Bible Study – The Priesthood

June 9 – 15, 2024 

Key Text  “You shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony.” Numbers 1:50

Study Help: Patriarchs and Prophets, 350, 351


“By divine direction the tribe of Levi was set apart for the service of the sanctuary.” The Faith I Live By, 195



1.a. Which tribe was charged with the care of the sanctuary? Numbers 1:50–53. For what reason did God bypass the tribe of Reuben and choose Levi as His firstborn son? Genesis 49:3, 4 

Note: “In the earliest times, every man was the priest of his own household. In the days of Abraham, the priesthood was regarded as the birthright of the eldest son. Now, instead of the firstborn of all Israel, the Lord accepted the tribe of Levi for the work of the sanctuary. By this signal honor He manifested His approval of their fidelity, both in adhering to His service and in executing His judgments when Israel apostatized in the worship of the golden calf.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 350

“The father [ Jacob] pictured what should have been the position of Reuben as the firstborn son; but his grievous sin at Edar had made him unworthy of the birthright blessing.” Ibid., 235

1.b. Which Levite family was set apart for the priesthood? Exodus 28:1; Numbers 18:1, 6, 7

Note: “The priesthood, however, was restricted to the family of Aaron. Aaron and his sons alone were permitted to minister before the Lord; the rest of the tribe were entrusted with the charge of the tabernacle and its furniture, and they were to attend upon the priests in their ministration, but they were not to sacrifice, to burn incense, or to see the holy things till they were covered.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 350



2.a. Specify the main parts of the high priest’s dress. Exodus 28:2–4

Note: “The garments of the high priest were of costly material and beautiful workmanship, befitting his exalted station. In addition to the linen dress of the common priest, he wore a robe of blue, also woven in one piece. Around the skirt it was ornamented with golden bells, and pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 350, 351

2.b. The ephod. Exodus 28:6, 9, 10

Note: “Outside of this [the robe of blue] was the ephod, a shorter garment of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and white. It was confined by a girdle of the same colors, beautifully wrought. The ephod was sleeveless, and on its gold-embroidered shoulder pieces were set two onyx stones, bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 351

2.c. The breastplate. Exodus 28:29

Note: “Over the ephod was the breastplate, the most sacred of the priestly vestments. This was of the same material as the ephod. It was in the form of a square, measuring a span, and was suspended from the shoulders by a cord of blue from golden rings. The border was formed of a variety of precious stones, the same that form the twelve foundations of the city of God. Within the border were twelve stones set in gold, arranged in rows of four, and, like those in the shoulder pieces, engraved with the names of the tribes. The Lord’s direction was, ‘Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.’ Exodus 28:29. So Christ, the great High Priest, pleading His blood before the Father in the sinner’s behalf, bears upon His heart the name of every repentant, believing soul.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 351



3.a. What were the Urim and Thummim? Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8

Note: “At the right and left of the breastplate were set two larger stones, which shone with great brilliancy. When difficult matters were brought to the judges, which they could not decide, they were referred to the priests, and they inquired of God, who answered them. If He favored, and if He would grant them success, a halo of light and glory especially rested upon the precious stone at the right. If He disapproved, a vapor or cloud seemed to settle upon the precious stone at the left hand. When they inquired of God in regard to going to battle, the precious stone at the right, when circled with light, said, Go, and prosper. The stone at the left, when shadowed with a cloud, said, Thou shalt not go; thou shalt not prosper.” The Story of Redemption, 183, 184

3.b. Describe the miter of the high priest. Exodus 28:39; 39:28

Note:  “The miter of the high priest consisted of the white linen turban, having attached to it by a lace of blue, a gold plate bearing the inscription, ‘Holiness to Jehovah.’ ” Patriarchs and Prophets, 351

3.c. Describe the garments of the common priests. Leviticus 6:10

Note: “The robe of the common priest was of white linen and woven in one piece. It extended nearly to the feet and was confined about the waist by a white linen girdle embroidered in blue, purple, and red. A linen turban, or miter, completed his outer costume. Moses at the burning bush was directed to put off his sandals, for the ground whereon he stood was holy. So the priests were not to enter the sanctuary with shoes upon their feet.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 350

3.d. What effect was the dress of the priests and their deportment to have upon the people?

