Numbers 12-13

Sunday Evening Bible Study

January 4, 1998


The book of Numbers is the history of the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, as they made their way from the deliverance out of Egypt, to the conquering of the Promised Land.

We’ve seen much about the organizing of this nation of slaves into a lean, mean fighting machine.

They’ve now made their first three day trip, a kind of "test run" to see how things are going. It ends kind of in disaster, as the people start complaining and grumbling about how things are going.

Numbers 12

:1-3 Miriam and Aaron complain

:1 because of the Ethiopian woman

Ethiopian – a woman from Cush, or, Ethiopia. This was probably a black woman.

This is Miriam and Aaron’s first complaint against their brother.

Miriam and Aaron had a problem with Moses because he was married to a black woman.

Isn't racism biblical? Weren't the Israelites told not to marry other peoples?

(Deu 7:1-5 KJV) When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; {2} And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: {3} Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. {4} For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. {5} But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.

The commands were against marrying certain races because of their beliefs, not because of the color of their skin.

Note: The prohibition is not against marrying any other nationality, only these seven particular nations.

God was concerned that their intermarriage with these particular peoples would cause them to fall away from God.

The issue is not whether races can intermarry, but whether your marriage to another person will draw you away from the Lord.


There’s no room for racism in Christianity.

The way we treat people should be based upon their relationship to Jesus, not the nationality of their ancestors.

(Rom 10:12 KJV) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

(Gal 3:28 KJV) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

(Col 3:11 KJV) Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

:2 "Hath the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses?"

This was their second complaint

A challenge to Moses' authority.

They were saying that it wasn't fair that since God had spoken through them too, they too should have equal authority with Moses.

Keep in mind who Miriam and Aaron were. They were Moses' older brother and sister.

:2 And the LORD heard it

We might think that nobody knows about our sin, because we might not get caught.

But God knows. God sees. God hears.

Because He allows you to "get away with it" is not because He doesn’t care, it’s because He’s giving you a chance to turn from your sin.

:3 Moses was very meek ...

meekanav – poor, afflicted, humble, meek

It sure makes a different sense to say that "Moses was very afflicted, more than any man..."

Some have a problem with the fact that this verse is in Scripture, since Moses was the one who wrote the first five books of the Bible. Doesn't it seem kind of strange for a person to write about themselves that they were the most humble person in the world?


1. The Holy Spirit is causing Moses to write about this. Since it was true, would the Holy Spirit have Moses write it?

2. Maybe Moses is simply saying that he had a hard time understanding why Aaron and Miriam had such a hard time with his leadership, because he certainly wasn't an overbearing kind of leader, but was trying to be very humble. Maybe?

:4-8 God's response

:4 the LORD spake suddenly …

Notice, God does the defending for Moses.

It's hard when people criticize you to not try to defend yourself.

:6 prophet ... vision ... dream

Apparently, this is the primary way the Lord would speak through prophets, either by dreams (received while asleep), or visions (trance-like state, while awake).

:7 who is faithful in all mine house

This is why Moses was different, because he was faithful.

This is quoted in Hebrews...

(Heb 3:1-6 KJV) Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; {2} Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. {3} For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. {4} For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. {5} And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; {6} But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

The way Moses was faithful was by being a servant.

Here was the leader of 2 million people, and the two qualities that God brings out about him that stand out the most was that he was humble, and he was a servant.

Jesus said,

(Mark 9:35 KJV) And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

So you want to be in leadership? Learn to be a servant.

Tired of those lowly jobs you always get stuck with? You're learning to serve.

(Mark 10:45 KJV) For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

:8 mouth to mouth

Moses never actually saw God face to face.

EXO 33:20 But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!"

JOH 1:18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained {Him.}

But Moses got as close as a person could come.

EXO 33:21-23 Then the \Lord\ said, "Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand {there} on the rock; 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 "Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen."

:8 apparently, and not in dark speeches

God didn't have to speak with riddles, metaphors, or pictures to Moses.

He just said what He meant, and meant what He said.

:9-16 Miriam's leprousy

:9 anger of the Lord ... He departed

What a scary thing! God gets so upset He leaves.

The consequences of sin - separation from God.

:10 she was leprous

God had stricken Miriam with immediate leprousy, apparently causing her to be so grotesquely disfigured, that she looked like a partly formed fetus coming at an ill timed birth (vs.12)

Remember that this was in response to her rebellion against Moses' authority.

Later, God warns –

(Deu 24:9 KJV) Remember what the LORD thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt.


Be careful about rebelling against authority.

I'm not saying that sometimes it isn't called for. But we better be careful if we are being rebellious.

