Archive for the ‘Numbers’ Category


Pic is from here.  Have a look at Josh’s other work!

I like this chiasmus.

In spite of its apparent harshness (Miriam receives a skin disease), this story seems to display a lot of compassion.

–  Miriam’s disease lasts a short time – 7 days.  Miriam is healed. 

–  Even though Miriam and Aaron, in a sense, rebel against Moses’ authourity (as well as his marriage, v. 1), Moses doesn’t get angry.  I suppose that’s in keeping with his humble nature (v. 2).  …  In fact, Moses, at the end, is quite willing to pray for Miriam, in spite of her earlier actions (v. 13).  Moses does seem humble and forgiving.

–  Israel waits 7 days for Miriam (v. 15-16) and then ‘receives’ her. 

– Overall, a chiastic understanding of the text displays compassion.  In the beginning, Aaron and Miriam seem to be motivated by a ‘dislike’ for Moses’ ‘outsider’ wife – a Cushite (A).  And at the end of the story, Miriam is made an ‘outsider’ as well by being put outside the camp with leprosy (A’).  There’s a balance here.  Both are women.  Both experience being ‘outsiders’.  Miriam is made to feel a bit of Moses’ wife’s ‘outsider’ pain.  Overall then, the writer creates room for compassion in Miriam and the reader re. the outsider, or foreigner.  …  Compassion IS the point. 

A nice chiasmus I think.



1    12:1  Then   (a)   Miriam and   (b)   Aaron spoke against   (c)   Moses because of the   (a)   Cushite woman whom he had   (b)   married (for he had   (b’)   married a   (a’)   Cushite woman);  2  and they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the LORD heard it. 

2    3  (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)

B    4  And suddenly the LORD said to   (c’)   Moses

C    and   (b’)   Aaron

D    and to   (a’)   Miriam,

E    “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out.

F    5  Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud

G    and stood at the doorway of the tent,

H    and He called Aaron and Miriam

I    When they had both come forward, 6  He said, “Hear now My words:  If there is a prophet among you,

J    I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.

K    I shall speak with him in a dream.

L    7  “Not so, with My servant Moses: he is faithful in all My household.

K’   8  With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings,

J’   And he beholds the form of the LORD.

I’   Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?

H’   9  So the anger of the LORD burned against them

G’   and He departed

F’   10  But when the cloud had withdrawn

E’   from over the tent,

D’   behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow.

C’   As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous.

B’   11  Then Aaron said to Moses,


1    “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned.  12  “Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!” 

2    13  And Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” 

Final Result/Punishment:    14  But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.”  15  So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.  16  Afterward, however, the people moved out from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.


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From here, p. 109-110.


Jacob Milgrom describes an example of a large-scale chiastic structure in the narrative at Taberah (Num. 11:4-34):

A. People’s complaint: meat (vv. 4-10a)

     B. Moses’ complaint: assistance (vv. 10b-15)

          C. God’s answer to both complaints (vv. 16-24a)

     B’. God authorizes elders; diminishes Moses (vv. 24b-30)

A’. God supplies meat: punishes complainers (vv. 31-34)

***  J. Milgrom:  The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990) p. 420.



I think the above does a nice job of describing the chiasmus. 

I would just point out that C is also in a chiastic relationship with A/B.  In C, God first gives an answer for B and then gives an answer for A. 

C gives an answer to the problems voiced in A/B.  B’/A’ puts the answer into action.


A    4  And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?  5  “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,  6  but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”  7  Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.  8  The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil.  9  And when the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it.  10  Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly,

B    and Moses was displeased.  11  So Moses said to the LORD, “Why hast Thou been so hard on Thy servant? And why have I not found favor in Thy sight, that Thou hast laid the burden of all this people on me?  12  “Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that Thou shouldest say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which Thou didst swear to their fathers’?  13  “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’  14  “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me.  15  “So if Thou art going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Thy sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”

C    (B’)  16  The LORD therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.  17  “Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you shall not bear it all alone.  (A’)  18  “And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat.  19  ‘You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days,  20  but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”‘”  21  But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet Thou hast said, ‘I will give them meat in order that they may eat for a whole month.’  22  “Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?”  23  And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”  24  So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD.

B’   Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent.  25  Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And it came about that when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.  26  But two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (now they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp.  27  So a young man ran and told Moses and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”  28  Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, answered and said, “Moses, my lord, restrain them.”  29  But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”  30  Then Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.

A’   31  Now there went forth a wind from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits deep on the surface of the ground.  32  And the people spent all day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers) and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.  33  While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very severe plague.  34  So the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had been greedy.

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