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Do some OT stories show that God is unjust?

Weekly Q&A

Do some OT stories show that God is unjust?
Posted on November 17, 2020  - By Rufus Simon Varghese

Romans says that God is not partial to any man. But in Numbers 12, we see Him severely punish Miriam, without punishing Aaron, in the matter of their opposition to Moses’ marriage to the Cushite woman. 

Moreover, didn’t the Law explicitly prohibit intercultural marriages? Why did God not hold Moses accountable for marrying outside Israel, when we see Him stop the plague in Numbers 25 only after Phineas, the son of Eleazer, kills the Israelite who’d married a Midianite (something else that Moses had done)? 

Since this query has three parts to it, let’s begin by addressing God’s dealings with Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 12, where God gave Miriam leprosy — even though Aaron had also committed the same mistake she did (speaking against Moses).

Here are possible reasons for what we see in Numbers 12:

  1. Miriam may have taken the lead over Aaron in questioning the leadership of Moses, which is why God dealt with her so. If this is true, then Aaron would have known that the treatment Miriam received was God’s punishment to him as well because of his part in the sin (Numbers 12:10-12).
  1. Notice that, after Exodus 15:21, the next time we see Miriam in the Pentateuch is in Numbers 12. This was a first instance of some sort of violation of God’s mandate from her side, and that is why God chose to inflict her here. We must remember that even though God afflicted Miriam, it was only for seven days, after which she was brought back into the fold.
  1. Aaron was involved in a major sin episode of the Israelites: the golden calf incident (Exodus 32). He had let them loose, and Scripture says the Lord was ready to destroy him for that (Deuteronomy 9:20). It was because of Moses’s intercession that God refrained from killing Aaron. Clearly, God was not unwilling to punish Aaron when needed.
  1. Aaron already had a major setback in his family, where the Lord killed two of his sons for offering unauthorised fire to the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-3). That happened right after Aaron and his sons had gone through an elaborate consecration process that lasted seven days, after which they were ordained by God for the priestly service. Inflicting Aaron with the same sort of punishment that Miriam had would disqualify Aaron from high priestly service and he would be removed (Numbers 21:16-24). It was God’s design that the priesthood would continue through Aaron and his sons — perhaps that is why Aaron was spared from the leprosy.

It was God’s design that the priesthood would continue through Aaron and his sons

All in all, we don’t see any partiality from God’s part; He dealt with Aaron’s sins periodically and, by not doing anything that would threaten or destroy Aaron’s calling of priesthood, God exercised immense grace toward him.

Speaking of partiality, the same God who gave vocal, audible support of Moses, in fact, dealt with an act of disobedience from him (Numbers 20:2-13), where He refused to allow Moses and Aaron enter the promised land, despite multiple requests Moses made (Deuteronomy 3:23-28).

God and interracial marriages

The second part of today’s question deals with the ethnicity of Moses’s wife. Here are two things to know:

  • The Law prohibited intercultural marriages, which always led to Israelites defecting to the worship of pagan gods and goddesses. We don’t see God holding Moses accountable for this, because Moses had married a Midianite woman who was willing to put her faith in Yahweh. This is evident by her commitment to have her son circumcised in Exodus 4:24-26.There are other similar examples where God didn’t condemn people from outside Israel who had put their faith in Yahweh and identified themselves with God’s people. Rahab, a native of Jericho who put her faith in Yahweh, married an Israelite; Boaz, who was born from that union, married Ruth the Moabitess, who made the faith journey from Moab to Israel; and Uriah the Hittite married Bathsheba.
  • Moses’s wedding had taken place long before the stipulations for the intercultural marriages and even the Law itself were given. At that time, Israel was just a people group without an identity of a nation and were waiting for a land of their own. So, there was no issue of interracial marriage when Israel didn’t exist as a race or a nation.

With that being said, God used imperfect people and situations that were contrary to the Law He had given for His overall purpose of creating a people group for Himself. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all violated some rules that God gave pertaining to marriages. Joseph, like Moses, also married interracially. God didn’t condone interracial marriages or any deviations that his law forbids, just because those people were chosen by God.

God used imperfect people and situations that were contrary to the Law He had given for His overall purpose of creating a people group for himself

Phinehas’s controversial act

The third part of today’s question mentions Numbers 25, but what happened there had nothing in common with what Moses had done. In that passage, the people of Israel involved willfully in cultic prostitution with the daughters of Moab and idol worship of Baal of Peor. God was angry and ordered the execution of those who broke faith with Him and commanded them to be hanged in front of everyone, so that they would know God’s anger upon those who violated His law.

As the whole congregation wept near the tabernacle at the sight of that punishment, a man named Zimri (son of a chief of a father’s house) from the tribe of Simeon brought a Midianite woman named Cozbi (daughter of a tribal head in Midian) into his family to have sexual relations. This act would have led to him following Canaanite religions and their perverted rituals, even when Israel was grieving over the very same sins.

This is why Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, reacted by killing both of them. As a result, the plague was stopped.

In short, the question of interracial marriages, and laws prohibiting them, were always in the context of the danger of pagan worship and beliefs infiltrating Israel, and this is what God prohibited. This was violated by King Solomon as well.

God wasn’t partial in his dealings with Moses or anyone. He did everything in the context of the covenant that He made with His people, and in line with His characteristics.

Rufus Simon Varghese

About Rufus Simon Varghese

Born and raised in Dubai, UAE, Rufus completed his Masters in Theology at Asian Christian Academy in Hosur, India. He has since been involved in personal outreach ministries and teaching youngsters Scripture. Currently based in Ernakulam, India, he is teaching at a Bible school as well as ministering to the Hindi-speaking immigrant working population in Kerala.



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