Numbers 12:10 MEANING

Numbers 12:10
(10) And the cloud departed . . . --The withdrawal of the cloud was the visible token of the Divine displeasure. The word sar, departed, which is here used, is an entirely different word from that which occurs in Numbers 9:17 : "When the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle." The lifting up of the cloud was the signal for the breaking up of the camp and the resumption of the march; the withdrawal of the cloud was the token of the withdrawal of the Divine presence and direction.

Leprous, white as snow.--Better, was leprous as snow, as in Exodus 4:6, where the same words occur; or, a leper (as white), as snow, as in 2 Kings 5:27. In an ordinary case of leprosy, when the disease covered the whole body, and the whole of the flesh had turned white, the man was to be pronounced clean. It was otherwise in cases in which persons were smitten with leprosy by the immediate hand of God, as in the case of Moses and in that of Gehazi.

And Aaron looked upon Miriam . . . --Or, and Aaron turned towards Miriam--i.e., directed his attention to her, &c. This may have been the first case in which Aaron was required to carry into execution the laws laid down in Leviticus 13, 14, respecting the inspection of the leper; and the duties which devolved upon him must have been doubly painful from the fact that the leper stood in a near relationship to himself, and that he had been a participator in the sin which had called for so severe a punishment.

Verse 10. - The cloud departed from off the tabernacle. During this awful interview the cloud of the Presence had rested on the tabernacle, as if it were the Divine chariot waiting for the King of Israel while he tarried within (cf. Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1; Revelation 11:12). Now that his work is done he ascends his chariot again, and soars aloft above the host. Miriam became leprous. The Hebrews had become familiar with this terrible disease in Egypt. The Levitical legislation had made it more terrible by affixing to it the penalty of religious and social excommunication, and the stigma, as it were, of the Divine displeasure. Before this legislation Moses himself had been made partially and temporarily leprous, and that solely for a sign, and without any sense of punishment (Exodus 4:6). In Miriam's ease, however, as in all subsequent cases, the plague of leprosy was endued with moral as well as physical horror (cf. 2 Kings 5:27). As snow. This expression points to the perfect development of the disease, as contrasted with its earlier and less conspicuous stages. Aaron looked upon Miriam. If we ask why Aaron himself was not punished, the answer appears to be the same here as in the case of the golden calf.

1. He was not the leader in mischief, but only led into it through weakness.

2. He was, like many weak men, of an affectionate disposition (cf. Leviticus 10:19), and suffered his own punishment in witnessing that of others.

3. He was God's high priest, and the office would have shared in the disgrace of the man.

12:10-16 The cloud departed, and Miriam became leprous. When God goes, evil comes: expect no good when God departs. Her foul tongue, as Bishop Hall says, was justly punished with a foul face. Aaron, as priest, was judge of the leprosy. He could not pronounce her leprous without trembling, knowing himself to be equally guilty. But if she was thus punished for speaking against Moses, what will become of those who sin against Christ? Aaron, who joined his sister in speaking against Moses, is forced for himself and his sister, to beseech him, and to speak highly of him whom he had so lately blamed. Those who trample upon the saints and servants of God, will one day be glad to make court to them. It is well when rebukes produce confession of sin and repentance. Such offenders, though corrected and disgraced, shall be pardoned. Moses made it appear, that he forgave the injury done him. To this pattern of Moses, and that of our Saviour, who said, Father, forgive them, we must conform. A reason is given for Miriam's being put out of the camp for seven days; because thus she ought to accept the punishment of her sin. When under the tokens of God's displeasure for sin, it becomes us to take shame to ourselves. This hindered the people's progress in their march forward towards Canaan. Many things oppose us, but nothing so hinders us in the way to heaven, as sin.And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle,.... Not from off the door of the tabernacle, as Aben Ezra, for that is implied in the last clause of Numbers 12:9, but from off that part of the tabernacle, the most holy place, where it had used to abide; but now it went up higher in the air, or removed at some distance from thence, which was a further indication of the sore displeasure of God; that as he would not stay with Aaron and Miriam at the door of the tabernacle, so neither would he suffer the cloud to continue over it, as it was wont to do, so long as they were there:

and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow; was smote immediately with a leprosy by the Lord, as the hand of Moses was in a miraculous way, Exodus 4:6; and as Gehazi was, who was smitten of God in like manner, 2 Kings 5:27; in an ordinary and gradual leprosy, when it was all white, the man was clean, Leviticus 13:13; but in an extraordinary one, and which was immediately from God, and at once, in this case it was a sign it was incurable. Miriam only, and not Aaron, was smitten with a leprosy; though Chaskuni says, that some of their Rabbins were of opinion, that Aaron was; but this does not appear, nor is it likely that he should be thus defiled and dishonoured, being the priest of the Lord, and since he was not so deep in the transgression as Miriam, and was drawn into it by her, and also repented of it:

and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous; he not only cast his eye upon her, as it were accidentally, and saw what was her case; but, as the priest of the Lord, looked upon her, as it was the business of his office to do, and perceived she was leprous, and was obliged to pronounce her so; and perhaps she was the first, after the law of the leprosy, that he was called to look upon, and pronounced her unclean, which must be a great mortification to him.

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