Note: “Everything connected with the apparel and deportment of the priests was to be such as to impress the beholder with a sense of the holiness of God, the sacredness of His worship, and the purity required of those who came into His presence.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 351 



4.a. Why did the altar not have steps? Exodus 20:26

4.b. What did the prophet Isaiah think of himself when he had a vision of God sitting upon His throne in the temple in heaven? Isaiah 6:5. How could we apply this insightful experience to ourselves?

Note: “Isaiah had denounced the sin of others; but now he sees himself exposed to the same condemnation he had pronounced upon them. He had been satisfied with a cold, lifeless ceremony in his worship of God. He had not known this until the vision was given him of the Lord. How little now appeared his wisdom and talents as he looked upon the sacredness and majesty of the sanctuary. How unworthy he was! how unfitted for sacred service! …

“The vision given to Isaiah represents the condition of God’s people in the last days. They are privileged to see by faith the work that is going forward in the heavenly sanctuary. ‘And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament.’ As they look by faith into the holy of holies and see the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, they perceive that they are a people of unclean lips—a people whose lips have often spoken vanity and whose talents have not been sanctified and employed to the glory of God. Well may they despair as they contrast their own weakness and unworthiness with the purity and loveliness of the glorious character of Christ. But if they, like Isaiah, will receive the impression the Lord designs shall be made upon the heart, if they will humble their souls before God, there is hope for them. The bow of promise is above the throne, and the work done for Isaiah will be performed in them. God will respond to the petitions coming from the contrite heart.” The Review and Herald, December 22, 1896

“Isaiah had a wonderful view of God’s glory. He saw the manifestation of God’s power, and after beholding His majesty, a message came to him to go and do a certain work. He felt wholly unworthy for the work. What made him esteem himself unworthy? Did he think himself unworthy before he had a view of God’s glory?—No; he imagined himself in a righteous state before God; but when the glory of the Lord of hosts was revealed to him, when he beheld the inexpressible majesty of God, he said, ‘I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips … .’ ” Ibid., June 4, 1889



5.a. How does the vision of Isaiah chapter 6 apply today? Romans 15:4. Where should our hope be anchored? Hebrews 6:11, 19

Note: “As humanity, with its weakness and deformity, was brought out in contrast with the perfection of divine holiness and light and glory, [the prophet Isaiah] felt altogether inefficient and unworthy. How could he go and speak to the people the holy requirements of Jehovah, who was high and lifted up, and whose train filled the temple?” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1140

5.b. What comforting assurance given to a humbled Isaiah is likewise offered today to every believer? Isaiah 6:5–7

Note: “Pray that your lips may be touched with a live coal from the divine altar, that you may speak only pure, Christlike words, and that you may see that it is a sin to speak harshly and unadvisedly.” The Review and Herald, January 14, 1904

“When you place yourselves where you should be in order to hear the voice of God, you will come before Him every day, saying, ‘Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.’ ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ And the Lord will give you a burden for souls and will touch your lips as He did those of Isaiah, with a live coal from off His altar.” General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 20, 1891



1 Which of the twelve tribes was put in charge of the sanctuary, and why?
2 Describe the garments of the high priest.
3 Describe the garments of the common priests and explain what effect their dress, and especially their deportment, was to have upon the people.
4 What should we learn from the reverent attitude and adequate covering of priests and angels in the presence of the Lord?
5 In what sense does the vision of Isaiah (6:1–7) have a special application for us living in the era of self-righteous Laodicea?

Copyright 2010, Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia 24019-5048, U.S.A.

Bible Study Guides – The Journey Around Edom

Wilderness Wanderings 

February 28 – March 6, 2021

Key Text

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14).

Study Help: Patriarchs and Prophets, 422, 432.


“The brazen serpent was uplifted in the wilderness that those who looked in faith might be made whole. In like manner God sends a restoring, healing message to men, calling upon them to look away from man and earthly things, and place their trust in God.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1116.



1.a. What message did Moses send to the king of Edom, and what answer was received? Numbers 20:14–18.

Note: “The Edomites were descendants of Abraham and Isaac, and for the sake of these His servants, God had shown favor to the children of Esau. He had given them Mount Seir for a possession, and they were not to be disturbed unless by their sins they should place themselves beyond the reach of His mercy.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 423.

1.b. How did the leaders of Israel renew their appeal to the king of Edom, and what was his answer? Numbers 20:19, 20. What failure on the part of the people gave Satan a decided advantage in this negative experience?

