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They were both strong women, and that’s probably what caused their feud. Before it’s over, one will lose everything -- her family, her home, her health.

In truth, that feud was an excuse for something much deeper: jealousy.

The two women are sister-in-laws. One woman had married the other woman’s brother. That man is described in the Bible as the “meekest man on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3

Sound familiar -- know who he is? Take a guess:

a.) Samson

b.) Solomon

c.) Moses

d.) Joseph

I bet this surprises you -- the man is Moses.

Moses is not the brash, outspoken leader you see in movies. Hollywood scriptwriters might have missed a verse or two. It’s not just the one above from Numbers, remember when God appears to Moses in the burning bush and asks Moses to speak for Him? Moses is timid and says he can’t do it. That’s when God sends his brother, Aaron, to help out. Exodus 3 and 4 

The two women are Miriam, Moses’ sister, and Moses’ wife, Zipporah.

Remember Miriam?

Oh, I bet you do -- she’s the little girl sent to watch over baby Moses, who’d been placed in a basket in the Nile. That was back when Pharaoh was scared of the Hebrews, deciding they were getting too strong.

Miriam becomes a prophetess in the wilderness when God’s people flee Egypt. But, one day, this grown-up Miriam speaks out against her brother for marrying a “Cushite” woman. It’s true, God’s people were supposed to marry within the Israelite faith.

Many believe the Cushite woman was Moses’s second wife. His first wife was Zipporah, whom he’d married after he’d fled Egypt the first time, after murdering an Egyptian.

But the prophet Habakkuk suggests that Midian and Cush were the same place, so the Cushite woman could have been Zipporah.

And the resentment Miriam had for Moses’ wife, whether she was a Cushite or Midianite, was the same -- neither was an Israelite. In fact, you may remember that Zipporah almost gets Moses killed when she objects to their son being circumcised -- a must-do with God for the Israelites. Exodus 4:24-26

So, it appears that Miriam starts this fuss over her sister-in-law and uses Scripture to support the fight. Miriam basically decides that she’s the one better fit to lead God’s people. She brings younger brother Aaron along in her grab for power.

She says to the people, “Has the Lord spoken only to Moses? Hasn’t He spoken to us as well?” Numbers 12:1-2

And the Lord immediately says, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.”

The Lord then comes down in a pillar of cloud and stands at the entrance of the tent. He asks Aaron and Miriam to come forward.

“When there is a prophet among you,” God says, “I make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses ... I speak mouth to mouth ... and he beholds the form of the Lord.”

God isn’t finished. “Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

The Lord is furious with them and departs. Numbers 4:1-9

But as the pillar of cloud lifts over the tent, Miriam is leprous like snow -- a disease that will eat her flesh.

What does Moses do? Remember, she was trying to replace him.

Moses cries out, “Please, God, heal her!”

God listens but decides that Miriam must be punished. She’s shut out of the camp for seven days. And, I’ll tell you, she didn’t check into the Marriott. Those were seven cold, hungry, scary days. Finally, she’s healed and brought back.

This story should be burned into the memory of every Christian. Be careful of jealousy. Be very careful what you decide Scripture says, what you decide God wants, what you push forward among the faithful. Be careful lest you bring the wrath of God down upon you.

Knowing what God wants means submitting yourself humbly in prayer. Wait for His leading. Otherwise, you may find yourself in Miriam’s shoes -- fighting God.

R.A. Mathews lives in Charleston. 

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