Daughters in the Bible: Miriam, Both Protected and Accused her Brother

We all know Moses and the Ten Commandments, but we would not know his story without the assistance of his sister, Miriam.  Some historians estimate that she was about six years old when her brother, Moses, was born.

The name Miriam means rebellious. Other definitions of the name I found include bitter, water and elevation.

Exodus 2 begins with the story of a Levite woman, Jochebed,  who hid her son.  When she could hide the child no longer, she placed him in a basket and placed him on the Nile. The first mention of Miriam says, “ His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.”  {Exodus 2:4}

Pharoah’s daughter finds the basket and opens it to reveal the baby. She had sent the sister to keep an eye on the basket and the baby and to see what happen.  While we don’t know for sure, more than likely the basket was not put there by accident.  Most likely it was common knowledge that Pharoah’s daughter would be bathing there at that time.

Jochebed hatched a plan to protect her son

“When Moses’ mother hid Moses in a basket boat floating along the Nile, she set Moses’ older sister Miriam to watch over him.  When Egypt’s princess discovered the infant, Miriam quick-wittedly volunteered to find the princess a nurse and called her own mother. Her faithfulness and resourcefulness made her a key figure in shaping Moses’ future.”  {Every Woman in the Bible}

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”  {Exodus 2:7}

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother.  {Exodus 2:8}

Miriam was wise to suggest that she take the child back to it’s own mother to be cared for.  If Miriam was only six, she was clearly advised to make such a suggestion.  Regardless of her age, she may have been advised given that possibility.  What we do know is that she watched over her brother and provided a means for him to have a better life and remain with his family for a while longer.

This is all we know of her as a daughter, but let’s look at her as a sister.  Years have passed and the three siblings are now adults.  Moses has led the Israelites out of slavery and bondage and they are wondering around in the desert.

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.  {Numbers 12:1}

Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.   {Numbers 12:2}

Miriam is clearly the ring leader.  One can hear the resentment and jealousy in her words.

“The real motive, and the thing that ate at Miriam and Aaron too, was that Moses was recognized as the leader.  We can sense the jealousy in their words.”  {Every Woman in the Bible}

It is so easy to grow jealous of someone is a role of leadership.  To long to be in their shoes, but often we do not know the path it’s taken to get to that point and the struggles and issues they continue to wrestle with.   I admit to having been guilty of this in my life.  But back to Miriam, she knew, because she’d known Moses since he was born.  Yet, she was still jealous of her brother.

Moses, Miriam and Aaron

The rest of Numbers 12 goes on to tell how God called Miriam, Aaron and Moses before him.  The Lord speaks directly to them and we are told “The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.”  {Numbers 12:9}

The Lord was angry at what Miriam and Aaron were saying.  There is great speculation as to why Aaron also did not suffer.  The theories relate to he was a follower {after all he was led to build the golden calf}, he was following Miriam’s lead, and as head priest the Lord did not want an interruption to worship.

We do not know why the Lord only dealt so harshly with Miriam, but he did.  However, who did they turn to in their time of need?

Miriam had leprosy for seven days

When the cloud of the Lord lifted, Miriam’s skin was leprous. Aaron begged Moses to ask the Lord to heal their sister and Moses prays.  She is confined outside the camp for seven days before being healed.

Notice that Aaron begs Moses to pray for healing.  Moses does just that, but Miriam has to spend seven days outside the camp before she is healed.

“Miriam’s story offers an extraordinary example of God’s willingness to forgive those who sin.  Though she had to pay the consequences for her actions…she reentered the camp a forgiven woman.”  {Women of the New Testament}

Those days in the camp were probably a time of reflection, contemplation and prayer.

Where do you turn in your time of need?  Do you spend time in reflection, contemplation and prayer?


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