Numbers 12:2 says:

And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it.

The word "through Moses" in Hebrew is בְּמֹשֶׁה֙ or bə·mō·šeh with 3 Occurrences.

The other 2 occurrences are in Exodus 4:14 and Numbers 12:1 where the translation is "against Moses". I would like to know -- why the apparent discrepency?

2 Answers 2


The preposition ב can be translated in many different ways (in, with, through, against, while, when, for, by etc.) depending on how it functions in its context. In num 12:1 it makes good sense to translate it as "against" but the case could be made for translating it as simply "to" or "with." In v2, the case could be made for translating it as simply "to Moses" just as in v1 (i.e. "Has the Lord really only spoken to you?"). However a good case can be made that the preposition is functioning instrumentally, meaning ("Has the Lord really only spoken through you?"), since it seems that Miriam and Aaron are wanting to share in Moses' prophetic status (i.e. wanting to claim that God speaks through them too). But again, the case could be made for translating it another way, that is just the nature of translation.I should also add that it is not uncommon to use a common preposition in two different ways within a single sentence. Consider the uses of the preposition "in" in the sentence "I learned to believe in Jesus in church." The second "in" refers to spatial location, while the first is used much differently. So it would not be unusual to translate the preposition ב in num 12:1 differently from v2.

  • Miriam was a prophetess
    – Kate
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 5:52

The verb דִּבֵּר (dibber), which is conjugated in binyan Pi'el, is commonly followed by prepositions to indicate the person to or with whom the speaker is speaking. For example, אֶל (Gen. 8:15), לְ (Jdg. 14:7), עִם (Gen. 31:29), אֵת (Gen. 23:8), עַל (Jer. 6:10), and of course, בְּ (Hab. 2:1).

In Num. 12:1 and 12:8, the context implies that Aharon and Miryam are speaking "against" Moshe. On the other hand, in Num. 12:2, the context implies that Yahveh is speaking "by" Moshe.1 However, in each, the individual spoken "by" or "against" is preceded by the same preposition, בְּ. This could obviously be a cause for confusion.

However, it's not necessarily a contradiction since the prefix בְּ when following the verb דִּבֵּר can mean both "by," "with," and even "against" depending on the context. We have already supplied one verse where it means "with" (Hab. 2:1), as well as "by" (see footnote 2), but for a verse where it means "against," see Num. 21:7.2


1 Gesenius cites other examples of speaking "by," including 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Kings 22:28.

2 Also, Job 19:18; Psa. 50:20, 78:19


1 Gesenius, Wilhelm. Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testamament Scriptures.

  • It would certainly become another story depending on the translation.
    – Kate
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 5:51
  • Yes, it would certainly give another angle and understanding.
    – Kate
    Commented Jan 19, 2014 at 20:55

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