Heroic Women Of The Bible: Miriam – The Original Big Sister

By Kelly Wise Valdes

Throughout the Bible, there are many stories of strong and heroic women.  In this new series, we will explore a story of a faithful biblical woman each month. With their strong faith, the women of the Bible continue to teach us how to live authentic, faith-filled lives. No matter what our circumstances are, we can find ourselves in their stories. 

Most of us know about Miriam, the little girl who watched over her baby brother, Moses, as he was put in a basket and set in the river. However, the rest of Miriam’s story tells how she transformed as a leader alongside her brother and led with courage, integrity and faith. Miriam is one of the few women that the Bible refers to as a prophetess.

Miriam was born in Egypt when the Jewish people were reduced to slavery, oppression and hard labor. Having been born at the time when enslavement began, her parents named her ‘Miriam’ from the Hebrew word meaning ‘bitterness’. However, Miriam was not bitter, in fact, she was blessed with the spirit of prophecy when she was still a child. Her earliest prophecy was that her mother was going to give birth to a son who would free the Jewish people from the Egyptian slavery. 

When Miriam was 7 years old, her mother gave birth to Moses after Pharaoh had given orders to kill every newborn Israelite boy. Miriam helped her mother hide baby Moses for three months; and when they could no longer hide him, they put the child in a basket and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. Miriam loved her baby brother and decided to stay by the river to try to protect Moses.
The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe in the Nile and saw the basket. She opened the basket and saw inside a baby boy crying. The princess was immediately smitten with baby and said, “This must be a Hebrew child.” (Exodus 2:6)

Miriam was watching this unfold and made her way down to the princess and approached her. She took a chance by asking the princess if she could find a Hebrew nurse to nurse the baby. The daughter of Pharaoh agreed, and Miriam went and brought her mother who ended up taking care of Moses through the rest of his infancy. Disregarding her father’s order, the princess adopted the baby and raised him as her own.

Miriam’s story continues to unfold decades later, when Moses delivers the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, according to Miriam’s childhood prophecy. It is during this time period when she is referred to as “Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron,” who is the brother of Moses. (Exodus 15:20) Not only was she a prophetess, but she grew to be a charismatic leader. Shortly after the Hebrew people were delivered from Egypt, she led the Hebrew women in song and dance.

The Song of Miriam is one of the few poems that survived from the ancient world.
Decades after her first act of bravery on the banks of the Nile River, Miriam displayed leadership skills as she led alongside her brother, Moses. After generations of slavery and what was certainly a challenging and often hard life for Miriam, she had the spirit to sing God’s praises. A life of slavery has not extinguished her faith and spirit. She used her gift of leadership to sing the praises of the Lord, to celebrate and rejoice in Him.

As Christians, the story of Miriam teaches us that a small act of bravery can change the course of our lives and the lives of others. Being a follower of God’s plan, Miriam not only helped to save her brother’s life but also helped set Israel’s deliverance in motion. Miriam’s life had been one of service and leadership. She remains a model for women and men today.