Key People



Ask older brothers or sisters what their greatest trial in life is, and they will often answer, “My younger brother [or sister]!” This is especially true when the younger sibling is more successful than the older. The bonds of family loyalty can be strained to the breaking point.

When we first meet Miriam, she is involved in one of history’s most unusual baby-sitting jobs. She is watching her infant brother float on the Nile River in a waterproof cradle. Miriam’s quick thinking allowed Moses to be raised by his own mother. Her protective superiority, reinforced by that event, must have been hard to give up as she watched her little brother rise to greatness.

Eventually Moses’ choice of a wife gave Miriam an opportunity to criticize. It was natural for her insecurity to break out over this issue. With Moses married, Miriam was clearly no longer the most important woman in his life. The real issue, however, was not the kind of woman Moses had married. It was the fact that he was now the most important man in Israel. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” No mention is made of Moses response, but God had a quick answer for Miriam and Aaron. Without denying their role in his plan, God clearly pointed out his special relationship with Moses. Miriam was stricken with leprosy, a deadly disease, as punishment for her insubordination. But Moses, true to this character, intervened for his sister so that God healed Miriam of her leprosy.

Before criticizing someone else, we need to pause long enough to discover our own motives. Falling to do this can bring disastrous results. What is often labeled “constructive criticism” may actually be destructive jealousy, since the easiest way to raise our status is to bring someone else down. Are you willing to question your motives before you offer criticism? Does the critical finger you point need to be pointed first toward yourself?

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Quick thinker under pressure

    • Led the people alongside Moses and Aaron

    • Led the people in praises to God

    • God’s prophet

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Was jealous of Moses’ authority

    • Openly criticized Moses’ leadership

Lesson from her life

    • The motives behind criticism are often more important to deal with than the criticism itself

Vital statistics

    • Where: Egypt, Sinai peninsula

    • Occupations: Able leader, songwriter, prophet

    • Relatives: Brothers: Aaron and Moses

Key verses

    • “Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and dance. And Miriam sang this song: ‘Sin to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea’ ” (Exodus 15:20, 21).


The voice of the minority is not often given a hearing. Nevertheless, truth cannot be measured by numbers. On the contrary, it often stands against majority opinion. Truth remains unchanged because it is guaranteed by the character of God. God is truth; what he says is the last word. At time, a person must even stand alone on the side of truth.

Caleb was not so much a man of great faith as a man of faith in a great God! His boldness rested on his understanding of God, not on his confidence in Israel’s abilities to conquer the land. He could not agree with the majority, for that would be to disagree with God.

We, on the other hand, often base our decisions on what everyone else is doing. Few of us are first-order cowards like the 10 scouts. We are more like the people of Israel, getting our cowardice secondhand. Our search for right and wrong usually starts with questions such as “What do the experts say? or “What do my friends say?” The question we most often avoid is “What does God say?” The principle we learn as we study the Bible provide a dependable road map for life. The draw us into a personal relationship with the God whose Word is the Bible. The God who gave Caleb his boldness is the same God who offers us the gift of eternal life through his Son, Jesus.That’s truth worth believing!

Strengths and accomplishments

    • One of the scout sent by Moses to survey the land of Canaan

    • One of the only two adults who left Egypt and entered the Promised Land

    • Voiced the minority opinion in favor of conquering the land

    • Expressed faith in God’s promises, in spite of apparent obstacles

Lessons from his life

    • Majority opinion is not an accurate measurement of right and wrong

    • Boldness based on God’s faithfulness is appropriate

    • For courage and faith to be effective, they must combine words and actions

Vital statistics

    • Where: From Egypt to the Sinai peninsula to the Promised Land, specifically Hebron

    • Occupations: Scout, soldier, shepherd

Key verse

    • “But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land” (Numbers 14:24).

Caleb’s story is told in Numbers 13-14 and Joshua 14-15. He is also mentioned in Judges 1 and 1 Chronicles 4:15.


Some notorious historical figures might have remained anonymous if they hadn’t tried to grab on to more than could hold. But by refusing to be content with what they had, and by trying to get more than they deserved, they ended up with nothing. Korah, one of the Israelite leaders, was one such person.

Korah was a Levite who assisted in the daily functions of the Tabernacle. Shortly after Israel’s great rebellion against God (Numbers 13-14), Korah instigated his own mini-rebellion. He recruited a grievance committee and confronted Moses and Aaron. Their list of complaints boils down to three statements: (1) You are no better than anyone else; (2) everyone in Israel has been chosen of the Lord; (3) we don’t need to obey you. It is amazing to see how Korah twisted the first two statements - both true - to reach the wrong conclusion.

Moses would have agreed that he was no better than anyone else. He also have agreed that all Israelites were God’s chosen people. But Korah’s application of these truths was wrong. No all Israelites were chosen to lead. Korah’s hidden claim was this: “I have as much right to lead as Moses does.” His error cost him not only his job - a position of service that he enjoyed - but his life.

