Failed Humblebrag? Mosaic Self-Promotion? Or True Humility?

Some people think it ironic that Moses purportedly wrote Numbers 12:3, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (NAS).

The irony is obvious, right? It’s hardly humble to declare yourself the most humble man in the world.

Unless it’s true.

In which case, it wouldn’t be a humblebrag fail.  Nor is Moses touting his own virtue.

If it’s true, wouldn’t it be proud false humility to act or speak as though this weren’t the case?

Others think that this verse has to be one of those verses Moses obviously didn’t write.

I think Moses did write it, and I don’t think this statement is either ironic or an instance of Mosaic self-promotion.


Moses has been having face to face conversations with God (Num 12:8; cf. Deut 34:10). No one else on the face of the earth enjoys that kind of access, that kind of direct revelation from God (cf. Num 12:6–7).

If anything will create humility, face to face interaction with Yahweh will do the job. Moses knew the greatness of God like no one else. Moses thereby knew both his inadequacy and his massive task like no one else.

Moses knew from this direct interaction with God what God’s intentions were and what part God intended Moses to play in the program. Only a reprobate fool would be made proud by such knowledge, and Moses is neither.

So Moses, I contend, is humbly speaking the truth. The access Moses had to God made him the humblest man in the world, and part of the proof of his humility is that he doesn’t cave to the proud desire to avoid doing anything that might make people think he isn’t humble.

The irony there is that sometimes the humble thing to say or do strikes some people as proud. This dilemma no doubt contributes to displays of false humility meant to mask the proud desire to have others think we’re humble.

How do we find clarity in the moral confusion of this fallen world?

We have to see by “the light of the knowledge of the glory God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Knowing God will make us humble, and it will enable us to rise above the impulse to cloak our pride in false humility, the impulse that keeps us from doing the humble thing. We overcome this because we know God and are convinced that his judgment is the only one that matters.

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