Our Jealousy Affliction
I recently had the occasion to pray through the book of Numbers, specifically chapter 12 where God afflicted Moses' sister Miriam with leprosy.
He gave parental correction to the very woman who was instrumental in raising up Moses to save the Israelites. God smote the prophetess who led praise and worship of Him while fleeing Egypt. (Exodus 15:20).
Why would he discipline her so harshly and so suddenly? Why would he punish her and not her brother Aaron for speaking against Moses?
The Old Testament alludes to Miriam's sin, in conjunction with Aaron, as jealousy sparked by Moses' marrying a woman they did not approve. This is all it mentions.
Today's feminists might chalk up the passage as patriarchal control, the need to ensure women remained subordinate, or even the toxic masculinity of the male author.
I will not be very popular with those feminists when I share my suspicion of Miriam as the instigator of the conflict. Look deeper at Miriam as a woman, into her heart and mind. While scripture says nothing about it, I can sense the jealousy rising in her throat, consuming her thoughts, eating away at her sense of self.
Miriam exhibits the qualities of love, joy, and nurturing, what JPII deemed God's "feminine genius" in several writings including his Letter to Women. What scripture doesn't reveal directly is the darker side of Miriam, the very antithesis of everything that is good and holy about women.
If left unchecked, the vice runs amuck in women. It is the one emotion which can derail all logical thought, driving women to conspire, plot, and connive. The saying, "I don't get mad, I get even" adequately illustrates a woman's ability to smile while diabolically planning another's demise.
This is not something most women want to talk about or make known. I'm even uncomfortable writing about it. It feels wrong like someone is going to take away my "woman card", as my sister-in-law said.
In reality, I have no doubt Miriam was in the tent trash-talking Moses to Aaron, influencing, maybe even polluting, him against his brother.
Another point, notice scripture does not say Miriam cried out when she was stricken. If she had felt she'd been unjustly afflicted wouldn't you expect some sort of indignation? There was no feigned innocence, no howling or wild lamenting. She knew her guilt. Where I could feel the jealousy consuming her just eight verses earlier, now I feel her acceptance and repentance for her behavior.
Now, look at what the men do in response. They are the ones crying out and begging God for mercy on her behalf. God's action provokes all that is good in the complementary species. They are protectors, cultivators, and intercessors for their sister. I wish every woman had an Aaron or a Moses in her life to experience how it feels to rest in those male attributes.
Let us go deeper. If Aaron had been the one afflicted, would Miriam have done the same? I'd like to think she would have but something tells me God knew better. Instead, he chose an extreme reminder for women through the ages of His power, His wrath, and finally His mercy.
Making her wait seven days was a just punishment. If he had removed it instantly, chances are, Miriam would have failed to learn the lesson of humility because the relief would have come too soon.
As I work alongside my sisters in the future, I plan to cherish Miriam. I will keep her close as a reminder to myself against jealousy and a reminder of how women need to nurture one another's best qualities so the ugly vice will be shut out in both of us.
Saint Miriam, pray for us.