Two Spoke Against Moses, and even Against the Ethiopian Woman, but only One was Punished by a Just God, Why?

"And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it." (Numbers 12:1-2

So then, given what takes place between both Miriam and Aaron, why was only Miriam stricken with leprosy when it was both Aaron and Miriam who spoke against Moses? Is God not just?

I know the tradition of its teaching, but I believe there is something we completely miss about this word. Yes, Miriam is listed first in Numbers 12:1 but it was an Aaron who held the greater office, having even the greater level of responsibility/authority (or at least recognized as so). This, though I doubt contested, is even confirmed in the order they were called before the LORD after the time of the offense:

"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." (Numbers 12:4)

But was Miriam stricken and not Aaron because the people were still following her over Moses, yet this was not in alignment with what was the will of God in the deliverence of his people? It was an assignment as we know for Moses. Yes she was a bridge between the people she had always known and a Moses who had not, but it was not a permanent assignment for her, it was transitional. Yet she did nevertheless serve as a defacto leader of the people in addition to herself (as a watchful big sister in service to the Lord) having earlier even looked over a baby Moses. The entire camp, as word records, even refused to move until she was able to rejoin it.

"And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days; and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again. (Numbers 12:15)

A weak Aaron of course is out of the question, but did God do this in order that the people might better begin to transition (in her physical absence and outward state of shame) from looking to a Miriam for leadership and not a Moses? And was the stigma of her punishment (leprosy) so severe because perception and preference of her as a leader among the people, both the male and the female, was just that strong and needed to be broken even by movement of God? (And yet despite this they, both men and women, still waited for her).

Again, putting aside how it is traditionally taught, if this is not true, given that she alone and not also Aaron was punished, how can we otherwise call it a just action by God?

Note too that God did not even instruct Moses to leave Miriam behind. That He purposed this to bring a change in the leadership but it was not, despite as it appeared on the surface, retribution taken against Miram by God.

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Brother Gill,

I think what you have posted makes a good point, however again how does that make God just? Judging one and not the other, are we saying now that because of his position Aaron as high priest could do whatever without fear of reprisal by God? That only those not in recognized positions of leadership should fear? And why could it not have been that Aaron was in some other acceptable way to his office punished, in some way being made unclean (but not leprosy) and having to undergo purification? Was that not possible?

I do agree that God did not punish Aaron beginning as far back as when he led the people in making the golden calf (he even as high priest should have been punished for not correcting Miriam on the spot for speaking against Moses in such a way) and have stated such a few times here, but that in the end, at the striking of the rock by Moses, both (that is he and Moses) are now punished for not sanctifying God before the people. So that when the work of Moses was concluded, so too in close proximity (although I believe he died earlier) would be the work of an Aaron. Especially as I believe, the only reason God tolerated a Aaron as high priest and as a recognized leader among the people was due only to the desires (even need) of Moses. Perhaps too this is why Aaron was not punished. If you have reviewed the earlier posts then you are aware of what has been said about the personality and lack of leadership skills, even proper exercise of office of Aaron. So yes God placed him there, but that he was there was due to what the move of God was at that time in his use of Moses. I am thinking of an Abraham who by way of his own choice desired for a nephew Lot to come along with him. That was not apart of God’s original plan in the thing.

Speaking to what is traditionally taught, at least from my experience, has failed to take into consideration for what reason did the people not move until a Miriam returned to camp, it is in fact not even mentioned. It is also not addressed in terms of what we are discussing here, why was Miriam only punished and not an Aaron also. Issues surrounding Aaron are not even discussed, just a disobedient female named Miriam daring to speak against God’s anointed named Moses. It is as if the high priest was not involved in the entire ordeal at all. But it is a worthy conversation to have, even to right teach I think.
Sister Davidson,

The topic is necessarily speculative, since we have so little scriptural evidence to go on, but your theory that Miriam had a leadership role that grew to rival Moses' is credible. Still, I wonder if Aaron really escaped in the sentence that was visited upon Miriam. I am struck by his petition to his brother: "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" [Num. 12:11]. Aaron saw the chastisement of Miriam as chastisement of himself as well. He certainly didn't conclude that he had escaped reprisal.

On a side note, I think you may have come to the wrong conclusion about why the people did not move on until Miriam returned to camp. The people never decided for themselves when to move camp; they followed the Shekinah Glory (in the form of a cloud). The cloud lingered for seven days... that is why they stayed put.
Brother Gill,

I agree with you in this. I do think that Aaron spoke out saying "lay not this sin upon us" fearing what might be his own punishment also and I was struck too that he directed his plea to Moses and addressed him as "my lord." Addressing people like this I know was common in the day but when you also consider what God says to Moses in Exodus 4:16 the context I think is even clearer:

"And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of a God.”

And then in Exodus 7:1 He says:

“And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharoah: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.”

From Exodus 4:14 we have a God who is not even pleased that Moses insists upon another to be used by God instead of him given what he regards as a lack of speak and what God judges to be his lack of faith saying:

“And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said “Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.”

