Many of us are familiar with the stories of Moses- one of the greatest leaders in the Bible- but what about his older sister, Miriam? Did you know that she was the one who actually saved Moses’ life when he was a baby? And that she was known for remaining single all of her life? You go girl! And especially during a time when society glorified marriage as one of woman’s greatest accomplishments. Miriam sure did prove that stereotype wrong!
You’re probably familiar with the story of baby Moses, when his mother sent him afloat down the Nile River in a small basket, in order to try to save him from Pharaoh’s command to kill all the male Israelites babies (yikes- that’s quite a sickening command!). Miriam was just twelve years old when this happened (sounds like a traumatizing experience for a kid!), and yet she is the real heroine of this story… but how? Miriam had hidden away, keeping watch over her baby brother as he floated down the river, and just when the Pharaoh’s daughter found him, out popped Miriam, offering to help find a Hebrew nurse for the baby. The Pharaoh’s daughter had no idea that Miriam was the baby’s sister (way to stealthily keep that little detail a secret!) and she agreed to let her help. And because of that- Moses’ life was spared. If only Miriam knew what her baby brother would grow up to do! I think she would’ve been even prouder of herself for saving his life that day! My how our Bible stories would be different if Moses wouldn’t have made it out alive that day!
But that’s not the only story that Miriam is known for. Remember when God parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross through it on dry ground and escape from the Egyptians? What a sight! And what a victory! And what was the first thing that the Israelites did when they came through, victorious, on the other side? They praised and worshiped the Lord in song of course! And Miriam lead the song- one of the oldest and most beautiful anthems of our faith. Talk about singing for joy! And later in the Israelites journey, any time they would grow weary and start to grumble, Miriam would lead them in another song, to cheer them up and spur them on. What a sweet encouragement!
Miriam’s story takes a turn for the worst though, when her jealousy of her younger brother’s leadership got the best of her. She conspired with her other brother Aaron and together they tried to rebel against Moses’ God-given authority (uh-oh, we know how stories like this end!). But God spoke directly to them (whew, no pressure- I’m listening!) at the tabernacle and brought to light how their actions and attitude were not only hurtful to Moses, but also disappointing to God and failing of their purpose (ouch, that must’ve stung to hear!). And to make matters worse- God also punished Miriam by giving her leprosy- a terrible disease that made a person look awfully sick and white. The disease was so bad that when people would see someone with leprosy, they would yell “unclean, unclean!” Boy, I’d hate to have my presence announced that way! After much prayer, God healed Miriam, but the end was in sight for her. She passed away just as the Israelite’s finished their long 40-year journey. Poor Miriam- a beautiful life, ended in such tragic downfall. Miriam’s story can’t help but remind us of the negative power that jealousy can wield in our lives and I think we can all aspire to Miriam’s character before her jealousy took over. Read more of Miriam’s story in Exodus and Numbers!
story by Shelby Bowers