Crisis and healing: Reflecting on Leviticus 13-14

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We teach The Pentateuch every second year in the Bachelor of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Students are asked to prepare an exegesis assignment and have a choice of a range of texts from the first five books of the Old Testament. This year one of the suggested texts was Numbers 12, the narrative in which Miriam and Aaron bring a challenge to the leadership of Moses, their brother. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses” they ask.“Has he not spoken through us also?” (Num. 12:2, NRSV). The text tells us that God then became angry with Miriam and Aaron (Num. 12:9). Miriam was afflicted with a skin disease that required a seven-day expulsion from the camp. Moses and Aaron both interceded for her and, we are told, “the people did not set out on the march until Miriam had been brought in again” (Num. 12:15). Whilst normally this text raises questions for me about leadership, authority, and equality (why was only Miriam punished with disease?);this year in the context of the COVID-19 crisis I was particularly struck by two aspects: the fact that Miriam was placed in quarantine; and the effect that this event had on the whole community. The narrative context for both this account and the underlying legislation found in Leviticus 13‒14 is the wilderness wanderings of the Exodus community on their way from Egypt to the promised land. As seen in this narrative, when a member of the community became ill and had to be isolated, the rest of the community had to make camp and wait until the crisis was over.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)50-59
Number of pages10
JournalSt. Mark's review: A journal of Christian thought and opinion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


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