In the previous chapter, we learned that Israel complained about a lack of good food, despite the Lord providing manna and quail.
Here, in this chapter we find Miriam, the prophetess, Exodus 15:20-21, and Aaron complaining about Moses marrying a foreigner, that is, Zipporah the Cushite. Note that some translations have the word Ethiopia.
We know that Moses did indeed marry a woman named Zipporah, Exodus 2:21, but there are a few thoughts about the Zipporah who is mentioned here because back in Exodus 3:16-22, Moses’ wife was called Zipporah but she was from Midian.
Some commentators believe that Zipporah had died, and this was a second wife Moses took after her death. Other commentators believe that Moses took a second wife in addition to Zipporah.
While others suggest that Jethro, Zipporah’s father, was actually from Ethiopia and had moved to Midian, making Zipporah an Ethiopian by birth but living in Midian.
One other commentator suggested that it’s possible that the word Ethiopian which was being used here was a derogatory term used to criticize Zipporah because of their dark skin.
Notice, however, there was a more serious complaint, they complained about Moses being the lone leader of the people, Matthew 13:57.
Interestingly, God appears to ignore the complaints against Moses being married to Zipporah but instead, focuses on the complaint against Moses being their leader and the authority he had. God didn’t waste any time in speaking, which tells us that in His eyes, this was a serious matter.
He spoke indirectly to other prophets through visions and dreams, but with Moses, He spoke mouth to mouth, face to face, Exodus 33:20. This tells us that Moses had a real personal relationship with God.
Remember that the words, ‘face to face’ are a figure of speech, telling of great and unhindered intimacy. Moses’ face was not literally beholding the literal face of God, but he did enjoy direct, intimate, conversation with the LORD.
Moses was God’s mediator between Himself and the people and he became the example of how God would relate to all men personally through the mediatorship of Jesus, Hebrews 3:2-6. It was very clear that no one should challenge God’s appointed leader, Moses.
It appears that Miriam must have been the one who initiated the challenge against Moses as she is the one who is punished with leprosy. We must remember that Miriam would now because of being a leper, would have social disadvantages, she would have no social contact with anyone in Israel, Leviticus 13-14.
It’s certainly possible that she thought that she could rise to a position of power among the people, like Moses, but this led her to be humiliated and banished from among the people, Proverbs 16:18 / Isaiah 10:33.
Notice that when Aaron saw what happened to his sister, his attitude towards Moses changed, he called Moses, ‘my lord’. He knows the only way to save his sister is by understanding Moses’ position and his job as mediator, and more importantly accept it.
Seven days was sufficient time to punish anyone who dared to question God’s anointed authority. Because of this incident we know that the authority of God’s Word mustn’t be questioned either, John 12:48 / Galatians 1:6-9 / Revelation 22:18-19.
The desert of Paran is Kadesh-Barnea, Deuteronomy 1:18.