Miriam was a prophetess in a male-dominated world. She did not accept her society’s limitations on women. Miriam was the older sister of Moses and Aaron.
Miriam’s primary interest was national and her mission patriotic. She lived in a time when female celibacy was not the norm. Miriam never married, in a society where marriage was considered the glory of womanhood. Like Miriam, many influential women have remained single, such as Florence Nightingale.
Pharaoh ordered the death of all Hebrew male babies. The Egyptian Princess found Moses on the banks of the Nile. Twelve-year-old Miriam had been watching over the child and was called to be nursemaid to Moses.
Miriam lived in the palace, taking care of her baby brother, Moses. We are not told when she left the luxury of the palace.
Moses fled the country after killing an Egyptian who had been attacking a Hebrew worker. He was forty years old. Moses lived in Midian for the next forty years and took a Midianite wife. She bore him a son.
Moses returned to Egypt when he heard Pharaoh had died. Miriam could hardly believe that Moses had returned after such a long absence. However, the news of a foreign wife did not please her.
God called Moses to be the saviour of two to three million Hebrew people, who were reeling under the lash of Egyptian bondage. His younger brother, Aaron, became his spokesperson. Moses had grown up in Pharaoh’ s palace, but 40 years in Midian had blunted his confidence.
Miriam, as the sister or Moses, had a position of great importance. She was a natural leader and a driving force among the women.
Egypt went through 10 plagues before the Hebrew people were freed. Both Hebrews and Egyptians found the night of Passover dramatic. The entire land mourned, as the eldest son of every Egyptian family died. The Egyptians were glad to see the backs of the Hebrews and willingly gave them of their wealth.
Miriam Gifted Prophetess And Poet
The Egyptian army was close on their heels as the sea opened and the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea. Moving so many people on foot was a monumental task.
The Hebrews passed over on dry land, but the might of Egyptian was swallowed up. The waters rolled over them, drowning the entire army. Iron chariots and horses were no match to the power of the sea.
Miriam stood at the edge of the sea and proclaimed the power and faithfulness of God. She was 92-years-old when she led the Hebrew women in a victory dance, accompanied by instruments. Miriam’s song was an ode of praise and victory. It is one of the oldest and most powerful anthems in the world.
Miriam And Wilderness Wandering
The Hebrews were only a week’s walk from entering the Promised Land. God turned them away because of their unbelief in the promises of God. They spent forty years wandering in the wilderness.
The Tabernacle of Moses was built in the wilderness. It was the place where God dwelt among His people. The law was given as a guide to show the people they were unable to be righteous in their own way.
Miriam was not among the priests who ministered in the Tabernacle, but she was the chief singer among the women. She lived with Moses or Aaron, as she had no husband. Moses’s Midianite wife had not accompanied him back to Egypt.
The people had air-conditioning, in that they were protected by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Moses was their leader, orator, statesman, legislator, patriot, and author. He was ‘the friend of God’. However, the seeds of murmuring frequently blew into disappointment and rebellion.
Miriam The Patriot
Moses took a second wife, a dark-skinned, beautiful Ethiopian. Miriam despised and resented the much younger woman with patriotic jealousy. Miriam feared the Ethiopian would lure Moses away from the worship of Yahweh.
How could Moses once again marry a foreign woman when there were Hebrew women available? How did Moses meet an Ethiopian? Were foreigners able to move freely among the travelling Hebrews?
Miriam Leads The Discord
Miriam’s heart became filled with the poison of jealousy. Moses had married a foreigner, which put his fitness to lead into question.
Miriam publicly and sarcastically rejected the leadership of Moses. She no longer shared the joy of Moses’ triumphs. Miriam became a leader of discord, division, and discontent.
The Hebrew people were accompanied by a ‘motley mob’ when they left Egypt. Perhaps they were converts to the Hebrew faith. They were rich soil for planting the seeds of discontent.
Aaron joined his sister in the revolt against Moses’ authority. They aspired to joint leadership. The nation’s unity was at stake.
God spoke to Moses face-to-face, while Miriam and Aaron were prophetic voices. Moses was a ‘friend of God’. Miriam and Aaron could never replace Moses.
Miriam and Aaron were soundly rebuked by God. They had failed in their duty toward Moses and the Hebrew people. Moses was the anointed and appointed leader.
The cloud of God’s presence lifted off the Tabernacle. The proud, jealous prophetess was condemned. She endured the most humiliating of all diseases – leprosy.
She was forced to wander far outside the camp. Miriam now cried “Unclean. Unclean,” when anyone came near. No longer a leader, but a person people fled from. Did she have memories of a time when she had sung the glorious anthem of victory?
Healed But Not Restored
Moses and Aaron entreated God on her behalf, overcome with grief for their sister. Seven days Miriam wandered outside the camp, before she was healed.
She was restored to the camp, but Miriam never regained her position of influence and authority. Presumption silenced her prophetic voice. Sorrow subdued her song. Moses was vindicated as the undisputed leader of the Hebrew people, while Miriam disappeared into obscurity.
Miriam and Aaron never entered the Promised Land. Moses also never entered the Promised Land, because he spoke unadvisedly. A new and younger man, Joshua, led the people into Canaan.
Miriam died at the gates of the Promised Land. The people mourned her passing as they still held her in high esteem. She had played a pivotal role in their journey from the bondage of Egypt until jealousy controlled her.
Lessons From Miriam
Miriam was a lead singer, prophetess, and poet. A woman of influence, but she was not content. She coveted equal power with Moses. Jealousy of another’s position is a poisonous dart that inevitably turns back on the one wielding it.
Christ was hung on the Cross through envy. Satan wanted the place God held. Isaiah the prophet recorded Satan’s five “I will’s”. What Satin designed to destroy God’s plan became Satan’s eternal destruction.
Each woman has a unique position and voice in her sphere of influence. Tragedy and heartache do not determine who she is. Few people have the power and position that Miriam had. All she needed to do was to sit and enjoy the ride. Instead, she reached for something that was not hers to have. We need to live each day to the best of our ability and not get lost in the maze of false ambitions, memories, or dreams. We need to be a voice of influence, as was Esther and Deborah.
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