Note: “The Israelites did not act promptly upon God’s word, and while they were complaining and murmuring, the golden opportunity passed. When they were at last ready to present their request to the king, it was refused.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 423.



2.a. Instead of going through the land of Edom, what route did the children of Israel take? Numbers 20:21, 22; 21:4.

2.b. When Israel came to Mount Hor, what did the Lord say to Moses and Aaron? Numbers 20:23–26.

Note: “Many years Moses and Aaron had stood side by side in their cares and labors. Together they had breasted unnumbered dangers, and had shared together the signal blessing of God; but the time was at hand when they must be separated. They moved on very slowly, for every moment in each other’s society was precious. The ascent was steep and toilsome; and as they often paused to rest, they communed together of the past and the future. … No rebellious feelings found a place in their hearts, no expression of murmuring escaped their lips; yet a solemn sadness rested upon their countenances as they remembered what had debarred them from the inheritance of their fathers.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 425.

2.c. What solemnity attended the transfer of the high-priestly responsibilities for Aaron to Eleazar, and how long did Israel mourn for Aaron? Numbers 20:27–29.

Note: “With deep sorrow Moses removed from Aaron the holy vestments, and placed them upon Eleazar, who thus became his successor by divine appointment. For his sin at Kadesh, Aaron was denied the privilege of officiating as God’s high priest in Canaan—of offering the first sacrifice in the goodly land, and thus consecrating the inheritance of Israel. Moses was to continue to bear his burden in leading the people to the very borders of Canaan. He was to come within sight of the Promised Land, but was not to enter it. Had these servants of God, when they stood before the rock at Kadesh, borne unmurmuringly the test there brought upon them, how different would have been their future! A wrong act can never be undone. It may be that the work of a lifetime will not recover what has been lost in a single moment of temptation or even thoughtlessness.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 426.



3.a. Who attacked Israel soon after the death of Aaron, and what was the result? Numbers 21:1–3.

Note: “Soon after leaving Mount Hor the Israelites suffered defeat in an engagement with Arad, one of the Canaanite kings. But as they earnestly sought help from God, divine aid was granted them, and their enemies were routed. This victory, instead of inspiring gratitude and leading the people to feel their dependence upon God, made them boastful and self-confident.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 427, 428.

3.b. Instead of being thankful to the Lord, into what practice did the people again relapse? Numbers 21:4, last part, 5.

Note: “Soon they fell into the old habit of murmuring. They were now dissatisfied because the armies of Israel had not been permitted to advance upon Canaan immediately after their rebellion at the report of the spies nearly forty years before. They pronounced their long sojourn in the wilderness an unnecessary delay, reasoning that they might have conquered their enemies as easily heretofore as now.

“As they continued their journey toward the south, their route lay through a hot, sandy valley, destitute of shade or vegetation. The way seemed long and difficult, and they suffered from weariness and thirst. Again they failed to endure the test of their faith and patience. By continually dwelling on the dark side of their experiences, they separated themselves farther and farther from God. They lost sight of the fact that but for their murmuring when the water ceased at Kadesh, they would have been spared the journey around Edom. God had purposed better things for them. Their hearts should have been filled with gratitude to Him that He had punished their sin so lightly. But instead of this, they flattered themselves that if God and Moses had not interfered, they might now have been in possession of the Promised Land. After bringing trouble upon themselves, making their lot altogether harder than God designed, they charged all their misfortunes upon Him. Thus they cherished bitter thoughts concerning His dealings with them, and finally they became discontented with everything. Egypt looked brighter and more desirable than liberty and the land to which God was leading them.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 428.



4.a. Because of the unwarranted murmurings of the people, what did the Lord permit to come into the camp of Israel? Numbers 21:6.

Note: “Because they had been shielded by divine power they had not realized the countless dangers by which they were continually surrounded. In their ingratitude and unbelief they had anticipated death, and now the Lord permitted death to come upon them. The poisonous serpents that infested the wilderness were called fiery serpents, on account of the terrible effects produced by their sting, it causing violent inflammation and speedy death. As the protecting hand of God was removed from Israel, great numbers of the people were attacked by these venomous creatures.

“Now there was terror and confusion throughout the encampment. In almost every tent were the dying or the dead. None were secure. Often the silence of night was broken by piercing cries that told of fresh victims. All were busy in ministering to the sufferers, or with agonizing care endeavoring to protect those who were not yet stricken. No murmuring now escaped their lips. When compared with the present suffering, their former difficulties and trials seemed unworthy of a thought.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 429.

