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Aaron and Miriam Jealous of Moses


While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had indeed married a Cushite woman); 2and they said, “Has the L ord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the L ord heard it. 3Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth. 4Suddenly the L ord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. 5Then the L ord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. 6And he said, “Hear my words:

When there are prophets among you,

I the L ord make myself known to them in visions;

I speak to them in dreams.


Not so with my servant Moses;

he is entrusted with all my house.


With him I speak face to face— clearly, not in riddles;

and he beholds the form of the L ord.

Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9And the anger of the L ord was kindled against them, and he departed.

10 When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam and saw that she was leprous. 11Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed. 12Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.” 13And Moses cried to the L ord, “O God, please heal her.” 14But the L ord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15So Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days; and the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again. 16After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

6. If there be a prophet among you. He makes mention of two methods by which the will of God was wont to be revealed to the prophets, viz., visions and dreams. He does not, however, here use the word חזון chazon, 4242     חזון, a vision, from חזה, to see, to look upon. מראה, either the act of sight, or the object of sight; a seeing, or an appearance, from ראה, to see, to perceive. — W. which signifies a prophecy as well as a vision, but מראה, marah, expressive of some visible appearance, which confirms and ratifies the truth of His word (oraculi) to the eyes and all the senses. Thus has God often appeared to His servants, so that His majesty might be inscribed upon His addresses to them. Before the giving of the Law such visions were frequently vouchsafed to the Patriarchs; whilst sometimes they were instructed by dreams. Thus Joel, when he promises that under the kingdom of Christ there shall be a complete fullness of all revelations, also enumerates these two forms of them,

“Your sons (he says) and your daughters shall prophesy: your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.”
(Joel 2:28.)

But we know that the prophets described the kingdom of Christ under the likeness of their own times: when, therefore, God sets forth these two ordinary modes of revelation, he withdraws Moses from the condition of others, as if to exalt him by a special privilege. Now, since Aaron and Miriam were not superior to others, they were thus reminded that they were far behind Moses in rank. With this view he is said to be “faithful in all God’s house;” in quoting which passage in order to prove his inferiority to Christ, the Apostle says he was a servant, and a member of the Church, whereas Christ was its Lord and builder, or creator. (Hebrews 3:2-6.) But the difference between them is more clearly specified immediately afterwards, viz., that God speaks to him “mouth to mouth,” by which expression, as I have said elsewhere, 4343     On Exodus 33:11, ante, vol. 3, p. 372. more intimate and familiar communication is denoted. Still God does not thus deprive the prophets of anything which is requisite for the discharge of their office; but merely establishes Moses as the chief of them all. It is true, indeed, that the Patriarchs are so ranked, as Abraham was called a prophet by the mouth of God, (Genesis 20:7;) and the Prophet thus names him together with Isaac and Jacob in Psalm 105:15; but still God at the same time includes the whole dispensation, which He afterwards chose to employ under the Law; and so prefers Moses to all who were hereafter to arise.

Further, the word vision is used in a different sense from that which it had just above; for God, distinguishing Moses from others, says that He speaks with him in vision, 4444     A.V. “apparently.” which it would be absurd to explain as meaning an ordinary or common vision. It therefore here signifies actual sight, 4545     “Veue, ou regard de quelque figure visible;” the view or look of some visible figure. — Fr. which He contrasts with “dark speeches (aenigmata) and similitude,” which word is equivalent to a representation (figura,) if the negative be referred to both. For there are some who take similitude for a lively and express image; as if God should assert that He reveals His face to Moses; and therefore read the clause adversatively, as I have given it in the margin. But the former reading is the most natural.

I have elsewhere treated of dreams and visions. It will then be sufficient to give the sum in one word, namely, that they were seals for the confirmation of prophecies; so that the Prophets, as if sent from heaven, might with full confidence declare themselves to be God’s lawful interpreters. For visions had their own peculiar marks, to distinguish them from phantoms and false imaginations; and dreams also were accompanied by their signs, in order to remove all doubt of their authenticity. The prophets, therefore, were fully conscious of their vocation, so that nothing was wanting to the assurance of faith. Meanwhile, the false prophets dressed themselves up in these masks to deceive. Thus Jeremiah, in refutation of their ungodly pretences, says,

“The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord?” (Jeremiah 23:28.)

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