The Book of Numbers – When Envy fills your Heart

In Numbers 12 we read about the grumblings of Miriam and Aaron against Moses.

Num 12:1 “Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.”

Miriam and Aaron initially mention their issue with Moses being about his Cushite wife, but soon we realise this was not the real issue.

We read in verse 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.”

If we look back at Numbers 11 for a moment about when the people complained about not having meat to eat. With their repeated complaints, we see Moses reach a point where he complains to God about the responsibility of dealing with all the people God had entrusted him to lead. And in response God takes of the spirit on Moses and anoints 70 elders to help Moses carry the burden of the people, so he would not have to do it alone.

“And when the Spirit rested on them, they prophesised but did not do so again (Num 11:25).

Miriam and Aaron’s grumblings come at the heel of this occurrence. Envious thoughts probably did already fester in their hearts but poured over when they saw God anoint others with the spirit and thereby giving them a boldness to question Moses’s exclusivity in him being the one who God spoke to as he led the people.

In verse 3, we read “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

Wow!, what a characteristic to be described by. But beside that, this verse also informs us that Miriam and Aaron’s grumbling were not founded on anything found in Moses behaviour but arose purely from their own jealousy.

Miriam was Moses older sister, remember her playing a part in Moses’s survival in a basket when he was baby (Exodus 2). She was now a prophetess and a worship leader. Aaron, Moses older brother was the High priest. God had chosen and placed them in vital roles to serve Him, yet they compared and envied what Moses had.

Comparison creates a discontentment with what one has, and a resentment towards what another possesses. Envy is wanting what someone else has and that is what we see in Miriam and Aaron here.

Who comes to Moses’s defence?

The Lord himself. He comes down in a pillar of cloud and summons the three of them to the tent of meeting. He calls Miriam and Aaron forward and speaks directly to them.

Num 11:5-9 “He says, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

The Lord’s anger burns against them. We see God not delay in addressing this, and why is that?

In James 3:16 we read For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

The danger of harboring envy in one’s heart is that it sprouts other sins. Some examples in scripture show us this. Envy drove Cane to kill Abel, and King Saul to madness and numerous attempts at killing David.

We then read in verse 10-13 “When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous, it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away. So, Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”

Miriam’s skin became leprous, Miriam probably was the one who began this envious talk against Moses. Although we do not read it in the text, knowing that the Lord sees the heart and looking at whom God chose to punish in that moment does point to Miriam being the instigator. Miriam was a prophetess; God spoke through her too but not as he did with Moses. Did she wish to have that sort of communication with God, looks like she did but her desires led her to sin.

James 4:7 tells us to “Submit to God”, and that includes our desires. When we take our desires to God, he will help us examine our motives and be in alignment with what he wants for us.

Moses pleads for God to heal Miriam when Aaron cries out for help. Notice Aaron address Moses with respect, in a way acknowledging his position as servant leader called by God to be His prophet and lead His people. Moses does not hold resentment towards either of them but prays for Miriam. A reminder for us to forgive and be able to pray for those who hurt us.

How does God respond?

Num 11: 14-15 “The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” So, Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.”

The equating of her punishment to how a father would have given rebuke reminds us that God disciplines those he loves and regards as His children. Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days. It was a public rebuke; it was not something that could be kept between the three of them and God especially as the people had to stay there till she was brought back to camp.

Leprosy was not the flu which would run its course and be all ok after. It was a death sentence and her being brought back to camp means she was healed and that would have been possible only by God. And this would not only have been a powerful witness for the people but for Miriam a truly humbling process.

Prov 14:30 says “Envy rots the bones”. Envy can eat away at our hearts. It starts with comparison; mix pride and selfish ambition in and it leads to a bitter heart with jealousy.

Lord, help us to examine our hearts, reflect on our motives and submit our desires to you. Enable us to lay our pride and jealousy at your feet and walk in humility and contentment.

God Bless. 

