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  • Susan Brown

Ladies’ Bible Study – Miriam


Text: Exodus 2:1-8; 15:20-21, Numbers 12

Write a thumb-nail sketch of the person’s life.

We first meet Miriam when she was a little girl, eleven years old.  She lived at the time when God’s people were slaves in Egypt.  The Pharaoh worried that the Israelites would become so great and strong that they would be a threat to the Egyptians.  He tried to get rid of them by mistreating them. When they only became stronger, he did something more drastic. He ordered that all baby boys be thrown in the river.

Miriam’s parents hid her baby brother, Moses, for three months.  When they could no longer hide him, her mother made a little boat for the baby and put him in the river.  Miriam watched the baby from the banks of the river.  She watched as Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to swim.  The princess saw the basket, and her heart melted when she opened it and saw a baby inside.

“This must be one of the Hebrew children,” the princess said. “I will keep him myself.”

Miriam was listening from the banks.  She went right up to the princess and said, “Do you need someone to nurse him for you?  I can get someone for you.”

The princess agreed and Miriam came back with her mother. Because of her boldness and quick thinking, Moses was able to spend his first important years with his birth mother.

We read in Exodus about the life of Moses — how he grew up in the palace, but chose his own people rather than to enjoy the riches of Egypt.  We see him in his anger committing a murder and having to run for his life. We see his 40 years in the desert, learning to be humble and to trust in God.  As Moses led God’s people out of Egypt, we meet Miriam again.  The people crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and the Egyptians drowned.

We read that “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.”

So we see that Miriam was a prophetess — which could mean that she was the wife of a prophet, although I can’t find any reference to a husband.  It could mean that she was “an inspired woman.”  At any rate, it means that she was close to God — and what a blessing that her song praising God is recorded in the Bible.  We also see that the women followed her in praising God.  That should be our goal, ladies, that we are busy praising the Lord and that we encourage others to praise Him.

But then we look in Numbers 12, and we see that Miriam was not perfect.  Her personality that gave her boldness to speak to Pharaoh’s daughter and to lead the women in praising God got her into trouble.

First we see that Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses’ wife. Miriam had opinions, and she didn’t feel like keeping them to herself. She said, “Has the Lord only spoken by Moses?  Hasn’t He spoken by us, too?”

And we see Miriam’s big fault: She wanted to lead and was as ready to stand up for herself as she was to speak up for the Lord.  She wasn’t content to be in the background, but wanted the same honor that Moses had.  The fact that Aaron was swayed to go along with her shows that she had a powerful personality. The fact that she was the one punished, shows that she was the leader in this little revolt.

And God heard.  We need to remember that God hears what we say!  If we speak against His servant, He knows what we are saying. God spoke up for Moses.

“I speak to prophets in dreams and visions,” God said. “But not with Moses. I talk to him directly.  Since he is my spokesman, why are you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses.”

And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them and He departed.  What a terrible thing for the presence of the Lord to depart from us!  We know that when we are His people, we never lose our salvation. Sometimes, though, we lose the joy of the Lord by our sinful pride.

Aaron turned to look at his sister and saw that she was covered with leprosy, that most dreaded of diseases.  Leprosy was a painful and disgusting disease.  It made your fingers and toes and nose rot off. Then the rest of your body followed until you slowly died a horrible death. Leprosy was contagious, so you had to be put far away from everyone so they wouldn’t catch it. If anyone came near, you had to shout, “Stay away! Unclean!”

What a terrible punishment!  Yet, the punishment fit the crime. God is always just, and we can tell by this just how much He hates pride. We can tell what a serious thing it is to speak against God’s servant.

Moses prayed for Miriam, and God answered.  He gave her just a week of leprosy and then she was healed. She came back to the camp, but we don’t hear of her demanding recognition or authority again.

List all of her characteristics. What does the Bible say about those character qualities?

We see that Miriam was quick thinking and bold. She spoke right up, even as a child.  Most children are too shy to speak to a strange adult.  Besides, she was a slave, and this lady was an Egyptian, one of the people who could cruelly mistreat her just because she was a Hebrew.  And this lady was the Pharaoh’s daughter.  If any of us had the chance to speak to the king’s daughter, we would probably do it with our hearts beating fast — if we did it at all.  But Miriam thought of a plan and was bold enough to put it in action. It was these qualities that made it possible for Moses to be raised by his birth mother until he was old enough to live in the palace.  God used that time to give him a loyalty to his family and his people.

