Moses' Family

INTRODUCTION: This biographical family overview study will begin with the birth of Moses and the way he was protected until he became the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter. When Moses was an adult he fled from Egypt because he had killed an Egyptian, and he then lived in Midian. While he was in Midian he took a wife and had two sons before he returned to Egypt for the Exodus, which will not be covered herein. Jethro, his father-in-law, was called the priest of Midian, and he later was briefly reunited with Moses in the wilderness. Moses also had some contact with a brother-in-law named Hobab. Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy each provide some unique information about Moses, and some other scriptures are also helpful.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


A - THE BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD OF MOSES

Exodus "1 A man of the house of Levi went and took a daughter of Levi as his wife. 2 The woman conceived, and bore a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him, and coated it with tar and with pitch. She put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river's bank. 4 His sister stood far off, to see what would be done to him. 5 Pharaoh's daughter came down to bathe at the river. Her maidens walked along by the riverside. She saw the basket among the reeds, and sent her handmaid to get it. 6 She opened it, and saw the child, and behold, the baby cried. She had compassion on him, and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children." 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Should I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?" 8 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go." The maiden went and called the child's mother. 9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages." The woman took the child, and nursed it. 10 The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, and said, "Because I drew him out of the water."

COMMENTS: Both parents of Moses were descendents of Levi through his son Kohath, but their names are not given in this passage, so another passage provides that detail. Exodus "18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel; and the years of the life of Kohath were one hundred thirty-three years. 19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations. 20 Amram took Jochebed his father's sister to himself as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were a hundred and thirty-seven years." Miriam played a key role in allowing her mother to nurse Moses until he left his family to become the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Scripture does not record any Hebrew name for Moses, and there is no further mention of his mother or father during his early childhood or at any other time throughout his life. Pharaoh’s daughter, who is not named, explained the significance to her for the name she gave the baby boy. There is no other mention in scripture of this woman. It is interesting to realize that it was Yahweh who drew Moses into the Egyptian culture, and then into Midian, before he brought him back to Egypt to draw out the children of Israel from their bondage.

I could find no reference about Miriam's age, but she was old enough to approach Pharaoh’s daughter, but apparently did not have the appearance of being the mother of the baby. Aaron was about 3 years older than Moses based on this passage from a later point in their lives. Exodus 7 "7 Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh."

When Stephen spoke to some hostile Jews, his message provided some additional scriptural information about this early part of Moses' life. Acts 7 "17 "But as the time of the promise came close which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18 until there arose a different king, who didn't know Joseph. 19 The same took advantage of our race, and mistreated our fathers, and forced them to throw out their babies, so that they wouldn't stay alive. 20 At that time Moses was born, and was exceedingly handsome. He was nourished three months in his father's house. 21 When he was thrown out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and reared him as her own son. 22 Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was mighty in his words and works." From that passage we know that Moses had gained much knowledge and skill in the Egyptian culture.


B - MOSES FLED FROM THE THREAT BY PHAROAH

Exodus 2 "11 It happened in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brothers, and looked at their burdens. He saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his brothers. 12 He looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no one, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. 13 He went out the second day, and behold, two men of the Hebrews were fighting with each other. He said to him who did the wrong, "Why do you strike your fellow?" 14 He said, "Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you plan to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian?" Moses was afraid, and said, "Surely this thing is known." 15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and lived in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.

COMMENTS: There is no description in the passage from Exodus of how Moses was influenced by the culture and practices of Israel from his childhood to this point when he was an adult, because he became a part of the Egyptian culture as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. However, it is clear that he identified with the Hebrews as his people, and he even killed an Egyptian who was harming a Hebrew. The next day when he tried to separate two Hebrews who were fighting, he was rebuffed by the aggressor who said he was not a prince and a judge over them. When the man asked if Moses was going to kill him as he had done to the Egyptian, Moses knew this had become common knowledge. When Pharaoh learned of this he sought to kill Moses, so Moses fled and lived in Midian. It is not clear how long he had been in Midian before he sat down at the well mentioned in the Exodus passage.

