Tag Archives: leprosy

Miriam The Prophetess


“Miriam and Moses” by Paul Delaroche from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Woman in Sacred History published in 1873.

Her Name

Miriam enters the Bible without genealogy, an annunciation scene or a naming ceremony. She isn’t even named. She’s just the sister of Moses. Not until she was an old woman do we learn that Moses’ and Aaron’s sister was named Miriam. Most commentaries will tell you that her name means “bitter water” based on the rabbinical understanding that her name is derived from the Hebrew root mrr, to be bitter. Continue reading

The Waters of Life and Death

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“The Israelites arrived in a body at the wilderness of Zin on the first new moon, and the people stayed at Kadesh. Miriam died there and was buried there.” Numbers 20:1

Many feminist commentators have noted that after the incidence where Miriam is struck with leprosy for unclear reasons, she never speaks again and in fact she disappears from the narrative until the mention of her death. It appears that there is a vendetta against her for later we are warned, “Remember what the Lord your God did to Miriam on the way as you came forth out of Egypt.” (Deut. 24:9) On the other hand, “[h]owever much the detractors of Miriam have tried, they do not control the story… Beyond the Exodus and wilderness accounts, fragments of a pro-Miriamic tradition surface still later in the Hebrew Scriptures” (Trible, p. 181). In this article I will explore the evidence for this pro-Miriamic tradition, some of which is embedded in the same narrative that condemns her. Continue reading