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Miriam, the sister of Moses

The Biblical female name Miriam is of Hebrew origin and is considered to be an older version of the name Mary. It means “wished for child,” or perhaps even a quite different meaning, which is “bitter” or “rebellious.” There is also a very similar Egyptian name, based on the word myr, meaning “beloved” or mr meaning “love.”

By consulting our Biblical Timeline, we can determine that Miriam was born in 1576 B.C.

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Miriam was the daughter of Amram and Jochebed, and the older sister of Moses and Aaron, all of whom were Levites. We first learn of Miriam as she and her three-year-old brother, Aaron, are welcoming a new child into the family.Unfortunately for that time, the baby was a boy, and there is a decree that all Hebrew baby boys be killed. Miriam had godly parents who trusted the God of Israel, however, Egypt’s Pharoah hated her people. Miriam would have been only about 5 years old when this baby, Moses was born.

Her mother hid him for three months, but when she could no longer do so, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it to make it waterproof. Then she placed Moses in it and hid it along the bank of the Nile river. Miriam then watched to see what would happen to him.

When the Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the river to bathe, she noticed the basket and sent a slave girl to get it. After she opened it and saw the baby, she fell in love with him. At that moment, Miriam bravely stepped forward and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for the princess, who had decided to keep the baby as her own. And so it was, that Moses’ own mother was paid to care for him until he could be weaned and then given over to the Princess to be raised as an Egyptian.

Just from this one incident, we can glean from Miriam’s life that she was already caring, competent, and certainly brave. It would have taken quite a bit of courage to be so forthright with the Pharaoh’s daughter. She must have also been very obedient, because although the Bible doesn’t tell us, it would seem as though her mother had left her to watch over Moses, and see what would become of him.

Then one day, perhaps Miriam received the news that Moses had killed an Egyptian, and had fled to the desert, in fear for his life. Our Bible timeline shows he would have been 40 years old by then, and it would be another 40 years until they would meet again.

During that long period of Moses’ absence, the Pharaoh, who wanted Moses killed, dies himself. The Hebrew children groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help went up to God, Who heard their afflictions and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore, God looked on His towards children who were still in bondage in Egypt and was troubled over them.

It was God’s perfect time to deliver the Israelites, and He knew who He was going to use to accomplish His will. It would be Moses, who had by now made a completely new life for himself in the land of Midian, with a wife, two sons, and a career of tending his father-in-law’s flocks.

Moses returns to Egypt, and with Aaron as his spokesman, they delivered God’s commands to Pharaoh. Miriam watched God confirm their message with the great miracles they performed.

At long last, the treasured night came when the Israelites were allowed to leave Egypt with the mourning cries of the Egyptians resounding in their ears. Every home with children was grieving the death of a firstborn.

Miriam was there when this immense number of people came to the seemingly impassable barrier of the Red Sea. Miriam was right there when they looked behind them and saw the chariots of the Pharaoh and all his armies chasing after them, since he had changed his mind about letting them leave, and was determined to take them back to Egypt or to kill them on the spot. She witnessed the miracle when God opened a path through the sea, allowing the children of Israel to walk across on dry land. Again, she was there on the other side when Pharaoh’s chariots and horses stepped in to follow along the same path, and the massive walls of water that had stood so secure for the Israelites dissolved and filled in that whole dry bed, and drowned the mightiest army of that time.

“Miriam the prophetess”

The Israelites were free from Egypt’s brutal captivity, and Miriam had seen it all! It was a time for rejoicing, and a time for singing.  Exodus 15 records the first song in the Bible, which was from Moses, and that is not without significance. It is a song of praise from a redeemed people.

Here is Miriam’s response to what the LORD had accomplished:

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”  Exodus 15: 20&21

Miriam was a leader among the Hebrew women, and she was gifted musically. She took the place of leadership that the LORD gave her, and used it to direct the woman to praise the Lord. She was a godly influence in their lives.

Notice that Miriam was one of God’s special gifts to the people of Israel. In fact, the Bible tells us that in Micah 6:4:

“For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.”

She was a gift from God, and that is why she was so influential, however, at some point about 2 years into their journey, things begin to change in Miriam’s heart. The protective sister, the prophetess, the woman’s worship leader, the woman who supported Moses, became his rival and critic.

