The unrest continues. In chapter 11 the people complained to Moses & the LORD yet again. Moses became fed up with having to deal with it all the time and he complained to the LORD about the people. So YHWH gave Moses 70 elders to assist him in leading the people. Every one of them spoke prophetically when the Holy Spirit descended on them the first time. Then the people’s complaints led to YHWH striking them with a plague.
Now, we arrive at Numbers 12, and it’s not done yet! The people are doing it; Moses has done it; now Miriam and Aaron are joining the fray. Everyone’s airing their complaints, now they are going to as well. A while back, before the whole Exodus trip, Moses had been in the wilderness for 40 years and while there he married a woman of the people of Cush instead of an Israelite woman. This is part of the problem as this is what leads into the other complaint, the real issue. Miriam and Aaron use this as a stepping point to help justify their big complaint. Moses is getting all of the glory! He leads, and now he has just given these other people, these 70 elders some of the leadership and authority given to him by YHWH!
How do we know that these 70 elders are worthy of being leaders? The Holy Spirit came upon them and they prophesied! So if proof of God / YHWH’s divine calling is to prophesy, Miriam & Aaron should be able to lead as well!
Why does Moses get to do all the leading? YHWH has obviously spoken in and through them as well. These other leaders have only been doing this for a day and they are leaders of the people. Miriam and Aaron have been at the forefront, been actively involved, and have been prophesying (being a mouthpiece of YHWH) since before Egypt for Aaron, and at least since they crossed the Red Sea for Miriam! Yet here they are, playing second fiddle to these underlings!
Does that sound familiar to some of you? Was there some merit in their argument? Absolutely!… kind of. They had been used by YHWH that whole time. Aaron had even performed miracles in Egypt. The reality is that Miraim and Aaron had been leaders the entire time. They did not have the titles that these other “leaders” were given (although Aaron was High Priest), but they were just as much leaders, if not even more, than those appointed. So what happens to Miriam and Aaron when they, as leaders, speak out against Moses, YHWH’s chosen leader? “…behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow…” Miriam was the leader in this complaining (hence her name showing up first), so she received the responsibility and the brunt. She got what she asked for. She was the leader and she got the punishment. Even then, her leadership was proven. She ended up cast out of the camp for a week because of her uncleanness from the leprosy, and the whole congregation refused to leave where they were until she was back where she belonged. THAT’S what a good leader looks like! She may not have had the title she wanted, but she was a leader.
Are we so caught up in titles that we lose focus on our purpose? Do we get upset when someone lower than us is “given” a leadership role we “deserve”? Be careful what you speak against YHWH’s anointed. YHWH does not take that criticism lightly.
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.