Numbers 12:3—How can this statement have been written by Moses?

Problem: Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.” The conservative view of the Pentateuch is that Moses was the author of these five books. But, how could Moses make such a statement about himself if he were really humble?

Solution: Of course, no one would claim that Jesus was being boastful or prideful by saying “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29, kjv). Jesus was simply stating the facts. Likewise, Moses is not boasting or being prideful about his humility. Rather, he was simply stating a fact which was crucial for understanding the significance of the events he was reporting.

Earlier in chapter 11, after the Spirit of the Lord came upon Eldad and Medad so that they began to prophesy, Joshua approached Moses and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!” (Num. 11:28) Moses’ response is a perfect illustration of the humility that 12:3 describes: “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num. 11:29) Moses exhibited the character of a humble man who was not interested in his own glory, but only in the glory of the Lord.

When Moses is confronted by Miriam and Aaron in 12:1, Moses did not respond in his own defense. A humble person does not usually rise to his own defense. Why didn’t Moses just tell them? Why didn’t he set them straight? Why did God have to speak to Miriam and Aaron in Moses’ behalf? The explanation is found in 12:3. Moses was not out for his own glorification. If Moses had responded in his own defense, he would have been justifying their complaints against him. But, Moses was not the leader of the people because of any ambition on his own part, or any self-confidence or self-assertive ladder climbing. He was appointed by God. So verse 12:3 is a vindication of Moses’ character. It is not a statement of boastful pride. It is simply a statement of fact.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.