Moses had the final word on everything, and Aaron was the high priest. She was a prophetess. However, the people of Israel were not being governed by a committee of three. Miriam wanted more power, more authority, and began to speak even against Moses with Aaron because of his Cushite wife.

She was actually being driven by pride, jealousy, and envy at this point and even began to criticize Moses’ wife, and then question that he was not the only one God spoke to.

The Lord finally disciplines Miriam with leprosy for a week. Perhaps this brought her great shame and humiliation, even long after the week had passed. She lived thirty-eight more years under Moses’ authority, and never questioned it again. In fact, the Bible never mentions her after that, until she is about 130 years old, and the children of Israel are on the border of the Promised Land for the second time. It is now the first month of the fortieth year of their travels, and she dies, never having entered into the Promised Land.

Important World Leaders and Events During This Time

  • Egypt is the undisputed world power during this time.
    • Egyptian bondage and oppression increase, especially towards the Hebrew people.
    • This period saw the beginning of the Hurrian conquests.
    • Hittite King Mursilis I fought the Hurrians on the upper Euphrates River.
    • The Cretan palaces at Knossos and other centers flourish despite disasters.
    • The city of Mycenae, located in the northeast Peloponnesus, comes to dominate the rest of Achaea, giving its name to Mycenaean civilization.
    • Cecrops I builds or rebuilds Athens following the great flood of Deucalion and the end of the Golden age. He becomes the first of several Kings of Athens whose life account is considered part of Greek mythology.
    • Cecrops I, legendary King of Athens, dies after a reign of 50 years. Having survived his own son, he is succeeded by Cranaus.
    • Egypt started to conquer Nubia and the Levant.
    • The element Mercury has been discovered in Egyptian tombs dating from this period.
    • Settlers from Crete, Greece move to Miletus, Turkey.
    • There is evidence of the Mayan  civilization developing in Belize.
    • The Phoenicians develop an alphabet.
    • King Cheng Tang of Shang of China, the first ruler of Shang Dynasty, ruled China for 29 years beginning in 1600 B.C.
    • The Edomites lived south of the Dead Sea and blocked the passage of the Israelites to travel through their territory on their way north.
    • The rise of Assyrian power begins to be established.
    • The Kassites rose to political power in Babylon.
    • The Hyksos kingdom was centered in the eastern Nile Delta and Middle Egypt.
    • In Greece, there was a group of people known as “The Pelasgi,” who lived in the region of the Aegean Sea before the coming of the Greeks.
    • The historical, recognizable beginnings of Persia took place in this era.
    • The ancient Chinese art of astronomy is recorded.
    • China is recognized as implementing the first old-age pension plans.
    • Lyrical poetry begins among the ancient Greeks, usually accompanied by a lyre or other stringed instrument.


    Main Bible Characters

    • Aaron, the younger brother of Miriam.
    • Moses, the youngest brother of Miriam.
    • Jochebed and Amram, the parents of Miriam, Aaron, and Moses.
    • Thermuthis, the Egyptian princess, who adopted Moses.

Main Bible References

  • Exodus Chapters 2 & 15
  • Numbers Chapters 12 & 20
  • Micah 6:4
Picture By Anselm Feuerbach, Public Domain,


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10 thoughts on “Miriam, the sister of Moses

  1. I am an adult student in an online bible school (World Video Bible School) and have just been made aware of your website. In a very short time it has become a valuable resource in my studies. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Jesse, we appreciate the compliment!

  2. What an indepth insight into the seniority squabbles of the trio, Miriam, Aaron and Moses.
    Very educative. God bless u.

  3. you provide the information that would have been difficult to get though the bible reading. thank you for being helpful.

    Linda Tembe ; theology student from unisa

  4. God blessed us with a baby girl and i wanted to name her Miriam and my Pastor’s Wife confirmed that name since she is called Miriam. i went on google to confirm if that name is relevant and is biblical and i fount this elaborate insights.
    Thank you very much!

  5. was Miriam also a healer, a nurse and is she the one who isolated the Lepers. And what were the Lepers. Was it truly Hansons disease ?

  6. What verse helps to show how old Miriam was when Moses was born? How did you know she was 5? Thank you!

  7. I am conducting a bible study on Miriam and you provided the information I needed. It saved me loads of time. Thank you very much.

