All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
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Jealousy and Judgment

Moses was led by God from Egypt into Midian where he worked as a shepherd, in preparation to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert. God also called his brother Aaron to be the high priest for His people, and his talented sister Miriam, who after crossing the Red Sea, was a prophetic voice leading the song of victory over the Egyptian army (Exodus 15).

Family Troubles

While the Israelites were camped in the desert, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, brings his daughter Zipporah and her two sons to live with him. After observing Moses’ heavy workload, Jethro counsels him to choose elders to help judge the matters brought by the people.

His counsel is confirmed when the Lord tells Moses to appoint seventy elders to help judge the people’s problems. However, trouble brews and Miriam and Aaron rebel against Moses, apparently because they are not consulted or chosen when the elders are appointed.

In jealousy, they speak out against his wife, suggesting they believe Zipporah somehow influenced Moses’ decision.

Ethnically a Midianite, Zipporah’s skin is apparently darker than the Israelites, and in their disdain, they refer to her as the “Ethiopian woman.” However, Zipporah is a descendant of Abraham, and a worshipper of the true God.

Outright Rebellion

The ringleader seems to be Miriam, since she is listed first, and the Hebrew verb is both feminine in gender and singular in number. However, Aaron apparently sympathizes with her, since he is named with her.

Their jealousy results in rebellion against God’s appointed leader of His people, and their statements reveal the fact that they feel they are equal to Moses. “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?” they ask. “Has He not spoken through us also?” Numbers 12:2.

Swift Judgment

Suddenly, the Lord commands Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” Imagine the fear that gripped their hearts.

God then descends to the door of the tabernacle in a pillar of cloud, and calls Aaron and Miriam to step forward.

“I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings;” God says, “and he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?” As He asks this terrible question, the Lord’s anger is aroused, and He swiftly departs.

Instantly, Miriam becomes leprous, as white as snow! When Aaron sees her condition, he begs Moses, “Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and sinned.”

Moses prays, asking the Lord to heal her, and the Lord answers, “Let her be shut out of the camp for seven days and then she can again return to the camp.”

The Irony

Don’t miss the irony! Miriam, who criticizes Moses’ wife dark skin color, becomes white—with leprosy!

Once again, divine judgment and punishment appropriately fit the crime. Criticism against the one whom the Lord has chosen is clearly a serious sin, and something we should carefully consider, ourselves. However, we must note that in His great love and mercy, God uses leprosy to restore Miriam and Aaron back to Him.

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