In Numbers 11, Israel grumbles against God for not providing them meat. Their desire for it becomes strong enough that they even wish for the days of Egypt, essentially crying out to return to slavery. Due to their complaining, Moses makes a complaint to God for having him lead Israel all by himself; we may infer that Moses fears they will try to take his life (Numbers 11:15). God decides to empower other leaders through his own Spirit to share in directing Israel.

After God provides meat for the complaining Israelites and judges them with a plague, we witness Miriam, Moses’ sister, become afflicted with leprosy. Many people miss important details in chapter 12 that make sense of God’s judgement against Miriam. First, note the double emphasis that Miriam and Aaron complain against Moses’ new wife because she is a “Cushite woman” (Numbers 12:1). This means she was African—she had black skin. In an ironic twist, Miriam’s leprosy caused her skin to turn “white as snow”. God punishes Miriam for complaining against Moses’ black-skinned wife by turning Miriam’s skin stark white with leprosy. God is the God of all peoples, and He will not suffer anyone looking down upon others because of their skin color or country of origin. May Miriam be a warning to us all of how God feels towards racism and xenophobia.