Moses was a very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Through the Bible: Numbers 11-13
I won’t lie. I think this is maybe the funniest verse in the Bible. If you accept that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, then you can’t help but chuckle over the image of Moses describing himself as a “very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth.” (CSB)
When I was in eighth grade, our Men’s Chorus (don’t laugh) performed Mac Davis’s “It’s Hard to be Humble” for our annual dinner theatre. We liked it because we got to strut around with our chests puffed out and sing lines like,
I used to have a girlfriend,
but I guess she just couldn't compete
With all those love-starved women who keep clamoring at my feet
Well I prob'ly could find me another,
but I guess they're all in awe of me
Who cares? I never get lonesome,
'cause I treasure my own company.
And we really liked it because we got to sing a cuss word in the chorus. You’ll have to look it up yourself. I’m a pastor now, so I can’t tell you what it was.
So, back to Moses. Could he really write that line about himself with a straight face?
I read different commentaries on this verse, and most believe this was a line added by a different editor. Because a genuinely humble person wouldn’t typically describe themselves as the most humble person on the face of the earth.
On the other hand, Moses wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and so if the Spirit wanted verse 3 in there, then who was Moses to argue? Especially because, you know, he was so humble.
But I think the point is to make it clear that there wasn’t anything Moses did to provoke Aaron and Miriam. The Spirit wants to make sure we, the readers, know that it was Aaron and Miriam who were in the wrong here. In a commentary on Apologeticspress.com, one scholar writes,
“the phrase is added so that the reader can understand the narrative more fully. In the context, Moses’ brother Aaron, and sister Miriam, had spoken against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman. They said to Moses, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also” (Numbers 12:1-2)? These statements amounted to a direct attack upon the authority that God had given Moses.”
It wasn’t about Moses pointing out how humble he was. It was about God defending the reputation of his chosen servant. He did the same thing with Job when he told the three friends, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).
You see, regardless of what Mac Davis says, it’s actually not hard to be humble at all. For one thing, we serve an awesome God, and the closer we get to his greatness, the more we can agree with John the Baptizer: He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30).
But even more importantly, its easy to be humble when you live like you don’t have to defend your own reputation. You know the Lord will do it for you.