Friday, February 6, 2015

#BlackBiblicalHistory: Moses Was Criticized for Marrying a Dark-Skinned Woman

Biblical Background:  Exodus 2, Numbers 12

While Moses is today known as one of Israel's greatest prophets and a powerful man of God, his early life was that of a pampered prince. He was raised by an Egyptian princess, who had secretly saved him from the harsh life of a Hebrew slave by claiming him as her Egyptian son. Still, Moses could not run from his Hebrew heritage and things came crashing down when he tried to save a fellow Hebrew from being beaten by an Egyptian overseer. 
      The resulting death of this overseer at Moses' hands caused Moses to be fully exposed as loyal to the Hebrews. Pharaoh heard about this and wanted Moses dead for his treachery against Egypt, so ran away, becoming an exile on the run for his life. In leaving his life as a prince, he decided to live as a shepherd in the land of Midian, which had been founded by Abraham's son through his third wife, Keturah.
       Keturah was likely a descendant of Ham, the Father of African nations. Keturah's heritage is proven in the fact that Abraham married her after his wife Sarah had died in Canaan. While living in Canaan, he took Keturah as a wife, so she was obviously a Canaanite (Genesis 25). In addition, Abraham and Keturah's son Jokshan named his sons Sheba and Dedan, probably in tribute to the African kingdoms of Sheba and Dedan, which had descended from Ham's son Cush, through Cush's son Raamah.
      The Cushites were referred to in the Bible as a dark-skinned people, apparently darker than most Hebrews, for the Bible includes the rhetorical question "Can the Cushite change his skin?" (Jeremiah 13:23). Also, the Cushites are interchangeably referred to as Ethiopians in some translations of the Bible. So it seems that of all the descendants of Ham, the Cushites were the darkest, making them stand out to their surrounding peers.
      All of this is interesting to note in regards to Zipporah, the woman Moses married while he lived in Midian. While Zipporah is often referred to as the daughter of the Midiante priest Jethro, in Numbers 12, Moses' wife is referred to as a Cushite. The term "Cushite" may be specifically referencing Zipporah's dark skin, since the Midiantes were often called the Kushim because their skin tone reminded others of the Cushite people. Moses was likely drawn to this Cushite woman because she reminded  him of his beloved dark-skinned Egyptian adoptive-mother, Bithiah, but the issue of her being a darker and/or non-Israelite person caused Moses' siblings Miriam and Aaron to secretly criticize him for marrying her, instead of marrying an Israelite woman. 
     The story of Zipporah being criticized for her dark skin is worth noting, because of how God responds. Unfortunately for Miriam and Aaron, God heard their secret criticisms of Moses in regards to his dark-skinned wife from another land. He called them out, berating them for not being afraid to speak against the very man He loved so much that He talked to him personally, instead of through dreams and riddling visions. 
      Miriam and Aaron both felt the intensity of God's anger, but Miriam suffered the most from it. Ironically, the woman who had criticized Moses's choice in marrying a dark-skinned Midianite was inflicted with a disease that caused her own brownish skin to become as white as snow. Miriam was inflicted with leprosy, a disease Moses is noted as saying makes a man look as colorless as he appears when he is freshly newborn from his mother's womb (Numbers 12: 11-12). Apparently, Miriam's criticism of Zipporah was the harshest, for her infliction as a result was much harsher than Aaron's, who had experienced only the feeling of God's anger. 
      The lesson God taught was this: whoever He chooses to speak through, no one should condescend or question them, especially over something like prejudice against a man's wife because of her nationality and/or skin color. God loves all of His children, regardless of their race or national background. The story of Zipporah demonstrates this, which is why Zipporah is one of my favorite descendants of Ham, the father of African nations. 

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