A third crisis occurs when Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses and question his authority.
They put themselves forward as leaders, claiming that God speaks not only through Moses but also through them.
In response, God reminds them that when he speaks to a prophet, it is often in a dream, but God speaks to Moses directly.
Indeed, God says that Moses is “entrusted with all my house” (Nm 12:7).
This phrase recalls Joseph, who was entrusted with all of Potiphar’s house and then all of Pharaoh’s house, being made, in effect, the prime minister of Egypt.
If Yahweh is King, then by entrusting Moses with his house, he has made Moses a kind of prime minister.
While Aaron, because of his priestly service, is not made unclean, Miriam is struck with leprosy as a result of her challenge.
Aaron turns to Moses and calls him “lord,” now recognizing Moses’ authority, and begs forgiveness and healing.
Moses intercedes, and Miriam is healed after a week of being sent out of the camp, which is the law for lepers, who are considered unclean.
Rebelling against God’s covenant leader is, in fact, rebellion against the One from whom the covenant leader receives his power and authority.
Nevertheless, thanks to Moses’ intercession, God is also Israel’s healer.
These crises began among the margins of the people, so God’s anger burned on the periphery of the camp.
Miriam and Aaron’s challenge of Moses’ authority shows that the cancer of criticism and rebellion has now reached the very marrow and heart of the people.
This movement of dissent from the margins of the camp to the vital leaders surrounding Moses points out just how far and fast Israel is falling.
All three of these challenges occur just three days’ distance from Sinai.
Recall that one year earlier, just three days out from Egypt, Israel also had begun to complain about the food and water and had questioned Moses’ authority, yet their rebellion and murmurings were met with mercy.
On the way from Sinai to the Promised Land, however, Israel’s complaining is met with plagues and judgment.
Why the change?
The difference is found in what happened at Sinai.
There, Israel had willingly entered into a covenant with Yahweh, swearing that “all that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Ex 19:8).
Having experienced the revelation at Sinai, and having bound themselves in covenant, Israel is held to a higher standard.
Faithfulness to this covenant brings abundant blessings, but unfaithfulness also has consequences.
As Israel approaches the borders of the Promised Land, Moses selects twelve spies to scout out the land, one from each of the tribes of Israel (except Levi, the priestly tribe).
Moses changes the name of one of the scouts from Hoshea to Joshua —signaling to the reader that Joshua will play a vital role in the unfolding story.
Hoshea means “salvation,” while the name Joshua is a slight adaptation of that name, meaning “Yahweh saves.”
As the spies embark on their mission, the name change of one of their prominent men to “Yahweh saves” is perhaps a sign of encouragement, to remind them that they should look at the challenge of taking the land from the perspective of faith.
Moses’ last words before the spies’ journey confirm this, as he exhorts them to “be of good courage, and bring some of the fruit of the land” (Nm 13:20).
The spies enter from the southern border through the wilderness of Zin.
From there they make their way up to the north of Israel.
Special note is made of their visit to Hebron, where the large and strong descendants of Anak dwell.
In the stories of the Patriarchs, Hebron was simply a place where shepherds gathered and the place where Abraham purchased a cave to bury Sarah.
Now, however, it has become a thriving and well-fortified city that is compared to the large Egyptian city of Zoan, located on the northeast corner of the Nile delta.
The old homeland has gone through quite a building boom and, to the spies’ dismay, retaking it will not be easy.
The spies also discover that the land is extraordinarily fruitful (note the contrast with the “cursed ground” of Genesis 3:17).
In the valley of Eshcol, which means “cluster,” they find a single cluster of grapes that is so large it takes two men to carry it on a pole between them.
They also find pomegranates and figs.
Upon their return to the camp of Israel, they profess that the land “flows with milk and honey” (Nm 13:27), confirming God’s promise at the burning bush.
Yet this confirmation of God’s promise is not enough for ten of the twelve spies.
They give an “evil report” of the good land, praising its fruitfulness but discouraging the prospects of taking and living in it.
