Miriam in the Bible is among the most famous female heroines in the Scripture. She is considered a matriarch in Christendom.
A close study of her character reveals some very negative but some very positive qualities and traits. Her life holds many lessons from women today who believe in and serve God.
Let’s jump in.
Who was Miriam in the Bible?
Miriam was the older sister of Aaaron and Moses. She was born to Hebrew parents in Egypt, Jochebed and Amram.
She is most popularly known for her role in helping to save Moses’ life. A second fairly well-known story is of her challenging the leadership of Moses and being struck with leprosy by God because of that.
To read her story, here are the Scripture portions where you will find Miriam.
Miriam in the Bible verses
The Bible verses about Miriam are:
- Exodus 15: 20-21
- Numbers 12:1-15
- Numbers 20:1; 26:59
- Deuteronomy 24:9
- 1 Chronicles 6:3
- Micah 6:4
The story of Miriam in the Bible summary
As a child, Miriam helped her mother Jochebed to save the life of baby Moses. Moses was in danger of being flung into the Nile because of the order of the Pharaoh to kill all Hebrew boy babies.
Jochebed built a basket and put baby Moses in it then set the basket to float on the Nile right when the Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing.
Jochebed had Miriam watch the basket. She would have been a out 10 years old at the time.
She watched the basket until the Pharaoh’s daughter was drawn to it.
Miriam conveniently asked if she wanted a nurse for the baby. She went and got her own mother.
Miriam then disappeared from the story until about 8 decades later when Moses is leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
After the victory at the Red Sea, she led a vigorous praise and worship session.
At some point in the journey through the wilderness, Miriam grumbled about Moses’ wife being a foreigner and attacked his leadership. God struck her with leprosy.
She was put out of the camp for 7 days and the entire 2 million Israelites waited for her to get well before moving on.
After this incident, Miriam is mentioned again only at her death.
Characteristics of Miriam in the Bible
What kind of woman was Miriam in the Bible?
Well, we like to think that she was an angel. Yes, she was absolutely a believer in God but she had her own share of issues.
Let’s explore her story.
Miriam was a prophetess
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.” Exodus 15:20-21
Miriam wasn’t the foretelling kind of prophetess like Hulda though. Rather, the word prophet in this case describes her as one who was greatly inspired by God.
As God inspired her, she sang her heart out. Her songs were divinely inspired and this was recognized by her brother Moses who wrote the book of Exodus.
Miriam was a woman of faith
There is no doubt that Miriam was a believer in the one true God. You don’t get to be called a prophetess without that.
When you reflect on the fact that she had one of the most faithful mothers in the Bible, it was the same mother who raised Moses.
Miriam was raised to see God perform many miracles for her family. And that faith sustained her trust in Him.
She was far from perfect in her practice (more on this later) but she did believe in God and his power.
After the Red Sea event, her songs and worship were to God. She acknowledged that it was He who worked such a great miracle and nobody else.
Miriam was a gifted and influential powerful praise and worship leader
After the Red Sea victory, the Israelites were in high spirits. Moses broke out in praise and worship.
So did Miriam.
Miriam played the musical instrument and started to sing and praise. This is where we see Miriam dancing in the Bible.
And the Israelite women followed her.
Miriam was about 90 years old at this time. But she was a robust 90 year old woman who used her gift of singing and worship to influence the spiritual atmosphere surrounding her people.
Miriam was patriotic but prejudice
Miriam was Hebrew. She was raised with a certain mindset about outsiders.
There are many debates about whether or not the Ethiopian wife of Moses was Zipporah. The jury is still out on that.
Whatever the case, Miriam had an issue with it. Outsiders were not welcome in the Hebrew community.
Miriam led the way in criticism and cutting down her little brother for the decision he made to marry a woman who was not Hebrew.
Against Moses wife the Cushite or Ethiopian because she was a foreigner.
