Miriam's and Aaron's Sedition.
1. an Ethiopian woman—Hebrew, "a
Cushite woman"—Arabia was usually called in Scripture the land of
Cush, its inhabitants being descendants of that son of Ham (see on Ex 2:15) and being accounted generally a vile and
contemptible race (see on Am 9:7). The occasion of
this seditious outbreak on the part of Miriam and Aaron against Moses
was the great change made in the government by the adoption of the
seventy rulers [Nu 11:16].
Their irritating disparagement of his wife (who, in all probability,
was Zipporah [Ex 2:21], and
not a second wife he had recently married) arose from jealousy of the
relatives, through whose influence the innovation had been first made
18:13-26), while they were
overlooked or neglected. Miriam is mentioned before Aaron as being the
chief instigator and leader of the sedition.
2. Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath
he not also spoken by us?—The prophetical name and character
was bestowed upon Aaron (Ex 4:15, 16) and Miriam (Ex 15:20); and, therefore, they considered the
conduct of Moses, in exercising an exclusive authority in this matter,
as an encroachment on their rights (Mic 6:4).
3. the man Moses was very meek—(Ex 14:13; 32:12, 13; Nu 14:13; 21:7; De 9:18). This observation might have been
made to account for Moses taking no notice of their angry reproaches
and for God's interposing so speedily for the vindication of His
servant's cause. The circumstance of Moses recording an eulogium on a
distinguishing excellence of his own character is not without a
parallel among the sacred writers, when forced to it by the insolence
and contempt of opponents (2Co 11:5; 12:11, 12). But it is not improbable that, as this
verse appears to be a parenthesis, it may have been inserted as a gloss
by Ezra or some later prophet. Others, instead of "very meek," suggest
"very afflicted," as the proper rendering.
4. the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto
Aaron, and unto Miriam—The divine interposition was made thus
openly and immediately, in order to suppress the sedition and prevent
its spreading among the people.
5. the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud,
and stood the door of the tabernacle—without gaining
admission, as was the usual privilege of Aaron, though it was denied to
all other men and women. This public exclusion was designed to be a
token of the divine displeasure.
6, 7. Hear now my words—A difference of
degree is here distinctly expressed in the gifts and authority even of
divinely commissioned prophets. Moses, having been set over all God's
house, (that is, His church and people), was consequently invested with
supremacy over Miriam and Aaron also and privileged beyond all others
by direct and clear manifestations of the presence and will of God.
8. with him will I speak mouth to
mouth—immediately, not by an interpreter, nor by visionary
symbols presented to his fancy.
apparently—plainly and surely.
not in dark speeches—parables or
the similitude of the Lord shall he
behold—not the face or essence of God, who is invisible
(Ex 33:20; Col 1:15; Joh 1:18); but some unmistakable evidence of His
glorious presence (Ex 33:2; 34:5). The latter clause should have been
conjoined with the preceding one, thus: "not in dark speeches, and in a
figure shall he behold the Lord." The slight change in the punctuation
removes all appearance of contradiction to De 4:15.
Nu 12:10-16. Miriam's
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
11-13. On the humble and penitential
submission of Aaron, Moses interceded for both the offenders,
especially for Miriam, who was restored; not, however, till she had
been made, by her exclusion, a public example [Nu 12:14, 15].
14. her father had but spit in her face, should
she not be ashamed seven days?—The Jews, in common with all
people in the East, seem to have had an intense abhorrence of spitting,
and for a parent to express his displeasure by doing so on the person
of one of his children, or even on the ground in his presence,
separated that child as unclean from society for seven days.
15. the people journeyed not till Miriam was
brought in again—Either not to crush her by a sentence of
overwhelming severity or not to expose her, being a prophetess, to
16. pitched in the wilderness of
Paran—The station of encampments seems to have been Rithma