Bitten By Serpents

Have you ever been bitten by serpents?  Today, we’ll look at why the Israelites were bitten by them.

In Numbers 21, the people left Mount Hor after mourning over Aaron’s death and traveled around the land of Edom by way of the Sea of Suf (Red Sea, Reed Sea).  The people became discouraged on the way and began complaining again about the lack of food and water in the wilderness.  In addition, they asked Moses why he had brought them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness.  You would think that the Israelites wouldn’t have done that considering the punishment that took place the last time they did so. 

Unfortunately, the Lord heard their complaints and sent fiery serpents among the people.  Poisonous serpents bit the people and they began to die.  The people realized they had sinned so they pleaded with Moses to pray for them so the Lord would take away the serpents.

When Moses interceded for the people, the Lord told him to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole so that anyone who had been bitten by a serpent could look at it and live.  Moses did as the Lord commanded by making a serpent out of bronze and raising it up on a pole.  Moses told the people to look at the bronze serpent if they had been bitten in order to live.  The people obeyed Moses and trusted the Lord for their healing.   If there were any doubters, the people being healed around them probably turned their doubt into belief.

This incident has more than one meaning.  Many have come to understand the primary meaning because in John 3:14-15, Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (NKJV)

Jesus’ statement was important to understand in His day and it still has great meaning for us today because everyone has sinned just like those who traveled in the wilderness.  When we realize our sinful condition, we can seek Jesus who was crucified on the cross and trust that He will forgive us and heal us so we can have eternal life.

Today, there are many people like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness.  They often speak against God and Jesus just like the Israelites spoke against God and Moses.  The souls of many people today loathe Jesus who they consider to be worthless (Num. 21:5).  They do not realize He was the manna in the wilderness that the Israelites loathed and that He is the Bread of Life.

There are additional meanings of the bronze serpent that we should consider.  The fiery serpents represent the spiritual forces of evil mentioned in Ephesians 6—specifically, Satan who was the serpent that deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden and his demons that often tempt people to give in to the desires of their flesh.  We must remember that Satan is a thief who desires to steal, kill, and destroy us.  He doesn’t want us to experience the abundant life Jesus desires to give us.  Instead of focusing on the desires of the flesh, we need to set our eyes on Jesus so we can have life (Rom. 8:13).  In a way, the Lord gave the people the ability to see these spiritual forces of darkness in the form of physical serpents that were biting them in order to kill them.

Have you ever wondered what happened to the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness?  Second Kings 18 indicates that Hezekiah broke it into pieces because the children of Israel had been burning incense to it.   In other words, the bronze serpent (Nehushtan) had become an object of idolatry.  This shows us that it is not proper to bow down before religious relics or icons, pray to them, or venerate them in any way—even “Christian” ones.  Please understand that worshipping or venerating religious items is idolatry no matter what form they take.

Beloved, we must not be deceived.  We must not commit idolatry, we must only look to Jesus who was lifted up and died for us on the cross.  Isaiah 53:5 says, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”  (NKJV)  Because of Christ’s death on the cross, we can be healed of the deadly bites of the spiritual serpents we’ve already experienced or will encounter in our lives.

As we look to the future, we must also ponder the words of Isaiah.  He prophesied that a viper will come in the future from out of the serpent’s roots.  Its offspring will be a fiery flying serpent (Isaiah 14:29).  Surely this is a reference to the descendant of the serpent from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15), the serpent of Amos 9, and the sea serpent called Leviathan in Isaiah 27.  The dragon of Revelation 12 is the serpent from the Garden of Eden.  He will give power to his offspring which is known as the Beast of the Sea (Revelation 13) and the Scarlet Beast (Revelation 17).

During the tribulation, there will be an unholy trinity:  the Dragon (Satan), the Beast of the Sea (Antichrist), and the Beast of the Earth (False Prophet).  Their goal is for the world to fall down and worship the image of the Beast which is the abomination of desolation that will stand in the holy temple.  Don’t forget that those who worship the Beast instead of the true Jesus will not live but die separated from the one true God.

John 3:36 gives us a choice.  It says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (NKJV) 

If you are bitten by the serpents of this world by drinking their poison you will experience eternal death unless you look to Jesus who was represented by the bronze serpent in order to live! 

