Miriam in the Bible is probably a name many of us with a cursory knowledge of the Bible would recognize. Images of the red sea crossing, Moses, and the Nile River crossing as the Israelites journey to the promised land, a pillar of cloud and fire come to mind. But who exactly is Miriam? What is her story and what can we learn from it?
Miriam’s story is a rich one, heroism, leadership, and worship are all found in her story- but we also see her stumbles. We see in bold brush strokes where she stepped outside of God’s will and walked in her own wisdom. We also see the consequences of this. And then we see restoration and healing- a beautiful reminder of God’s mercy even when it was our decisions that got us here.
You may ask yourself what can we learn from the story of Miriam in the Bible? Diving deep into her story we’ll learn lessons like:
- Trusting God even when it doesn’t make sense to us.
- We see the importance of keeping our eyes on God.
- We are reminded of how we should react to God’s work in our life.
- We see that worship should be part of our daily life.
- We see an example in courage, and doing the right thing.
- It teaches us about leadership.
- It teaches us about using our gifts for God.
The Story Of Miriam In The Bible
Through the story of Miriam in the Bible we see a vivid picture of God’s hand at work in someone’s life, we also see the consequences of when we stop trusting God and seek to do it our own way.
Who Is Miriam In The Bible?
So who exactly is Miriam in the Bible? Scripture tells us that Miriam was a Hebrew woman, she was the sister of Moses, and she is described as a prophetess. We first meet Miriam in the books of Exodus. She then reemerges in the Old Testament book of Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Miriam is described as a faithful, courageous, and wise leader who, along with Moses and Aaron, lead the Israelites during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Facts About Miriam In The Bible
Here are some interesting facts about Miriam in the Bible that help us understand her story a little better.
- Miriam was the older sister of Aaron and Moses.
- Miriam was one of 7 Prophetesses in the Bible (Deborah & Anna are others), according to the Talmd, Miriam foretold the birth of Moses and said that he would lead their people to freedom.
- The historian Josephus claims that Miriam married Hur, Moses’ close friend.
- Other documents point to her as the mother of Hur and the wife of Caleb.
- According to the Talmd, Miriam and her mother Yocheved were the Hebrew midwives known as Shifra and Puah.
- In addition to biblical mentions, other ancient Jewish literature refers to Miriam. She is referred to in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the texts of Flavius Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, and other rabbinic literature.
Miriam In The Bible Verses
The first time we meet Miriam in the Bible it’s at the beginning of the Old Testament book of Exodus, as we’ll read she and her mother had hidden her baby brother Moses in a papyrus basket (on the very river that meant death to so many other little boys) and she is watching from a distance to see what will happen to him. This sets the stage for the Exodus story:
Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. Exodus 2:5-9 NIV
The daughter of Pharaoh finds baby Moses on the bank of the Nile. Miriam’s quick thinking, and being in just the right place was a God-orchestrated meeting. Because she was faithful -even when she couldn’t see God’s hand- she not only was able to save her brother, but she was able to ensure that he had exposure to the one true God through her own mother.
Later on, we’ll again see her make an appearance- and this time in a much larger role and on a much bigger scene. We find her reunited with her younger brother Moses and joined by her brother Aaron leading the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt at the red sea crossing. We are on a high from what God has done, and we find Miriam stepping into a role we see few women in scripture take as she leads the Israelite women in worship, what would later be known as the song of Miriam:
Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.” “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, Lord, hattered the enemy.Exodus 15:1-6
Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.Numbers 12:1-13
Miriam’s story is one that is relatable to so many of us. We started out on a spiritual high, but slowly we’ve let God be shifted out of the center of our lives -sometimes it’s not even all the way, but it’s enough-. We let jealousy get a foothold in our hearts, we allow comparison to take root.
What Happened To Miriam In The Bible?
Because God is out of position in our life, everything else becomes skewed as well. This is where we find Miriam, scripture doesn’t mince words on this stumble. And the saddest part is because of her heart attitude she causes others to stumble.
The Bible doesn’t tell us what transpires in Miriam’s life or heart between Exodus 15, and Numbers 12 but whatever has transpired it’s obvious that her focus is off. We find the woman of faith and worship now grumbling against Moses and finding things to find fault with and questioning Moses’ authority.
We see the roots of bitterness have taken hold, and in the following verses, we read that God calls Miriam, Aaron, and Moses into His presence. Bitterness is a dangerous flower to cultivate in the garden of our hearts. It poisons not only us but those around us.
