“Man is free, but everywhere he is in chains,” wrote a French philosopher in the mid-18th century, setting off a firestorm in Europe against monarchy.1 But more the three thousand years earlier, a greater shockwave resounded from within the superpower empire of Mitzraim, and that’s what we see in this week’s Torah reading, שמות Shemot (“names,” Exodus 1:1–6:1).
We are seeing the heart of God in the book of Deuteronomy. He makes promises and follows through with them. There are those who believe that the foundation of the modern state of Israel has nothing to do with God, because the current state of Israel is largely a secular state. But what does it mean about the LORD’s promises if He were to turn them off like a light switch? What would that mean for another great promise from the LORD, the grace given us through Yeshua the Mashiakh (Jesus the Christ)?
The seventh day of Chag Matzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread) is a memorial to the crossing of the Red Sea. It’s not only the zenith of most movies about Israel’s flight from Egypt but also a parable about every believer’s path to repentance, salvation and righteousness.
Mankind can only serve one master: God or sin. We can’t serve both. God purchased all of Israel with the death of the first born to serve Him. God owns all of Israel. God is not only teaching Israel a lesson but Egypt as well. When God covered the children of Israel with the cloud and then sent them through the sea, this was a form of baptism.
Repentance is something that happens on the inside, the water is a physical representation of that repentance. Repentance doesn’t pay for your sins. Repentance is merely step 1 of our walk with God. It clears the conscience so salvation can enter. Step 2 is filling one’s life, so “Egypt” will never return.
Are we paying attention how we’re building a home for Yeshua and the Spirit in our lives? The care and attention to detail that went into the Tabernacle that the LORD instructed Israel to build and what that teaches about the Holy One and Heaven’s plan to transform us is central to the lessons in the Torah reading ויקהל/פקודי Vayakhel/Pekudei, covering Exodus 35:1–40:38.
In Torah reading נשא Nasso (Numbers 4:21–7:89), we discussed the dedication of the altar and the tribal offerings. You notice that Levites did not bring an offering. The Levites receive gifts because they have no inheritance.
This week’s reading, בְּהַעֲלֹתְךָ Beha’alotcha (“when you raise up” [the lamps]) starts with Aaron lighting the menorah. This symbolizes God’s eyes opening. Before the menorah and altar were dedicated, God’s eyes were symbolically closed. Now they are open and the people have God’s full attention. God’s Tabernacle is now open for business.
When we are not satisfied with the position God placed us and we covet someone else’s job or position, we are in grave spiritual danger and we may experience physical consequences for our rebellion, maybe in the extreme way these rebels experienced, but God does not like complainers. Any insight we have about our condition comes from God.
What was God doing in the events of Numbers 16-17? The people were rebelling against Moses and Aaron but they were really rebelling against God.
Remember that this happened AFTER they had accepted the bad report and God had refused to let them enter the Promised Land. They were blaming Moses and Aaron for the fact they were not entering the land instead of themselves.
The first group, lead by Korah, were rebelling against Aaron and his status as priest. The second group, lead by the leaders of the tribe of Reuben were rebelling against Moses. Both groups were really rebelling against God but using Moses and Aaron as surrogates.
The clan of Korah (as referred in Numbers 3:31-32) were in charge of the Ark, the table, the menorah, the altars and the implements of the Tabernacle. Korah was challenging God’s right to appoint Aaron and his sons as High Priests.
The clan of Korah had a very special job, that the other Levites were not allowed to do. They were entrusted with the most holy items, those items that dwelled in the most holy place.
Each group of rebels tested God for different reasons and were tested by God in different ways. The rebels who sided with Korah, 250 men, were told to bring censers for burning incense. The rebels of Reuben were not given this test.
The clan of Korah wanted to be the High Priest. They did not like the appointment God gave them, they wanted Aaron’s appointment.
Here is the core of Korah’s accusation:
“They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?'”(Numbers 16:3 NASB)
What happened to Korah? We don’t know yet. Moses has another group of challengers to address first: Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab of the tribe of Reuben. Their gripe was totally different. They didn’t care about the role of High Priest. Moses was their target.
They didn’t like the way Moses was leading the people. They wanted to lead the people back to Egypt. Didn’t they learn from the last group who tried to do that? Apparently not because pride blinded them. They were going to appoint themselves as leaders of the people.