Prov. 28:1  The righteous are BOLD as a lion.

Acts 4:29  “Grant unto they servants that with all BOLDNESS they speak thy word.”  Something the early Christians prayed for as desirable.

It is important to be brave. To speak out and say “The Lord did this for me.”  To witness to other people.  To some this is hard, to others, like Miriam, it is a strength.

Miriam was creative, and SHE USED HER TALENTS TO GLORIFY GOD. When God did a miracle, she was right out in front, giving Him glory and praising Him.  The other ladies followed her as she sang.  It’s a good thing to use our abilities and talents for the Lord.

Miriam’s PRIDE was her downfall.  She was a natural leader.  She led the ladies in the right way.  But she longed for more than serving. She wanted the recognition that came with a position of authority.  That led her to try to get some of the glory that was given to Moses.

Prov. 6:17 — The list of things God HATES is headed by pride.  If God hates it, and He sends such judgement on it, we should be careful to avoid it at all costs.

Prov. 8:13 — When we truly fear the Lord, we HATE pride.

Prov. 11:2 — With pride comes shame. We certainly see that with Miriam!

Prov. 13:10 — Only by PRIDE comes contention.  When you feel contentious, like fighting and setting someone straight, take a look at your heart. Is this pride leading you to act this way?

Prov. 16:18  Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Prov. 2923 A man’s pride shall bring him low.

Miriam led people to REBELLION.  She led Aaron into sin.  Just as she led the ladies to praise God, she led Aaron to talk against Moses.  Aaron was a weaker character.  We see him falling to sin when Moses was on the mountaintop and the people wanted an idol.  So we see him following Miriam into gossip and revolt against Moses.  We know that Miriam was the leader, because God reproved them both, but it was only Miriam that had the plague of leprosy.

We learned last week that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. We follow the devil when we rebel, because we are acting just like him.  We want to be a god, just as he said, “I want to be like the most Hight God.”  When we demand to be honored and insist that we should be in control, we are sinning in the same way.  We are declaring that we want to be in control — the god.  That’s what sin is — not submitting to the One True God, but wanting to make the decisions for ourselves. We desire glory and honor for ourselves.  We shouldn’t be concerned with that, but with giving God glory and honor.

How did her life and character affect her husband and children?

We don’t see that she had a husband or children.  We can see that she led her brother astray and caused division among God’s people.

What do you think is the leading lesson taught by her life?

It’s good to be bold and to speak out, serving the Lord.  Pride is a danger and one that is displeasing to God.

What applications can you make to your life?

God gives each of us gifts and strengths.  If we misuse those, they become our downfall.  What is YOUR strength?  Can you see how it may cause you to fall in some areas? How can you avoid this?

Do you have contention with someone?  Is it caused, in part, by insisting on having your own way?  What can you do to solve this problem?

We can look for strengths which are misused in our husbands and children.  What most annoys you about your husband?  Can it be a good quality misused?  How about your children?

Laziness can be a misuse of a cheerful and easy-going personality. Those people tend to be loving and a pleasure to be around, but can fall into the sin of carelessness. Make sure your children learn to work, but give praise as well as discipline.  People with this personality type want to please, so make sure they get smiles and hugs when they do right to encourage them to keep it up.

Pickiness can be misuse of a personality that strives for perfection. Try to help him keep a balance, but praise him for a job well done.  Help him see that he doesn’t have to be perfect to have your love. This type of person is usually very hard on himself, never satisfied, so often grumpy.  Understand, give praise, and point out the good in his projects.

Bossiness can be a leadership gift misused, as in Miriam’s case.  Give a child like this responsibility, but watch out for pride.

Do you notice that praise is a common factor here?  Sometimes we are so busy correcting our children that we fail to enjoy them and to praise them.  That’s a part of parenting, too.  We should be faithful to correct and discipline, but don’t forget to encourage and praise.

People will become what you call them. If you tell a child he is stupid, he will believe it and be stupid. If he is naughty and you tell him constantly, “You are a naughty child,” he will believe you and his behavior will be worse.

If you tell your child, “You are a hard worker. I am glad I can depend on you,” he will try to be worthy of your praise.

If someone in your life is a Miriam — be grateful for them and encourage their good qualities.  Be careful, though, who you follow.

If YOU are a Miriam — be happy with who you are, but be watchful for the downfall of pride.

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