By looking at more of the passage from Acts we learn that Moses was 40 years old when he had to flee from Egypt. Acts 7 "23 But when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 Seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him who was oppressed, striking the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers understood that God, by his hand, was giving them deliverance; but they didn't understand. 26 "The day following, he appeared to them as they fought, and urged them to be at peace again, saying, 'Sirs, you are brothers. Why do you wrong one another?' 27 But he who did his neighbour wrong pushed him away, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me, as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' 29 Moses fled at this saying, and became a stranger in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons." Moses considered himself as a stranger in Midian, with his loyalty remaining with his Hebrew brethren back in Egypt.


C - ZIPPORAH BECAME MOSES' WIFE AND THEY HAD THERE FIRST SONS

Exodus 2 "16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came to Reuel, their father, he said, "How is it that you have returned so early today?" 19 They said, "An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and moreover he drew water for us, and watered the flock." 20 He said to his daughters, "Where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread." 21 Moses was content to dwell with the man. He gave Moses Zipporah, his daughter. 22 She bore a son, and he named him Gershom, for he said, "I have lived as a foreigner in a foreign land.""

COMMENTS: Moses intervened to help the daughters of Reuel to water the flock of their father when other shepherds had driven them away to make them wait while they watered their own flocks. Apparently this happened routinely because their father was surprised when they returned sooner than usual and he asked them to explain. They said an Egyptian had rescued them from the shepherds and even drew water for them. Moses the Hebrew may have looked like an Egyptian in some way, or he may have spoken in a manner that was characteristic of an Egyptian because of having been a part of that society for some forty years. Their father then told them to go back and invite the man to have a meal with them. There were men named Reuel in the line of Esau, in the line of Gad, and in the line of Benjamin; but this name was used to designate Moses' Midianite father-in-law only in this passage in Exodus and once in Numbers. The name Reuel means "friend of God." However, he was a priest of Midian, and the line of priests had not yet been established for worship of Yahweh. Except for the passage about Melchizedek, the first priest mentioned in scripture served a false god. Genesis 41 "45 Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-Paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On as a wife. Joseph went out over the land of Egypt." Genesis 46 "20 To Joseph in the land of Egypt were born Manasseh and Ephraim, whom Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him."

Moses was content to remain with Reuel and he became part of that family when he was given Zipporah as his wife. Their first son was born and Moses named him Gershom, for he said, I have lived as a foreigner in a foreign land, WITH FOREIGNER BEING THE GENERAL MEANING OF THE NAME. Gershom was also the name of the first born son of Levi, and Moses was A DESCENDENT OF Levi but through the line of Kohath. Genesis 46 "11 The sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari." Another passage provides the line from Kohath down to the sons of Moses. 1 Chronicles 23 "12 The sons of Kohath: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, four. 13 The sons of Amram: Aaron and Moses; and Aaron was separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons, forever, to burn incense before Yahweh, to minister to him, and to bless in his name, forever. 14 But as for Moses the man of God, his sons were named among the tribe of Levi. 15 The sons of Moses: Gershom and Eliezer. 16 The sons of Gershom: Shebuel the chief. 17 The sons of Eliezer were: Rehabiah the chief; and Eliezer had no other sons; but the sons of Rehabiah were very many." It is important to note that the sons of Moses were counted as part of the tribe of Levi, and not rejected though their mother was a Midianite whose father was priest of Midian. Joseph's two sons were also not rejected even though their mother was an Egyptian, and the daughter of a priest of a false god.


D - MOSES LEFT MIDIAN TO RETURN TO EGYPT

Exodus 3 "1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God's mountain, to Horeb. 2 The angel of Yahweh appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. ... 12 He said, "Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."

Exodus 4 "18 Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, "Please let me go and return to my brothers who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive." Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace." 19 Yahweh said to Moses in Midian, "Go, return into Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead." 20 Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. Moses took God's rod in his hand. 21 Yahweh said to Moses, "When you go back into Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart and he will not let the people go. 22 You shall tell Pharaoh, 'Thus says Yahweh, Israel is my son, my firstborn, 23 and I have said to you, "Let my son go, that he may serve me"; and you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.'" 24 It happened on the way at a lodging place, that Yahweh met Moses and wanted to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said, "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me." 26 So he let him alone. Then she said, "You are a bridegroom of blood," because of the circumcision."