God was in the Tabernacle and when God wanted to meet with someone, they came to His house, God did not leave His house to meet with them. The one with higher status summons those with lower status to meet with him in his home.
They refused Moses’ summons to meet with him because they refused to honor Moses as God’s chosen leader. We might call this treason.
Moses responds by addressing God, not the rebels.
“Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, “Do not regard their offering! I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.”” (Numbers 16:15 NASB)
When God rejects an offering, it’s usually not because of the offering but because of the heart of the person offering it. Moses asks God not to accept their rebellion.
“Thus Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.” (Numbers 16:19 NASB)
When God shows His glory, it’s not just something beautiful, it’s a display of power. The glory of God killed the 250 people who brought their censers.
After this Moses went to the homes of Dathan and Abiram, with the elders of Israel following him. God shows up as well.
“Moses said, ‘By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing. If these men die the death of all men or if they suffer the fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.'” (Numbers 16:28–30 NASB)
God commanded the earth to open up and they were swallowed up. It put the fear of God (and of Moses) into the congregation.
“All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, ‘The earth may swallow us up!'” (Numbers 16:34 NASB)
God has to use fear sometimes so we will respond and obey His wishes in our lives. He doesn’t do it out of hatred but for our good.
“Fire also came forth from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.” (Numbers 16:35 NASB)
Fire takes life quickly and these people were killed instantly. Their incense and censers were gathered up and made into a cover for the altar, as a visual reminder of what happens when people rebel against God.
After all this, the people still continued to murmur. Our insight comes from God’s hindsight. Wisdom comes only from God. This is for us to learn not to take God’s mercy for granted.
“But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, You are the ones who have caused the death of the LORD’S people.'” (Numbers 16:41 NASB)
How did Aaron respond? He ran into the midst of the people with his incense and censer and he was able to stop the plague. Moses couldn’t stop it, it wasn’t Moses’ job. Aaron didn’t quibble, he didn’t question, he just did it. Aaron showed by his actions that God chose the right person to be the first High Priest. He set the tone for his descendants in his sacrificial compassion.
“Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!’ Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked. But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah.” (Numbers 16:46–49 NASB)
Aaron’s actions made atonement for the people sin, just as Messiah Yeshua made atonement. God wasn’t done proving to the people Who He was the One Who chose Moses and Aaron to be their leaders and that Moses and Aaron did not choose themselves.
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, and get from them a rod for each father’s household: twelve rods, from all their leaders according to their fathers’ households. You shall write each name on his rod, and write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi; for there is one rod for the head of each of their fathers’ households. You shall then deposit them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony, where I meet with you. It will come about that the rod of the man whom I choose will sprout. Thus I will lessen from upon Myself the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you.'” (Numbers 17:1–5 NASB)
God took Aaron’s dead rod and brought it back to life. Aaron was God’s rod, just as Messiah Yeshua is God’s rod.
“Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Moses then brought out all the rods from the presence of the LORD to all the sons of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. But the LORD said to Moses, ‘Put back the rod of Aaron before the testimony to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put an end to their grumblings against Me, so that they will not die.'” (Numbers 17:8–10 NASB)
The High Priest is the one who decides who is clean or unclean, not a king, not a general, only the High Priest. It’s an important position. The rod was put into the Ark, covered by the mercy seat.
The rod that was dead that was brought back to life, it blossomed and produced fruit is a message for us. Now the rod has a different meaning, a different purpose than a staff. A staff guides, a rod corrects. Aaron’s resurrected rod is there as a reminder that God corrects those He loves.
Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.
The overall lesson of Numbers 12 is not to lift yourself up above or at the expense of others. We are told in Numbers 12:3 that Moses was “…very humble, more than any man…”
Moses was not a brave, audacious man. He had little confidence in himself, either when he killed the Egyptian or when God called him at the burning bush. He never considered himself better than anyone else. Aaron and Miriam, on the other hand, were not so humble.
“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman)….” (Numbers 12:1 NASB)
Moses’ Cushite’s wife was a symptom of a deeper grievance that Aaron and Miriam had against Moses. On the surface it seems that Miriam and Aaron were racists but as you read the chapter you see that God doesn’t address their criticism of Moses’ wife because she was just a symptom. God saw a deeper problem that needed to be addressed.
