Before he was stoned to death as the first martyr for Christ, Stephen gave an eloquent summary of Jewish history. Here’s how he described the people’s attitude toward Moses, their most revered leader: “Our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:39).
During the Exodus, Moses faced frequent opposition from his own people. In today’s reading, he was challenged by his siblings Aaron, the high priest, and Miriam, a prophet (Ex. 15:20) and likely the top female leader in Israel. What spurred the conflict? A combination of racism, jealousy, and pride.
Miriam and Aaron disapproved of Moses’s Cushite wife. It’s unclear if this was Zipporah or another wife, but she was ethnically different—Cush was in Arabia or North Africa—and most likely darker-skinned. Some scholars think this reason was merely a pretense, but there’s no indication of that in the passage. The siblings’ racial prejudice turned into hostile gossip (v. 1).
Miriam and Aaron were also jealous of Moses’ special relationship with God (v. 2). Why should he be the only one to speak for God? they wondered. There may be a connection here to the commissioning of the 70 elders that had just taken place (Num. 11:24–30), but through their lens of pride, they saw pride in others. For the record, their accusation wasn’t true—”Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (v. 3).
God defended Moses, serving as both advocate and judge. Aaron was quick to repent—while Miriam was punished with a skin disease. Amazingly, Moses interceded on her behalf and God granted a lesser punishment (vv. 13–15). This merciful response showed that Moses shared God’s heart for sinners.
>> Are pride or jealousy evident in your life? Consider how you act in relation to others and to God. Humble yourself today and ask God to help you show others His grace and love.
Father, forgive us for envying others or vying for honor and attention. Humble us and teach us to be sensitive to You and to those we interact with. Help us love others with Your love.