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Numbers 12-15

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

Numbers Chapter 12

Sibling rivalry has been known since the very beginning, when Cain murdered his younger brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-2; see also My Brother's Shepherd). As it happened, Moses was the youngest of the three children of his family; Aaron was three years older than Moses (Exodus 7:7) and Miriam was substantially older than her brothers Moses and Aaron (Miriam was the girl who followed her infant brother Moses' basket along the river). How much the age differences produced the resentment toward their younger brother is not stated, but their sibling jealousy of Moses was tragically apparent. They used Moses' wife as their excuse, but their "Has The Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?" made plain the true source of the hostility toward their brother who The Lord had assigned the responsibility of leadership.


"Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman; and they said, "Has The Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?" And The Lord [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD] heard it." (Numbers 12:1-2 RSV)

The Lord's response was swift and sure.

"And suddenly The Lord said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, "Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting." And the three of them came out. And The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud [see also The Clouds of Heaven], and stood at the door of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward.

And He said, "Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I The Lord make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of The Lord [see also The Trysting Tent]. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" And the anger of The Lord was kindled against them, and he departed; and when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam, and behold, she was leprous." (Numbers 12:4-10 RSV)

Aaron and Miriam then realized their rebelliousness against The Lord; they repented, and Miriam was healed of a disease that, back in that time, was "uncurable."

"And Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned." (Numbers 12:11 RSV)

"But The Lord said to Moses, "If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut up outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again." So Miriam was shut up outside the camp seven days; and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again." (Numbers 12:14-15 RSV)

Numbers Chapter 13

It had been little more than a year since the Exodus, but after leaving Mount Sinai in the south (see also Why Did Paul Say That Sinai Was In Arabia?), the Israelites made their way to the border of their physical promised land. Scouts were sent in, from the south, to gather both information and samples.

Fruit of the Land

"The Lord said to Moses, "Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I give to the people of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers shall you send a man, every one a leader among them." So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of The Lord, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel." (Numbers 13:1-3 RSV)

The land, exactly as The Lord promised, was very good. Unfortunately, the people's (with very few exceptions, such as Joshua and Caleb, and of course Moses) lack of faith and courage caused them to panic, needlessly, because The Lord was literally their "firepower," when told of the Canaanites.

"At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land.

And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, "We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Yet the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan."

But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, "Let us go up at once, and occupy it; for we are well able to overcome it."

Then the men who had gone up with him said, "We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we." (Numbers 13:25-31 RSV)

Numbers Chapter 14

Panic, and then rebellion, spread through the Israelites. The Lord guaranteed their victory (see also "Strong Is He Who Has Come Down"), but they not only refused their land of freedom, but actually proposed to return to their slavery in Egypt.


"Then all the congregation raised a loud cry; and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why does The Lord bring us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" And they said to one another, "Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt." (Numbers 14;1-4 RSV)

The Lord's response to their cowardice (note that there will be no cowards in the coming spiritual promised land either i.e. "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death" Revelation 21:8 RSV) was to condemn them to a lifetime of wandering in circles in the wilderness of Sinai (see the Fact Finder question below).

"Say to them, 'As I live,' says The Lord, 'what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness [see also The Wilderness of Sin]; and of all your number, numbered from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.'" (Numbers 14:28-34 RSV)

Numbers Chapter 15

The Israelites then began their life in the desert of Sinai, forty years of waiting until the adults that refused entry into the promised land had died off. They were however still required to obey God's Law; those who didn't, didn't do so a second time. Example:

"While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made plain what should be done to him. And The Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." And all the congregation brought him outside the camp, and stoned him to death with stones [see Stoning], as The Lord commanded Moses." (Numbers 15:32-36 RSV)

Fact Finder: (a) Why didn't the Israelites enter their physical promised land until over forty years after the Exodus? (b) Why didn't Moses enter the Israelites physical promised land?
(a) See A Journey Without A Destination
(b) See Why Did Christ Put Moses To Death?

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