Aaron and Miriam’s Racial Discrimination Against Moses’ Wife: Numbers 12:1-16 – Moses’ brother Aaron and their sister Miriam spoke against Moses because of the ethnic identity of his wife. His wife was a Cushite, which means she was from the land of Cush (Num 12:1). The people were descendants of the son of Ham: Cush (see Genesis 10:6). The land of Cush is “south of Egypt, also called Nubia, which includes part of Sudan.”1 The word “Cush” in the Hebrew language of the original biblical text is simply translated “Ethiopia” by modern biblical scholars (Ex: NASB, Ezek. 29:10), though it is not equivalent to modern Ethiopia. The people who lived there were tall with “colored,” smooth skin (cf. Isaiah 18:2, 7; Jeremiah 13:23). In other words, Aaron and his sister Midian spoke against Moses because he married, in modern lingo, a “black” Ethiopian woman.
If ever there was an opportune time for God to teach against interracial marriages and turn this narrative into a parable of sorts—this was it. God could have taught Moses and the rest of the people of Israel a lesson by punishing Moses or at least speaking out against his marrying a woman of another race. However, instead of God pronouncing judgment on Moses for marrying this black woman, and thereby vindicating Miriam and Aaron, God instead struck Miriam with leprosy. The narrative presents the incident as God’s way of teaching a lesson to both Aaron and his sister Miriam for speaking out against Moses. Therefore, Aaron confessed his racial slanders against Moses as “sin” (Num 12:11) and begged that Moses not account their sin to them. Moses cried out on their behalf to God, asking God to heal Miriam of the leprosy. God was merciful to heal her, but He told Moses that she would have to bear her shame by being banished outside the camp for a week (Num 12:14-15).
Conclusion – In answering the question, “What does God think about interracial marriages?” biblically, we must say not only that God has never forbidden such marriages—and did not speak out against the most prominent OT saint for marrying a black Ethiopian woman—but we must also say that He considers it a “sin” to speak against anyone for marrying someone of a different race.2
1 Ronald F. Youngblood, Gen. Ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 318.
2 Of course, there are those who are convinced that the Bible teaches elsewhere that interracial marriages are wrong. Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The validity of this claim will have to be determined by looking at the evidence one piece (i.e. exhibit) at a time in the weeks to come. Feel free to comment and bring to my attention any relevant passages for the discussion.