4.b.      What did the people do when they realized that the Lord was punishing them for their rebellious behavior, and what remedy was provided? Numbers 21:7–9.

Note: “Moses was divinely commanded to make a serpent of brass resembling the living ones, and to elevate it among the people. To this, all who had been bitten were to look, and they would find relief. …

“The people well knew that there was no power in the serpent of brass to cause such a change in those who looked upon it. The healing virtue was from God alone. In His wisdom He chose this way of displaying His power. By this simple means the people were made to realize that this affliction had been brought upon them by their sins. They were also assured that while obeying God they had no reason to fear, for He would preserve them.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 430.



5.a. Of whom was the brazen serpent a type? John 3:14, 15.

Note: “The Israelites saved their lives by looking upon the uplifted serpent. That look implied faith. They lived because they believed God’s word, and trusted in the means provided for their recovery. So the sinner may look to Christ, and live. He receives pardon through faith in the atoning sacrifice. Unlike the inert and lifeless symbol, Christ has power and virtue in Himself to heal the repenting sinner.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 431.

5.b.      By whom and how only can we be healed? Psalm 103:2, 3; 1 Peter 2:21, 24.

Note: “While we realize our helpless condition without Christ, we are not to yield to discouragement, but rely upon the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Look and live. Jesus has pledged His word; He will save all who come unto Him. Though millions who need to be healed will reject His offered mercy, not one who trusts in His merits will be left to perish.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 432.

“While the sinner cannot save himself, he still has something to do to secure salvation. ‘Him that cometh to Me,’ says Christ, ‘I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37). But we must come to Him; and when we repent of our sins, we must believe that He accepts and pardons us. Faith is the gift of God, but the power to exercise it is ours.” Ibid., 431.



1    Why were the Edomites not destroyed at this time?

2    What can we learn from the experience of Moses and Aaron about the far-reaching consequences of just one action?

3    What thought pattern leads to murmuring? How can we avoid this?

4    What simple remedy was provided for the snake bites? Where was the healing virtue in the brass serpent?

5    Where do we need to look to be saved from sin? What is involved in looking?

Copyright 2019, Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia 24019-5048, U.S.A.

Bible Study Guides – Unfaithful Priests

January 17 – 23, 2021

Key Text

“And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 44:23).

Study Help: Patriarchs and Prophets, 359–362.


“We must abstain from any practice which will blunt the conscience or encourage temptation. We must open no door that will give Satan access to the mind of one human being formed in the image of God.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 360.



1.a. Describe briefly the ceremony of consecration of Aaron and his sons for the service of the sanctuary. Leviticus 8:1–9, 12, 13, 24, 30, 33.

Note: “All had been done as God commanded, and He accepted the sacrifice, and revealed His glory in a remarkable manner; fire came from the Lord and consumed the offering upon the altar. The people looked upon this wonderful manifestation of divine power with awe and intense interest. They saw in it a token of God’s glory and favor, and they raised a universal shout of praise and adoration and fell on their faces as if in the immediate presence of Jehovah.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 359.

1.b.      What was required of those who were called to service in the presence of the Lord? Exodus 19:22. What disqualifies men for sacred responsibilities?

Note: “If one has not a vital connection with God, his own spirit and sentiments will prevail. These may be well represented as strange fire offered in the place of the sacred.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 371.



2.a. What action on the part of Nadab and Abihu showed that they were not qualified for the sacred office that was given them? Leviticus 10:1. How do professed Christians use “strange fire” in our days?

Note: “The converting power of God must come upon men who handle sacred things, yet who are unable, through some cause best known to God, to distinguish between the sacred fire of God’s own kindling and the strange fire which they offer. That strange fire is as dishonoring to God as was that presented by Nadab and Abihu. The sacred fire of God’s love would make men tender and kind and sympathetic toward those in peril. Those who indulge in sharp, overbearing words, are really saying: I am holier than thou. Do you not see my exalted position?” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 356.

“Converted men are needed—men who will love and honor God, fearing to move in their own wisdom, and realizing that their efforts can prove successful only as recognized by Him without whose blessing there is no prosperity. Every moment divine power must be combined with human effort, else strange fire will be offered instead of the sacred. …

“To handle sacred things as we would common matters is an offense to God; for that which God has set apart to do His service in giving light to this world is holy. Those who have any connection with the work of God are not to walk in the vanity of their own wisdom, but in the wisdom of God, or they will be in danger of placing sacred and common things on the same level, and thus separate themselves from God.” The Review and Herald, September 8, 1896.

