Summary: When we are envious or jealous of the life someone else has, we show we are not grateful for what God has given us. Also a section that deals with the issue of Interracial marriage found in this passage.
There was once a young man decided to join a monastery that had a vow of silence. The monks were not allowed to speak with the exception of their birthday. Once a year on their birthday each monk could come before the monk in charge and speak two words. They always chose their words carefully.
Well on his birthday our man arrive at the office of the monk in charge and took his appointed seat. “Well Andrew, you have been a monk with us almost a year and since this is your birthday, you are allowed to speak two words, do you have anything to say?”
"Bad food!", Replied the monk Andrew.
“Well, ok”, and the head monk wrote what Andrew said in his file.
The next year, Andrew the monk arrived at the office of the monk in charge and took his appointed seat. The second year Andrew said, “Bed hard”. The monk in charge wrote his words down in his file.
During his third year when Andrew was called to office, and he didn’t even bother taking his seat – he quickly blurted out, “Work boring”.
“Well that’s it!” shouted the Monk in charge. “I have to ask to leave our monastery”.
“But why? What did I do?” asked Andrew breaking his vow of silence.
“Why? Isn’t is obvious? For the past three years you’ve done nothing but complain.
Sometimes when we complain, we complain about everything except what we have a problem with. We avoid talking about what we think the real problem is by complaining about something that is unrelated. This is what we find here in our passage this morning. Here in our passage we see Miriam complaining about one thing, when she is really upset about something all together different. Miriam complains about Moses’ wife and about hearing God, but in reality, she is just fed up with Moses.
Right up front I want us to notice that God intervenes and Miriam suffers. She seems to suffer a fairly harsh punishment for simply complaining. That is because she is not simply complaining. See, Miriam has been tremendously blessed by God. She has been given wisdom, talent, insight – beyond the average Hebrew. She also is blessed to be one of the leaders of the people, leading right along with her brothers Moses and Aaron. What Miriam does, is she looks past what her blessing and becomes jealous and envious of what God has given her brother Moses. This is what God reacts to.
Looking in your bibles you will see right there in verse one, “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.” Now the NIV has difficulty translating this verse. This verse is in the third person feminine singular and it specifically refers to Miriam doing the talking and implies that Aaron does nothing, and in doing so, agrees with his sister.
So, Miriam is the complainer. Miriam is the aggressor. Miriam is the one who looks past all she is blessed with. Her speech is hostile, we see this clearly in the Hebrew, and her questions are rhetorical, she seeks no answer, she in fact her questions are simply accusations. Num. 12:2 “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”
What is she complaining about? First, about Moses wife, apparently fairly new wife. This is not Zipporah. Zipporah had been around a long time, why would Miriam complain about her now? There is no attempt in our story to identify her as Zipporah, this is a different woman. She is described as a Cushite. A Cushite in biblical terms, refers to either Nubians or what we know today as modern day Ethiopians. So she is either a Nubian or and Ethiopian.
So what is she complaining about here? Is it the fact that Moses had married a foreign woman? Weren’t the Hebrews specifically told not to marry foreign women? Not exactly. God did not want the Hebrews to marry unbelievers, specifically Canaanites. God is against us marrying unbelievers because it will make our spiritual maturity much more difficult and unbelievers tend to pull believers away from their relationship with God. Clearly what is going on here is not only racism, but racism against interracial couples.
Most likely this woman came with the Hebrews when they escaped Egypt. Egypt was a land that had many nationalities living within its boarders. Many different of the nationalities in Egypt were there as a result of slavery. However we do know the Nubians had a great influence on Egypt and had even taken a large amount of Egyptian territory at different times. If you have been to Egypt, when you tour the tombs, many of the inscriptions are painted. It is very common to have many of the people in the tombs depicted with very dark skin, either as servants, combatants and even Egyptians. This is because of the influx of people from Nubia and other African nations to the south of Egypt. These nations from the south would have mixed in with the Egyptians, and with the Hebrews.