I don’t think Aaron escaped punishment. I think that the role of Aaron was so tightly bound to Moses, particularly given the inception of his inclusion and description of his relationship with Moses, as being his “prophet” and to him Moses as a god. When we get to Numbers 20 it is Moses who actually takes actions displeasing the LORD (do you agree with this?) but now both a Moses and an Aaron are punished with God saying:

“Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

You said: “On a side note, I think you may have come to the wrong conclusion about why the people did not move on until Miriam returned to camp. The people never decided for themselves when to move camp; they followed the Shekinah Glory (in the form of a cloud). The cloud lingered for seven days... that is why they stayed put.”

I did consider (and am still considering) this, but am still left with the question of why then did God strike her (and so publicly) with something as extreme as leprosy but then allow her to return back into the role she played before? Why did He not move the camp on without her if it was designed to be a full rebuke of her in whatever was the position/role she was playing?

Numbers 12:14 says: "And the LORD said unto Moses, If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed for seven days? Let her be shut out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.”

The italics are not mine and it is repeated in Numbers 12:15 saying: “And Miriam was shut out from the camp seven days: and the people journeyed not til Miriam was brought in again.”

What I feel we must still consider is that God knew the heart of the people for Miriam, so if in fact she was simply rebellious in her actions, then why did he not punish as we know he does, particularly at this time before people struggling still to learn him as they are being led by Him through the wilderness and into the promised land? Is that valid?

And what I am thrown by also is the verse in Isaiah 50:6 which is given in my King James as a linked verse to Numbers 12:14 for better understanding. It says:

“I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

Isaiah 50:7 goes on to say: “For the LORD God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”

I was surprised to find this as it changes the context from what I was expecting if in fact God was merely punishing a rebellious woman. Do you agree?

My last point is, you said:
“The topic is necessarily speculative, since we have so little scriptural evidence to go on“

I understand where you are coming from in that but anytime we have a high priest in word committing an offense before God in company of one (who he should have rebuked), engaged in the same (who even led) and yet it is the high priest who is not punished, we must ask and explore, well then why?

Like I said before, I think the reason why Aaron was not punished now had more to do with timing given the role he played with Moses and even God was allowing Aaron to learn from his mistakes. Consider, people lost their lives when Aaron participated, even led them into making a golden calf but Aaron didn’t lose his. Aaron had two dead sons because even as priests, they hadn’t even been taught the basics about how to conduct themselves before a holy God and yet he is high priest (and still living), and now we have a Miriam who should have been immediately corrected by a high priest, but even a brother and Aaron seemingly goes unpunished. What and who then did Aaron stand for? What was God trying to teach this man?

About the role of Miriam too, I still wonder why God said in Numbers 12:6 “If there be a prophet among you.” Was he speaking sarcastically here to an Aaron who God identified in Exodus 7:1 as a prophet to Moses, or was he alluding to Miriam, a woman identified in word as a prophetess in Exodus 15:20? Does it even matter at all? But then again God said it.

I believe when we consider the verses Numbers 12:6-8 in full: “And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among yo, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him 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?” we must identify that God is not speaking to or about an Aaron in the role of a prophet, yet he was speaking to draw contrast and make obvious a difference between how a prophet who is not a Moses experiences God and how a prophet who is a Moses experiences God.

So what does it mean that God spoke in such a way as directed to Miriam, saying “prophet” (speaking to the significance of the office) and not prophetess? If Aaron was not a prophet, and he wasn’t, then why did God choose to use such language? On what level was God acknowledging Miriam?

It seems obvious to me that God was speaking to her about her role, the way she experiences God, even saying “prophet,” versus (and even educating her), about how a Moses receives and experiences God. What are your thoughts here?

Thank you for posting again.
Sister Davidson,

You do seem to have an enviable gift for mining a text for all it's worth! I appreciate that Berean spirit.

I once read a proposition by a Jewish commentator that Moses and Aaron enjoyed a tandem ministry (I wish I could remember where, and give you a citation... sorry), and it bore some resemblance to your own ideas. Of course, the two men were inextricably linked during their confrontations with Pharaoh. And having been forged in the fire of that terrible period, it isn't hard to imagine that Moses grew somewhat dependent upon this working relationship, and loathed to be deprived of it.

But when I think of God's enduring leniency toward Aaron (through the Golden Calf debacle, and even in this incidence of insubordination), my mind keeps coming back to another episode from the wilderness years. After the rebellion of Korah had been put down [Num. 16], there is that curious exercise where God reestablished Aaron's significance with the budding rod [Num. 17]. In destroying Korah at Moses' word [16:28-30], God had already validated the authority of his special prophet. The further validation of Aaron with the budding rod was purely for Aaron's sake. I think this demonstrates the intense value the Lord individually placed on his high priest. It may be hard for me to understand, given how evident I find his flaws, but God loved Him some Aaron!

