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Miriam and Aaron’s Attempted Coup


CEO Joel Manby was once asked about the corporate culture of the company he led, Herschend Family Entertainment (HFE). As recounted in his book, Love Works, he replied: We “use love to define our leadership culture at HFE. Not love the emotion, but love the verb. We train our leaders to love each other, knowing that if they create enthusiasm with their employees, the employees will in turn create an enthusiastic guest experience.”

Moses led God’s people with love, even though they often acted in unlovable ways. He interceded for them when they incurred God’s wrath. He was not a control freak; he had taken his father-in-law’s advice about delegating more responsibilities (see Exodus 18), and he was glad when the Spirit came on the 70 new elders. He was a humble man, demonstrating how humility and leadership can be intertwined. He was clearly God’s chosen leader!

The attempted coup in Numbers 12 came from the same rebellious, complaining spirit on display in Numbers 11. It must have hurt Moses especially that it was led by his sister and brother. The pretext was their displeasure with his Cushite wife (v. 1). Scholars are unsure if this was Zipporah (Ex. 2:21–22) or someone else, but in any case the real reason was that his siblings were jealous of Moses’ special relationship with the Lord and his status as leader and prophet of Israel. Miriam and Aaron may also have been afraid that their authority had been weakened by the commissioning of the 70 new elders.

God Himself condemned their mutiny and explicitly affirmed Moses’ close relationship with Him (vv. 4–8; Deut. 34:10). Aaron confessed and repented for both himself and Miriam. She, apparently more at fault, was judged with leprosy, which was healed in response to Moses’ forgiving, intercessory prayer (vv. 9–15).

Apply the Word

Humility is essential for leaders and for all followers of Christ. As He said: “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Paul taught that “in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3–4).

BY Brad Baurain

Dr. Brad Baurain has worked as a writer or editor for Today in the Word since 1993. Currently, he serves as associate professor and TESOL program head at Moody Bible Institute. Brad has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has also taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Brad and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Munster, Indiana.

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