Ask older brothers or sisters what their greatest trial in life is and they will often answer, “My younger brother (or sister)!” This is especially true when the younger sibling is more successful than the older.  The bonds of family loyalty can be strained to the breaking point.

When we first meet Miriam she is involved in one of history’s most unusual babysitting jobs. She is watching her infant brother float on the Nile River in a waterproof cradle.  Miriam’s quick thinking allowed Moses to be raised by his own mother.  Her protective superiority, reinforced by that event, must have been hard to give up as she watched her little brother rise to greatness.

Eventually Moses’ choice of a wife gave Miriam an opportunity to criticise. It was natural for her insecurity to break out over this issue.  With Moses married, Miriam was clearly no longer the most important woman in his life.  The real issue, however, was not the kind of woman Moses had married.  It was the fact that he was now the most important man in Israel.  “Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?…  Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”  No mention is made of Moses’ response, but God had a quick answer for Miriam and Aaron.  Without denying their role in his plan, God clearly pointed out his special relationship with Moses.  Miriam was stricken with leprosy, a deadly disease, as punishment for her insubordination.  But Moses, true to his character, intervened for his sister so that God healed Miriam of her leprosy.

Before criticising someone else, we need to pause long enough to discover our own motives. Failing to do this can bring disastrous results.  What is often labelled “constructive criticism” may actually be destructive jealousy, since the easiest way to raise our own status is to bring someone else down.  Are you willing to question your motives before you offer criticism?  Does the critical finger you point need to be pointed first towards yourself?

Strengths and weaknesses:

  • Quick thinker under pressure
  • Able leader
  • Songwriter
  • Prophetess

Weaknesses and mistakes:

  • Was jealous of Moses’ authority
  • Openly criticised Moses’ leadership

Lessons from her life:

  • The motives behind criticism are often more important to deal with than the criticism itself

Vital statistics:

  • Where: Egypt, Sinai peninsula
  • Relatives: Brothers: Aaron and Moses

Key verses: “Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted.  The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea’ “ (Exodus 15:20, 21).

Miriam’s story is told in Exodus 2; 15 and Numbers 12; 20. She is also mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:9; 1 Chronicles 6:3; Micah 6:4.


©KingsWay 1973.




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