This passage focuses on three characters; Miriam, Aaron and Moses.
Miriam is the gossiper, she starts complaining to Aaron about Moses. Miriam starts moaning about Moses wife because she’s a Cushite and ‘different’ to them. Then she starts on Moses himself and remarks how he is nobody special.
Aaron is the sympathiser. He listens to Miriam and appears to agree with her complaints and accusations. He doesn’t tell her to be quiet or stand up for his brother and his wife.
Moses is the victim of their gossip. He may or may not have been aware of everything they were saying about him and his wife, but he must have picked on the tension between them all.
When God intervenes, he calls all three of them together and asks Miriam and Aaron to step forward. I wonder if they thought this was their recognition at last? But no, God tells them not to criticise his servant Moses, whom he trusts. Then he afflicts Miriam with leprosy. Miriam’s skin turns white immediately, so then Aaron turns to Moses. Aaron calls Moses his Master again and pleads with him to ask God to take away Miriam’s disease. Remarkably, Moses holds no grudge and forgives his siblings. At Moses’ request Miriam is healed but she is told to remain outside the camp for 7 days until she is ceremonially clean.
At times I can identify with all three of these characters. How I wish the gossiper in this story wasn’t a woman, but I know I am guilty of acting just like her. All too often I am guilty of bad-mouthing easy targets who are somehow ‘different’ to me. There is a Miriam in me and I know I need to stop gossiping myself, as well as being strong when I hear other people gossiping by asking them to stop. I can be like Aaron, happy to listen to scandal and failing to stop or contradict it. If I discover people have been bad-mouthing me, then like Moses, I need to be ready to forgive and restore the relationship.