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Korah’s Rebellion

As Numbers 15 ends, the Lord told Moses to instruct the people of Israel to make and put tzitzit (tassels) containing a blue thread on the corners of their garments as a reminder to do all of the commandments of the Lord and be holy for God.  These are to be worn throughout all the generations of God’s people.  I do not know why Christians do not follow this practice but it is something that should be observed.

Numbers 16 continues by explaining that Korah led a rebellion against Moses which included Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben (firstborn of Jacob and Leah). 

Korah was the son of Kohath who was the son of Levi.  The duties of the sons of Kohath are found in Exodus 4:1-15.  Basically, they were supposed to carry the furnishings of the tabernacle whenever the camp moved.  They could only do this after the sons of Aaron had covered everything and prepared the holy furnishings for transport.   The sons of Kohath were forewarned that if they touched a holy thing, they would die.  You see, Korah and those who joined his rebellion were not content with their assignments.  The problem was they wanted the priesthood too.  This shows us they weren’t just gathered against Moses and Aaron but also against the Lord who had given them their original duties.

Korah’s rebellion also included 250 leaders of the congregation.  They felt that Moses and Aaron were taking too much upon themselves.  They considered every member of the congregation to be holy and believed the Lord was among them.  They believed Moses and Aaron were exalting themselves above the assembly of the Lord. 

The Bible does not tell us exactly why they thought this way but the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan provides more details of this account by saying, “But Korach bar Tizhar bar Kehath, bar Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On bar Peleth, of the Beni‑Reuben, took his robe which was all of hyacinth, and rose up boldly, and in the face of Mosheh appointed a (different) observance in the matter of the hyacinth. [JERUSALEM. And Korach took counsel, and made division.] Mosheh had said, I have heard from the mouth of the Holy One, whose Name be Blessed, that the fringes are to be of white, with one filament of hyacinth; O but Korach and his companions made garments with their fringes altogether of hyacinth, which the Lord had not commanded; and two hundred and fifty men of the sons of Israel, who had been made leaders of the congregation at the time when the journeys and encampments were appointed, by expression of their names, supported him. And they gathered together against Mosheh and Aharon, and said to them: Let the authority you have (hitherto had) suffice you, for all the congregation are holy, and the Lord’s Shekinah dwelleth among them; and why should you be magnified over the church of the Lord?  And Mosheh heard, as if every one of them was jealous of his wife, and would have them drink of the trial‑water on account of Mosheh; and he fell on his face for shame. And he spake with Korach and all the company who supported him, saying: In the morning the Lord will make known him whom He hath approved, and hath consecrated to approach unto His service, and who it hath pleased Him should come nigh in ministering, unto Him. Do this: Let Korach and all the company of his helpers take censers, put fire in them, and lay incense upon them before the Lord, to‑morrow; and the man whom the Lord shall make known, he it is who is consecrated. Let it suffice to you, sons of Levi.[i]

Apparently, the problem was over the tzitzit (fringes, tassels) the Lord commanded the people of Israel to make.  Korah wanted them to be completely blue (hyacinth) but Moses said they had to be white with a single strand of blue as the Lord had commanded.  It is clear that Korah and those who sided with him were jealous of Moses’ leadership position and did not agree with Moses’ decisions or the commands of the Lord.

What is the significance of the colors of the tzitzit?  Surely hyacinth or blue represents the law which is the covenant and Jesus who is the Living Word.  There is only one Lord so there should only be one blue strand.  The white strands must represent the righteous ones who are joined in covenant with the Lord.  To insist on all strands being hyacinth is in opposition to the Lord and the significance of the tassel.

When Moses heard their complaints, Moses fell on his face and spoke to his opponents.  Moses said the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him.  In Numbers 16:6-7, Moses said, “Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; 7 put fire in them and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses is the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!” NKJV

Moses knew this would be a death sentence for all of these men because offering unauthorized fire is what caused the death of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2).  Only Aaron and his descendants had been chosen to do this.  The result of this act would prove who God had chosen to come near Him just as the water in the trial of the jealous husband proves the innocence or guilt of the husband’s wife.

It seems Dathan and Abiram were afraid of Moses’ command because they said they wouldn’t come up.  They accused Moses of taking them out of a land of milk and honey (description of Promised Land applied to Egypt) to kill them in the wilderness and act as a prince over them.  Obviously, they didn’t see their position any better than it was in Egypt because Moses hadn’t brought them into a land of milk and honey or given them an inheritance of fields and vineyards.  They failed to see this wasn’t Moses’ fault.  Even though they said they wouldn’t come up, Moses insisted they be there the next day.

