Jesus’ treatment of women was revolutionary. He welcomed and commended women others overlooked and scorned. Bleeding women. Poor women. Physically disabled women. Notoriously sinful women. Single women. Older women. Foreign women. Prostitutes. Jesus saw and loved women as beings made in the image of God.
In the book, Forty Women, Ros Clarke helps us to see the women of the Bible with fresh eyes. She walks us through a full spectrum of stories and invites us to full-orbed vision of each woman she presents.
This series looks at four such women and in this session we look at Miriam.
12 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.
3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)
4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 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, 6 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.
7 But this is not true of my servant Moses;
he is faithful in all my house.
8 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?”
9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.
10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”
13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”
14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.
16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.
We are first introduced to Miriam as she and her younger brother, Aaron, welcome a new baby boy to the family. His name was Moses. Unfortunately, Moses was born during a time that a decree was in effect demanding that all Hebrew baby boys be killed. Miriam watched as their mother put Moses in a basket and sent him up the river for his safety. Miriam then saw that Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah, saw Moses and wanted to adopt him. She courageously stepped forward and offered to find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for Bithiah. Eventually after a time of exile, away from his people, Moses returns, the hero, God’s chosen one, to free the Egyptians from slavery.
Later on in the story Miriam witnessed her brother, working for God, parting the Red Sea to let her people cross to safety. She saw many miracles. While we don’t find much scripture surrounding Miriam in the role of prophetess, she is described, along with her brothers, Moses and Aaron, as delivering the Jews from slavery in Egypt.
However, over time, she became hungry for more power , and she became restless. She started to question Moses and speak against him. The Lord, Who hears all, decides to discipline Miriam by striking her with leprosy. This is terrible as the disease brings with it the stigma of being unclean and you are to be excluded from society. God intended for her to reflect and repent. She must have felt humiliated and embarrassed for her behaviour.
She must have felt so angry and hurt. She had helped her brother for years and years, she was the one who ensured his safety as a baby, and this was her reward. In the heat of this situation Aaron can’t do anything. But he turns to Moses and asks for help. And Moses, holding no grudge, even though Miriam had been disrespectful to him and his wife, turns to the Lord, and prays, ‘Please, God, heal her!’ (Numbers 12:13)
you have called us your brothers and sisters,
and so we dare to ask you to plead on our behalf to the Lord,
asking him to heal us,
to forgive us,
to restore us,
to transform us.
Thank you that you hold no grudges against us,
that you ever live to intercede for us
in the Most Holy Place.
We turn to you.