Ethiopians didn’t worship God and Miriam was uncomfortable with her possible influence
Miriam was terribly jealous and power hungry
For some reason Moses’ decision to marry a woman of a different nationality was reason enough in Miriam’s mind to disqualify him from being the spiritual leader that God had raised him to be.
Doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?
That’s because Miriam’s complaint about Moses’ wife was just a smokescreen for the real issue.
So what was the real problem?
Miriam wanted her leadership status to be elevated.
So far, the three siblings had been in charge of the 2 million Israelites. A wife by Moses’ side decreased Miriam’s influence.
It is also possible that she had a problem with the fact that Moses was the youngest sibling but God chose him to lead.
She wasn’t happy so she tried to introduce discord. Miriam in fact led the rebellion against Moses.
Miriam was prideful
As she attacked Moses and his leadership, Miriam asked
“Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the LORD heard this. Numbers 12:2
In other words, “what makes Moses so special that we have to listen to him? Is he the only person through whom God can speak?”
She was questioning the level of Moses’ prophetic ministry. And she said these things to accuse Moses of being proud.
But Miriam didn’t see her own sin of pride. Her hankering for power was fueled by pride, the very thing that got Lucifer throne out of heaven.
It is true that God spoke through her and others among them. And it is also true that she had been chosen by God to lead.
But, she wasn’t the one God chose to be his main mouthpiece to the Israelites.
I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. Micah 6:4 (emphasis applied)
Her pride made her blind to the reality of God’s choice. She was so lifted up in her heart because of how God had been using her that felt she deserved to sit in Moses’ seat.
Miriam’s behavior only served to magnify Moses’ humility.
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. Numbers 12:3
Lessons from the life of Miriam
What does the story of Miriam teach us?
As one of the most famous women of the Bible, there are many lessons we can learn about life and how to practice our faith.
Let’s look at a few.
Use your influence positively
The first lesson from the life of Miriam has to do with the power of her influence.
Miriam had been chosen by God along with her two brothers to lead the children of Israel from bondage to freedom.
She was an outstanding musician and praise and worship leader.
Because of her position, she had a great amount of influence.
And she allowed this to get to her head.
Miriam became lifted up her heart and she rallied support against the leadership of Moses, her own brother.
This was terrible use of her power and influence.
If you find yourself in a position where you can influence the lives or decisions of people, know that this is a special gift from God.
If you’re a big brother or big sister…
If you’re a god-parent…
If you’re an older cousin…
If you’re teach Sabbath school or Sunday school at your church…
If you supervise people at work or have tons of decision-making power …
You are in a position of influence.
With such a power comes great responsibility. Don’t take it for granted. Lead the people who look up to you in the right direction.
God will discipline those He calls
The second lesson from the life of Miriam is about how God deals with those whom he has gifted for a specific purpose.
There is no doubt that Miriam was called by God. The Bible says so clearly.
But it would appear that Miriam was so secure in her call that she felt she was beyond the judgment of God.
She was dead wrong for rebelling against the leadership of Moses.
Miriam’s leprosy was a result of her sinful behavior. She was called but God had to discipline her to bring her back to the reality that she was not chosen for the position Moses had been called to.
Moses represented God to the people so her rebellion was technically against God.
…the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. Hebrews 12:6
No matter how much anointing is on your life, God will always hold you accountable for sins and bad decisions just like He does for everyone else.
The story of King David and Bathsheba could tell you a lot about that.
As anointed as he was, David did not escape judgement for his greed, sexual indiscretions, conspiracy, and murder.
As you fulfill your call, guard your heart and soul
The third lesson from the life of Miriam applies to spiritual leaders at all levels.
It is very easy for God-ordained leaders to get carried away with pride. All the attention and the accolades can quickly lead them to lose sight of who they really are.
The truth is that the enemy targets those who have been called to purpose. He will not get them to commit open sins like theft or adultery. But he will work from the inside out.
And pride is one of his best weapons.