God's Word to Saul:

(1 Sam 15:23 KJV) For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

At work:

(1 Pet 2:18-19 KJV) Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.(unreasonable) {19} For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

:11 Aaron said unto Moses ...

Remember, Aaron is the "High Priest"!

Shouldn't he have the kind of "clout" it takes to talk to God? Shouldn't he be asking God for forgiveness?

He realizes that he can't go to God to plead for help, he needs to go to Moses to ask for forgiveness.


Be reconciled toward others.

There are times when the appropriate response for our sin is NOT going to God and asking for forgiveness, but going to a person.

(Mat 5:23-24 KJV) Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; {24} Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

:13 Moses cried unto the Lord ...

Here's the beauty of Moses' heart.

He's been treated very badly by Aaron and Miriam, and now he's turning around and praying for Miriam.

If it was me, I might have said to myself, "She deserves everything that's coming to her." Or, "I'll just let her suffer for a little while..."

Jesus said,

(Mat 5:43-44 KJV) Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. {44} But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

:14 let her be shut out from the camp seven days

Even though Miriam was apparently healed, she still had to go out of the camp and be quarantined for seven days.

This is the same treatment an "unclean" person got.


There still are consequences to our sins.

We get the idea that if we just confess our sin, that God forgives us, and life goes on just as though it never happened.

Wrong! There are still consequences to sin!

If I were to go out and commit adultery, and then confess my sin, I may be forgiven by God, I may be even forgiven by my wife, but I still may contract AIDS.


When you sin, it's like pounding a nail into a piece of wood. When you confess your sin, God pulls out the nail. But there's still going to be a hole left by the nail.

(Gal 6:7-8 KJV) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. {8} For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Note: Miriam wasn't shut up forever, but only for seven days!

Though there may be consequences for sin, Praise the Lord that they don't all last forever (unless you don't believe in Jesus)

:15 the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again

Apparently the people were pretty shook up about what happened to Miriam.

She was a favorite of the people.

(Exo 15:20-21 KJV) And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. {21} And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

(Micah 6:4 KJV) For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.


Wait for the restoration!

God’s heart is always toward restoration, where it’s wanted.

The people waited until Miriam was restored, and didn’t leave without her.

(Gal 6:1 KJV) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Numbers 13

:1-16 Spies chosen

:2 search the land of Canaan, which I give …

Here's something you might miss if you're not careful.

God didn't say that He might give them the land, He said "I am going to give..."

God is promising them that He is going to give them the land.

The purpose of sending spies into the land is not to decide whether or not to go into the land, or to decide if they are able to handle going into the land.

The purpose of the spies was to let the people know what they were getting into.

:2 a man, every one a ruler among them

The spies were to be a representative portion of the entire nation. They didn't just represent some elite fighting force or something. They came from each of the twelve tribes. Their response to their mission would be representative of the entire nation.

:17-20 Spies commissioned

:18 see the land, what it is

Moses gives the parameters for the spies. He tells them what they are to be looking for.

Note: Again we need to see that Moses is not telling them that their job is to decide whether or not the nation is capable of entering into the land. As far as Moses is concerned, that is a given. God has already promised that they would be given the land.

Is it "spiritual" to study something before getting into it?

I think some people would find fault in the fact that spies were sent at all. Some people would respond and say, "God promised, they should have just gone into it."

But God Himself commanded that spies be sent.

2CO 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight--

Some people think this Scripture means that we have to walk with our eyes closed. Not at all! God wants our eyes wide open, but we need to learn to make our decisions based on faith, not upon sight.

Make decisions by faith. But keep your eyes open so you can see what God is going to do!

It's kind of like some of my premarital couples. Most of them seem to have already heard from God that He wants them to be married. But it sure is valuable to spy out the land first to find out just what you're getting into.

:21-24 The land is spied out

:21 Zin ... Rehob

Zin is about seventy-five miles southwest of the dead sea, near Kadesh Barnea where the people were staying at the time.

Rehob, near Lebo Hamath, was another fifty to seventy five miles north of Damascus (in Syria).

:20 the time of the firstripe grapes

This would be the beginning of the summer fruits, somewhere around May or June.

:22 Hebron ... Anak

Hebron is located to the west of the midway point in the Dead Sea, up in the high country.

It was a very important city later on, being the capital of the tribe of Judah. It was David's first capital for seven years.

Anak was apparently the father of a race of giants.

We're going to come across several different names for the giants in the land as we go through Numbers and Joshua.

Though there were other cities that contained giants, this seems to be the only one they encountered on their spy mission. I think it's interesting that when Joshua eventually portions out the land, that he gives the city of Hebron to Caleb, one of the good spies, who, as an old man, goes up and kills the giants, just like God said he could do.


