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“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman” (Numbers 12:1).
Ethiopian woman literally means a “Cushite woman” (Gen. 10:6). Moses wife was named Zipporah. Zipporah’s father was actually a Midianite (Ex. 2:16–19; 3:1), and thus a descendant of Abraham (Gen. 25:1). Upon rejoining Moses at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 4:25 and 18:2), Zipporah had observed the heavy burdens borne by her husband and expressed to Jethro her fears for Moses’ well-being.
Thereupon Jethro counseled Moses to select others to share the responsibilities of administration with him. When Moses acted upon this counsel without first consulting Miriam and Aaron, Miriam and Aaron became jealous of him and blamed Zipporah for what they considered Moses’ neglect of them.
The fact that Zipporah was a Midianite, though a worshiper of the true God, was used by Miriam and Aaron merely as an excuse for rebelling against the authority of Moses. Moses did not violate the principle of non-marriage with the heathen when he took her to wife, as they apparently claimed. Zipporah was a worshiper of the true God.
Miriam here claimed equality with Moses, ignoring the fact that God had placed Moses in a unique position of authority (Ex. 4:10–16; Deut. 34:10).
The fundamental mistake of Miriam was one of disrespect for, and rebellion against Moses’ lawfully constituted authority which was appointed by God Himself. For that she was punished by God (Numbers 12:10) and later forgiven by God when she repented of her sin (Numbers 12:15).
In His service