King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

Numbers > Old Testament > Home

Numbers 12

God rebukes the murmuring of Aaron and Miriam. (1-9) Miriam struck with leprosy, and healed at the prayer of Moses. (10-16)

Numbers 12 Audio:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

God rebukes the murmuring of Aaron and Miriam

1 And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.

2 And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.

3 (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)

4 And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out.

5 And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth.

6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.

8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.

Miriam struck with leprosy, and healed at the prayer of Moses

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.

11 And Aaron said unto Moses, Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.

12 Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother’s womb.

13 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.

14 And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.

15 And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.

16 And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.

« »

G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Ethiopian. Sephora, the wife of Moses, was of Madian, which bordered upon the land of Chus, or Ethiopia; and therefore she is called an Ethiopian: where note, that the Ethiopia here spoken of, is not that of Africa, but that of Arabia, (Ch.) on the east side of the Red Sea. Ex. ii. 15. Jealousy instigated Aaron and his sister on this occasion. C. — Perhaps Sephora had claimed some pre-eminence on account of her husband’s gorly, in being a mediator between God and his people, and therefore they pretend to the same honour, v. 2. H. — The Heb. insinuates, that they laid hold on the pretext of Moses having married, or received again, a woman of a different nation contrary to the law which he had promulgated, “for it adds, he had married or retaken an Ethiopian woman.” Others believe that he had put her away, and that Aaron and Mary stood up in her defence. “Mary and Aaron murmured against Moses, on account of the wife whom he had taken, who was a perfect beauty, because he had separated himself from his beautiful wife.” Onkelos. — Some are of opinion, that this woman was Tarbis, the daughter of the king of Ethiopia, whom Moses espoused after he had terminated the wars between him and the Egyptians, before he retired to Madian. But this account of Josephus, (Ant. ii. 5,) and the explication of Onkelos, and of the Rabbins, seem to be destitute of any solid foundation. C.

Ver. 3. Exceeding meek. Moses being the meekest of men, would not contend for himself; therefore God inspired him to write here in his own defence: and the Holy Spirit, whose dictate he wrote, obliged him to declare the truth, though it was so much to his own praise. Ch. — So he mentions his defects without reserve. C. — There are occasions when a person may be not only authorized, but in a manner forced to declare what may be to his own praise. Moses was in such a situation. The peace of the whole nation was in danger, when false insinuations were thrown out against the lawgiver and king, by his own nearest relations, and by them who were next in authority to himself. Aaron, the high priest, countenanced at least the remarks of his sister, who seems to have been the most to blame, as she alone is punished with the leprosy. H. — Some have suspected that this verse has been inserted by a later inspired writer. A. Lapide. — But whether it was or not, there is no reason to infer with T. Paine, that Moses was either “a vain and arrogant coxcomb, and unworthy of credit, or that the books (attributed to him) are without authority.” For if he did not write this verse, it does not follow that he wrote none of the Pentateuch; and if Paine scruples not to write of himself: “the man does not exist, that can say…I have in any case returned evil for evil:” and is not praising himself as a very meek man, when at the same time he is writing to cause all the mischief he can both in church and state, and thus during the heat of revolutionary madness, to involve thousands in ruin? Watson. H.

Ver. 5. Come to the door of the tabernacle, where Moses also was standing.

Ver. 6. Vision. Other prophets were inspired in a more mysterious manner: Moses, though he saw not the majesty of God in any corporeal figure, was instructed by him in the most secret things with the utmost perspicuity, (C.) as if a man were explaining his sentiments to his most intimate friend. Ex. xxxiii. 19. H.

Ver. 7. Faithful: Hebrew Neeman, steward or master of the palace. Such was Samuel, 1 K. iii. 20; David, (C.) 1 K. xxii. 14; Naaman, the general of Syria, 2 K. v.; and Bacchides, 1 Mac. vii. H. — Ambassadors had this title, (Prov. xiii. 17,) and fidelity often denotes an office. 1 Par. ix. 22. Job (xii. 20,) speaks of the Namonim. C. — But none among the Israelites was more justly entitled to this honour than Moses. He announced the word of God without any mixture of falsehood, and did not arrogate to himself more than his due, as Aaron seems to have done, v. 2. H.

Ver. 10. Departed from the door to its former place, (C.) as if in abhorrence of Mary’s leprosy, (Hiscuni) and still more of the sin, which had brought upon her that punishment. C. — Perhaps the cloud was raised higher in the air than usual, but did not proceed forward; (M.) otherwise the Israelites would have decamped. They remained at Haseroth till Mary was returned into the camp, v. 15. H. — Leprosy, of an incurable kind, like that of Gieze, 4 K. v. 27. It covers the whole skin with a white scurf. Lev. xiii. 10. Aaron is spared, either because he had sided with his sister only out of complaisance, without any formal malice against his brother; or because God, in consideration for his priestly character, would not render him contemptible in the eyes of the all people, intending to punish him in a more secret manner: for was are not always to judge of the grievousness of a fault, by its present punishment. Perhaps Aaron obtained pardon by his speedy repentance, v. 11. C.

Ver. 12. Dead; consumed by leprosy, or incapable of performing the duties of life. M. — Heb. “an abortive, whose flesh is half consumed before he comes forth from his mother’s womb.” Sept. “he eateth half her flesh.” “Permit not her to be separated from us, I beseech you, for she is our sister: pray, I beg, that her flesh may be healed.” Chaldee.

Ver. 14. Answered him. The force of this reply must be very obvious. If a father had been so irritated by his daughter, as to shew his indignation in the strongest manner, (see Job xxx. 10. Mar. xiv. 65,) she would surely keep out of sight for a time: and can she complain, if I, who have been more injured in the person of my minister, exclude her from society seven days, after having covered her with the leprosy as with spittle. C. — The excommunication, in the Christian Church, bears some resemblance with this exclusion. Mary did not undergo all the legal purifications, (Lev. xxxiv.) as the miraculous cure dispensed her from them. M. — Origen (hom. vi. 7,) and other Fathers, explain the mystery of this historical event. Moses, taking to wife the Ethiopian, represents Christ calling the Gentiles, which excites the murmurs of the synagogue. Mary shews the deformity of the latter religion at the present day, without head or sacrifice. The encomiums bestowed upon the Jewish legislator, belong in a still stricter sense to Jesus Christ, the mildest of men, fully acquainted with all the secrets of God, and the most faithful in all his house. S. Jer. ep. ad Fab. mansion xiv.