COMMENTS: Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro when he had his encounter with The angel of Yahweh, and he was given instructions to return to Egypt. The scripture in Exodus chapter 4 does not give any indication that Moses told Jethro anything about his encounter with Yahweh while he was tending the flock. But Moses was very respectful with his father-in-law as he made request of him to go back to Egypt to see if his "brothers" were still alive. Jethro told him to go in peace, apparently willing to have his daughter and grandsons leave him, and to lose the service of shepherding by Moses. Jethro had seven daughters, but we have no information about the marital status of the other six. The name Jethro appears only nine times in scripture, and all refer to Moses' father-in-law.

After Yahweh told Moses that all the men in Egypt who had sought his life were dead, Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them on a donkey, and he returned to Egypt, with God's rod in his hand. We are not told the age of the sons, but it is interesting that it is stated Moses set his wife and sons on a donkey. We don't know how long Moses had been married, but he had been in Midian for forty years and now he was eighty. Yahweh told Moses to be sure to do before Pharaoh all the wonders he had been given, but Yahweh would harden Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the people go. Moses was then to tell Pharaoh that since he refused to let Israel, the firstborn son of Yahweh go to serve him, Yahweh would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son. With the emphasis on the firstborn, we are reminded of the covenant of circumcision that had been established with Abraham. Genesis 17 "10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your seed after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin. It will be a token of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old will be circumcised among you, every male throughout your generations, he who is born in the house, or bought with money from any foreigner who is not of your seed. 13 He who is born in your house, and he who is bought with your money, must be circumcised. My covenant will be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 The uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that soul shall be cut off from his people. He has broken my covenant.""

We have no further explanation elsewhere in scripture of what happened next, so I will only emphasize some of the recorded points for consideration. At a stopping point on the way back to Egypt Yahweh met Moses and wanted to kill him. Zipporah was the one who took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at the feet of Moses as she said surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me. Again, we don't know the age of the son, but he submitted to the circumcision by his mother since he had not been circumcised at eight days old according to Yahweh's covenant with Abraham. Yahweh no longer threatened to kill Moses after the circumcision was done. Zipporah's reaction to having performed the circumcision was to say to Moses you are a bridegroom of blood to me. We are not told if the second son was circumcised at some point, but the greater emphasis had been on the firstborn.

Stephen's brief synopsis provides some interesting insight. Acts 7 "30 "When forty years were fulfilled, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight. As he came close to see, a voice of the Lord came to him, 32 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' Moses trembled, and dared not look. 33 The Lord said to him, 'Take your sandals off of your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people that is in Egypt, and have heard their groaning. I have come down to deliver them. Now come, I will send you into Egypt.' 35 "This Moses, whom they refused, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?'—God has sent him as both a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, having worked wonders and signs in Egypt, in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years." Though he had been mocked by a fellow Hebrew, forty years later when he returned to Egypt God had appointed him as both ruler and deliverer, and he continued that position for another forty years with Israel as they wandered in the wilderness.


E - MOSES' FATHER-IN-LAW MET WITH HIM IN THE WILDERNESS

Exodus 18 "1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses, and for Israel his people, how that Yahweh had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, received Zipporah, Moses' wife, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons. The name of one son was Gershom, for Moses said, "I have lived as a foreigner in a foreign land". 4 The name of the other was Eliezer, for he said, "My father's God was my help and delivered me from Pharaoh's sword." 5 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses into the wilderness where he was encamped, at the Mountain of God. 6 He said to Moses, "I, your father-in-law Jethro, have come to you with your wife, and her two sons with her." 7 Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and bowed and kissed him. They asked each other of their welfare, and they came into the tent. 8 Moses told his father-in-law all that Yahweh had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardships that had come on them on the way, and how Yahweh delivered them. 9 Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which Yahweh had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 Jethro said, "Blessed be Yahweh, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of Pharaoh; who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that Yahweh is greater than all gods because of the thing in which they dealt arrogantly against them." 12 Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God. Aaron came with all of the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God."

