Numbers 12-13 & Psalm 49

Numbers 12-13

    Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And the LORD 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. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.

    When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother's womb.” And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her—please.” But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

    The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel. And these were their names: From the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; from the tribe of Joseph (that is, from the tribe of Manasseh), Gaddi the son of Susi; from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi. These were the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua.

    Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan and said to them, “Go up into the Negeb and go up into the hill country, and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds, and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.

    So they went up and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin to Rehob, near Lebo-hamath. They went up into the Negeb and came to Hebron. Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, were there. (Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) And they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they also brought some pomegranates and figs. That place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster that the people of Israel cut down from there.

    At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

    But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

(Numbers 12-13 ESV)

Psalm 49

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

    Hear this, all peoples!
        Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,
    both low and high,
        rich and poor together!
    My mouth shall speak wisdom;
        the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.
    I will incline my ear to a proverb;
        I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.
    Why should I fear in times of trouble,
        when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,
    those who trust in their wealth
        and boast of the abundance of their riches?
    Truly no man can ransom another,
        or give to God the price of his life,
    for the ransom of their life is costly
        and can never suffice,
    that he should live on forever
        and never see the pit.
    For he sees that even the wise die;
        the fool and the stupid alike must perish
        and leave their wealth to others.
    Their graves are their homes forever,
        their dwelling places to all generations,
        though they called lands by their own names.
    Man in his pomp will not remain;
        he is like the beasts that perish.
    This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;
        yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah
    Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;
        death shall be their shepherd,
    and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.
        Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.
    But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,
        for he will receive me. Selah
    Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
        when the glory of his house increases.
    For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
        his glory will not go down after him.
    For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
        —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
    his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
        who will never again see light.
    Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

(Psalm 49 ESV)

Something to Consider

Numbers 12-13: Many among Israel, including some of the leaders, are beginning to complain about the difficulties they’re having to endure on this journey to the Promised Land. This also leads to complaints concerning Moses’ leadership and doubts concerning the likelihood that the Israelites will be able to inherit the Promised Land anyway.

Often times, our strongest critics can be those from within our own families. Aaron and Miriam (the brother and sister of Moses) bring up some seemingly irrelevant issue concerning a woman (or the woman) that Moses had married. However, we quickly see that their issue with this woman was really a cover up to the real issue which was their unwillingness to remain submissive to the leadership of Moses. Aaron was the high priest and Miriam was a prophetess (Exodus 15) so they challenged whether or not Moses’ leadership was any more valid than their own. “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”

After their complaint, we are immediately told that “the Lord heard it.” God had heard the bitterness of their hearts, and He was not happy about it. We must be cautious concerning our hearts and our language in speaking about those whom God has called into special services.  

God confronts the parties involved and confirms the uniqueness of His relationship with Moses that sets him apart from other men and spiritual leaders. Unlike the prophets with whom God speaks through visions and dreams, Moses speaks with God face to face which implies an intimacy that the ordinary man must wait to experience in eternity.

God said that Moses was faithful over all God’s house which implies that Moses was considered the trusted manager over all God’s household (His people). To oppose Moses, whom God had appointed over all His people, was the same as opposing God Himself. 

In observing Moses' special leadership position, we must remember that One greater than Moses has come, and He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses (Hebrews 3):  

Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

Aaron and Miriam’s rejection of Moses prefigures the seriousness of rejecting the One that God appoints as the Head over all His household. “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3). The wrath of God remains on those who reject the Leadership and Lordship of Christ in the same way that the leprosy remained on Miriam who had rejected Moses. 

And we might take note that Miriam was not healed through any of her own efforts of reconciliation. She had suffered judgment and was unable to save herself. Her healing was granted by God grace in a prayer offered by the one she had rejected in the first place. Moses’ intercession saved his sister from the wrath of God’s judgement. May we thank our great Leader and Lord who has granted salvation to those who have rejected Him. And may we praise Him for His intercession that keeps us from experiencing and remaining in the wrath of God’s judgement.