2.b.      How was their profane behavior punished? Leviticus 10:2.

Note: “At the hour of worship, as the prayers and praise of the people were ascending to God, two of the sons of Aaron took each his censer and burned fragrant incense thereon, to rise as a sweet odor before the Lord. But they transgressed His command by the use of ‘strange fire.’ For burning the incense they took common instead of the sacred fire which God Himself had kindled, and which He had commanded to be used for this purpose. For this sin a fire went out from the Lord and devoured them in the sight of the people.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 359.



3.a. As Moses immediately saw the cause of the trouble, what did he say to Aaron? Leviticus 10:3. What made the sin of Nadab and Abihu all the more grievous in the eyes of God?

Note: “Next to Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu had stood highest in Israel. They had been especially honored by the Lord, having been permitted with the seventy elders to behold His glory in the mount. But their transgression was not therefore to be excused or lightly regarded. All this rendered their sin more grievous.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 359.

3.b.      What principles should Aaron have known in the training of his sons? Proverbs 22:6; 29:21. In what area did he fail?

Note: “Nadab and Abihu had not in their youth been trained to habits of self-control. The father’s yielding disposition, his lack of firmness for right, had led him to neglect the discipline of his children. His sons had been permitted to follow inclination. Habits of self-indulgence, long cherished, obtained a hold upon them which even the responsibility of the most sacred office had not power to break. They had not been taught to respect the authority of their father, and they did not realize the necessity of exact obedience to the requirements of God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 360.

“Too much importance cannot be placed upon the early training of children. The lessons learned, the habits formed, during the years of infancy and childhood, have more to do with the formation of the character and the direction of the life than have all the instruction and training of after years.” The Ministry of Healing, 380.

3.c. What instruction and warning did Moses give to Aaron and his surviving sons? Why? Leviticus 10:6, 7.

Note: “By no manifestation of grief must he [Aaron] seem to sympathize with sin. The congregation must not be led to murmur against God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 361.



4.a. What warning did the Lord give against the use of alcoholic beverages? Leviticus 10:8–11. Does this warning extend to us today? Exodus 19:5, 6.

Note: “The use of spirituous liquors has the effect to weaken the body, confuse the mind, and debase the morals. It prevents men from realizing the sacredness of holy things or the binding force of God’s requirements. All who occupied positions of sacred responsibility were to be men of strict temperance, that their minds might be clear to discriminate between right and wrong, that they might possess firmness of principle, and wisdom to administer justice and to show mercy.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 362.

4.b.      What biblical principles show us that the wine provided by Jesus at the marriage feast was unfermented grape juice? Proverbs 20:1; 23:32.

Note: “It has been declared by some that Christ favored the moderate use of fermented wine, in witness whereof they refer to His miracle of changing water into wine. But we protest that Christ never made intoxicating wine; such an act would have been contrary to all the teachings and example of His life.” The Health Reformer, July 1, 1878.

4.c. What will those do who are striving for the mastery in the Christian life? 1 Corinthians 9:25.

Note: “True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful, and to use judiciously that which is healthful.” Temperance, 138.

“The only safe course is to touch not, taste not, handle not, tea, coffee, wines, tobacco, opium, and alcoholic drinks. …

“Let us never partake of a glass of alcoholic liquor. Let us never touch it.” Ibid., 163.

“The youth and children should understand the effect of alcohol, tobacco, and other like poisons in breaking down the body, beclouding the mind, and sensualizing the soul. It should be made plain that no one who uses these things can long possess the full strength of his physical, mental, or moral faculties.” Education, 202.



5.a. Why was the sin of Nadab and Abihu recorded? Romans 15:4. What can we learn from this incident?

Note: “God designed to teach the people that they must approach Him with reverence and awe, and in His own appointed manner. He cannot accept partial obedience. It was not enough that in this solemn season of worship nearly everything was done as He had directed. God has pronounced a curse upon those who depart from His commandments, and put no difference between common and holy things.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 360.

5.b.      What kinds of men does the Lord call to occupy positions of sacred responsibility? Titus 1:5–9.