They claim that Israel is not strong enough to take back the land of their forefathers, for the people of Anak are like the fabled Nephilim (a reference to a people of great stature before the flood; Gn 6:4) and now dwell in the large and fortified city of Hebron.
In contrast to the people of Anak, the ten spies say, “we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers” (Nm 13:33).
This exaggerated discrepancy between their statures is an inaccurate picture painted out of fear.
Indeed, later in the story, Caleb will take the city of Hebron with no mention of the people being giants.
The people respond by crying out in fear and weeping through the night in despair of ever reaching their destination.
Numbers 12 and 13 are kind of a big deal
Numbers is the “real-time” story, the Israelites have been free from Egypt for 1-2 years or so
Deuteronomy is “remember back when…” Moses is telling the Israelites what happened back in the day
Aaron, Miriam, and Moses are having a typical sibling fight
Aaron and Miriam are mad because Moses married a Cushite woman
There are theories about what issues they had with the marriage
There isn’t necessarily AN ANSWER
But in many families, we may not like the in-law for whatever reason
Maybe it’s their background
Maybe it’s because of how they act
Maybe it’s because they aren’t like us
Scripture doesn’t necessarily specifically tell us WHY they don’t like Moses’ wife
The issue though, is that Moses had been CHOSEN as the Lord’s Prophet
He speaks specifically WITH God and also ON BEHALF of God
He was GIVEN this role
Even though he married a Cushite woman, he hasn’t done anything wrong or God would have said something about his marriage
His siblings are essentially badmouthing him
Only Miriam gets punished for this
One reason is that there are consequences for our actions
The second reason is that when Miriam gets leprosy, IMMEDIATELY that unites Aaron and Moses
Aaron goes to Moses and asks for him to PRAY ON HER BEHALF
Then, Moses PRAYS ON HER BEHALF
How often does something like this happen?
Here is a division within a family and maybe one of them gets mortally sick
That unites the family
They realize the differences they have are less important than THEIR RELATIONSHIP
Miriam gets leprosy and the three of them are UNITED IN PRAYER
The 12 Spies get sent to Canaan to scout it out (Key Event!!)
God promised them it will be the land of milk and honey
Moses wants some reconnaissance about the people of Canaan
How are the people?
Are they strong or weak?
Is the city fortified?
The Israelites are not yet a warring people
They don’t know how to fight yet
They have spent their lives as slaves
They see these cities that are fortified and filled with strong people
Even in spite of the fact that God had JUST freed them from slavery in THE MOST POWERFUL NATION IN THE WORLD, they are like “NOPE, CAN’T DO IT, WON’T DO IT.”
God makes it clear, “You’re right. YOU can’t. I CAN.”
But at this point, they do not have the TRUST in the Lord that they NEED in order to enter the Promised Land and take possession of it
Stay tuned to find out what happens ;)
Deuteronomy: Moses again reminds the people what is going to happen
They will go into the land and it will be great
They are going to be among people there that they will want to be like
They will want to forget who they, the Israelites, are
They will want to forget WHOSE they are
Moses NEEDS them to remember his word, and what he had done for them
Remember the Phylactery?
Remember the Mezuzah?
These are containers that are worn on the head and mounted on the doors of people’s houses, respectively
They contain Scripture that REMINDS them what GOD HAS DONE
We are also called to keep the Lord’s actions, His Presence before us ALWAYS
That is why as Catholic Christians we have the Crucifix because IT IS A REMINDER OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU
Here is the REMINDER OF THE PRICE OF SIN
Here is the REMINDER OF THE GREATEST MIRACLE THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED
The INCARNATION, CRUCIFIXION, AND RESURRECTION
That’s why we have icons, crosses, and ALL THESE REMINDERS
That is also why we are going through THE BIBLE IN A YEAR
We do not want to forget WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US
SO REMEMBER REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER....no wait, that’s not it
Oh yeah, REMEMBER REMEMBER WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE
DO NOT FORGET IT IN TIMES OF DISTRESS
DO NOT FORGET IT IN TIMES OF ABUNDANCE
DO NOT FORGET TO PRAY FOR FR MIKE AND EACH OTHER