COMMENTS: We are not told how Jethro heard about all the things Yahweh had done for Moses and his people Israel to bring them out of Egypt, or just when Moses had sent his family back to Jethro. The text gives us the name of the first son again, and for the first time the name of the second along with the reason Moses gave him that name. Jethro came with Moses' sons and his wife to him in the wilderness where he was encamped, at the Mountain of God. This is where Moses had been tending sheep when God first called him as described in Exodus chapter 3 (see section C above). This mountain is also called Sinai, and that is where Moses received the Ten Commandments from Yahweh as described in a later chapter of Exodus. Exodus 24 "12 Yahweh said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and stay here, and I will give you the tables of stone with the law and the commands that I have written, that you may teach them." 13 Moses rose up with Joshua, his servant, and Moses went up onto God's Mountain. 14 He said to the elders, "Wait here for us, until we come again to you. Behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever is involved in a dispute can go to them." 15 Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of Yahweh settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. The seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud."

Moses very graciously greeted his father-in-law, and they asked each other of their welfare. They went into the tent and Moses told his father-in-law all that Yahweh had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel's sake, all the hardships that had come on them on the way, and how Yahweh delivered them. Jethro rejoiced and praised Yahweh for all he had done for Israel to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians. This priest of Midian said that now he knew that Yahweh is greater than all gods because of how he dealt with those who had treated Israel arrogantly. Then Jethro took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God. Aaron came with all of the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law before God. Jethro's words and actions here seem to give evidence that he had become a follower of Yahweh.


F - MOSES ACCEPTED COUNSEL FROM HIS FATHER-IN-LAW

Exodus 18 "13 It happened on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from the morning to the evening. 14 When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said, "What is this thing that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning to evening?" 15 Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a matter, they come to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbour, and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws." 17 Moses' father-in-law said to him, "The thing that you do is not good. 18 You will surely wear away, both you, and this people that is with you; for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to perform it yourself alone. 19 Listen now to my voice. I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You represent the people before God, and bring the causes to God. 20 You shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and shall show them the way in which they must walk, and the work that they must do. 21 Moreover you shall provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God: men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 22 Let them judge the people at all times. It shall be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they shall judge themselves. So shall it be easier for you, and they shall share the load with you. 23 If you will do this thing, and God commands you so, then you will be able to endure, and all of these people also will go to their place in peace." 24 So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. 25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 They judged the people at all times. They brought the hard causes to Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves. 27 Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way into his own land." Exodus 19 "1 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 When they had departed from Rephidim, and had come to the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain."

COMMENTS: The next day when Moses sat to judge the people throughout the whole day, Jethro observed it and asked Moses why he did that alone for the people. Moses explained that they came to him to inquire of God, and he would give the statutes and laws of God to settle a matter between a man and his neighbor. Jethro said this would soon wear Moses and the people out because it is too heavy a burden for one man. Jethro offered counsel to Moses and wanted God to be with him as he changed his approach. Moses should represent the people before God and bring their causes to God. He should teach the people the statutes and laws, show them the way of personal conduct, and the work they should do. Moses should then provide able men who fear God, love the truth, and detest unjust gain. Such men should be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. They should judge the people at all times in the small matters, with only the great matters brought before Moses. Jethro said if Moses would adopt this approach, with God commanding it to be done in such manner, then Moses would endure and the people would go to their place in peace. Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law, and did all that he had said. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way into his own land. The very next verse opens chapter 19. In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that same day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.


G - MOSES ASKED HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW TO JOIN WITH ISRAEL

Numbers 10 "29 Moses said to Hobab, the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, "We are journeying to the place of which Yahweh said, 'I will give it to you.' Come with us, and we will treat you well; for Yahweh has spoken good concerning Israel." 30 He said to him, "I will not go; but I will depart to my own land, and to my relatives." 31 He said, "Don't leave us, please; because you know how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 It shall be, if you go with us, yes, it shall be, that whatever good Yahweh does to us, we will do the same to you." 33 They set forward from the Mount of Yahweh three days' journey. The ark of the covenant of Yahweh went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting place for them."

