Miriam’s story appears in Scripture as part of the bigger picture of God rescuing and redeeming the nation of Israel. But she had a role, and an important one. There are spiritual lessons from the life of Miriam that have a relevant message for us today. Sometimes we may feel small and insignificant in the light of national events. But, as Miriam’s story reveals, God cares deeply and is interested in each one of us!
Why is Miriam Important in the Bible?
There are three incidents recorded in the Bible were Miriam played a significant part. These occurred at different stages of her life and reveal lessons from the life of Miriam that are so relevant for us today.
Miriam lived in a significant era for Israel and her first role is recorded when she was a young girl. Pharaoh was trying to eliminate the Israelites and had issued an edict that their baby boys should be killed at birth. Moses’ mother, however, managed to keep his birth a secret for three months. Then when she could no longer keep him hidden, she placed him in a secure basket on the river Nile. Miriam stood at a distance watching over the baby.
Why is Miriam important in the Bible? She was instrumental in the plan that saved Moses’ life. His immediate future was secured, while keeping the family connection so Moses would grow up knowing who he was!
Miriam is not mentioned again for eighty years…
Moses, with Aaron supporting him, had led the people out of slavery in Egypt. They had just passed through the Red Sea and were on their way towards the promised land. Miriam also had a leadership role; she was designated a prophet and worship leader. She led the women in worship, singing and dancing, drawing the whole community into praising God for their deliverance.
“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
Why is Miriam important in the Bible? This was a time of change with the introduction of the law and a new covenant relationship with God. Miriam’s role in these events is an example to us of God placing women in leadership positions. And that God does not discriminate, He speaks through men and women.
“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
Some time later, Miriam succumbed to the sin of comparison which led to jealousy and criticism. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses – and God heard them.
“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?”Numbers 12:6-8
Miriam was visibly and publicly rebuked by God and set apart from the community. But her brothers interceded for her, Aaron to Moses and Moses to God. After seven days Miriam was brought back into the camp and restored to her family.
Why is Miriam important in the Bible? She is known not only for her giftings but also her flawed humanity. These lessons from the life of Miriam are relatable to each one of us. They also demonstrate the power of intercession and God’s mercy!
7 Facts About Miriam in the Bible
- Miriam was the daughter of Amram and Jochebed, and the elder sister of Aaron and Moses.
- She was an obedient daughter and a protective sister who watched over her baby brother Moses.
- Miriam acted boldly in approaching Pharaoh’s daughter. She was old enough to devise a plan to save Moses and to include her mother in his care.
- She is the first female prophet in the Bible – and may be the oldest woman prophet mentioned in the Bible, certainly in the Old Testament.
- Miriam was a worship leader for the whole community.
- She challenged Moses’ role as leader – and suffered the consequences of disrespecting God.
- Miriam was forgiven and restored by God’s mercy through the petition of her brothers.
The Spiritual Meaning of Miriam
There are a number of explanations as to the root of the meaning of the name Miriam. If the name’s origin is Egyptian, it can mean ‘wished-for child,’ derived from myr ‘beloved’ or mr ‘love’. But if the name is of Hebrew origin, then the root could be mar (“bitter”) or meri (“rebellion”), symbolizing the bitter slavery in Egypt. Scholars also suggest an alternative that MER-eh-um means ‘one who is loved by Yahweh’.
Each one of those interpretations of Miriam’s name would have held spiritual significance for her. Our hope is that every child is wished for and beloved. The name Miriam in that context is a positive affirmation. Indeed, Miriam appears to have come from a loving family who cared deeply for each other.
At the time of her birth the Israelites were experiencing the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. A place where they were no longer welcome. They had began to cry out to God to rescue and deliver them. But would they want their child to constantly remind them of their bitter predicament?
Finally, there is some mystery over the origin of the name of God as YAHWEH. But generally, it appears after Moses’ call and commission in the wilderness. If that is the case then the meaning of the name Miriam as ‘one who is loved by Yahweh’ would not have been in use at her birth. Although it is an accurate and beautiful interpretation!
3 Relevant Lessons From the Life of Miriam
These lessons from the life of Miriam bring encouragement and also serve as a warning to us. The message is relevant because our fundamental human nature has not changed. The feelings that drove Miriam are the same that we experience in our lives, good and bad!
Family life and our role within the family is important. God places us within families to watch over and protect one another. We should do all that we can to maintain close family relationships. I know that for some that is not possible with their natural family. But God also places us in the family of believers to support and encourage each other. Being part of a family, physical or spiritual, is such a blessing whether it is our season for giving or receiving love!
Worship Leader and Prophet
We are all given unique giftings to use to the full for the glory of God. The natural talents that we have are God-given and can be used in multiple different ways to serve Him. Whatever we do, our focus should be that we are working for the Lord, whether directly or indirectly.
There are also spiritual gifts given by God to serve the family of believers. We can be encouraged by the witness of Miriam that God speaks through both men and women. She is also an example, along with others in Scripture, of God placing women in leadership positions.
Related Post: Deborah and Barak Working Together
A Discontented Woman
The danger of comparison cannot be ignored as it allows pride to seep into our hearts and minds. That brings discontentment, jealousy, and envy, which alienate us from God.
Related Post: 3 Obstacles That Keep Us From God
Moses was God’s anointed leader, and he was a humble man. His brother, Aaron, had been chosen to be the people’s Priest. Miriam too, had a specific role as prophet and worship leader. Each one was individually placed by God exactly where they needed to be. But Miriam allowed pride in her position to creep in, and pride is the root of sin.
Out of the lessons from the life of Miriam this is so relevant today – to guard our hearts and minds. Now, more than ever, image and perceived success are prioritized above everything else. It is so easy to allow comparison to color our thoughts…But when we are secure in the knowledge of God’s love, it has the power to change everything. God will make the way for our gifts to operate, in His perfect timing. We can trust our way forward to God confident in the knowledge that He has the best plan for our life.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”Philippians 2:3-5
There is also great encouragement in Miriam’s story for when we fail – and we all do. If we humble ourselves before God, He is faithful to forgive and restore us into fellowship.