Summary: Miriam and Aaron sin in their envy of Moses’ positon as leader of the Israelites

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Dwight L. Moody once told the fable of an eagle who was envious of another that could fly better than he could. One day the bird saw a sportsman with a bow and arrow and said to him, “I wish you would bring down that eagle up there.” The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the jealous eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but it didn’t quite reach the rival bird because he was flying too high. The first eagle pulled out another feather, then another—until he had lost so many that he himself couldn’t fly. The archer took advantage of the situation, turned around, and killed the helpless bird. Moody made this application: if you are envious of others, the one you will hurt the most by your actions will be yourself.

Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were a team sent by God to help the nation of Israel (Micah 6:4). Everybody in Israel knew that this team were God’s chosen servants, but that Moses was the leader. Miriam, sister of Moses was a leader as prophetess and Aaron, Moses’ brother, as high priest was a spiritual leader of the entire nation. Now, in envy Miriam and Aaron speak against Moses (v. 1). All evidence points to the fact that Miriam was the leader in this family rebellion. She didn’t begin her attack by accusing Moses of usurping authority but suggested that he had committed a questionable act by marrying a Cushite woman (v. 1), possibly from Egypt.

It was probably after the death of his first wife Zipporah that Moses has married this Cushite woman. It is important to know that in itself this marriage was not wrong, in light of God’s command which only forbade the Israelites to marry the daughters of Canaan (Ex. 34:16). When Miriam got around to her real complaint it was that Moses was the only spokesperson for God (v. 2). Weak willed Aaron gave in to the evil suggestion of his sister. Moses didn’t try to vindicate himself but left his defense to the Lord which He did by inflicting leprosy on Miriam.


It is a serious thing to be a spiritual leader, and the greater the honor the greater the responsibility. Heb. 13:17 says that it is important how I respond to those over me in leadership because they watch for my soul and must give an account.

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