The Egyptian Pharaoh was deeply threatened by the burgeoning numbers of captive Israelites in Egypt. In an insane move, he decreed that Israelite males should be immediately exterminated at birth.
A Jewish baby named Moses was born and hidden in the river weeds. His protective older sister watched out for the infant for countless hours from her hiding place by river’s edge. When the Pharaoh’s daughter happened to find the baby, Miriam wisely emerged from the shadows and offered to find a nursemaid for the baby. Of course, the nursemaid was the child’s own mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter eventually adopted Moses as her son. It is doubtful that Miriam saw much of Moses as he grew up in Pharaoh’s court. Then in middle age Moses killed an Egyptian who was mistreating an Israelite, and he had to flee for his life. Forty more years passed, most likely with little or no contact between Moses and his sister.
Miriam suffered with her fellow-Israelites for those forty years. She became known as a great prophetess. Many came to love her and look to her for mature encouragement and comfort in their slavery. Then suddenly Moses was back in Egypt with claims that God had appointed him to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. The spotlight was on Moses as he and his brother, Aaron, called down God’s plaguing judgments on the oppressive Egyptians. And the people’s dependence focused on Moses as he led the vast multitude through crisis after wilderness crisis.
Gradually, very gradually, Miriam began to envy her younger brother. After all, she had probably saved his life when he was an infant. She had suffered in slavery while her brother grew up in Pharaoh’s lavish court. She was there for her people during the decades Moses was a fugitive, and now it was Moses to whom God spoke face to face. Now he was honored as the great deliverer—and she was relegated to walk in his shadow.
When Moses married a foreigner from the land of Cush all the rancor that had been building in Miriam’s heart gave way. She used that act as an excuse to explode to her brother Aaron: “Is Moses God’s only spokesman? Hasn’t God spoken to us too? Who made Moses lord over us? He isn’t even loyal enough to marry an Israeli woman.”
God was angered by Miriam’s bitter tirade. He immediately struck her with leprosy, and she had to leave the Israelite camp in disgrace. Moses was heartbroken. When he prayed on her behalf, she was healed of the disease. Seven days later she was permitted back in the encampment, but we never hear another word about Miriam until her death. This is the only dark blot in Miriam’s life—and her petty jealousy seems so unnecessary in light of the invaluable inspiration she offered the nation in her own rite.
What can we learn from Miriam?
The otherwise exemplary life of Miriam was marred by jealousy. When others receive accolades or reap bounteous blessings it is easy for jealousy to grow and fester in our hearts. We should never enmesh ourselves in envious comparison between God’s dealings with us and His treatment of others. God loves us all alike though His plan for each may vary.
Bible Verses about Miriam
Exodus 2:4, 15:20; Numbers 12:1-15, 20:1; Deut. 24:9; Micah 6:4
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Miriam the Bible?
- What did Miriam do?
- Who were Moses’ family?
- Who were Moses and Miriam?
- Was Miriam Moses’ sister?
- Is Israel God’s chosen people?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis.Steve Fortosis