Is God Unfair to Women?

“Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses” … “they said” …

We are familiar with the story in Numbers 12.  Aaron and Miriam get jealous of Moses’ supreme authority and begin to talk about him and question him.  God Himself calls a timeout for them, and gathers the 3 together.

“Why then were you [God is speaking directly to Miriam and Aaron, whom He’d called forward]  not afraid to speak against my servant Moses”?  And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.  When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow.”

So … here’s my question.

Miriam and Aaron were both clearly in the wrong.  God’s anger was kindled towards them both.  Yet, Miriam is the only one who got leprosy and was kicked out of the camp for seven days.

Why not Miriam and Aaron?  Was it because she was a woman?  Did she do something worse? Seems like it’s not fair; yet, God is a just God.  So clearly, fairness is not an issue.  I’ve read this story for years and never stopped to ponder this.

What do you think?

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16 comments on “Is God Unfair to Women?

  1. Jen says:

    I’ve wondered the same thing regarding God’s singling Sarah out foraufhig at the prospect of her bearing a child when Abraham was chuckling along with her at the absurdity of the idea.
    Another place this problem shows up is with God’s election of His chosen people: it’s His prerogative as God, but it’s hard for me to square with the concepts of His love and goodness.
    I’ll never understand it.
    I’ve come to peace with it functionally through seeing that “fair” and “just” also mean in keeping with what is fitting with relative merit and what is morally right as well as being free of favoritism. There are probably other factors involved that are not evident to us.
    I think that God can be both inequitable and just.
    Another of those mind-bending paradoxes He is.

    1. Jen,
      Great thoughts .. and good points that there are more instances like this. “God can be both inequitable and just” – that I will be chewing on. A paradox? Indeed.

  2. Fred, you put some doozies out there, bro. I’m gonna ponder on this while I see others reply. I guess if I had to “answer” right now, I’d have to say “Lord, YOU know.”

    1. Hey bro,
      Yep. He knows. We don’t. As is this case, many times.

  3. Heather B says:

    I was just studying that chapter this week. I wondered the same thing. My observation was that Aaron was the repentant one. It does not mention Miriam’s response to God’s chastisement but Aaron’s was immediately to beg Moses to spare Miriam.

    1. Heather .. yeah, possibly … but his repentance came after seeing her punishment … not prior to, so perhaps it was just a reaction. (either way, repentance is repentance).

  4. Darla says:

    I’ve always wondered about this…but believing God is Just, not necessarily fair in our eyes….

    Women have a history of leading men astray. (ouch! i said that out loud) Women have a persuasive way with men…all the way back to the beginning of time…Enter Eve. The curse that was given to Eve that follows thru in women today…(Gen. 3:16) thru out the Bible women have been lots of mens destruction…SO i am not so sure that Miriam was not the instigator in all this with Aaron, and not so sure that her absence wasn’t a huge punishment to Aaron…

    my two cents..

    1. Darla,
      Fascinating insight, especially, coming from a woman. I have to be honest. When I see God’s pattern, even for marriage, and that the woman’s role leans more in that of respecting and honoring a man …. and a man’s role is in unconditional, selfless love to the woman … if, by chance, a woman’s act of rising up against a man/priest of God (which, clearly, is dishonoring and disrespectful) was looked upon as a harsher offense. I’m not sure … I only wonder, realizing, that even in expressing my wonder, it could have me slapped and labeled, haha! To be clear, I’m not suggesting that a woman has no place in opposing or questioning/criticizing (in love, respectfully) a man … absolutely not … but if they do this, rising up against a man in authority … is it more harsh, because it is seemingly opposed to the role God ordained?

      I’m ASKING out loud, and certainly not presuming or stating! 🙂

      1. Darla says:

        i totally get what you are saying..i don’t know..but God does have things laid out…and altho i don’t condone the fact that women dont have the best track record LOL ya know…we just don’t know what Godwas thinking..i do believe he knew their hearts..and so be the punishment… =D

        1. Darla says:

          there is something to “Miriam and Aaron…” as opposed to “Aaron and Miriam…” LOL could think on this all day..but i have things i have to do..thanks for the discussion and things to think about!

  5. If we approach the issue from a theological angle, the idea of “fairness” is really about getting what one is owed/has earned… since we’ve all sinned and deserve nothing short of death according to the law, anything we get above that is grace! I love what Darla added – God isn’t really “fair”, else we’d all be in trouble. Beyond that, from a philosophical/logical perspective, if God is the creator, and He has a purpose for each of us in the grand story, then whatever He chooses to give us is essentially “fair” because He created us so He calls the shorts… that whole “some for noble use and some for common” thing spoken of in Romans.