So then, you who have been called by God for purpose and mission,
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41 NIV
Be vigilant about how the enemy is coming at you. You can serve others very well for God but lose your soul in the process.
Paul gives some great counsel:
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT
Want what you have and be content
This fourth lesson from the life of Miriam is not just for spiritual application but life, marriage, and career.
God called all three siblings to ministry. There is no doubting that. However, each call was different.
Moses was called to be the chief leader of the entire nation of Israel. Aaron was called to be the leader of the priesthood. And Miriam was called to be the worship leader particularly among women.
God made those distinctions in roles very clear.
Now, when it comes to aspiring towards higher positions, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
In fact, God expects us to be ambitious. He tells us to ask for what we want.
But, this wasn’t Miriam’s problem. Miriam had been bitten by pride and envy and discontent.
Clearly she felt she could do a better job than Moses. But boy was she misguided.
Miriam wanted a position she had not been equipped or gifted for. God spent 40 years to prepare Moses.
And now she thought she knew better than God.
Miriam needed to stay in her lane. Praise and worship and prophetic inspiration was her thing.
She needed to work on wanting what had been given to her, master her craft and be content in her call.
But most importantly is this: Miriam lacked the level of spiritual humility and she needed a serious soul search.
As you reflect on the life of Miriam, truly pray about your giftedness and aspirations. Are they in alignment with what God has in mind for you?
Support the spiritual leadership of those in charge
The final lesson from the life of Miriam is this: stand with and for the spiritual leaders at your church and in your life.
One would think that Miriam would support Moses if only for the sake that he was her brother.
Wishful thinking on our part doesn’t make the reality any less true: Miriam didn’t support the ministry of Moses and she in fact tried to actively destroy him.
Such is life within the body of Christ.
If you belong to a corporate body of worshippers, you will know that that is the devil’s playground.
The enemy prides himself on creating contention among believers.
One way he does that is to inspire grumbling and dissatisfaction with spiritual leaders.
All spiritual leaders are not created equal. We know that there are some who are just plain awful. I’m not talking about those.
I’m talking about pastors, deacons, teachers, leaders who love God and truly want to serve.
When they turn up with programs and ideas support them.
Do you have ideas that could work in bringing people into a saving relationship with Jesus? Share it.
Pray for your church leaders and their families.
And yes, give them a word of encouragement because they too need it.
Why is Miriam important in the Bible?
Miriam is one the matriarchal of the Scriptures. Her presence in the Bible is an indication that God wants us to study her life and learn from her.
As one played a major role in the history of Judaism and Christianity, her story is pivotal.
Miriam is also central to the story of Moses. As a baby he was in danger of being murdered.
Miriam’s mother, Jochebed, devised a plan and Miriam was a key player. Miriam played a major role in saving the life of Moses, the greatest leader in the Scriptures and one of the major patriarchs.
What happened to Miriam in the Bible?
According to Jewish tradition, Miriam died at the approximate age of 126 years.
Miriam did not make it to the promised land. She died in the desert and was buried there.
In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried. Numbers 20:1
Facts about Miriam in the Bible
Here are some quick answers to some popular questions about Miriam.
Meaning of Miriam in the Bible
The name Miriam means rebellion and bitterness.
Why did Miriam speak against Moses?.
Miriam rose up against Moses because she didn’t like that he married had foreigner. She also began to dislike his leadership and doubted that God had chosen him to be the chief leader of the Israelites.
Why did God give Miriam leprosy?
God struck Miriam with leprosy because she rose up against His choice for the leadership of Israelites.
Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them. Numbers 12:5-9
Final words on Miriam in the Bible
Miriam was not an easy nut to crack. She was a big sister who had great influence in her home and community.
Miriam was far from perfect. We saw that she struggled with pride and jealousy. This great matriarch was as human as they come.
But in her story is grace. God showed up to discipline her but He didn’t take her life. God gave her another opportunity to live a righteous life in humility and service.
And He does the same thing for us every single morning when we find ourselves with breath and life.