The scriptures refer to Miriam in Ex. 15:20 as “Miriam the prophetess” obedient to her mother when she was a young girl. Miriam’s name in Hebrew — מִרְיָם Miryam (H4813) — means “rebellious,” from מְרִי m’riy (H4805, bitterness) and מָרָה marah (H4784, to make bitter).
“Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt And ransomed you from the house of slavery, And I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam.”(Micah 6:4 NASB)
The only time the Scriptures record a bad report about Miriam is in Numbers 12.
“and they (Miriam and Aaron) said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the LORD heard it” (Numbers 12:2 NASB)
As far as we can tell, Moses never heard Aaron and Miriam’s complaints about his new Cushite wife or their grumbling about his status in comparison to their own, but God heard it and He did not wait to render correction.
“Suddenly the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, ‘You three come out to the tent of meeting.’ So the three of them came out.” (Numbers 12:4 NASB)
No one else was called to this meeting, except Moses, Aaron and Miriam. There was something God wanted Moses to hear. This will not be the last time Moses and Aaron faced an insurrection against their leadership.
What we have here is not your typical sibling rivalry. Moses was the youngest brother, who was taken from his family after he was weaned around two years old. There was a separation between Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Moses did not have the same type of sibling connection with Aaron and Miriam that Aaron and Miriam had with one another.
Moses has no idea why God is calling this meeting. Why this meeting was called and why it was recorded is for our admonition.
“He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant, against Moses?'” (Numbers 12:6–8 NASB)
Aaron and Miriam was not the first to receive dreams and visions. Abraham, Jacob and Joseph also received dreams and visions. But Moses didn’t receive revelations from God in dreams but “mouth to mouth, openly.” The word “dark sayings” is the Hebrew word chidah (Strongs H2420) which literally means riddles. It’s refered to in Brown, Dryer Briggs as “riddle, enigmatic, perplexing saying or question.”
God also said that He revealed His form to Moses. When did that happen? The second time Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the commandments.
“If then I have grace in your eyes, let me see your ways, so that I may have knowledge of you and be certain of your grace; and my prayer is that you will keep in mind that this nation is your people.” (Exodus 33:13 BBE)
“And the Lord went past before his eyes, saying, The Lord, the Lord, a God full of pity and grace, slow to wrath and great in mercy and faith; Having mercy on thousands, overlooking evil and wrongdoing and sin; he will not let wrongdoers go free, but will send punishment on children for the sins of their fathers, and on their children’s children to the third and fourth generation. Then Moses quickly went down on his face in worship.” (Exodus 34:6–8 BBE)
God tells them that He speaks to Moses directly but he speaks to Aaron and Miriam in riddles and parables.
Moses is the picture of God and Aaron is a picture of the Son of God. Who is Miriam a picture of? She is a picture of all the tribes of Israel. She is a picture of the House of Israel. Moses was faithful to God’s house.
“Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house ― whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” (Hebrews 3:1–6 NASB)
God built the house, not Moses. God owns the house, not Moses.
“But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned.'” (Numbers 12:10–11 NASB)
Aaron’s heart was towards his sister and the first thing he did when he saw Miriam’s leprosy, was to repent. Aaron addressed Moses as “Adonai” and understood that even though Miriam was the one physically punished, he was punished too.
Moses cried out in Miriam’s behalf too. Moses showed how faithful he was to God’s house by praying for Miriam’s healing and restoration.
“Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!”” (Numbers 12:13 NASB)
How did God respond? God didn’t kill her. He made it simple for Moses to understand. Miriam should be ashamed of what she has said.
“But the LORD said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.’ So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.” (Numbers 12:14–15 NASB)
This punishment affected everyone in the camp. They could not move until Miriam was healed. I think it is interesting that Yeshua’s mother was named Miriam, which I don’t believe is a coincidence. Yeshua was born into a nation of rebellious and stiff necked people.
This isn’t the first time Aaron made a big mistake for which he was not punished. Aaron was also complicit in the incident with the golden calf yet Aaron received no known punishment for that. Aaron did not hesitate when the plague came to run head-long into the people with the incense to stop the plague.
How many times has Yeshua run into your life to save you from death? Many I’m sure.
You will never read anything more bad said about Miriam from this point of the Bible forward.
Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.