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Every week, discussion questions are produced based on the most recent Sunday morning sermon, which are used to guide midweek Grace Group discussions.

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Find this week’s questions below.

Doug Van Meter - 13 Jun 2021

Sibling Envy (Numbers 12:1–16)

Numbers 12 continues what we might call a negative narrative. Having examined the ugliness of grumbling and ingratitude in chapter 11, we now enter another sad example of God’s people behaving badly. Here we have the record of what Allen has described as “a classic example of sibling rivalry—but not among children. These are adults who adopt the tactics of children in the schoolyard.” The big sin recorded here for posterity is that of envy.

Scripture References: Numbers 12:1-16

From Series: "Numbers Exposition"

An exposition of the book of Numbers by Doug Van Meter.

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Reading the Scripture

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.

When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her—please.” But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

(Numbers 12:1–16)

Getting to Know You

1. Can you think of any significant examples of sibling rivalry? How was it resolved?


2. Someone has observed that envy is no longer considered a sin but rather it has become almost a “civic virtue.” Our economy thrives on in it, including educational institutions. Discuss what this looks like. How do advertisers prey upon the sinful tendency of envy?

Into the Bible

  1. Moses was noted to be the “meekest” (humblest) person on the face of the whole earth (Numbers 12:3).

Why do you think this statement is found here?

How does Moses’ example point to the Lord Jesus Christ? See Matthew 11:28–30 and 1 Peter 2:18–25.

Should we ever defend ourselves against unjust criticism? If so, why and in what way?

Going Deeper

4. Envy of Moses became the seedbed for criticising him. This is often the case. That is, if we can find fault then we feel we can lower the esteem with which one is viewed. How is Philippians 2:1–11 a remedy for this?

5. The Lord Jesus Christ was arrested to be crucified because of the sin of envy (Matthew 27:18). Clearly envy can be a deadly sin.

Discuss the deadly effects of the sin of envy (see Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21; 1 Timothy 6:4; Titus 3:3).

According to 1 Peter 2:1–2, what is the cure for the sin of envy?

6. Moses’ response to the evil of envy was remarkable, in many ways, including his passionate and compassionate intercession on behalf of those who wronged him. In what ways can we demonstrate this kind of concern for those who have wronged us?

7. Deuteronomy 24:9 records, “Remember what the Lord our God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt.” Note the context of this verse. Is this a lesson merely about the contagious nature of leprosy or is it perhaps a statement about the contagious and consequential nature of something else?

8. How can we guard our own hearts, as well as the hearts of others, from the sin of envy and a critical spirit?