The following day, the men came and stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting.  The rest of the congregation also assembled there to see what would happen.  The glory of the Lord appeared and was ready to destroy all of them but He didn’t destroy the entire assembly due to Moses’ intercession.  After Moses commanded the assembly to separate from the wicked men, the Lord caused the ground to open up so that Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families were swallowed by the earth.  In addition, a fire consumed the 250 men who were offering unauthorized incense.   This is exactly what happened to Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2).  Since the censers were used to offer incense, they were holy.  Because of this, Moses commanded them to be collected and be hammered into a covering for the altar as a reminder that only the descendants of Aaron could offer incense before the Lord.

The next day, the people accused Moses and Aaron of being the ones who killed the people of the Lord.  This was ridiculous because man can’t cause the ground to open or fire to fall from heaven.  Only God can do these kinds of things.  The people did not understand that those who died the day before had rejected the Lord.  They were so angry they intended to kill Moses and Aaron.[ii]  The Bible says the glory of the Lord appeared to destroy the congregation and they fell on their faces.  The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan clarifies it was Moses and Aaron who fell on their faces to pray for the people and not the congregation who fell on their faces out of fear. 

This assembly quickly forgot that Moses had interceded for them the day before so they would not die but live!  This time the Lord rapidly unleashed a plague on the people.   Moses responded by instructing Aaron to quickly make atonement for the assembly by taking fire from the altar, putting it in his censer together with some incense, and taking it to the people.  As the smoke of the incense rose, it created a barrier between the people and the plague in manner similar to how a cloud of incense protected the High Priest from death when he entered the Most Holy Place and stood before the mercy seat in the presence of God.

This incense can be compared to a physical representation of the intercession of Moses and Aaron.  It also represents the seal placed on the foreheads of the 144,000 in Revelation 7 to protect them from the coming plagues.  Unfortunately 14,700 other people had already died in the plague in the wilderness before Aaron had prepared the incense to cover and protect the people from the plague.

To put a stop to the power struggle for Moses’ leadership and the High Priesthood, the Lord commanded the leaders of each tribe to get a rod, write their name on it, and give it to Moses.  These were placed in the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord as He had commanded so that the Lord could cause the rod of His chosen one to blossom.  The rods were examined the following day and shown to the children of Israel.  Aaron’s rod had not only blossomed but also had ripe almonds on it.  It was kept as a sign against the rebels so they would stop complaining or else they would die.  The people believed everyone would die.

Aaron’s rod represents Jesus who was dead in a grave for 3 days yet was raised to life.  If we who are dead in our trespasses and sin choose to follow Jesus’ leadership and obey God’s commandments, we can bear fruit of the Spirit and have eternal life.

Living in the wilderness of life can be challenging at times.  We often want to rebel against those who are in position over us.  As long as our leaders are walking in obedience to the Lord, we should submit to their leadership.  All of us must obey the Lord, avoid lawlessness, and produce fruit that demonstrates faith in the Lord.   

 

 


[i] Targum Pseudo-Jonathan http://targum.info/pj/pjnum16-18.htm

 

[ii] Ibid.

Twelve Spies Explore the Land

As we read through the book of Numbers, we’ve come to the point where the Israelites are anxious to enter the Promised Land.  Miraculous and sobering events are behind them and they are at a crossroads so to speak.  Nervous about the future, it appears they wanted to send spies to search out the land (Deut. 1).  It’s highly likely that Moses talked with the Lord about it and the Lord told Moses to go ahead and send one man from each tribe to search the land (Num. 13:1).

This wasn’t really necessary because Ezekiel 20 and Deuteronomy 1 explain that it was the Lord who regularly went ahead and searched out a place for the people, to show them where to go.  I believe the Lord sent the spies into the land to give the people confidence concerning the goodness of the land.  Perhaps at that time, their faith was wavering.  At that point in time, many had no idea what the prophet Jeremiah would say at some point in the future:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)  The people needed confidence that the Lord had wonderful plans for them because they weren’t sure.  In times of our own insecurity, let us cling to this truth.

