Miriam - Sister of Moses

Profile of Miriam, Sister of Moses and Prophet During the Exodus

Miriam - Sister of Moses
Miriam leads the Israelite women in a victory song. Distant Shores Media / Sweet Publishing

Miriam was the older sister of Moses, the man who led the escape of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.

Her first appearance in the Bible occurred at Exodus 2:4, as she watched her baby brother float down the Nile River in a pitch-covered basket so he would escape Pharaoh's order to kill all male Jewish infants. Miriam boldly approached Pharaoh's daughter, who found the baby, offering her own mother as a nurse for Moses.

Miriam was not mentioned again until after the Hebrews had crossed the Red Sea.  After the waters swallowed up the pursuing Egyptian army, Miriam took a timbrel, a tambourine-like instrument, and led the women in a song and dance of victory.

Later, Miriam's position as a prophet went to her head.  She and Aaron, also Moses' sibling, complained about Moses' Cushite wife.  However, Miriam's real problem was jealousy:

"Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?"  they asked.  "Hasn't he also spoken through us?"  And the LORD heard this.  (Numbers 12:2, NIV)

God rebuked them, saying he spoke to them in dreams and visions but spoke to Moses face to face.  Then God struck Miriam with leprosy.

Only through the pleading of Aaron to Moses, then Moses to God, was Miriam spared death from the dreaded disease.  Still, she had to be confined outside the camp seven days until she was clean.

After the Israelites had wandered in the desert 40 years, Miriam died and was buried at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.   

Accomplishments of Miriam

Miriam served as a prophet of God, speaking his word as he instructed.  She also was a unifying force among the cantankerous Hebrew people.

Miriam's Strengths

Miriam had a strong personality in an age when women were not considered leaders.  No doubt she supported her brothers Moses and Aaron during the arduous trek in the desert.

Miriam's Weaknesses

Miriam's desire for personal glory led her to question God.  If Moses had not been a special friend of God, Miriam might have died.

Life Lessons from Miriam

God doesn't need our advice.  He calls us to trust and obey him.  When we grumble, we show that we think we could handle the situation better than God.


Miriam was from Goshen, the Hebrew settlement in Egypt.

References to Miriam in the Bible

Miriam is mentioned in Exodus 15:20-21, Numbers 12:1-15, 20:1, 26:59;  Deuteronomy 24:9; 1 Chronicles 6:3; and Micah 6:4.


Prophet, leader of the Hebrew people.

Family Tree

Father:  Amram
Mother:  Jochebed
Brothers:  Moses, Aaron

Key Verses

Exodus 15:20
Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. (NIV)

Numbers 12:10
When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam—leprous, like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; (NIV)

Micah 6:4
I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. (NIV)