Numbers 12:1-5 NIV
(1) Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. (2) “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
(3) (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
(4) At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. (5) Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward,

This verse seems out of place to me. If we exclude it, we are missing nothing and we smoothly go to what happened next. Also the verse contradicts itself - (Bible suggests Moses wrote Pentateuch) - as if he was so humble, then why would he boast himself, especially because of his humblesness?

So, do we have any evidence in the ancient writings of all kind, manuscripts etc. that Numbers 12:3 is a later addition?

EDIT: I am getting opinions only, the purpose of this site is to show evidence, and the only one posted here is a mention of no manuscript variations.

  • The Bible suggests that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. - Its last four books are about Moses, and contain his words of instruction, which is also why they are commonly called the Books of Moses. – Lucian Oct 11 at 22:02
  • The Bible suggests Moses wrote the Torah (Pentateuch), but the implication is that he wrote what G-d told him to write. Other than the speeches in Deuteronomy, the Torah is not Moses' words. So it would not be out of place for G-d to note Moses humility. – conceptualinertia Oct 11 at 23:28

I do not see it out of place. However, it is undoubtedly a parenthetical remark inserted by the author/editor to help the reader understand the context and the story. If this verse were removed, we would understand the story much less. If you look, you will see this device in many places throughout the Bible.

I also note that the very liberal (but great) scholar, James Moffat, who was rather fastidious about reconstructing the OT text by rearranging the verse order and amending the text wherever he thought appropriate in his Bible translation ("A New Translation of the Bible, 1913), left this part of the text untouched.

  • I searched for Moffatt's translation, but it does not seem to be available online, so I cannot discuss about it. // You sure we would understand the story much less? From other events written in Pentateuch we can determine his humblesness. If the verse ended after 'man', I would see nothing wrong, but the phrase 'more humble [...] earth' seems to not fit into biblical style (speaking plain words, with exaggerations serving as figure of speech). It's a huge statement, and while it can be true and original, I think it's not. I want evidence to prove me right or wrong. – Konrad Ściepura Oct 10 at 6:53
  • A reasonable request for a currently impossible task. Currently there is no variation in Bible manuscripts at this point so there is currently no evidence that any change was ever made. – Dr Peter McGowan Oct 10 at 8:10
  • What about jewish/christian writings? If there is no evidence there, then we can look at the verse of how it fits into the Bible. Textual criticism is not established on manuscripts only, it also applies to text alone and by examining the style of writing we can determine if its original. – Konrad Ściepura Oct 11 at 12:02
  • The praxis of textual criticism uses two broad methods - internal and external evidence. For a general discussion of these methods I suggest you consult, "A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament": by Bruce Metzger. In any case, neither of these can be marshalled to produce a strong case for the interpolation of this verse. – Dr Peter McGowan Oct 11 at 20:37

In my opinion this verse is not out of place at all - this verse come to show us why God punished them and not Moses.

By the way it's not written in the bible that Moses wrote those books* :

"...The books do not name any author, as authorship was not considered important by the society that produced them, and it was only after Jews came into intense contact with author-centric Hellenistic culture in the late Second Temple period that the rabbis began to find authors for their scriptures."

According to Mosaic authorship - Although Moses wrote the Pentateuch, Joshua wrote parts on it too (like the end of Deuteronomy), so maybe he add verses like this one.

*Read more (start) here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosaic_authorship

  • Deuteronomy 31:9, 24-26 sure seems to say that Moses wrote the Torah. "And it was when Moses completed writing the words of this Torah in a scroll until it was complete." That being said, the traditional Jewish understanding is that Moses wrote down whatever G-d told him to write so it is really G-d writing and Moses transcribing. – conceptualinertia Oct 11 at 23:26
  • @conceptualinertia Torah תורה in Hebrew (both biblical and modern) can be rulls, not just the Pentateuch . – A. Meshu Oct 12 at 12:04
  • Agreed, but Deuteronomy 31:26 refers to "סֵ֤פֶר הַתּוֹרָה֙ הַזֶּ֔ה" "this book of the Torah." The reference to it as a book and the definite article "the" imply strongly that it is refering to THE Torah. One can argue that the original Torah referred to in these verses did not contain the full Pentateuch as we have it now, but that is more of a question of transmission. On its face, the Torah does seem to say that Moses wrote it down at the end of his life. – conceptualinertia Oct 12 at 15:53
  • @conceptualinertia I think this verse refer to Deuteronomy book and not the entire Pentateuch (actually this book also got alternative name: Law of Moses). But i got your point and this is what you think/believe. As i started this answer - this is my opinion and i showed on what i lean. – A. Meshu Oct 12 at 15:58
  • This isn't a matter of belief. The claim was that the books do not name an author. Although authorship is not clearly stated, that Moses wrote the words down and created a Sefer Torah is clearly stated. It might just refer to Deuteronomy if that was all there was to the original Torah, but on its face the text appears to refer to the entire thing. Critical scholars can certainly disagree with this claim, but they cannot credibly argue that the claim is not in the text. – conceptualinertia Oct 12 at 17:18

Numbers 12:3 isn't necessarily out of place.

  • If you believe Moses is a historical figure who actually wrote the Pentateuch, despite evidence to the contrary, he may simply have been doing a bit of humble-bragging. (Paul isn't the first.)

  • If you believe Moses is a historical figure who did not write all of the Pentateuch, this portion may have been written by someone else. Not just that verse, but the entire section, because otherwise, he'd be speaking of himself in the third person.

  • If you believe Moses is a legendary folk-hero, this is a way to build up the character and his reputation. How many movies have narrative voice overs that sound exactly like this?

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.