Numbers 12

Chapter 12

Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses. 1 Miriam[a] and Aaron criticized Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married, for he had married an Ethiopian woman. 2 They said, “Has the Lord only spoken through Moses? Has he not also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

3 Now Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else upon the face of the earth. 4 Suddenly the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and Miriam, saying, “Come out, you three, from the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5 The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance to the tabernacle and summoned Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. 6 [b]He said, “Hear now my words:

“If anyone among you is a prophet,
I, the Lord, make myself known to him in a vision,
I speak to him in a dream.
7 It is not that way with Moses,
who is entrusted with all my household.
8 I speak to him face to face,
clearly, and not in riddles.
He beholds the very form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?” 9 Then the anger of the Lord blazed against them, and he departed.

10 Miriam’s Punishment. When the cloud lifted up off of the tabernacle, there stood Miriam, leprous, white as snow. Aaron turned toward Miriam and saw that she was a leper. 11 Aaron said to Moses, “Please, my lord, do not hold the sin against us that we have so foolishly committed! 12 Let her not be like a stillborn child who comes forth from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.” 13 Moses cried out to the Lord, “O God, I beseech you, heal her!” 14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had only spit in her face, would she not have been shamed for seven days? Confine her outside of the camp for seven days. After that, let her be received back in.”

15 So Miriam was confined outside of the camp for seven days. The people did not move on until Miriam was brought back in. 16 After this, the people left Hazeroth and they camped in the Desert of Paran.


  1. Numbers 12:1 Miriam is the sister of Moses; the Ethiopian is Zipporah, a Midianite (Ex 2:21). In Israelite thinking, marriage with a foreign woman was cause for a family to lose the gift of prophecy.
  2. Numbers 12:6 The poetic form emphasizes the solemn nature of the words that single out Moses as the only prophet worthy of God’s trust.

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