34 thoughts on “The Book of Numbers – When Envy fills your Heart

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  1. Hi Manu👋Bless the Lord, You just broke down this story of sibling rivalry, jealousy and envy, and even covetousness so thoroughly!! I too believe that Miriam instigated all of that drama, because God was not communicating with her, ‘face to face!’
    She could not have handled that kind of contact, with God!! Miriam’s heart wasn’t right with God, and she would have been caught up in a blaze, in his perfect presence. We really need to analyze our hearts and be careful of the things we covet and request of God!! Lord Help Us🙏🏾

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Tam 🤗. Yes, maybe Miriam was not in the right place to have that sort of communication with God. The fact that Moses humility is mentioned here also tells that Miriam’s heart was not in that humble place to receive that sort of communication with God. What a lesson for us all.
      Thank you again Tam 💙💐

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Envy is one of the ways the enemy steals from us. If he can get us to want what others have, instead of walking in God’s purposes for our own lives, then we will remain discontent and unfruitful. I pray we keep our eyes on God’s will. We can be inspired by the things others are doing but ultimately we won’t be fulfilled unless we’re walking in God’s individual purposes for our lives. Thank you Manu.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. So true Dawn, envy truly does blind us to walking in the purpose God has planned for us and so as the enemy intends we become ineffective and also further sin by coveting what others have.
      Thank you Dawn. Blessings 🤗💙💐

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Such a valuable lesson to keep our eyes on our own path. It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others. And this can lead to envy or even to self-righteousness. And the fact that Moses remains humble and even prays for those who hurt him, that shows his true character. Great post, my friend! Blessings! 🤗🦋

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Comparison is easy to do. I think as long as it inspires to do better or grow it is ok. If we know someone who seems to have a strong relationship with the Lord, we aspire to grow similarly in our walk and reflect and take steps to be disciplined in our time with him- that is a positive effect of comparison. But if it leads to negative feelings it is dangerous.
      Thank you my friend 🤗💐💙

      Liked by 2 people

  4. One of my favorite chapters in Numbers ..I especially love how God shows up and say, ” You three! Into the tent!” Oh oh…They immediately knew they were in trouble. God here is a father refereeing between warring siblings.

    One person said, ‘envy is a human heart problem.’ It will show up in our lives at one point. We get to decide what we’ll do with it. Feed our envy or take it to God to heal us.

    Wonderfully articulated Manu!❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For some reason your comment went into the spam folder on the blog site and I saw it only now. I laughed reading your comment about God saying you three get into the tent, yep definitely sounds like they were called into the principal’s office. So true that Env will show up and we have to decide what to do with it.
      Thank you Lucy. Have a wonderful weekend.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. We really do have to guard ourselves against envy, because it can be so easy to start comparing and to fall into that mindset and those feelings without even recognizing it is happening. There are aspects 9f my life I’ve been really struggling with as of late, so I see my need to especially be careful about comparing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, Manu!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We all go through comparing ourselves with others. We are to remember what to do when those thoughts plague. I pray you take those feeling to the Lord Colleen and know that you are wonderfully made with a purpose in mind.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Important reminder not to let envy creep in and let it distort thinking. We are each gifted differently by Jesus to serve others. No matter what the gifting we serve in, we do well to remember the greatest thing is to love with the love of Jesus

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Manu, thank you for this timely post. Humility and contentment are missing in so many areas of worldly life. Envy is something we all need to deal with; by taking it to the Lord. May we always keep our eyes on our path; appreciate our gifts. Blessings! 💗🌹🌺

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is a powerful write up Manu and a comprehensive look at this story. I have examined it before, but I am not sure if I zoned in on the envy aspect of it. Definitely envy, jealousy and pride and I love your correlation to Saul’s jealousy or David’s anointing. I think envy is such a stupid emotion if we understand that our paths are laid out by God and in his own time, our steps are ordered. Miriam could sing which I don’t hear mention of Moses being able to do. Why envy his gifts when she had her own? Crazy things. Bless you. 🙏🏾❤️💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree Anneta, our paths are laid out by God and those are the ones that are best for us but we still look at what others have and can do and envy. That I think is the earthly nature that we have and are to shed over time as we mature in spirit.
      Thank you Anneta. Blessings 💙

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I gleaned a lot from this post! It’s sad when God’s children envy the individual gifts God has given others. We are all precious in His sight and are very unique. I pray we all embrace our
    own uniqueness and are also thankful for our brother and sister’s gifts, as well. Miriam sure did learn a hard lesson!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are made unique and special just as God designed us to be. It is our earthly nature that makes us jealous. But as we spend more time with the Lord and grow in spirit we learn to recognise those feelings and also learn to find a contentment that results when our perspective is changed as we walk closely with God.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you so much for tying this post together so well. I think envy is something that has been socialized in this world today. People deem it as ok! Movies and social media at times can imply that it’s fine to covet or be envious. This deep dive you have done shows the extent of envy and the consequences as per the OT. God bless you my sister. I also love the beautiful pictures you have introduced into the featured posts. It brings in a nice element and ties well with your blog!!

    Liked by 1 person

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