The initial response I had to my narrative Numbers 1:1-16 was that I found the narrative fairly strange and I was surprised that I had never heard the story before. I thought that it was interesting how hard God lashed out against Mariam for talking bad about Moses. Overall the story wasn’t extremely strange, but I do think that there was one part that was strange. When Moses asked God to heal Mariam God responded with, “Miriam would be disgraced for seven days if her father had punished her by spitting in her face.
So make her stay outside the camp for seven days, before coming back” (Numbers 12:14). I thought that was a strange analogy. I do not understand why God used getting spit in her face by her father to make a point.
The part that I found uncomfortable was also the part I found strange. I think it is kind of strange to compare a punishment to being spit in one’s face by their father.
I want to know why this story seems to end so fast and almost incomplete. It seems like Moses is talking to God and then all the sudden it is the end of the narrative. One point in the story that resonated with me was when Mariam was punished for talking bad about Moses. I think that shows us not to talk bad about people, not just God. This story makes me feel like I am lucky that God does not punish me for every mistake that I make, because I would be in a lot of trouble.
I do not necessarily feel like I connect with any of the characters. I feel like they are all very different from me. Moses was a prophet, and while I am a Christian and I love God, I am not a prophet.
I feel like Mariam was very jealous of Moses even though he did not do anything to get special treatment. I feel like Aaron had to be a go through for Mariam. Because each of the characters seem to be very extreme in one way or another, I do not feel like I connect with them. I do not know exactly what the meaning of the story was, but I am going to try and connect the dots and guess. I think that the purpose of the story was to teach people not to be jealous. I think it was also trying to explain that if we are jealous of God or any of his followers it is a sin. I also believe that the story is supposed to show how much punishment we deserve for jealousy.
After taking Biblical Scriptures I, I feel as if I can understand this story more. When I read the story more early in the class, I took everything very literally. For example, when God compares the disrespect of Mariam to being spit in her eye by her father, while that may not be something that would happen in the 21st century, God is comparing how defeating and awful it would be to have that happen. God is also explaining how much of a punishment that would be. Another example of what I read different this time was towards the end of the story. In Numbers 12:13 God gives Mariam leprosy. Originally, I was not very sure what leprosy was. After taking Biblical Scriptures I, I now understand how leprosy was such a large problem in Biblical times. Reading the narrative of Numbers 12 has been enlightening, but I started to understand it more as the semester went on.
There is a large amount of background information on this narrative. We know that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Given that Numbers is the fourth book, we can reason that Moses wrote the book. Another example of how we are aware that Moses is the author of the Narrative from Numbers 12:1-16 is how Moses is spoke of so highly. According to Budd in the 1984 World Biblical Commentary, in Numbers 12:3 it is written “Now Moses was in fact very humble, more so than all men who were on the face of the Earth.”. This passage in a way shows Moses showing off a little bit. Moses seems to almost be flexing in his writing and bragging by saying that he was the humblest person on the face of the Earth. This is believable because humans are not perfect and are boastful, just like Moses was being by tagging himself as the humblest.
Numbers 12 is part of the fourth book of the Bible. Obviously, that makes it part of the Old Testament. We can see this through God having prophets. God uses Moses as a “Faithful servant” to which he gives clear information about the Lord and his authority that is up to Moses to disperse (Bellinger, 2001, P.225). During the reading of three commentaries, it was difficult to find an exact date, but through some online research, it became apparent that the date of this narrative being written was somewhere around 1440 and 1400 B.C. (GotQuestions.org). Along with when the narrative was written it is important to understand who the original audience of the narrative was. From my research, I believe the narrative of Numbers 12 was written for people who talk negatively about the Lord God and challenge his authority. This is evident because Mariam was guilty of challenging authority and she was given leprosy and turned white from it (Riggans, 1983, P.103). God uses Numbers 12 to help people not disrespect others, but most importantly not disrespect God or challenge his decisions.
In Numbers 11, the Israelites were in a group of about 600,000 people. These people were wandering in the desert. They were hungry and wanted food. God told them that they would be given so much meat to eat that they would begin to hate eating meet. Later, a flock of quails were blown in by the wind. People began to kill and eat these quails. This made God angry. God was not angry at the people for being hungry, instead he was angry that they had craving. God then gave all these people a plague and killed many of them. This narrative helps us interpret the passage by understanding where the people were at in their journey. We know that they are probably short when it comes to emotion and are drained physically.
