Verse 10. "Miriam became leprous" - It is likely Miriam was chief in this mutiny; and it is probable that it was on this ground she is mentioned first, (see ver. 1,) and punished here, while Aaron is spared. Had he been smitten with the leprosy, his sacred character must have greatly suffered, and perhaps the priesthood itself have fallen into contempt. How many priests and preachers who deserved to be exposed to reproach and infamy, have been spared for the sake of the holy character they bore, that the ministry might not be blamed! But the just God will visit their transgressions in some other way, if they do not deeply deplore them and find mercy through Christ. Nothing tends to discredit the work of God so much as the transgressions and miscarriages of those who minister in holy things.
Verse 14. "If her father had but spit in her face" - This appears to have been done only in cases of great provocation on the part of the child, and strong irritation on the side of the parent. Spitting in the face was a sign of the deepest contempt. See Job xxx. 10; Isaiah l. 6; Mark xiv. 65. In a case where a parent was obliged by the disobedient conduct of his child to treat him in this way, it appears he was banished from the father's presence for seven days. If then this was an allowed and judged case in matters of high provocation on the part of a child, should not the punishment be equally severe where the creature has rebelled against the Creator? Therefore Miriam was shut out of the camp for seven days, and thus debarred from coming into the presence of God her father, who is represented as dwelling among the people. To a soul who knows the value and inexpressible blessedness of communion with God, how intolerable must seven days of spiritual darkness be! But how indescribably wretched must their case be who are cast out into outer darkness, where the light of God no more shines, and where his approbation can no more be felt for ever! Reader, God save thee from so great a curse! Several of the fathers suppose there is a great mystery hidden in the quarrel of Miriam and Aaron with Moses and Zipporah. Origen (and after him several others) speaks of it in the following manner:- "1. Zipporah, a Cushite espoused by Moses, evidently points out the choice which Jesus Christ has made of the Gentiles for his spouse and Church. 2. The jealousy of Aaron and Miriam against Moses and Zipporah signifies the hatred and envy of the Jews against Christ and the apostles, when they saw that the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven had been opened to the Gentiles, of which they had rendered themselves unworthy. 3. The leprosy with which Miriam was smitten shows the gross ignorance of the Jews, and the ruinous, disordered state of their religion, in which there is neither a head, a temple, nor a sacrifice. 4. Of none hut Jesus Christ can it be said that he was the most meek and patient of men; that he saw God face to face; that he had every thing clearly revealed without enigmatical representations; and that he was faithful in all the house of God." This, and much more, Origen states in the sixth and seventh homilies on the book of Numbers, and yet all this he considers as little in comparison of the vast mysteries that lie hidden in these accounts; for the shortness of the time, and the magnitude of the mysteries, only permit him "to pluck a few flowers from those vast fields-not as many as the exuberance of those fields afford, but only such as by their odour he was led to select from the rest." Licebat tamen ex ingentibus campis paucos flosculos legere, et non quantum ager exuberet, sed quantum ordoratui supiciat, carpere.
Verse 16. "The wilderness of Paran." - This could not be the same Paran with that mentioned Deut. i. 1, for that was on the borders of the promised land, see the note on Deut. i. 1, 2; they were long near the borders of Canaan, and might have speedily entered into it, had it not been for their provocations and iniquities. They spent thirty-eight years in a journey which might have been accomplished in a few weeks! How many through their unfaithfulness have been many years in gaining that for which, in the ordinary procedure of Divine grace, a few days had been sufficient! How much ground may a man lose in the Divine life by one act of unfaithfulness or transgression! Israel wandered in the wilderness because Israel despised the pleasant land, and did not give credence to the word of the Lord. They would have a golden calf, and they had nothing but tribulation and wo in return.