Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
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
and being accounted generally a vile and contemptible race (see on
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
Their irritating disparagement of his wife (who, in all probability,
and not a second wife he had recently married) arose from jealousy of
the relatives, through whose influence the innovation had been first
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, therefore, they considered the conduct of Moses, in exercising an
exclusive authority in this matter, as an encroachment on their rights
3. the man Moses was very meek--
Nu 14:13; 21:7;
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
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
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 similitudes.
the similitude of the Lord shall he behold--not the face or essence
of God, who is invisible
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
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
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 service.
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
[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 popular contempt.
16. pitched in the wilderness of Paran--The station of encampments
seems to have been Rithma