If there be a prophet - We see here the different ways in which God usually made himself known to the prophets, viz., by visions - emblematic appearances, and by dreams, in which the future was announced by dark speeches, בחידת bechidoth, by enigmas or figurative representations, Numbers 12:8. But to Moses God had communicated himself in a different way - he spoke to him face to face, apparently, showing him his glory: not in dark or enigmatical speeches; this could not be admitted in the case in which Moses was engaged, for he was to receive laws by Divine inspiration, the precepts and expressions of which must all be ad captum vulgi, within the reach of the meanest capacity. As Moses, therefore, was chosen of God to be the lawgiver, so was he chosen to see these laws duly enforced for the benefit of the people among whom he presided.
Miriam, as a prophetess (compare Exodus 15:20-21) no less than as the sister of Moses and Aaron, took the first rank among the women of Israel; and Aaron may be regarded as the ecclesiastical head of the whole nation. But instead of being grateful for these high dignities they challenged the special vocation of Moses and the exclusive authority which God had assigned to him. Miriam was the instigator, from the fact that her name stands conspicuously first Numbers 12:1, and that the punishment Numbers 12:10 fell on her alone. She probably considered herself as supplanted, and that too by a foreigner. Aaron was misled this time by the urgency of his sister, as once before Numbers 12:1
The Ethiopian woman whom he had married - (Hebrew, “Cushite,” compare Genesis 2:13; Genesis 10:6) It is likely that Zipporah Exodus 2:21 was dead, and that Miriam in consequence expected to have greater influence than ever with Moses. Her disappointment at his second marriage would consequently be very great.
The marriage of Moses with a woman descended from Ham was not prohibited, so long as she was not of the stock of Canaan (compare Exodus 34:11-16); but it would at any time have been offensive to that intense nationality which characterized the Jews. The Christian fathers note in the successive marriage of Moses with a Midianite and an Ethiopian a foreshadowing of the future extension to the Gentiles of God‘s covenant and its promises (compare Psalm 45:9 ff; Luke 15:29-30.
Hath the Lord - i. e. Is it merely, after all, by Moses that the Lord hath spoken?
The man Moses was very meek - In this and in other passages in which Moses no less unequivocally records his own faults (compare Numbers 20:12 ff; Exodus 4:24 ff; Deuteronomy 1:37), there is the simplicity of one who bare witness of himself, but not to himself (compare Matthew 11:28-29). The words are inserted to explain how it was that Moses took no steps to vindicate himself, and why consequently the Lord so promptly intervened.
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.
As one dead - leprosy was nothing short of a living death, a poisoning of the springs, a corrupting of all the humors, of life; a dissolution little by little of the whole body, so that one limb after another actually decayed and fell away. Compare the notes at Numbers 12:13
Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee - Others render these words: “Oh not so; heal her now, I beseech Thee.”
If her father - i. e. If her earthly parent had treated her with contumely (compare Deuteronomy 25:9) she would feel for a time humiliated, how much more when God has visited her thus?
Notwithstanding the recent murmurings of the Israelites, and the declaration from God that they should die in the wilderness, they did not walk carefully and humbly before him. 4aSG 27.1
The Lord had made the case of Miriam a special example of warning to the Israelites. They had seen exhibited upon her the wrath of God because of her jealousy and complaints against his chosen servant Moses. The Lord then told them that Moses was greater than a prophet, and that he had revealed himself to Moses in a more direct manner than to a prophet. Said the Lord, “With him will I speak mouth to mouth.” He then inquires of them, “Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And Miriam became leprous. The instructions given in this instance to Aaron and Miriam were not intended alone for their benefit, but for the good of all the congregation of Israel. 4aSG 27.2Read in context »