  8. Dear,
    Thank you so much for the insights about Miriam, I do follow your post and i love it. We have our daughter called Miriam and she is 3 years. She is the third daughter.
    Blessings to you!

  9. Not sure if your interested but I would like to make it more clear concerning the word alma that’s used 3 times in the old testament, I know for many it won’t make sense but this particular word denotes age, more specifically a age under 12 years old and more so around possibly 9 or 10 years old, the reason being, of course Moses sister and brother would not have been that much older than Moses himself, I have read she was about 5 years old at the time she followed the basket with Moses in it but to me that is too young, too much to discuss that here but, you know the capabilities of a 5 year old compared to one that is about 10 years old and there’s a significant difference, anyway, Rebecca is referred to as a alma also which I doubt very seriously a 5 year old could do what she did at the well but no doubt a 10 year old could, anyway the other usage referring to the one that would be born had to do with Jesus ( if you believe or not ) according to the scriptures I have, the reason I am writing this is to explain why this word indicates a young woman that has not started her periods since the many words translated as virgin has different meanings, some of which describe only a young woman still living under her fathers care having virginity which obviously carries a meaning other than the alma, my point is this though, I know there was no egg of a female used in making Jesus because of the belief that sin was related to the blood and Jesus blood would have had to be pure or the sacrifice would mean nothing, there’s another story in the old testament which I am not sure which way this word virgin is used but I am pretty certain it’s referring to a young woman that’s never started her periods because of the proof the parents could show the judges which was in some kind of cloth, it’s obvious that the judges were looking for blood, had there been blood, there are only two things that would prove, one being this story that’s circulating that on the wedding night the man would sex her and she would bleed and then the man would give that cloth or sheet to the parents as proof she was a virgin, there’s a major problem with this belief, that would be like video taping yourself stealing something then giving it to the police then denying you did the crime, no man is that stupid, I put that story aside as someone trying to justify their meaning of this word, anyway, one things is certain if you understand the female anatomy, proving virginity is impossible, it’s only something that someone else would have to believe which leads me to this, this happens every day when a young woman still living under her fathers care and gets pregnant, they lie, they tell the parents they don’t know how it happened because they never had sex with a man, the sign that God said He would give would be a miracle, a miracle is not something that can occur through natural events, thereby eliminating the possibility of a lie, a young woman that hasn’t began her periods and gets pregnant, one that can be proven by the parents and anyone being suspicious of it as to whether it was or is a miracle would be put to rest, no one could deny that being a miracle, anyway, the fact the judges saw no blood, which is what really happened, meant that whatever the cloth was ( I believe it was something like an undergarment worn at or before the onset of her blood coming out ), because had there been blood, it would have only proved the young girl had began her periods but if she had not and the parents knew this and there was blood, there is only one thing that they could have thought, the young girl had sex in her fathers house with some man that caused her to bleed from the size of his thingy, I think because of the shame it would appear to others knowing that at that time young girls were betrothed at a very young age and more so even married off or sent away to the man’s house with the possibility of him having sex with her ( I see no shame in how customs were at that time ) although to many the very thought of God impregnating a young woman at the age of possibly 10 or 11 ( not 12 or older ) because that was probably expected of girls that age so it wouldn’t even have been something to alarm anyone, I know by the time Jesus came the custom was looked down upon in marrying a virgin because Paul speaks of this in 1st cor. but nevertheless he said she was not sinning but would or could suffer in the flesh if she did, I am sure Paul had a understanding of what could happen with a girl at this age getting married, there’s no doubt that these two words have different meanings, virgin and virginity, which a woman of any age can have virginity but from someone’s mind was not a virgin, one that could be proven anyway, I should also clarify something else I know concerning the betrothed state of being as you well know, it was a promise to marry but entitled the man and woman certain benefits which included sexual contact, why? because she was referred to as the man’s wife, why? because to the Jew, a promise was something that was going to happen, why? because they are the promise one’s, and at that time a man’s word counted for something, unlike today or at the time a covenant had to be made in their time concerning what a man owned or not or rather what was in his name or not, sorry for writing so much but I can’t help but believe modern views of ancient biblical times is distorted, just wanted to express a opinion

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