Bitterness and jealousy will keep us from God’s plan for our lives and in the end leave us and those around us hurting.
You may remember something about Miriam’s Leprosy, well it’s in the consequences of her actions. Leprosy in those days was a very big deal. It was life-altering. There was no cure, and the ramifications would be that she would be alienated from everyone, unable to be touched or be around those that did not have the disease.
It’s here that we read that Aaron asks Moses to talk to God, and Moses cries out to God for mercy on her behalf, the one she had probably hurt the most begs for God to heal her. That is a big lesson in forgiveness right there. Despite the betrayal, the hurt, and I’m sure the anger he still begs God to heal her. And God listens.
Why Is Miriam Important In The Bible?
Miriam in the Bible reminds us just how dangerous it is when we allow our focus to shift off God and bitterness or jealousy take root in our lives. But she’s also a picture of God’s mercy. When our decisions get us in trouble God is still there ready and willing to heal us. To mend our broken places.
Beyond this Miriam’s story is a beautiful picture of worship and trusting God when the circumstances are overwhelming. From the Nile river to the red sea crossing we see God’s power in bold colors throughout her story.
What is the Meaning Of the name Miriam In The Bible? Miriam (possibly translated as Mary in English) means ‘bitter’ although it could also signify ‘one who loves or is loved by Yahweh’‘. The ancient work Seder Olam, (which provides a chronological history of the Jewish people) relates that Miriam got her name, which means “bitter,” as a reflection of the bitter oppression under which the people lived at the time.
Characteristics Of Miriam In The Bible
Miriam in the Bible is a responsible person, we see this as she lingers beside the Nile to watch over Moses.
Again we see this character trait in relation to her brother. She is the perfect example of a caretaker
- Quick thinker-solution oriented:
We see this as she springs from hiding and approaches the pharaoh’s daughter offering to find a midwife.
Because Miriam in the Bible is willing to not only trust God but also be used by Him she is in the right place at the right time for a God-ordained appointment.
We see an example of praise and worship in the story of Miriam in the Bible, as the people of Israel are looking back on the Red Sea and witnessing the destruction of the Egyptian army. She is a reminder that we need to cultivate worship in our lives.
We see Miriam in the Bible take a leadership role, as she steps to the front and begins to lead the woman in worship.
- Woman of God:
Miriam in the Bible was a woman of God, her faith -in spite of the stumbles in her life- was strong and impacted those around her (for better and for worse.
Lessons From The Life Of Miriam
So what can we learn from Miriam in the Bible? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s take a look
Miriam Teaches Us To Use Our Gifts For Him
Miriam in the Bible is a wonderful reminder that we need to use our God-given gifts for Him. We see throughout Miriam’s story, her stepping to the plate and using her skills, and talents to draw the people to worship and for the good of others.
Miriam Shows Us The Need For Surrender
Miriam in the Bible reminds us that we need to surrender to God and let Him lead us. If we are sensitive to His direction and willing to let God use us He will.
Miriam In The Bible Reminds Us To Trust God
Miriam’s story is a reminder to trust God with our whole hearts and not to lean on our own understanding.
Miriam Shows Us The Dangers Of Jealousy
Miriam in the Bible shows us the devastating consequences when we let bitterness and jealousy root in our lives. We see vividly that not only does Miriam suffer for this decision but so do those around her.
Miriam Reminds Us That God Is Always At Work
The story of Miriam in the Bible is yet another powerful reminder that God is at work in every season of our lives, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
Miriam Reminds Us To Be Courageous
Miriam in the Bible reminds us to be courageous in every circumstance and keep our eyes on Him.
Miriam Reminds Us To Watch and Wait
Miriam’s time in the wilderness is a reminder to us that in some seasons God simply wants us to watch and wait, instead of forging ahead in our own understanding and wisdom.
Miriam In The Bible
Miriam is a remarkable woman in the Bible, her story, particularly her courage in the face of adversity and her faith in God, can be an inspiration to us, and a reminder that God is always with us. From defying the pharaoh’s decree to leading the people in a victory song praising the Lord. She shows us how to be a leader, even in difficult circumstances. She’s also a symbol of strength, courage, and faith. She reminds us of the dangers of allowing bitterness, jealousy, and comparison to get a foothold in our lives, and the consequences.
Miriam’s story serves as an example of how God is always with us, no matter the circumstances, and that He can use even the most unlikely people to bring about His will. We see in her story big mistakes, but we also see God’s ability to heal and restore.
What stands out to you about the story of Miriam in the Bible?
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