Now let’s get back to the book of Numbers.  Before the men set out on their journey, Moses renamed Hosea the son of Nun Joshua.  To me, this is significant because Hosea means “deliverer” and is a description of the Lord who brought them out of Egypt.  The new name is descriptive of the past and the future.  Joshua, also spelled Yehoshua means “Jehovah saved,” “YHVH saved,” or “the LORD saved.”  Note the similarity to Yeshua which is the Aramaic form of the same name.  It is important to realize that Joshua is a type of Jesus (Greek for Yeshua) who will save His people from sin, lead the army of heaven against the Beast (Antichrist) and his armies, lead His people into the Promised Land for His millennial reign, and bring His people into the New Jerusalem.  God knew that this spy was special.  Since Joshua trusted the Lord, he could be trusted with much.

As the spies got ready for their assignment, they were commanded to see what the land was like.  They needed to determine if the people are strong or weak, few or many.  Was it a good or bad country to live in?  The Lord had already scouted out the land and knew that it was but He was willing to allow them to see for themselves.  The spies were to note whether the cities there were open or fortified so they would know ahead of time what to expect.  The spies were to report about the fertility or productiveness of land and as proof of its productivity, they were told to bring back some of the fruit of the land.

In a similar way, the Lord sees everything and has always revealed secrets to His prophets so we could know what lies ahead.   This made it possible for Ezekiel to see the future temple, for Isaiah to see the coming of the Lord, and for John to describe the destruction of Israel’s enemies and the coming New Jerusalem.  As prophesy was/is/will be fulfilled, the confidence of God’s people was/is/will be boosted.  As the spies set out for the Promised Land, He was giving them the ability to see what they would possess in the future and to build their confidence.

The men left the multitude and carried out their assignment by searching the land for 40 days.   When they returned, they reported it was a land of milk and honey (productive) and showed everyone pomegranates, figs, and a huge cluster of grapes from the land.  Considering what they had been eating in the wilderness, the people must have been excited to see these fruits and yearned to enter the land but the spies quickly discouraged them by reporting that the people who lived in the land were fierce and that their cities were fortified and very large.

The spies continued their report by telling the people about the descendants of Anak (giants) who were in the land.  Of course, other people lived in the land too.  The Amalekites dwelled in the South.  The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites dwelled in the mountains.  The Canaanites dwelled by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.  God already knew these peoples lived there and He didn’t want His people to be afraid of them.  God wanted His people to be forewarned about the people living in the land.  As it was, He intended to remove these peoples little by little (Deut. 7:22).  If only they had trusted Him. 

Consider this.  When the Lord gave visions to Daniel and John, the beasts they saw looked frightening.  These beasts are much like the various people the spies saw living in the Promised Land.  Based on prophecy, we know the Beast and his False Prophet are coming and we know 10 nations will join them.  We also know that they will be defeated and that we must not be afraid but do what is necessary to remain standing no matter what happens.  That will require us to trust the Lord.  The biggest mistake the Israelites made was to focus on the people in the land instead of relying on the Lord.  Let’s not make the same mistake!

We need to be like Caleb who encouraged the people to take possession of the land because he believed the Lord would help them overcome its inhabitants.  The other 10 spies (not including Joshua) said they were not able to go against the people of the land because they were stronger.  When the Israelites heard this, they wished they had died in Egypt or in the wilderness.  They feared they would die by the sword and their wives and children would be victims.  They desired to select a leader and return to Egypt thinking it would be better there.  I often wonder how they could think this considering it hadn’t been long since they left a time of slavery and harsh treatment in Egypt.

What will we do as the latter days approach?  What will be our responsibility and strategy?  We can definitely be prayer warriors, praise and worship the Lord, and follow the Lord’s leading to protect ourselves and our families.  We must not assimilate back into Babylon the Great.  We must come out of her, stay out, and seek the Lord.  We must not be part of the Great Apostasy. 

Deuteronomy 1:26-27 says the people in the wilderness rebelled against God’s command to go up and take the land.  They complained in their tents and said the Lord hated them and intended for the Amorites to destroy them.  The accusations of these people were similar to those of children whose parents don’t always allow them to have their way and are completely opposite to what Jeremiah 29:11 teaches.  These Israelites couldn’t see beyond the obstacles facing them to know God would take care of these problems the same way He took care of Pharaoh and his army.  We can’t really judge them too harshly because we often respond the same way when faced with trials in our lives.

Moses and Aaron responded by falling on their faces before the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.  Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes.  Joshua said it was a good land and if the Lord delighted in them, He would bring them into the land and give it to them.  He begged them not to rebel against the Lord or fear the people of the land because their protection had departed from them.