After Numbers 12, in the next two chapters, we have a story of the Israelites spying and then attempting to take a village “flowing with milk and honey” over. The people in these next two chapters again defy God and do not believe in his strength. God gets angry with them. It seems as if God is trying to explain that they should trust in him because they are stuck in a desert and they do not have any other chances, but to believe in him. I feel this passage relates to Numbers 12 in the way that it explains how we need to trust and believe in God regardless of the situation, because without God we are basically just people wandering a desert.
This narrative is understood very well by scholars. While I believe that not all scholars have the same belief on it, I think that it can be used to help us learn. To understand what scholars believe about this narrative we have to look into each aspect of the story.
Starting off with the beginning of the story, scholars believe that Moses, Mariam, and Aaron are all together. According to Riggans on page 101 of the 1983 commentary of Numbers, “The cause for the Lord’s intervention was given immediately: “Mariam and Aaron spoke against Moses.””. Riggans also writes about why the Cushite woman Moses married offended so many people. Riggans writes on page 102 of his commentary that it could have been offensive because of the fact that “she was not a follower of the Lord”. Another theory that is in place by Riggans is that people were not only offended by the fact that she was not a follower of God, but they were more upset with Moses for marrying someone after his previous wife Zipporah. This anger or jealousy can be explained by simple “family jealousy” (Budd, 1984, P. 135). Either way, Mariam is upset and jealous of Moses and talks badly behind his back. As we go further through the story, we see that Mariam is punished for what she said about the prophet Moses. She contracts leprosy. While Budd believes that the leprosy contracted could have been more of a tradition that she got leprosy, not all scholars believe this. In Numbers 12:6-12 God is very angry with Mariam. God used his anger to burst out against Mariam and because of God’s anger and wrath she contracted leprosy (Bellinger, 2001, P. 226).
After Mariam has contracted leprosy she and Aaron are scared and begin to regret their decision to talk badly about Moses, and ultimately God. Whenever Aaron sees that Mariam has leprosy, he tries to beg Moses that her condition is removed because Aaron and Mariam knew that they had made a poor decision (Bellinger, 2001, P. 226). Aaron was not punished because she has a larger role in the story and unlike most biblical stories, is the main character (Riggans.1983, P. 104). As the story goes on and Mariam is not acquitted of her disrespect against God and Moses. Instead she is punished. She is kicked out of the camp for seven days. The reasoning behind this is to publicly shame and “balance her private confrontation” (Riggans.1983, P. 104). From each of the texts cited it can be reached that many different takes to the story can be had, but the following message is clear, God nor anyone he prophesizes should ever be disrespected.
The original context of this story is interesting. Originally it can be seen that the Israelites are in exile for 40 years. During this exile they must roam the desert. We can see that the people seem to be shorter tempered and quick to succumb to their senses. This is probably because of the harsh condition that they had to endure for so long. From Numbers 11 we learn that there is a lack of food and people are starving and want meat. While in exile Moses wants to help free the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. This issue is heavy on his heart and he wants to solve it. The context of this story helps us understand why people are making poor decisions not only in Numbers chapter 12, but chapter 11 and 13 too.
These commentaries were helpful, but I think they mostly furthered my knowledge and kept up my beliefs. Overall the commentaries explained the story in a way that was very similar to the way we discussed it in class. For example, in Riggans’ 1983 commentary he explains how Mariam was the only one punished and she mentioned first and because she is important. We also discussed how if a woman is discussed in scripture she is typically a very important part of the story. An example of how my viewing of the story was changed is in Bellinger’s 2001 commentary, on page 225 it is discussed how Mariam being upset with Moses is an example of family jealousy. I never though of the narrative in this way until I read the commentary. Overall these commentaries helped shape my knowledge in more of a detailing way.
Now that I have read scholarly opinions, I feel like God is very strict to these people. They have been through so much. While I understand that Mariam sinned by negatively speaking about Moses and God, she was given leprosy. I feel as if this is very harsh given the circumstances that I have read about in these commentaries. I feel as if God wants to shape people in a very specific way. I feel that I interpret this narrative as God being very strict, now that I have read these commentaries.
The Bible is more than a book of stories. In the Old Testament we are reminded time and time again how Moses had to suffer through so much with his people. In the Numbers 12:1-16 narrative, we learn about how Mariam and Aaron sin by talking badly of Moses and God. This narrative helps us learn not to speak of others in a bad tongue. We can understand narratives like this much better by reading the work of biblical scholars. From this paper I have taken that God is strict, but just, and he knows how to make a point to us as people.