Did Moses Marry a Black African Woman? John Piper Answers

Zipporah
Zipporah

Moses, a Jew, apparently married a black African and was approved by God.

We learn in Numbers that “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman” (Num. 12:1). A Cushite is from Cush, a region south of Ethiopia, where the people are known for their black skin. We know this because of Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian [the same Hebrew word translated “Cushite” in Numbers 12:1] change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Attention is drawn to the difference of the skin of the Cushite people.

In his book From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race, Daniel Hays writes that Cush “is used regularly to refer to the area south of Egypt, and above the cataracts on the Nile, where a Black African civilization flourished for over two thousand years. Thus it is quite clear that Moses marries a Black African woman” (71).

In response to Miriam’s criticism, God does not get angry at Moses; he gets angry at Miriam. The criticism has to do with Moses’ marriage and Moses’ authority. The most explicit statement relates to the marriage: “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.” Then God strikes Miriam with leprosy. Why? Consider this possibility. In God’s anger at Miriam, Moses’ sister, God says in effect, “You like being light-skinned Miriam? I’ll make you light-skinned.” So we read, “When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow” (Num. 12:10)

God says not a critical word against Moses for marrying a black Cushite woman. But when Miriam criticizes God’s chosen leader for this marriage God strikes her skin with white leprosy. If you ever thought black was a biblical symbol for uncleanness, be careful; a worse white uncleanness could come upon you.

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SOURCE: 9 Marks
John Piper