ABC:Numbers 12

From BibleStrength

Verse 3 claims a contradiction with other verses on wisdom with the heading, "Moses' personality."[1]

This is a complex passage because multiple issues are involved, (1) why God wanted the people destroyed, (2) whether Moses did so by God's commandment or his own decision, and (3) whether Moses' personality indeed contradicts.

Why the Destruction?

Jim Meritt rather dishonestly omits from his quote at the crucial v. 16 showing that God wanted evil nations destroyed because they were causing Israelites to sin. The sin was so grievous God sent a huge plague on Israel which killed 24,000 Israelites. Moses afterward in the verses above can be seen screaming at the guilty Israelites for adopting the evil practices that caused God to send the plague, practices they learned from the wicked women, just as God had warned would happen. For a fuller discussion of what happened, see Numbers 25. The Midianite leaders infiltrated Israel and seduced Israelites into committing idolatrous sacrifice with Baal.

What Meritt fails to point out is that Baal sacrifice means CHILD SACRIFICE specifically. THAT was what got God so enraged, that the Israelites were being seduced by evil women into sacrificing their own children by burning them alive. They are also said to have "ate the sacrifices of the dead", meaning that not only did they kill their own children, but may have actually eaten them as well; cannibalism.

God had specifically stated He would be destroying the evil nations of Canaan for the reasons mentioned in Leviticus 18, which included child sacrifice to Baal/Molech.

God severely commanded the Israelites not to murder their own children like this.

God's constant punishment of Israel, including the Babylonian captivity, was in large part because they insisted upon child sacrifice to Baal and Molech.

God was destroying the nations and forbidding Israelite contact with them because God wanted to destroy this horrible practice and prevent Israelites from adopting it.

Unfortunately Israel deliberately disobeyed God's commandments to destroy the evil nations around them, and ended up adopting the horrible practice of child sacrifice which spread like a plague to other parts of the world including Israel. Therefore it was very fitting that God at the time punished Israel with a plague for disobeying.

Whose Commandment?

God never commanded that only female children be left alive. Moses did this of his own decision, just as he is seen to have done elsewhere as well. God originally commanded that the entire nations be wiped out with no exceptions. (Deuteronomy 7:2; Exodus 23:32-33) God also specifically forbade marrying their daughters. (Exodus 34:11-12; Deuteronomy 7:3-4) Moses disobeyed God by not destroying the nations. (Psalms 106:34)

Moses elsewhere disobeyed God's direct commandments. Jesus stated God never intended that Moses allow divorce, for example, but that the seemingly wishy-washy Moses did so for the hardness of their hearts.

For another case of Moses disobeying God, see Exodus 3-4. In summary:

  • God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. (3:7-10)
  • Moses complains that he's a nobody and Pharaoh won't listen. (3:11)
  • God assures Moses He'll be with Moses and Moses will know as a sign that Moses will serve God on the same mountain. (3:12)
  • Moses complains he'll have nothing to tell the Israelites when they ask what God they are to serve. (3:13)
  • God replies that Moses should tell them "I AM", the self-existent God of their forefathers has sent him. (3:14-15) God urges Moses to go tell the Israelites what will happen. (3:16-22)
  • Moses complains that the Israelites won't believe him. (4:1)
  • God tells Moses how to work a miracle with his rod so it becomes a reptile of some kind. Moses then runs away from the reptile and God coaxes him back so it turns back into a rod, and teaches him two other miracles, leprosy and turning water to blood. (4:2-9)
  • Moses complains that he has a speech impediment. (4:10)
  • God replies that He is the maker of the mouth and will give Moses the ability to speak. (4:11-12)

At the end of all this, Moses just basically tells God, "Sorry, send someone else" and God gets mad, and sends Moses' brother Aaron along as a spokesman because Moses refuses to cooperate. (4:13-17)

For another example, God gave Moses an opportunity to glorify God before all Israel as a sign to all future generations, but Moses used it instead to make himself look good.

This last act of disobedience was the final straw for God, probably still peeved at the earlier Moses incidents. God told Moses he wouldn't enter the promised land of Canaan, and Moses ultimately died just outside the country's borders, and Joshua took over as leader. (Deuteronomy 1:37-38, 31:2) It may be that God knew Moses would be very much honored and rewarded in Heaven, but that for the sake of future generations He had to make an example of Moses so it would be apparent how severe Moses' disobedience had been; so that there would be no confusion over how Moses had rejected God's commandments to do what he wanted.

Moses' Personality

Now, with all of this apparent, does Moses' personality contradict? On the contrary, Moses was meek, so meek he refused to listen to God in Exodus 3-4 and scared of the enormity of the task, told God to go away and send someone else. So meek he didn't stand up to the Israelites and created commandments they wanted which God never intended like allowing divorce and sparing young females of evil nations. His meekness seemingly made him a poor leader, as he didn't stand up to Israel and take charge. As a result his sibling Aaron got a lot of responsibility and ultimately led Israel to rebel against God with idolatry. (Exodus 32)

Moses' initial anger that Israel was disobeying God's commandments does not contradict his meekness, as anyone meek can still get angry. The last part of the verse appears to evidence his giving into the Israelites on an issue as he did with divorce, to disobey God's commandment to destroy the nations and not marry into them. As such it is more confirmation of his meekness rather than a contradiction.


  1. Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from