Promised Lands don't come without their problems.

We kind of get the idea that if God is leading me, then there will be no problems in my life. WRONG!

Whenever we talk about "Promised Lands", we ought to also remember that there will be giants in the land.

When Calvary Anaheim moved to their new building, we found lots of "giants". We used to joke, "well, here comes another giant...".

:23 one cluster of grapes

This must have been a HUGE cluster of grapes, since it too two men to carry it on a pole.


There is fruit in the Promised Land.

When God has a plan for you, and He guides you into the promises He has made for your life, there will be FRUIT!

JER 29:11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the \Lord\, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

:23 Eshcol

Hebrew for "cluster". The valley was named this because of the cluster of grapes they took from it.

:25-33 The spies' reports

:25 after forty days

They took forty days to spy out the land. Keep this number in mind.

:27 surely it floweth with milk and honey

We've got some good news and some bad news.

The idea of milk and honey refers to the fruitfulness of the land.

A land flowing with milk means that there would be good pasturing for their cattle and flocks, hence, lots of milk.

A land flowing with honey meant that the there was a land perfect for farming, making a great place for bees to make honey.

It doesn't mean that there were milk and honey spigots on every rock.

This is the "good" half of the report.

:28-29 Nevertheless ...

Here comes the bad part...

Even though this is bad news, it is what they were sent out to do.

Up through verse 29, the spies are doing exactly what they were sent out to do, report back on what the land was like.

Again, there is no lack of faith in finding out that there are a few giants stalking in the land that God has promised you.

:29 Amalekites ... Hittites ... Jebusites ... Amorites ... Canaanites

The Amalekites were descendants of Esau through Eliphaz (Gen.36:12) and were wandering nomads in the desert south of Canaan. They were enemies of Israel ever since they attacked them in the desert at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16). Saul was later commanded to wipe them out, but he didn't. The last known Amalekite seems to be Hamaan, who was a descendant of Agag, one of the kings.

The Hittites originated in central Anatolia (modern Turkey) about 1800 B.C. and slowly spread south and southeast.

The Jebusites are a mystery, except that they centralized in Jerusalem and held that city until David reign, when he drove them out and made Jerusalem his capital.

The Amorites entered Canaan from the northeast Aram (Syria) sometime before 2000 B.C., had driven the Canaanites out of the hill country, and took up their place there.

The Canaanites were the indigenous people of the land of Canaan.

:30-33 The two reports

Here's where it all boils down to, a good report, and a bad report.

Lesson #1:

Be careful about "pro's" and "con's".

Some of us have been taught that a good way to make decisions is to make a list of "pro's" and a list of "con's", and then go with the list that is heaviest.

Sometimes this is okay, and sometimes God may want us to do this, but there may not be much room for faith in it.

The whole issue comes back to God's promise in verse two: "the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel".

In making decisions for our lives, we need to look at the pro's and con's of a decision. That's what sending in spies is all about. It's good to know what you're getting into. Do it with your eyes open.

But we need to also keep in mind that if there were no "pro's", and only a big list of "con's", that God could still be wanting us to go into a situation, just so we could learn to trust Him and watch Him deliver us through all the "con's".

David and Goliath.

A great example of handling giants.

Could you imagine David sitting down and making a list of pro's and con's before deciding to fight Goliath?

"Let's see, under the "pro's", I won't have to pay any more taxes, I get to marry the king's daughter, that all sounds pretty good. Under the "con's", let's see, Goliath is a little bigger and more experienced than me, so I guess I could end up dead, what good is a tax free income if you're dead?"

Summary: Pro's and con's are valuable in letting us know what we're getting into. But if our decisions are based solely upon pro's and con's, then we might risk losing an opportunity to use our faith, and an opportunity to see God doing wonderful things in our lives.


Look for God's promises.

An example with Jesus and the disciples.

MAR 4:35-41 And on that day, when evening had come, He *said to them, "Let us go over to the other side." 36 And leaving the multitude, they *took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat; and other boats were with Him. 37 And there *arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. 38 And He Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *awoke Him and *said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" 39 And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. 40 And He said to them, "Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith?" 41 And they became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

Jesus rebuked them for not having faith.

Where was their lack of faith?

Jesus had promised them at the beginning of the trip, "Let us go OVER to the other side...", He didn't say, "Let us go UNDER to the other side ..."

If Jesus says we're going over, then we're going over.

Here's the whole crux of our decision making. What does God want me to do?

How do I find out what God wants?

Be open. Pray. Read. Wait. Ask advice.