COMMENTS: Moses had been in Midian for forty years and since Hobab was the son of Moses father-in-law Reuel (or Raguel in some translations) they likely would have become well acquainted with each other. The information about hobab is so scant that we don't have any indication whether he had believed in the God of Israel as seemingly had his father. Horeb was a place where Moses had tended sheep while living in Midian, and Hobab apparently was familiar with even more of the surrounding territory enough so that Moses wanted him to serve as a guide. When the whole company of Israel set out from the mountain, they had the ark of the covenant with them. The people of Moab and Midian were not followers of Yahweh, and later there was a plague of destruction among the children of Israel and many died, because they had joined in worship of Baal Peor as described in Numbers chapter 25.


H - MIRIAM AND AARON CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY OF MOSES

Numbers 12 "1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. 2 They said, "Has Yahweh indeed spoken only with Moses? Hasn't he spoken also with us?" And Yahweh heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very humble, above all the men who were on the surface of the earth. 4 Yahweh spoke suddenly to Moses, to Aaron, and to Miriam, "You three come out to the Tent of Meeting!" The three of them came out. 5 Yahweh came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. 6 He said, "Hear now my words. If there is a prophet among you, I Yahweh will make myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream. 7 My servant Moses is not so. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I will speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in riddles; and he shall see Yahweh's form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?" 9 The anger of Yahweh was kindled against them; and he departed. 10 The cloud departed from over the Tent; and behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. Aaron looked at Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my lord, please don't count this sin against us, in which we have done foolishly, and in which we have sinned. 12 Let her not, I pray, be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother's womb." 13 Moses cried to Yahweh, saying, "Heal her, God, I beg you!" 14 Yahweh said to Moses, "If her father had but spit in her face, shouldn't she be ashamed seven days? Let her be shut up outside of the camp seven days, and after that she shall be brought in again." 15 Miriam was shut up outside of the camp seven days, and the people didn't travel until Miriam was brought in again."

COMMENTS: This chapter opens with an unclear statement whether the reference is to another wife, or whether a general term Cushite (also interchangeable with Ethiopian) was applied to indicate that Zipporah was not from any of the twelve tribes of Israel. The Midianites were from the wife of Abraham after Sarah had died, but there is no record of that wife's lineage. Genesis 25 "1 Abraham took another wife, and her name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah." Zipporah's father was the priest of Midian in the land of Midian, but we know nothing of the lineage of her mother. We know that Aaron's wife was an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Exodus 6 "23 Aaron took Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, as his wife; and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar." Whichever the case for the reference to the wife of Moses, Miriam and Aaron greatly displeased Yahweh, and the consequence to Miriam for their attitude toward Moses made it very clear their challenge had been a serious offense.


I - MIRIAM AND AARON DIED WITHOUT ENTERING THE PROMISED LAND

Numbers 20 "1 The children of Israel, even the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month: and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there."

Numbers 20 "23 Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor, by the border of the land of Edom, saying, 24 "Aaron shall be gathered to his people; for he shall not enter into the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against my word at the waters of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; 26 and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be taken, and shall die there." 27 Moses did as Yahweh commanded: and they went up into Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain."

Numbers 33 "38 And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month. 39 And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor."

COMMENTS: When Miriam died her age was not given and there was no mention of a trespass against Yahweh that brought her death, so she likely just reached the end of her years. Numbers chapter 20 has the only record of her death, and the context seems to indicate that Aaron died later that same year. Chapter 20 reveals that Yahweh did tell both Moses and Aaron that they had rebelled against his word at the waters of Meribah, and therefore Aaron would not enter the land which Yahweh had given to the children of Israel. Numbers chapter 33 provides some review and it includes the information that it was the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year since Israel had come out of Egypt, and Aaron was 123 years old when he died.


