid. And if Moses stood in this unparalleled relation to the Lord, Miriam and Aaron sinned grievously against him, when speaking as they did. Numbers 12:9. After this address, "the wrath of Jehovah burned against them, and He went." As a judge, withdrawing from the judgment-seat when he has pronounced his sentence, so Jehovah went, by the cloud in which He had come down withdrawing from the tabernacle, and ascending up on high. And at the same moment, Miriam, the instigator of the rebellion against her brother Moses, was covered with leprosy, and became white as snow.

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