Note: “A minister of Christ should be pure in conversation and in actions. He should ever bear in mind that he is handling words of inspiration, words of a holy God. He must also bear in mind that the flock is entrusted to his care, and that he is to bear their cases to Jesus, and plead for them as Jesus pleads for us with the Father. I was pointed back to the children of Israel anciently and saw how pure and holy the ministers of the sanctuary had to be, because they were brought by their work into a close connection with God. They that minister must be holy, pure, and without blemish, or God will destroy them. God has not changed.” Early Writings, 103.



1    Why is it that we sometimes bring our own opinions and selfish ideas into the work of God?

2    What is necessary in order to avoid placing sacred and common things on the same level?

3    When is self-control to be learned? Why?

4    Why does God want me to be strictly temperate today?

5    Why is reverence so important? Where does this begin? How?

Copyright 2019, Reformation Herald Publishing Association, 5240 Hollins Road, Roanoke, Virginia 24019-5048, U.S.A.

The Destroying Effect of Evil Speaking and Gossip

Gossip—small talk, hearsay, rumor, scandal—is the major element used by Satan to destroy love and unity within the church.

“Gossipers and news carriers are a terrible curse to neighborhoods and churches. Two thirds of all the church trials arise from this source.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 465.

We read from God’s holy word the following, “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” Numbers 12:1.

From the pen of inspiration we are given an insight into this whole experience. God’s servant records: “Moses felt the importance of the great work committed to him as no other man had ever felt it. He realized his own weakness, and he made God his counselor. Aaron esteemed himself more highly, and trusted less in God. He had failed when entrusted with responsibility, giving evidence of the weakness of his character by his base compliance in the matter of the idolatrous worship at Sinai. But Miriam and Aaron, blinded by jealousy and ambition, lost sight of this. Aaron had been highly honored by God in the appointment of his family to the sacred office of the priesthood; yet even this now added to the desire for self-exaltation. ‘And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath He not spoken also by us’ [Numbers 12:2]? Regarding themselves as equally favored by God, they felt that they were entitled to the same position and authority.

“Yielding to the spirit of dissatisfaction, Miriam found cause of complaint in events that God had especially overruled. The marriage of Moses had been displeasing to her. That he should choose a woman of another nation, instead of taking a wife from among the Hebrews, was an offense to her family and national pride. Zipporah was treated with ill-disguised contempt.

“Though called a ‘Cushite woman’ (Numbers 12:1, R.V.), the wife of Moses was a Midianite, and thus a descendant of Abraham. In personal appearance she differed from the Hebrews in being of a somewhat darker complexion. Though not an Israelite, Zipporah was a worshiper of the true God. She was of a timid, retiring disposition, gentle and affectionate, and greatly distressed at the sight of suffering; and it was for this reason that Moses, when on the way to Egypt, had consented to her return to Midian. He desired to spare her the pain of witnessing the judgments that were to fall on the Egyptians.

“When Zipporah rejoined her husband in the wilderness, she saw that his burdens were wearing away his strength, and she made known her fears to Jethro, who suggested measures for his relief. Here was the chief reason for Miriam’s antipathy to Zipporah. Smarting under the supposed neglect shown to herself and Aaron, she regarded the wife of Moses as the cause, concluding that her influence had prevented him from taking them into his counsels as formerly. Had Aaron stood up firmly for the right, he might have checked the evil; but instead of showing Miriam the sinfulness of her conduct, he sympathized with her, listened to her words of complaint, and thus came to share her jealousy.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 383, 384.

Evidence before us is the fact that Miriam’s jealousy produced evil speaking and gossip, but how did she and Aaron come to be affected by jealousy?

  1. In the appointment of the seventy elders, Miriam and Aaron had not been consulted, and their jealousy was excited against Moses.
  2. At the time of Jethro’s visit, while the Israelites were on their way to Sinai, the ready acceptance by Moses of the counsel of his father-in-law had aroused in Aaron and Miriam a fear that his influence with the great leader exceeded theirs.
  3. In the organization of the council of elders, they felt that their position and authority had been ignored.
  4. Because they had been chosen to aid Moses, they regarded themselves as sharing equally with him the burden of leadership, and they regarded the appointment of further assistance as uncalled for.