J - MOSES ALSO WAS NOT PERMITTED TO ENTER THE PROMISED LAND

Numbers 31 "1 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Avenge the children of Israel for the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people." 3 Moses spoke to the people, saying, "Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian, to execute Yahweh's vengeance on Midian. ... 7 They warred against Midian, as Yahweh commanded Moses; and they killed every male. 8 They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they killed with the sword. 9 The children of Israel took captive the women of Midian and their little ones; and all their livestock, and all their flocks, and all their goods, they took for a prey. 10 All their cities in the places in which they lived, and all their encampments, they burnt with fire. ... 14 Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the captains of thousands and the captains of hundreds, who came from the service of the war. 15 Moses said to them, "Have you saved all the women alive? 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh. 17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 18 But all the girls, who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. 19 "Encamp outside of the camp seven days: whoever has killed any person, and whoever has touched any slain, purify yourselves on the third day and on the seventh day, you and your captives."

Deuteronomy 32 "44 Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he and Joshua the son of Nun. 45 Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel; 46 He said to them, "Set your heart to all the words which I testify to you this day, which you shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. 47 For it is no vain thing for you; because it is your life, and through this thing you shall prolong your days in the land, where you go over the Jordan to possess it." 48 Yahweh spoke to Moses that same day, saying, 49 "Go up into this mountain of Abarim, to Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and see the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel for a possession; 50 and die on the mountain where you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor, and was gathered to his people: 51 because you trespassed against me in the midst of the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah of Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because you didn't sanctify me in the midst of the children of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land before you; but you shall not go there into the land which I give the children of Israel.""

Deuteronomy 34 "4 Yahweh said to him, "This is the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, 'I will give it to your seed.' I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." 5 So Moses the servant of Yahweh died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of Yahweh. 6 He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab over against Beth Peor: but no man knows of his tomb to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated."

COMMENTS: Miriam and Aaron had died, and in Numbers chapter 31 Yahweh told Moses to avenge the children of Israel for the Midianites, and afterward he would be gathered to his people. The judgment on Midian, the homeland of Moses' wife, was very complete in lives taken and cities destroyed. Only virgin women and young girls were spared alive. We need Deuteronomy to find the account of Moses seeing the promised land on the same day after he had given final instructions to the children of Israel. Yahweh told Moses he would see the land but not be permitted to enter it. This was because Aaron and Moses had trespassed against Yahweh in the midst of the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah of Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, by not sanctifying Yahweh in the midst of the children of Israel. In chapter 34 the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob centuries earlier was shown to Moses. The passage tells us that Yahweh buried Moses in the valley of Moab and no one knows the location of the tomb. This was less than a year after Aaron had died, as Moses was 120 years old. Moses had no loss of eyesight, and he had lost no other aspect of his natural strength despite his age when he died.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

I thank you, Lord, for the record of the family of Moses and for the way you directed his life into three segments of forty years each. Though he was born in a perilous time for male babies in Egypt, his parents and his sister were used by you to transition Moses into the Egyptian culture as an adopted son of the Pharaoh's daughter for his safety, and for his preparation for future events. Moses gained much knowledge and skill in the Egyptian culture up to the age of forty, and he thought he was ready to apply that to help his fellow Hebrews. But he was surprised when he was rejected by a Hebrew brother, and subsequently had to flee for his life from Pharaoh because he had killed an Egyptian. I have experienced some times when I did not understand changes in my plans that were being used by you, Lord, to instead bring about your own plans for me. Moses first forty years of life then led to another forty years when he was completely separated from his family and his people. He was in a land where the people worshipped false gods, but his kindness to some female shepherds led to him obtaining a wife and having two sons with her. After you approached him Lord, he respectfully left his father-in-law and returned to Egypt. Though he was unique among your prophets, he also had human weaknesses that were sometimes manifested in the very difficult last forty years of his life. Help me Lord to believe that your grace is sufficient for all of my failings when I confess them to you and accept any consequences that may keep me from realizing all that I anticipate in my life. Moses did not physically enter the Promised Land, but centuries later he spoke with Christ Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. The five "books of Moses" are an essential part of your Holy Word, first to the Jews, and then to all who will believe. I praise you, Lord, because of your grace I will share in the kingdom you have prepared for all of your children by faith. Hallelujah and amen!

Published 21 September 2015