The people wouldn’t listen to Joshua or Caleb who testified about the goodness of the land.  They were probably surprised when the people wanted to stone them.  This makes me think of the two witnesses who are mentioned in Revelation 11.  What exactly will these two say to the world?  Will they testify of the New Jerusalem?  Will they warn everyone of the coming destruction? Certainly they will plead with the people to repent and come out of Babylon the Great but the world will only be interested in the deaths of these two witnesses.  These two witnesses will not die until their appointed time as was true with Joshua and Caleb. 

The Lord was very angry with the people because they rejected Him and failed to trust Him even after all the miracles He had performed on their behalf.  He wanted to strike them with pestilence and disinherit them.  He even wanted to make a greater and mightier nation from Moses instead.

Moses rejected that idea and interceded for these undeserving people.  He didn’t want God’s reputation to be ruined in the eyes of the other nations who had heard of His fame.  He actually wanted the Lord to have mercy on these people and to forgive them.  Because of Moses, the Lord decided to deal with the people in a way that preserved His reputation (Ezek 20:44).  He pardoned the people but would not allow them to enter the Promised Land.  They had to endure the consequences of their sin.  Since Caleb had a different spirit, the Lord promised to bring him into the land.  Deuteronomy 1:36 said Caleb would go in to the land too because he wholly followed the Lord. 

On the other hand, the 10 remaining spies died by plague for their bad report.  Let’s not be like these men whose lack of trust in the Lord led the rest of the people into sin, rebellion, and mistrust.  If you read through the Bible, you will see that the wicked often died by plague.  Even in the last days, the final plagues will be poured out only on the unrighteous (Rev. 18:4).  Please come out of Babylon the Great and don’t let these plagues become your judgment.

Now let’s turn our attention to the rest of the people.  All of those who had been previously numbered, those 20 years old and above would die in the wilderness except Caleb and Joshua because they despised the land.  They would be shepherds in the wilderness for 40 years — a year for every day the spies searched out the land.  Notice that the Lord said their children would bear the brunt of their infidelity.  Now isn’t “infidelity” an odd word to use?  It’s essentially adultery.  When we read Numbers 13 and 14, we might wonder why that word was used.  Ezekiel 20 gives us a clue by indicating they didn’t completely abandon the gods of Egypt.  Instead of fully trusting in the God of their ancestors, their hearts were still focused on Egyptian idols.  For their infidelity, they would not go into the Promised Land nor would they make it back to Egypt.  Instead, they would die in the desert over a period of 40 years.  Can you imagine their misery?

Do you literally or figuratively trust in idols instead of the Lord?  Where is your heart focused?  Will this cause you to be separated from the Lord forever?  Is that what you really want for yourself?

Some Israelites wanted to go into the land once they realized their sin but Moses told them not to because the Lord wouldn’t be with them.  They rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went into the mountain anyway but did not succeed.  It seems the crucial timing of taking the land had definitely passed and would not come again for 40 years.

Are you presuming to do the work of the Lord when you confront the people of this world?  Before you get involved in things you shouldn’t, you’d better make sure you are following the leading of the Lord.  Prophecy will be fulfilled and you can’t stop it from happening; however, the Lord can show us how He wants us to respond as it unfolds.

Right now, we, who are believers have been redeemed but are living in the wilderness of life.  We face giants of various forms whether they are related to other people (both children and adults), education, employment, housing, finances, medical problems, spiritual issues, etc.  God can use these trials and tribulations to see if we will be faithful to Him or not.  How will we respond to these seemingly gigantic difficulties in life?  Will we riot in the streets?  Will we trust the Lord to provide for our needs or rebel against Him?  Will we accuse Him of trying to destroy us or of not caring about our problems?  Will we commit apostasy by returning to our former ways of life?

As we face trials in our lives, we need to allow God to use them to mold us into the people God wants us to be.  When the time is right, we will be ready for the eternal rest God has waiting for us.

As we look to the future, there’s one last thing that is important for us to understand about Joshua and Caleb.  It is clear that their faith allowed them to enter the Promised Land many years ago.  Did you happen to notice that Caleb was from the tribe of Judah and Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim?  In a sense, they both represent the two houses of Israel who will be joined together as one and enter the final Promised Land.  The meanings of their names indicate how this will be accomplished.    Caleb’s name means “to attack” and if you recall, Joshua means “the Lord saved.”   So you see, they also represent Jesus who will attack Israel’s enemies in order to save His people at some point in the future. 

