Moses’ foreign wives
Where is God in this (ii)
This is the second (probably last) in a series looking at difficult passages in the Bible and asking ‘Where is God in this?’
Moses had two wives and neither of them was Hebrew. The first, Zipporah or Tzipora was from the tribe of Midian, Moses married her when he was on the run from the Egyptians and working for Jethro, Zipporah’s father in the land of Midian. The second is unnamed and was a Cushite.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married. Numbers 12:1
Racial purity was important to the Jews, after all, they were God’s people. So why did Miriam and Aaron only complain about the Cushite wife? Basically, because Mirriam and Arron were racists.
Midianites and Ishmaelites are terms used interchangeably with each other in Genesis for a tribe descended from Ishmael, Abraham’s eldest son. The Midianites were racially very close to the Hebrews. The Cushites were not closely related at all. Cush was a civilisation to the south, the same word translates as Cushite is also translated in the Bible as Ethiopian. Moses second wife was black.
Miriam and Aaron were Moses’ sister and brother, they could have complained about Zipporah, the Midianite wife. But no. They complained about Moses having a black wife, and not only complained about the mixed-race marriage but used it as an excuse to challenge Moses; leadership. If you thought political takeovers were something new, think again.
So where id God in this? God is leaving. Aaron was the high priest, in charge of the sacrificial system of how God was worshipped. Arron was God’s representative to the people. Miriam was a worship leader, she led the praise after the crossing of the Red Sea. God was with Moses the leader, but God was also with Miriam and Aaron.
The anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed. ibid, verse 9
God departed. God departed from those who were in charge of the worship of the people. The whole worship system of God’s people was torn apart due to their racism. Thet were God’s ministers, but they did not understand the ways of God.
God never said he was the god of only the Hebrews. God was the God of the world. What he was against was impurity in religion. ‘You shall have no other God’s except me.’ God wrote in the Ten Commandments. The problem with foreign people was that they could lead God’s people away from him over to their gods. Foreigners leaving their gods and coming to God and joining God’s people were not a problem, there were laws to deal with that. The book of Ruth is about such a foreigner.
God is for all people. If we put barriers between ourselves and other people, especially foreigners we build barriers between ourselves and God. God will depart from us, even if we have an important role in the worship.
If we cut ourselves off from others God will cut himself off from us. If we oppose others God will oppose us.
For Miriam the encounter was decisive. When the cloud of God’s presence lifted she had leprosy and had to live outside the camp for seven days until the disease lifted. She had opposed someone for skin colour, for marrying a black woman, and the result was she had to suffer for having a different skin colour, very white.
Racism separates people from God. Being racist separates you from God. Aaron is shown restored a few chapters on, praying for the people as the high priest along with Moses. There is a way back into God’s mercy, repentance. Repentance is not saying sorry, repentance is turning your back on the things you once did. Turn to God and turn your back on your racism and God will restore you.