Verses 4–9

Moses did not resent the injury done him, nor complain of it to God, nor make any appeal to him; but God resented it. He hears all we say in our passion, and is a swift witness of our hasty speeches, which is a reason why we should resolutely bridle our tongues, that we speak not ill of others, and why we should patiently stop our ears, and not take notice of it, if others speak ill of us. I heard not, for thou wilt hear, Ps. 38:13-15. The more silent we are in our own cause the more is God engaged to plead it. The accused innocent needs to say little if he knows the judge himself will be his advocate.

I. The cause is called, and the parties are summoned forthwith to attend at the door of the tabernacle, Num. 12:4; 5. Moses had often shown himself jealous for God’s honour, and now God showed himself jealous for his reputation; for those that honour God he will honour, nor will he ever be behind-hand with any that appear for him. Judges of old sat in the gate of the city to try causes, and so on this occasion the shechinah in the cloud of glory stood at the door of the tabernacle, and Aaron and Miriam, as delinquents, were called to the bar.

II. Aaron and Miriam were made to know that great as they were they must not pretend to be equal to Moses, nor set up as rivals with him, Num. 12:6-8. Were they prophets of the Lord? Of Moses it might be truly said, He more. 1. It was true that God put a great deal of honour upon the prophets. However men mocked them and misused them, they were the favourites and intimates of heaven. God made himself known to them, either by dreams when they were asleep or by visions when they were awake, and by them made himself known to others. And those are happy, those are great, truly great, truly happy, to whom God makes himself known, Now he does it not by dreams and visions, as of old, but by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, who makes known those things to babes which prophets and kings desired to see and might not. Hence in the last days, the days of the Messiah, the sons and daughters are said to prophesy (Joel 2:28), because they shall be better acquainted with the mysteries of the kingdom of grace than even the prophets themselves were; see Heb. 1:1; 2. 2. Yet the honour put upon Moses was far greater (Num. 12:7): My servant Moses is not so, he excels them all. To recompense Moses for his meekly and patiently bearing the affronts which Miriam and Aaron gave him, God not only cleared him, but praised him; and took that occasion to give him an encomium which remains upon record to his immortal honour; and thus shall those that are reviled and persecuted for righteousness’ sake have a great reward in heaven, Christ will confess them before his Father and the holy angels. (1.) Moses was a man of great integrity and tried fidelity. He is faithful in all my house. This is put first in his character, because grace excels gifts, love excels knowledge, and sincerity in the service of God puts a greater honour upon a man and recommends him to the divine favour more than learning, abstruse speculations, and an ability to speak with tongues. This is that part of Moses’s character which the apostle quotes when he would show that Christ was greater than Moses, making it out that he was so in this chief instance of his greatness; for Moses was faithful only as a servant, but Christ as a son, Heb. 3:2; 5, 6. God entrusted Moses to deliver his mind in all things to Israel; Israel entrusted him to treat for them with God; and he was faithful to both. He said and did every thing in the management of that great affair as became an honest good man, that aimed at nothing else but the honour of God and the welfare of Israel. (2.) Moses was therefore honoured with clearer discoveries of God’s mind, and a more intimate communion with God, than any other prophet whatsoever. He shall, [1.] Hear more from God than any other prophet, more clearly and distinctly: With him will I speak mouth to mouth, or face to face (Exod. 30:11), as a man speaks to his friend, whom he discourses with freely and familiarly, and without any confusion or consternation, such as sometimes other prophets were under; as Ezekiel, and John himself, when God spoke to them. By other prophets God sent to his people reproofs, and predictions of good or evil, which were properly enough delivered in dark speeches, figures, types, and parables; but by Moses he gave laws to his people, and the institution of holy ordinances, which could by no means be delivered by dark speeches, but must be expressed in the plainest and most intelligible manner. [2.] He shall see more of God than any other prophet: The similitude of the Lord shall behold, as he hath seen it in Horeb, when God proclaimed his name before him. Yet he saw only the similitude of the Lord, angels and glorified saints always behold the face of our Father. Moses had the spirit of prophecy in a way peculiar to himself, and which set him far above all other prophets; yet he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he, much more does our Lord Jesus infinitely excel him, Heb. 3:1-6

Now let Miriam and Aaron consider who it was that they insulted: Were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? Against my servant, against Moses? so it runs in the original. “How dare you abuse any servant of mine, especially such a servant as Moses, who is a friend, a confidant, and steward of the house?” How durst they speak to the grief and reproach of one whom God had so much to say in commendation of? Might they not expect that God would resent it, and take it as an affront to himself? Note, We have reason to be afraid of saying or doing any thing against the servants of God; it is at our peril if we do, for God will plead their cause, and reckon that what touches them touches the apple of his eye. It is a dangerous thing to offend Christ’s little ones, Matt. 18:6. Those are presumptuous indeed that are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, 2 Pet. 2:10.

III. God, having thus shown them their fault and folly, next shows them his displeasure (Num. 12:9): The anger of the Lord was kindled against them, of which perhaps some sensible indications were given in the change of the colour of the cloud, or some flashes of lightning from it. But indeed it was indication enough of his displeasure that he departed, and would not so much as hear their excuse, for he needed not, understanding their thoughts afar off; and thus he would show that he was displeased. Note, The removal of God’s presence from us is the surest and saddest token of God’s displeasure against us. Woe unto us if he depart; and he never departs till we by our sin and folly drive him from us.