Psalm 34:15-16 assures us, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; 16 the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”  NIV 

You can trust that He will do this because He is faithful!

Moses’ Cushite Wife

Numbers 12 begins with Miriam and Aaron criticizing Moses because of the Ethiopian (Cushite) woman he had married.  Many are troubled by this passage because in Exodus, the Bible says Moses had married a Midianite woman named Zipporah.  Some people assume that the Ethiopian and Zipporah were one and the same person but this is not the case.

The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan says, “And Miriam and Aharon spake against Mosheh words that were not becoming with respect to the Kushaitha whom the Kushaee had caused Mosheh to take when he had fled from Pharoh, but whom he had sent away because they had given him the queen of Kush, and he had sent her away. [JERUSALEM. And Miriam and Aharon spake against Mosheh about the Kushaitha whom he had taken. But observe, the Kushite wife was not Zipporah, the wife of Mosheh, but a certain Kushaitha, of a flesh different from every creature: whereas Zipporah, the wife of Mosheh, was of a comely form and beautiful countenance, and more abundant in good works than all the women of her age.] And they said, Hath the Lord spoken only with Mosheh, that he should be separated from the married life? Hath He not spoken with us also? And it was heard before the Lord. But the man Mosheh was more bowed down in his mind than all the children of men upon the face of the earth; neither cared he for their words.”[i]

The book of Jasher sheds more light on this subject by explaining that when Moses originally fled from Egypt after murdering an Egyptian there was a great war taking place between the children of Cush and the children of the east and Aram.  Apparently, the children of the east and Aram were rebelling against Kikianus, the king of Cush.  While Kikianus was at war, Balaam son of Beor convinced the Cushites to rebel against Kikianus when he returned home.  To do so, they built walls and ditches around their city and fortified it so no one could enter.  When Kikianus returned home and wasn’t allowed in, he and his army fought their own city for 9 years trying to get back in.

Because details are not mentioned in the Bible, many assume that Moses fled straight to Midian when he originally left Egypt but Jasher chapter 72 tells us something different.  At the beginning of the nine year period when Kikianus was trying to get back into his city, Moses had escaped from Egypt and joined Kikianus’ camp.  Moses was 18 years old when he left Egypt.  At the end of the nine year period, Kikianus died of a mortal disease and his men chose Moses to reign over them.

Jasher 72:36-37 says, “And they rose up and blew with trumpets and called out before him, and said, May the king live, may the king live!  37 And all the people and nobles swore unto him to give him for a wife Adoniah the queen, the Cushite, wife of Kikianus, and they made Moses king over them on that day.”

This is most likely the Cushite wife referred to in Numbers 12.  Jasher 73:2 tells us Moses reigned over Cush for 40 years beginning when he was twenty seven years old.  Under Moses’ leadership, the Cushite city was defeated and Moses reigned in that place while married to Adoniah.

Jasher 73:32-36 gives us specific information about their relationship:  “And Moses feared the Lord God of his fathers, so that he came not to her, nor did he turn his eyes to her.  33 For Moses remembered how Abraham had made his servant Eliezer swear, saying unto him, Thou shalt not take a woman from the daughters of Canaan for my son Isaac.  34 Also what Isaac did when Jacob had fled from his brother, when he commanded him, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan, nor make alliance with any of the children of Ham.  35 For the Lord our God gave Ham the son of Noah, and his children and all his seed, as slaves to the children of Shem and to the children of Japheth, and unto their seed after them for slaves, forever.  36 Therefore Moses turned not his heart nor his eyes to the wife of Kikianus all the days that he reigned over Cush.”  During Moses’ reign over the Cushites, he also fought against the children of Aram and the children of the east and brought them under subjection to the children of Cush.