    See you Saturday!

  6. I’ve been thinking about this, and enjoying the feedback. As I’ve meditated on things, I remembered a scripture that I believe sheds light on this. John 2:24 mentions that Jesus didn’t entrust/give Himself to everyone because “He knew all men”. I believe He knew their hearts, and their motives. Perhaps we have a hard time understanding the “right”-ness of God’s decisions because we can never know what is truly in another’s heart.

    Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things. It’s deserately wicked, and no one can know it. So we can’t even be 100% sure of what is in OUR OWN heart!

    I agree with the general concensus: God is good, just and full of love. I trust Him. I also really like Shannon’s comment. I am so very glad I don’t get what I deserve from my God.

    Praise Him for His mercy!

  7. Tab Miller says:

    God’s measure against the transgression of Aaron and Miriam might not be a matter of ‘fairness’ in this case, but a matter of practicality. Firstly, I would consider what the Lord said as an indication of His purpose. Firstly, the Lord wants to instill a corrective in the minds of Aaron and Miriam. The Lord is angered at the presumption of equality in terms of role, not gender. God informs Aaron and Miriam that while they have their roles, Aaron as Moses mouthpiece and Miriam as prophetess (Exod1:20) and He might reveal Himself indirectly through visions, dreams and the like to the prophets (Num 12:6,7), God speaks directly to Moses (Num 12:8). It should be the fear of the Lord that gives them more respect for Moses position and decisions. With this in mind, we must consider the purpose of God’s discipline in terms of this hierarchy of roles, not gender. Aaron’s role as mouthpiece and worship leader suggests that if he had been the one who was to bare the discipline of the Lord, which was a lesson for all who saw, this would not have served the people well, and the worship of the Lord would be hindered if Aaron would have fallen ill. This, of course, cannot happen. The second statement of the Almighty that we must consider is the comment upon spitting (Num 12:14). When speaking of spitting, and in context we can consider this a violent spewing toward another, this demonstrates the shamefulness of their attack upon Moses (see Job 30:10). Since Miriam was singled out in this regard, this might implicitly demonstrate that her offence was more violent, like that of spitting in Moses face, than Aaron’s. In the end, I do not think that God is in the business of demonstrating His favor of some over others in a ‘in your face’ sort of way, through punishing some and not others for the same transgression (Matt 5:45). Instead, I find God’s actions to be deliberative and instructive, if not as clearly for us now, as for those involved.

  8. Heather B says:

    LOVE That insight,Tab! I have been pondering this all night and you seem to put into words what I was trying to wrap my mind around! I wondered if the role of Aaron as priest and Miriam’s as prophetess had something to do with it. Thanks for your insight!

    1. Tab Miller says:

      Thanks, Heather. I think it is right and good that you, and all of us, struggle with these sorts of passages, and I thank Fred for bringing this issue to light. The OT is full of stories that are hard to understand, and the answers do not jump out in our face. For example, in Exodus, Moses seems to be following God’s instruction when all of the sudden, seemingly unprovoked, God begins the process of taking Moses’ life, but with the quick thinking of his wife, who cuts off the foreskin of their son and touches it to Moses foot, Moses is spared (4:24-26)…Wait, what? I do find it to be God’s intent for us to say, “Huh?” so that we might think hard and wrestle with the text so that we get more out of it than a surface reading. And, in the end, we must remain humble by saying, “this is what I understand, but…” The Bible is not conducive to surface readings. This is a great juxtaposition to the intent of the NT when Paul asks such rhetorical questions such as, “Shall we continue to sin so grace may abound,” and still he feels the need to answer, “By no means!” so that we have no question whatsoever (Romans 6:1,2). In cases like Numbers 12, God gives us license to THINK, and, as demonstrated in the comments above, people have been thinking!

  9. Nika says:

    I am loving the discussion. I must admit that I hadn’t thought about that in depth i do agree that God knows the heart of us all and He judges all men acording to their works and actions. Miriam and Aaron were siblingd maybe her punishment was harshere be cause she needed to feel something to have understanding just as sometimes children may need a spanking.. And perhaps for Aaron to see his sister in that condition brought Aaron to repentatence a deeper understanding of God it is difficult to watch someone you love suffer.. Just my thoughts…God Bless

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