This seeming disregard of their authority by Moses fanned into operation the flames of jealousy or envy which ultimately gave rise to evil speaking and gossip, and this spirit of evil speaking and gossip that was now alive and active, due to irresponsible attitudes of Miriam and Aaron, would have soon leavened the whole camp of Israel. Ever keep in mind the fact that jealousy is an attribute of Satan, which means that gossip is of Satan and therefore will only produce a harvest of cruel deeds. We are counseled:

“Envy is one of the most satanic traits that can exist in the human heart, and it is one of the most baleful in its effects. Says the wise man, ‘Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?’ Proverbs 27:4. … ‘Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.’ James 3:16.

“It should not be regarded as a light thing to speak evil of others or to make ourselves judges of their motives or actions. ‘He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.’ James 4:11. There is but one judge—He ‘who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.’ 1 Corinthians 4:5. And whoever takes it upon himself to judge and condemn his fellow men is usurping the prerogative of the Creator.” Ibid., 385.

As a name, Miriam belongs to a family of words having different root-form; all of which suggest bitterness, Mary, Maria. Miriam, then, the same as Mary, means bitterness or rebellion. This she lived out in the prime of her days!

Let’s examine closer Miriam’s life in relation to this incident. Miriam was the eldest child of Amram and Jochebed, and the sister of Aaron and Moses. Miriam owed much to her ancestry. She was the daughter of godly parents and the sister of two of Israel’s greatest figures. We have no biblical evidence that Miriam was ever married. Her interests were not matrimonial; they were national. Her mission was not domestic; it was patriotic. Miriam is wellknown as a prophetess, and she was highly respected in Israel. The Bible, we can all agree, is an honest book that gives only the truth. It tells the naked truth of those it describes. Blemishes, as well as beauties, are revealed in spite of the person! Miriam, for instance, rebelled against the mission of her life, namely to protect and labor in association with God’s leader whom she had been the means of saving for his country.

Miriam was, above all things, a faithful patriot, with a love for her country greater than the love for her renowned brother. Jealousy led Miriam to reject both the position of Moses as the leader of Israel and his partner in the wife he took unto himself. She found the management and marriage of Moses most distressing, most annoying! Miriam as a church member and more so as a leader became careless and irresponsible because of envy, which led her to turn against her own brother. Isn’t this the same attitude that many of us who profess to be Christians display towards each other who are namely our brothers and sisters?

It was not so much feminine jealousy on Miriam’s part as patriotic jealousy, which gave rise to her gossiping spirit. She was a confirmed member of the Hebrew race and set against any foreign alliance. How often do we, as confirmed Seventh-day Adventists, become troubled concerning those who have come in and joined us who were of a different faith or of another Adventist church? How often are we affected because of their rise to authority within the precincts of the church? We share our burdens with each other about the intruders positioning themselves in our church to take away our positions and belittle our authority.

But Miriam’s greatest offense was her sarcastic rejection of the leadership of her brother, Moses. Hitherto she had been a symbol of unity, cooperation, and support as she shared in the triumphs and hopes of Israel. Now, unfortunately, she is prominent as a leader of discord, division and discontent. “It was envy,” Ellen White wrote, “that first caused discord in heaven, and its indulgence has wrought untold evil among men.” Ibid. So Miriam was now doing the service of Satan. Was this her original desire and intention? Did she desire to bring division, discord and strife between herself and her younger brother?

From the book The Desire of Ages, 323 is found sobering counsel: “Closely connected with Christ’s warning in regard to the sin against the Holy Spirit is a warning against idle and evil words. The words are an indication of that which is in the heart. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’ [Matthew 12:34]. But the words are more than an indication of character; they have power to react on the character. Men are influenced by their own words. Often under a momentary impulse, prompted by Satan, they give utterance to jealousy or evil surmising, expressing that which they do not really believe; but the expression reacts on the thoughts. They are deceived by their words, and come to believe that true which was spoken at Satan’s instigation. Having once expressed an opinion or decision, they are often too proud to retract it, and try to prove themselves in the right, until they come to believe that they are.”

You will notice that Aaron is paired with Miriam in this ungodly ordeal. We know from the record that Miriam was the instigator and spokes-woman in the revolt. The Holy Scripture says, “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses.” Numbers 12:1.

Why is it that Miriam did not seek out Moses and express to him her concern? Why did she seek out Aaron, in whom she found a listening ear? Well, it is no doubt because she and Aaron shared a closer relationship, because when Moses was away growing up in the palace and the wilderness, Aaron was there with her. Miriam knew well her brother’s weak and strong points of character, one who would quickly sympathize and agree even if it was wrong, and who would understand, one who would not be quick to oppose, condemn and rebuke.