So how did Moses come to leave these people so he could go to Midian?  Jasher 76:4-12 answers:  “And Adoniah the queen said before the king and the princes, What is this thing which you, the children of Cush, have done for this long time?  5 Surely you know that for forty years that this man has reigned over Cush he has not approached me, nor has he served the gods of the children of Cush.  6 Now therefore hear, O ye children of Cush, and let this man no more reign over you as he is not of our flesh.  7 Behold Menacrus my son is grown up, let him reign over you, for it is better for you to serve the son of your lord, than to serve a stranger, slave of the king of Egypt.  8 And all the people and nobles of the children of Cush heard the words which Adoniah the queen had spoken in their ears.  9 And all the people were preparing until the evening, and in the morning they rose up early and made Menacrus, son of Kikianus, king over them.  10 And all the children of Cush were afraid to stretch forth their hand against Moses, for the Lord was with Moses, and the children of Cush remembered the oath which they swore unto Moses, therefore they did no harm to him.  11 But the children of Cush gave many presents to Moses, and sent him from them with great honor.  12 So Moses went forth from the land of Cush, and went home and ceased to reign over Cush, and Moses was sixty-six years old when he went out of the land of Cush, for the thing was from the Lord, for the period had arrived which he had appointed in the days of old, to bring forth Israel from the affliction of the children of Ham.”

Shortly after Moses left the land of Cush, he went to Midian where the Biblical account continues the story of how Moses met and eventually married Zipporah.  The book of Jasher indicates this marriage did not take place right away.  It says Reuel (Jethro) did not believe Moses’ story about the Cushites so he imprisoned him for ten years in a pit.  During that time, Zipporah had pity on him and brought him bread and water until one day she convinced her father to release him.  Eventually, Reuel (Jethro) gave Zipporah to Moses to be his wife and even though Zipporah was a Midianite, the book of Jasher says she was as righteous as the daughters of Jacob (Jasher 78:8).

The Bible indicates Moses’ family left together for Egypt a short time after God spoke to Moses from the burning bush but it doesn’t say how or when Zipporah and her sons returned to her father.  According to the book of Jasher, Aaron met them while they were on the road to Egypt and told Moses to send her and Moses’ children back to her father (Jasher 79:17).  After the multitude was in the wilderness and prior to the giving of the 10 Commandments, Moses’ father-in-law brought Zipporah and her sons back to Moses (Ex. 18:6).  After this time, Zipporah is no longer mentioned in the Bible or the book of Jasher.  The only thing we know for sure is that Moses had a very close relationship to the Lord and he was responsible for leading this enormous multitude through the wilderness.

Miriam and Aaron were critical of Moses on account of the Cushite wife he had left and with whom he had never had sexual relations.  There is no indication they respected him for maintaining his sexual purity during that time.  As previously mentioned, the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan said, “…And they said, Hath the Lord spoken only with Mosheh, that he should be separated from the married life?”  The phrase, “And they said” seems to indicate a separate issue in their conversation.  It’s possible that even though Zipporah had rejoined him, Moses was avoiding sexual relations with her in order to be closer to the Lord.  This behavior may be similar to the suggestion Paul made in 1 Corinthiains 7:5:  “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

The Bible does not say if Moses divorced Zipporah after they were reunited or if he simply refrained from sexual relations for an extended length of time or for short intervals while he led the multitude in the wilderness.  We do not know if Moses and Zipporah mutually made this decision to be “separated from the married life.”  If they were not divorced and not having sexual relations, we don’t know how Miriam and Aaron found out about it.  You would have thought this would have been a private matter.  If it was not a mutual decision, it’s possible that Zipporah had complained to Miriam about it.  It’s obvious the Lord didn’t think it was any of their business.

As the conversation unfolds, it seems Miriam and Aaron considered themselves equal with Moses since the Lord had also prophesied through them and they believed there was no need for him to refrain from sexual relations or be “separated from the married life.”  It’s likely that Miriam and Aaron were not in the habit of separating themselves from their spouses except during the women’s monthly period (niddah – time of impurity).   Since the Lord was speaking to them in dreams and visions, they probably assumed there was no need for Moses to separate himself from Zipporah either.

The Lord had heard their conversation and demanded a meeting.  The Lord took the time to explain to them that He had a special relationship with Moses because He spoke with him face to face.  The Lord made it clear that they were on a lower level than Moses because like other prophets, He spoke to them only in dreams and visions.  For slandering Moses, Miriam was struck with leprosy.  After seeing her condition, Aaron turned to Moses asking for forgiveness.  In turn, Moses asked the Lord to heal her.  The Lord healed her immediately but she had to remain outside the camp for seven days similar to how any other healed leper had to stay outside their tent for seven days while being inside the camp (Lev. 14:8).

