In Numbers 12, we find that Moses has re-married. Commentators disagree as to whether this “Ethiopian woman” is referring to Zipporah (his first wife) or a second wife that he chose after Zipporah died. There is a case for both, but I think the circumstances make the most sense that he re-married. Either way, Miriam wasn’t happy about it and starts to complain.
Miriam felt this was an affront to her position in society, which was a very high position. She led the women in song after The Exodus (Ex. 15:20-21). She is mentioned as a prophetess there also. Surely the entire nation knew she was the one who tended the baby basket with her brother as it wafted toward the palace. She was the go-between who brought Moses back home to be weaned by his mother and taught about God. Without her help, surely the people would not be free this day. Her status is also seen in the fact that the nation wouldn’t travel in the wilderness with her outside of the camp during her week of punishment (v. 15).
Her pride got the best of her as she felt her status in life taking a step backward. And what an odd age to manifest her pride! Remember she’s probably a good 10-12 years older than Moses, and he’s at least 80! Nevertheless, this new ‘strange woman’ from another country was a threat to Miriam’s position. And she brings Aaron into the middle of the contention (v. 2). Isn’t it like human nature to feel the need to get people on our side when we’re in the wrong?
Throughout the wilderness wanderings, we see pride and its ugly consequences. Just four chapters later, Korah tries to usurp Moses’ God-given authority and was swallowed up by the ground. His 250 cohorts were burnt alive as they offered incense before the Lord (ch. 16). Miriam was still on the Lord’s side, but God did render swift punishment in the form of leprosy. God saw no problem with Moses and his choice, and in fact, defended him before his siblings (vs. 6-8). We should ask ourselves the question, “What would God say about my character?” That’s a convicting question because God knows our heart!
We’re all smiles when life is going in the right direction, but how do we respond when life takes a turn for the worse? In marriage, we pledge our love and loyalty ‘in sickness and in health.’ Should our devotion to the Lord be any less substantial? We can all think of at least one believer who turned his back on God when the going got tough. The truth is that God is still good and heaven is still our home, regardless of earthly circumstances. While Miriam didn’t deal well in this situation, let’s resolve to stay close to the Lord ‘for richer, for poorer; for better, for worse, in sickness and in health…’ And concerning the Lord, not even death will ‘do us part.’ Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39)!