Chapter twelve records the third of three specific complaints, this time against Moses personally. Not only was Moses a leader in Israel, so were his siblings, Aaron and Miriam. As is often the case, a jealousy arose between them against Moses, and they grumbled against him, which displeased God greatly.
Like children before a school principal, God called the three of them to the tabernacle and scolded Aaron and Miriam for their attitudes. Moses, God said, was beyond special to him. Even a prophet would receive only a vision or a dream, but God spoke to Moses face-to-face. It seems that Miriam was the instigator and Aaron the follower (a trait already implied in Exodus 32), because she was immediately inflicted with a severe skin disease. Realizing the severity of the situation, Aaron begged Moses to stop it, and Moses prayed for her healing. In an interesting exchange, God chose to follow his own Law, setting a pattern for the men. Still, in his grace, he gave her the minimum sentence the Law required – seven days’ exclusion outside of the camp. After that time, she would have to be inspected by a priest and offer the required sacrifices, just like anyone else. In a tangible way, the entire nation was affected by her sin, because they did not travel closer to Canaan while she was sick.