Verses 1–3

Here is, I. The unbecoming passion of Aaron and Miriam: they spoke against Moses, Num. 12:1. If Moses, that received so much honour from God, yet received so many slights and affronts from men, shall any of us think such trials either strange or hard, and be either provoked or discouraged by them? But who would have thought that disturbance should be created to Moses, 1. From those that were themselves serious and good; nay, that were eminent in religion, Miriam a prophetess, Aaron the high priest, both of them joint-commissioners with Moses for the deliverance of Israel? Mic. 6:4; I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. 2. From those that were his nearest relations, his own brother and sister, who shone so much by rays borrowed from him? Thus the spouse complains (Song 1:6), My mother’s children were angry with me; and quarrels among relations are in a special manner grievous. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city. Yet this helps to confirm the call of Moses, and shows that his advancement was purely by the divine favour, and not by any compact or collusion with his kindred, who themselves grudged his advancement. Neither did many of our Saviour’s kindred believe on him, John 7:5. It should seem that Miriam began the quarrel, and Aaron, not having been employed or consulted in the choice of the seventy elders, was for the present somewhat disgusted, and so was the sooner drawn in to take his sister’s part. It would grieve one to see the hand of Aaron in so many trespasses, but it shows that the law made men priests who had infirmity. Satan prevailed first with Eve, and by her with Adam; see what need we have to take heed of being drawn into quarrels by our relations, for we know not how great a matter a little fire may kindle. Aaron ought to have remembered how Moses stood his friend when God was angry with him for making the golden calf (Deut. 9:20), and not to have rendered him evil for good. Two things they quarrelled with Moses about:—(1.) About his marriage: some think a late marriage with a Cushite or Arabian; others because of Zipporah, whom on this occasion they called, in scorn, an Ethiopian woman, and who, they insinuated, had too great an influence upon Moses in the choice of these seventy elders. Perhaps there was some private falling out between Zipporah and Miriam, which occasioned some hot words, and one peevish reflection introduced another, till Moses and Aaron came to be interested. (2.) About his government; not the mismanagement of it, but the monopolizing of it (Num. 12:2): “Hath the Lord spoken only by Moses? Must he alone have the choice of the persons on whom the spirit of prophecy shall come? Hath he not spoken also by us? Might not we have had a hand in that affair, and preferred our friends, as well as Moses his?” They could not deny that God had spoken by Moses, but it was plain he had sometimes spoken also by them; and that which they intended was to make themselves equal with him, though God had so many ways distinguished him. Note, Striving to be greatest is a sin which easily besets disciples themselves, and it is exceedingly sinful. Even those that are well preferred are seldom pleased if others be better preferred. Those that excel are commonly envied.

II. The wonderful patience of Moses under this provocation. The Lord heard it (Num. 12:2), but Moses himself took no notice of it, for (Num. 12:3) he was very meek. He had a great deal of reason to resent the affront; it was ill-natured and ill-timed, when the people were disposed to mutiny, and had lately given him a great deal of vexation with their murmurings, which would be in danger of breaking out again when thus headed and countenanced by Aaron and Miriam; but he, as a deaf man, heard not. When God’s honour was concerned, as in the case of the golden calf, no man more zealous than Moses; but, when his own honour was touched, no man more meek: as bold as a lion in the cause of God, but as mild as a lamb in his own cause. God’s people are the meek of the earth (Zeph. 2:3), but some are more remarkable than others for this grace, as Moses, who was thus fitted for the work he was called to, which required all the meekness he had and sometimes more. And sometimes the unkindness of our friends is a greater trial of our meekness than the malice of our enemies. Christ himself records his own meekness (Matt. 11:29; I am meek and lowly in heart), and the copy of meekness which Christ has set was without a blot, but that of Moses was not.