When reading the book of Numbers chapter 12, have you ever wondered why Miriam became leprous while Aaron didn’t? This question stirred my curiosity to find an answer.
As the story goes, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of his Cushite wife. They even vocalized how Moses wasn’t the only one God spoke by, He spoke through them as well. And the Lord heard it. He calls all three of them out to the tabernacle of the congregation. The Lord appeared in the pillar of a cloud and stood in the door to the tabernacle. He calls Aaron and Miriam forward. He told them Moses was the only one He spoke to mouth to mouth and Moses alone saw His form. He asked, “And why were you not afraid to speak against My Servant Moses?” He was angry and departed the doorway leaving Miriam with leprosy. Aaron confessed their sin and begs Moses not to lay the sin upon them and to keep Miriam from the plague. Moses calls out to God to heal her. God decides her fate by putting her out of the camp for seven days, according to the Hebrew law of Leprosy.
When using Ancient Methods of searching scripture I began seeing things I hadn’t seen before. It appears Miriam was the one speaking out against Moses while Aaron agreed. Using Ancient Methods allows us to see she was the one instigating the whole process. Notice the order the Lord names each person in scripture. When the Lord speaks to them, they are named in order of importance. Moses first, then Aaron and lastly Miriam.
Num 12:4 Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!” So, the three came out.
Num 12:5 Then the L ORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the
tabernacle and called Aaron and Miriam.
When returning to the first verse in this chapter look who is named first.
Num 12:1 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.
Also, we can see how angry the Lord is by looking at the words in verse nine.
Num 12:9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and He departed.
The word ‘aph (anger) means nostril, nose, face. The word charah (kindle) means hot, to burn. The imagery of His anger against them shows the Lord with fire coming out of His nose!
In scripture we see three people struck by the Lord with leprosy. God struck Moses’ hand with leprosy as a sign to the congregation proving God had sent him. Miriam was struck with leprosy for speaking against her brother and lastly, we see King Uzziah’s forehead break out with leprosy because of his pride for entering the sanctuary, to burn incense upon the golden altar of incense, without being a Levitical priest.
The word 'rayaq' (spit) is seen only two times in the Hebrew scriptures.
“Num 12:14 But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.”
Deut 25:9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders and pull his sandal
off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, “Thus it is done to the man who does not
build up his brother’s house.”
Clearly Miriam was not lifting up the name of her brother.
Miriam was 'tzara’at' (leprous) causing her to be 'tamei' (unclean). She became 'metzora' (banished) from the camp. These people would tear their clothes like a mourner and cry out “unclean, unclean” becoming isolated and all alone. During this isolation they had a chance to offer 'teshuvah' (repentance) to become 'tahar' (clean). In order to be received back into the camp, Miriam could very well have been stripped naked by her brother Aaron to examine every part of her body for leprosy. She had to shave her head and her eyebrows. Once she was received into camp her humiliation continued as she was to live outside her tent for another 7 days before she was allowed in.
The Babylonian Talmud lists seven causes for 'tzara’at' (leprosy). They are murder, adultery, pride,
stinginess, a vain oath, theft and for the sin of 'Lashon hara'. 'Lashon hara' means the evil tongue and
includes gossip, spreading evil reports or having a critical spirit about others.
Was Miriam 'Lashon hara'? Her name comes from the words meer and yawm which mean rebellious and bitterness and she was not lifting up the name of her brother when she spoke against him.
Now Moses, according to the Lord, was a very meek man above all the men upon on the face of the earth. Twice the Lord called him “My servant”, saying he was faithful in all His house. God spoke to him mouth to mouth, not in dark sayings but clearly, even allowing Moses to see His form.
So, why wasn’t Aaron struck with leprosy like his sister? From scripture we know Aaron should have
been in deep trouble for making that Golden Calf, but Deut 9:20 gives us a clue.
Deut 9:20 And the LORD was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him; and I prayed for
Aaron also the same time.
Many lives were saved when Moses fell on his face pleading with the Lord when God wanted to destroy them. What an amazing leader he was. Clearly, the contrast we see with Moses’ humility and the consequences imposed when speaking against God’s leadership gives us much to ponder.