And, maybe one lesson about the other player in this is that God loved him some Miriam, too. This incident was not a unique one of punishment by leprosy in the bible; two other examples that come to mind are of Elisha's servant Gehazi and the Judean king Uzziah. We know Uzziah died a leper, and can only assume Gehazi met the same fate. Miriam, conversely, was cleansed of the disease as miraculously as she incurred it. This is not an incidence of undiluted retribution... her week-long chastisement is more corrective than punitive. It is fair to ask, as you did, why God didn't punish her more severely (say, as He did Korah). But I think His having a tenderness for Miriam is more likely an answer than His deferring to her popularity with the Israelites.

To your point about Numbers 12:6-8, I agree with your analysis of how the message was probably reflective of the prophetic office as experienced by Miriam, but I think Aaron had some familiarity with this as well. After all, we know the Lord spoke to Aaron directly on occasion [e.g., Ex. 4:27]. It may well be fair to call Aaron a prophet also.
Brother Gill, with saying that, can we assumed that Miriams punishment was God's way of warning the people about rebellion? for HIS Shekinah Glory was withheld until HE allowed her returned?
Very good point Joseph. I hadn't though of this. We focus on gender and ethnic issues so much that we tend to miss somethings that are "weightier matters". (smile)
I believe that the punishment enacted on Miriam and not Aaron was due to the strict guidelines placed on women in those times. It kind of reminds me of how women who committed fornication were considered used goods but not men. Or women who committed adultery were to be stoned but not the men who did the same sin. Also, men could have several wives at one time, yet women could only be wife to one man. Women were commanded to silence and pain during child birth because of Eve's sin and are to be subordinate to men.

Think about Queen Ester for a moment. How did she gain the title of queen? It was because the first Queen got out of her lane and was punished and banished from being Queen and thus, Queen Ester takes home the gold.

It seems like women who get out of their lane in biblical times were punished severely, but their seems to be a lighter sentence for men in some cases.
EW Ministries,

I agree with your argument in other places but not when we are speaking of God, but only of men. God does not think as a man and does not hold himself to the customs/traditions of them either. He is perfectly just and he knows all things. So any actions taken by God will and must prove him as holy, righteous, and pure.
Sister Dawn,

I understand what you are saying. I gave those examples because many of them were the laws God gave to man to enact. It was God who allowed men to take on many wives, but didn't allow the same for women. It was also a part of God's plan and purpose for Ester to become Queen to free the children of Israel and in doing so, he had to allow the removal of the first Queen.

I get what brother Anthony was trying to say in that the Bible gave no real explanation as to why Miriam was punished but not Aaron. This is why I looked at the historical nature of how women in general were dealt with during biblical times. There is always a focus on women being in subjection whereas men are hailed as the leaders. And yes, you are absolutely right, God is perfectly just in everything that he does.
I understood where you were coming from and I certainly understand where you are regarding God and women. I have, shall I say, survived subjugation by the all male pulpit and if you visit my page you will find my teachings on the same. The subject here is a part of that as well in that we are talking about a Miriam who actually functioned as a defacto leader for both the male and female although not at the same time officially recognized in that office. A Miriam more specifically who is presented by the church to have been singled out and punished by God although two committed the same offense.

I still find that the issues are far more complicated. I am exhausted right now but tomorrow I will be back at the issues. I knew there was more here but it seems more even than I expected.

peace and love to you.
Same here. Exhausted as well. Time to prepare for bed. Peace and love to you as well Sister.
The false teacher Dawn Davidson is back !!!!!

Indeed she wondered:

“Two Spoke Against Moses, and even Against the Ethiopian Woman, but only One was Punished by a Just God, Why?”

To understand very well the false teaching above, one must at first consult the study of sister Dawn Davidson’s “GARDEN STORY DOCTRINE”

Sister Dawn Davidson, remember, one day you’ve said this:

“Yet in Genesis 3:12 what does Adam confess? He confesses nothing worth having. All he really does is lodge accusation in the face of God and says nothing about what was really true in that garden according to his actions. And this why Adam was punished and a fully confessed Eve was not. By the way, God accepted the confession of Eve which means, she was but only deceived in the garden, the lie regarding whether or not the fruit could be both touched and eaten could not have come therefore from her. It originated with a selfish, power-hungry Adam…”

Sister, in your message above you assert that Miriam was a LEADER endowed with an heavier RESPONSIBILITY simply because she has been PUNISHED.

As for Aron , he was WEAK because he has not been punished.

Sister we also notice that ADAM WAS PUNISHED.

So if the PUNISHMENT is the clue of the responsibility bestowed into someone, why do you refuse to admit that ADAM WAS THE LEADER in the Eden Garden?

The Bible declares:

« For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables ».

2 Timothy 4:3-4

Dear sister, with all due respect, I would like to tell you that you have turned away your ears from the truth, and you have been turned unto fables!


Bro. Germain


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