Korah’s story gives us numerous warnings: (1) Don’t let desire for what someone else has made you discontented with what you already have. (2) Don’t try to raise your own self esteem by attacking someone else’s. (3) Don’t use part of God’s Word to support what you want, rather than allowing its entirely to shape your wants. (4) Don’t expect to find satisfaction in power and position; God may want to work through you in the position you are now in.

Strengths and accomplishment

    • Popular leader; influential figure during the Exodus

    • Mentioned among the chief men of Israel (Exodus 6)

    • One of the first Levites appointed for especial service in the Tabernacle.

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Failed to recognize the significant position God had placed him in

    • Forgot that his fight was against someone greater than Moses

    • Allowed greed to blind his common sense

Lessons from his life

    • There is a fine line between goals and greed

    • If we are discontented with what we have, we may lose it without gaining anything better

Vital statistics

    • Where: Egypt, Sinai peninsula

    • Occupation: Levite (Tabernacle assistant)

Key verses

    • “Then Moses spoke again to Korah: “Now listen, you Levites! Does it seem insignificant to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the community of Israel to be near him so you serve in the Lord’s Tabernacle and stand before the people to minister to them? Korah, he has already given this special ministry to you and your fellow Levites. Are you now demanding the priesthood as well?” (Numbers 16:8-10).

Korah’s story is told in Numbers 16:1-40. He is also mentioned in Numbers 26:9; Jude 1:11.


An understudy must know the lead role completely and be willing to step into it at a moment’s notice. Eleazar was an excellent understudy, well trained for his eventual leading role. However, his moments in the spotlight were painful. On one occasion, he watched his two older brothers burn to death for failing to take God’s holiness seriously. Later, as his father was dying, he was made high priest, surely one of the most responsible - and therefore potentially most stressful - positions in Israel.

An understudy benefits from having both the script and a human model of the role. Ever since childhood, Eleazar had been able to observe Moses and Aaron. Now he could learn from watching Joshua. In addition, he had God’s laws to guide him as he worked as priest and adviser to Joshua.

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Succeeded his father,Aaron, as high priest

    • Completed his father’s work by helping lead the people into the Promised Land

    • Teamed up with Joshua

    • Acted as God’s spokesman to the people

Lessons from his life

    • Concentrating on our present challenges and responsibilities is the best way to prepare for what God has planned for our future

    • God’s desire is consistent obedience throughout our lives

Vital statistics

    • Where: Wilderness of Sinai, Promised Land

    • Occupations: Priest and high priest

    • Relatives: Father: Aaron. Brothers: Nadab, Abihu, and Ithamar. Aunt: Miriam. Uncle: Moses.

    • Contemporaries: Joshua, Caleb

Key verses

    • There, on the border of the land of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘The time has come for Aaron to join his ancestors in death…Now take Aaron and his son Eleazar up Mount Hor. There you will remove Aaron’s priestly garments and put them on Eleazar, his son’” (Numbers 20:23-26)

Eleazar is mentioned in Exodus 6:23; Leviticus 10:16-20; Numbers 3:1-4; 4:16; 16:36-40; 20:25-29; 26:1-4, 63; 27:2, 15-23; 32:2; 34:17; Deuteronomy 10:6; Joshua 14:1; 17:4; 24:33.


Balaam was one of those noteworthy Old Testament characters who, though not one of God’s chosen people, was willing to acknowledge that Yahweh (the Lord) was indeed a powerful God. But he did not believe in the Lord as the only true God. His story exposes the deception of maintaining an outward facade of spirituality over a corrupt inward life. Balaam was a man ready to obey God’s commands as long as he could profit from doing so. This mixture of motive - obedience and profit - eventually led to Balaam’s death. Although he realized the awesome power of Israel’s God, his heart was occupied with the wealth he could gain in Moab. There he returned to die when the armies of Israel invaded.

Eventually, each of us lives through the same process. Who and what we are will somehow come to the surface, destroying any masks we may have put on to cover up our real selves. Efforts spent on keeping up appearances would be much better spent on finding the answer to sin in our lives. We can avoid Balaam’s mistake by facing ourselves and realizing that God is willing to accept us, forgive us, and literally make us over from within. Don’t miss this great discovery that eluded Balaam.

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Widely known for his effective curses and blessings

    • Obeyed God and blessed Israel, in spite of Balak’s bride

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Encouraged the Israelites to worship idols (Numbers 31:16)

    • Returned to Moab and was killed in war

Lessons from his life

    • Motives are just as important as actions

    • Your treasure is where your heart is

Vital statistics

    • Where: Lived near the Euphrates River, traveled to Moab

    • Occupation: Sorcerer, prophet

    • Relative: Father: Beor

    • Contemporaries: Balak (king of Moab), Moses, Aaron

Key verses

    • “They have wandered off the right road and followed the footsteps of Balaam son of Beor, who loved to earn money by doing wrong. But Balaam was stopped from his mad course when his donkey rebuked him with a human voice” (2 Peter 2:15-16).

Balaam’s story is told in Numbers 22:1-24:25. He is also mentioned in Numbers 31:7, 8, 16; Deuteronomy 23:4, 5; Joshua 24:9, 10; Nehemiah 13:2; Micah 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15, 16; Jude 1:11; Revelation 2:14.