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The Confrontation Caused by a Cushite Wife

By Marvin A. McMickle

As our celebration of Black History Month continues, did you know that Moses was married to a black woman from Ethiopia? We know a great many things about Moses, but this fact has somehow gone unaddressed over the years. We know that Moses spoke with God at the burning bush in Exodus 3, but most people did not know that Moses was married to a black woman from Ethiopia. We know that Moses was the instrument through which God sent a series of deadly plagues upon Egypt until the Pharaoh agreed to release the Hebrew people from 430 years in slavery, but most people did not know that Moses was married to a woman from Africa.

We know about Moses and the Ten Commandments, Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea and Moses who led Israel on their 40-years of wandering before God allowed them to enter into the Promised Land. It is amazing how many things people know about Moses, which makes it all the more amazing that they did not know what is stated in Numbers 12:1; "he married an Ethiopian woman." And we know one thing more; Aaron and Miriam spoke against Moses because they did not approve of his wife.

This action on their part did not go unnoticed by God. When Aaron and Miriam began speaking against Moses and began saying that they, too, had leadership credentials, God called all three of them out from the camp to the Tent of Meeting. Then God confronted Aaron and Miriam about their actions. God reminded them that He was the one who assigned leaders for the Hebrew people. He reminded them that while most prophets only hear from God through dreams and visions, Moses speaks with God "face-to-face." God was so angry with them for their attempt to undermine the leadership and authority of Moses that he afflicted Miriam with leprosy and then banished here from the community for seven days.

This was a terrible price for Miriam to pay for speaking out against her brother, so one is led to wonder what it was about this woman that caused them so much concern. After all, it was Miriam who had watched over Moses when, as a baby he was placed in a basket and set upon the Nile to protect him from the edict of the Pharaoh that all newborn Hebrew boys should be killed. Later in life, it was Aaron that was sent by God to go with Moses when they made the demand to "let my people go." After a lifetime of working together, Miriam and Aaron are now publicly speaking against their own brother. Why?

Let me suggest several possibilities as to why this might have been. Maybe it was the fact that she was a woman of a different racial group. Maybe they were no more excited about inter-racial marriage in ancient Israel than many people are today in contemporary American society. Did you know that until 1961, inter-racial marriage was against the law in many states in this country? Maybe this verse is pointing us toward one of the most sensitive and volatile issues in our own society. Whether you look at the white or the black communities of America, you will discover that not everybody approves of inter-racial marriage. Even though the United States Supreme Court lifted the ban on inter-racial marriage more than 40 years ago, I believe there are more people in this country who oppose such marriages than there are that consider race to be irrelevant where love and marriage are concerned.

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