Miriam understood Aaron and Aaron understood Miriam! For the little she knew of Moses, he was too exact, unbending and regimental as well as overly religious. Aaron was far easier to talk with! It is on this basis, against this background, that we have this cooperative effort.

Personal jealousy and fear of their own respective leadership are mingled in their question, “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” Numbers 12:2. What we see here is that Miriam and Aaron aspired to a joint partnership in state power and in the government of Israel, but they failed! Miriam’s chief error consisted in her effort to break down the God-given authority of Moses and thereby imperil the unity and hope of the nation. This would most effectively be accomplished through the same method that Lucifer used in heaven, namely gossip, evil surmising and evil speaking.

No doubt, this will be the result in every church in which members cherish the Miriam and Aaron Syndrome. In every church where the spirit of gossip and evil speaking is encouraged; unity, love, trust and hope are destroyed. It has been said that one of the torments of jealousy is that it can never turn away its eyes from the thing that pains it.

Up to this time Moses was unaware of the evil work being done by the two closest persons to him in his leadership, but God knew, for the Holy Scripture declares, “The Lord heard it.” Numbers 12:2. God heard the evil conversation of Miriam and Aaron. He will always hear the gossipers in conversation, and He will certainly pay for the work done by such individuals!

“And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.” Verses 4–10.

Many times gossipers seek to conceal themselves and their accomplice, but God in time will reveal such individuals the way He knows best and in most cases for their good and the benefit of His church. We are told in the book Patriarchs and Prophets that, “This manifestation of the Lord’s displeasure was designed to be a warning to all Israel, to check the growing spirit of discontent and insubordination. If Miriam’s envy and dissatisfaction had not been signally rebuked, it would have resulted in great evil.” Ibid., 385.

Notice that the very one whom Miriam was gossiping about was the same one who had to pray for her in order that she be spared. This spirit that Moses possessed should be the same spirit all share who are victims of gossip and evil speaking.

The significance of God’s attitude concerning the discipline of Miriam is worth noting. In spite of His forgiving mercies, she never escaped a lesser discipline; she, being a temporary leper, was shut out of the camp for seven days. Due to Miriam’s ungodly behavior the church was brought to a halt for one week at least! It’s no different today, for the progress of the church will be greatly affected by gossipers and evil-surmisers. Indeed, “Gossipers and news carriers are a terrible curse to neighborhoods and churches. Two thirds of all the church trials arise from this source.” Testimonies, vol. 2, 465.

Is it possible that the confidence Moses placed in Aaron and Miriam had been shaken as to make him walk alone from that point onward? Well, Miriam accepted her discipline, repented of her sins, and remained faithful until death.

“And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there.” Numbers 20:23–26.

“Aaron’s work for Israel was done. Forty years before, at the age of eighty-three, God had called him to unite with Moses in his great and important mission. He had co-operated with his brother in leading the children of Israel from Egypt. He had held up the great leader’s hands when the Hebrew hosts gave battle to Amalek. He had been permitted to ascend Mount Sinai, to approach into the presence of God, and to behold the divine glory. The Lord had conferred upon the family of Aaron the office of the priesthood, and had honored him with the sacred consecration of high priest. He had sustained him in the holy office by the terrible manifestations of divine judgment in the destruction of Korah and his company. It was through Aaron’s intercession that the plague was stayed. When his two sons were slain for disregarding God’s express command, he did not rebel or even murmur. Yet the record of his noble life had been marred. Aaron committed a grievous sin when he yielded to the clamors of the people and made the golden calf at Sinai; and again, when he united with Miriam in envy and murmuring against Moses. And he, with Moses, offended the Lord at Kadesh by disobeying the command to speak to the rock that it might give forth its water. …

“For his sin at Kadesh, Aaron was denied the privilege of officiating as God’s high priest in Canaan—of offering the first sacrifice in the goodly land, and thus consecrating the inheritance of Israel.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 425, 426.

If there was hope for the gossipers Miriam and Aaron, then there is certainly hope for every gossiper today! Jesus stands today and says to each one, “Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you.” Jeremiah 3:13, 14.

I firmly believe that Aaron and Miriam will be in heaven, simply because they repented and submitted themselves to God’s discipline. Why not follow in the footsteps of Aaron and Miriam? Amen!!!

Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.