As we examine the information presented so far, a pattern emerges that we could not have seen if we only read the Bible.  You see, Moses did not consummate his marriage with his first wife, Adoniah because she and her people were idolaters.  She finally rejected him and he left with the riches of a king.  Adoniah represents the northern kingdom of Israel that rejected the Lord and was divorced for idolatry (Jer. 3:8 – spiritual adultery).  If the available version of the book of Jasher is a fraud and not actually the one mentioned in the Bible, it sure complements numerous patterns in the Bible quite well.

The original pattern continues as Moses went to the Gentiles in Midian, was imprisoned in a pit but raised out of it after 10 years, and eventually married Zipporah.  This part of the pattern depicts Jesus who was killed by the Romans outside of Jerusalem, buried in a tomb, and resurrected after 3 days.  Through the ministry of Peter, the Gentiles were brought into the new marriage covenant that was made at Jesus’ last supper.

When Moses was on his way back to Egypt, he sent Zipporah and his children back to his father-in-law but was later reunited with them.  This is comparable to Jesus returning to heaven to live with His Father while His bride remains separated from Him on earth until the Father says it’s time to return and gather His bride for the marriage supper of the Lamb.

We must remember that Moses was a type of Jesus.  Up until Aaron was consecrated as High Priest, Moses functioned in that manner.  After Aaron began his priestly ministry, Moses was still separated to the Lord but probably more in the capacities of a Nazirite, the Holy Spirit, a prophet, and/or a judge.  Although there is no mention of abstaining from products made from grapes, we see Moses has “separated himself” from Zipporah for an unspecified length of time in order to be devoted to the Lord and to lead the people through the wilderness.  While Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in heaven, it is the Holy Spirit who leads us through the wilderness of life as we live a life of separation from the world and devotion to the Lord.

As mentioned in another post, the Nazirite vow is a time of separation that represents the time in which Jesus is living in heaven and separated from His bride.  Its counterpart is the time of niddah or time when a woman is separated from her husband during her monthly time of impurity.   This represents her time on earth when she is physically separated from Jesus.  The time of Moses’ original separation from Zipporah is comparable to this period of separation when Jesus is separated from the Bride of Christ as well as the time of separation Miriam and Aaron were criticizing Moses for in Numbers 12.

When Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses, they did not know they were essentially criticizing the significance of this period of separation.  God responded by striking Miriam with leprosy.  When non-believers reject God’s plan of redemption and criticize the way believers live a life of consecration to God, they choose to remain leprous like Miriam who represented the spiritual walking dead.  All they need to do is repent so they can experience a new birth instead of remaining outside the camp where they will be separated from the community of faith forever.

Now let’s take this lesson to another level.  We should be careful what we think and say about others, especially if they are our spiritual leaders.

With that in mind, are you jealous of those who apparently have a greater following or ministry than you do?  Do you find fault with the personal lives of your leaders, their relationship with the Lord, or leadership abilities?  If so, could this cause the Lord to be angry with you?

How does God speak to you today?  Perhaps you don’t receive any dreams and visions and don’t believe God speaks to His children this way anymore.  Please do not speak poorly of those who claim to receive dreams and visions because the Bible says God will pour out His Spirit and speak to our sons and daughters in dreams and visions in the last days (Joel 2:28-29).

If you do believe God still speaks to His people through dreams and visions, are you jealous when someone receives more dreams and visions or prophecies than you do?  Does it bother you if your dreams and visions are only personal in nature and not for the larger corporate body of Christ?

Are you jealous or bitter when God imparts wisdom, discernment, and understanding to other believers who fast and/or spend more time in the Word than you do?

If you are, repent!  Develop a closer relationship with the Lord and perhaps the Holy Spirit will reveal mysteries to you too.  No matter what happens, you must accept the fact that no one experiences the exact same degree of closeness to the Lord.  Everyone’s relationship with the Lord is unique!  Be grateful for that and don’t let pride get in the way of things.

If the Lord teaches you great things, don’t be disappointed if others aren’t interested in what you have to share—especially if they are steeped in tradition.  Don’t be surprised if they don’t agree with you or if they fiercely oppose you.  Stay close to the Lord, obey Him, and enjoy your growing relationship in the Lord.  As you learn the mysteries of the Word of God, be careful not to throw your pearls before swine.  Trust that God will make sure that those who seek truth will find it!


[i] Targum Pseudo-Jonathan  http://targum.info/pj/pjnum8-13.htm