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A Father’s Love
And the Lord said to Moses,
“If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days?
Let her be sent out from the camp seven days, and after that let her be received in again.”
Numbers 12:14

When the prophet Moses married a Gentile, an Ethiopian, most likely a woman of color, it ignited the indignation of his sister, Miriam. Miriam apparently incited their brother Aaron against Moses as well.

God had instructed His people not to marry foreign wives, and on the surface this may be one reason why Miriam was so upset; Moses was violating God’s law. This law was specifically for the purpose of keeping God’s people from being led away from the one true God of Israel to embrace the false gods of those foreign wives. Apparently this Ethiopian, like the Moabite, Ruth, had received the God of the Jews, and therefore had been accepted by the Lord, unbeknownst to Miriam. But that, as we shall see, was not the whole issue.

Moses and Ethiopian Woman

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Miriam and Aaron had justified their objections to Moses’ marriage by proclaiming their status as prophets, too. – “Has not the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Has He not spoken also by us?” (Numbers 12:2).

We are told in verse three that “Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” Because of this characteristic, (which is highly favored by the Lord), Moses apparently had some difficulty in standing up to his irate brother and sister.

Then the Lord appeared to all three of them in a cloud and called out Miriam and Aaron. They were informed that, although God speaks to prophets in dreams and visions, Moses was different. He was privileged to behold the similitude of the Lord and converse with Him “mouth to mouth” (verse 8). Thus God had set Moses on a higher level than ordinary prophets, including Miriam and Aaron.

In the scriptures, Moses is used as a similitude of the coming Messiah Jesus. The Messiah would be a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). One of the Messiah’s jobs would be to join the Gentiles to the Hebrew lineage making the two one, so there would be one fold and one shepherd (John 10:16).

God had separated the Jews from other nations because they were the only race of people at that time that recognized there is only one God. All other nations were polytheists, believers in more than one god. It was God’s plan to birth the Messiah through the monotheist Hebrews so they in turn would be a blessing to those nations through the Messiah. This is why they have been referred to as the “chosen people.”

So we can see that symbolically, Moses’ union with the Ethiopian represents this joining of Gentile and Jew through the similitude of the Messianic purpose illustrated for us in this instance.

Of course, at that time, Miriam didn’t understand the typology God was developing in His word. Aside from the fact it was okay with God for Moses to marry the Ethiopian, He was examining and evaluating the attitudes and heart conditions of Moses’ siblings, focusing on Miriam who apparently was the instigator of the rebellion.

Her pride in her spiritual status with God, was out of balance. Her lack of humility and submission was apparent. And the God who can see into the depths of the human heart, was not pleased with the prejudice and resentment Miriam was harboring against her new sister-in-law.

God’s love for His daughter, Miriam, could not let her go unpunished. Suddenly and supernaturally, Miriam was stricken with leprosy.

Horrified, Aaron pleaded with Moses to intercede for their sister. It was then that God likens Himself to a father who has become displeased with His child, -“If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days?” Miriam would experience seven days of isolation outside the camp to contemplate her errors. At the same time, she would be holding the promise in her heart that after those seven days she would be healed, restored and welcomed back to her family. She was not sent away without hope.

God knew exactly what it was going to take to reach strong-willed Miriam.

God is love, and genuine love corrects and admonishes. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews reminds us of this fact. God is a loving Father, devoted to the welfare and spiritual development of His children. – For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives (Hebrews 12:6).

I am sure Miriam’s time alone in the desert did much to change her attitudes and eliminate the inner sins that God had allowed to manifest outwardly in those leprous wounds. I am sure she was enabled to humbly seek forgiveness from God, and also her brother and sister-in-law, restoring unity in that family as an example to everyone.

We can also sit outside the camp to contemplate our errors, when our God seeks to correct us; and like Miriam, hold the promise of His forgiveness, mercy and our ultimate restoration in our hearts, - because we have been assured of our Father’s love.

Copyright 2019 by H. D. Shively

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