12 One day Miriam and Aaron were criticizing Moses because his wife was a Cushite woman,[a] 2 and they said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?”
But the Lord heard them. 3-4 Immediately he summoned Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to the Tabernacle: “Come here, you three,” he commanded. So they stood before the Lord. (Now Moses was the humblest man on earth.)
5 Then the Lord descended in the Cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle. “Aaron and Miriam, step forward,” he commanded; and they did. 6 And the Lord said to them, “Even with a prophet, I would communicate by visions and dreams; 7-8 but that is not how I communicate with my servant Moses. He is completely at home in my house! With him I speak face-to-face! And he shall see the very form of God! Why then were you not afraid to criticize him?”
9 Then the anger of the Lord grew hot against them, and he departed. 10 As the Cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, Miriam suddenly became white with leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened, 11 he cried out to Moses, “Oh, sir, do not punish us for this sin; we were fools to do such a thing. 12 Don’t let her be as one dead, whose body is half rotted away at birth.”
13 And Moses cried out to the Lord, “Heal her, O God, I beg you!”
14 And the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face she would be defiled seven days. Let her be banished from the camp for seven days, and after that she can come back again.”
15 So Miriam was excluded from the camp for seven days, and the people waited until she was brought back in before they traveled again. 16 Afterwards they left Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
- Numbers 12:1 Cushite woman, literally, “because of the Cushite woman he had married.” Apparently they were referring to his wife Zipporah, the Midianite daughter of Reuel (Exodus 2:21); for the land of Midian from which she came was sometimes called Cush. But areas of Ethiopia and Babylon were also known as Cush, so it is possible that the reference is to a second wife of Moses. It is indeterminate from the text whether she was criticized for being a Gentile, or (if she was a Cushite from Ethiopia) because of her color.