In the previous weekend I got the chance to participate in an amazing event, the first Biblical Hebrew Summit. As a Biblical Hebrew teacher this was a time that I won't forget. In today's newsletter I decided to share with you, dear readers, some of the highlights of that Summit. The story with Miriam is a story that can show us how the Bible ignores sometimes the characters that created the future of the Israelites when it wasn't sure that there would be any "Israelites".
In the Hebrew Bible the first time we encounter a person, it's like a first date with a first impression. When we meet Miriam for the first time she isn’t mentioned by her name, she is just the sister of the young little child that swims to his end in the Nile, as written:
"וַתִּפְתַּח וַתִּרְאֵהוּ אֶת-הַיֶּלֶד וְהִנֵּה-נַעַר בֹּכֶה; וַתַּחְמֹל עָלָיו וַתֹּאמֶר מִיַּלְדֵי הָעִבְרִים זֶה. וַתֹּאמֶר אֲחֹתוֹ אֶל-בַּת-פַּרְעֹה הַאֵלֵךְ וְקָרָאתִי לָךְ אִשָּׁה מֵינֶקֶת מִן הָעִבְרִיֹּת; וְתֵינִק לָךְ אֶת-הַיָּלֶד"
"When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?”(Exodus 2:6-7)
Miriam is just the savior of Moses from the death in the waters of the Nile. This is her function; and it's amazing that her name in Hebrew is really similar to the word water, as we are about to see in the next verses.
Also the second time where she is mentioned as the older sister of Moses and Aaron, she is not there by name (see Exodus 6:20)
Only after the exile out of Egypt, after the crossing of the Read Sea, she appears as the one who brought happiness to the people of Israel, as written:
"וַתִּקַּח מִרְיָם הַנְּבִיאָה אֲחוֹת אַהֲרֹן אֶת-הַתֹּף בְּיָדָהּ; וַתֵּצֶאןָ כָל-הַנָּשִׁים אַחֲרֶיהָ בְּתֻפִּים וּבִמְחֹלֹת. וַתַּעַן לָהֶם מִרְיָם: שִׁירוּ לַיהוָה כִּי- גָאֹה גָּאָה סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם."
"Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. Miriam answered them,“ Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”(Exodus 15:20-21)
She's good enough to be called a prophetess, but still she's Aaron's sister, she can't do it by herself, otherwise it wouldn’t be mentioned. Once more we can see the appearance of the water in her life.
If you would have asked me what is the most humiliating thing that a man can do, I would say – spiting. This is a kind of water that no one wants to have in his life. But, as we said Miriam's life is filled with water. After she and her brother were against Moses' behavior towards his wife, she was the only one to be punished as we can see in Numbers 12:9-15-
"וַיִּחַר-אַף יְהוָה בָּם וַיֵּלַךְ. וְהֶעָנָן סָר מֵעַל הָאֹהֶל, וְהִנֵּה מִרְיָם מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג; וַיִּפֶן אַהֲרֹן אֶל- מִרְיָם וְהִנֵּה מְצֹרָעַת... וַיִּצְעַק מֹשֶׁה אֶל-יְהוָה לֵאמֹר: אֵל נָא רְפָא נָא לָהּ. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, וְאָבִיהָ יָרֹק יָרַק בְּפָנֶיהָ הֲלֹא תִכָּלֵם שִׁבְעַת יָמִים; תִּסָּגֵר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה וְאַחַר תֵּאָסֵף. וַתִּסָּגֵר מִרְיָם מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים; וְהָעָם לֹא נָסַע עַד-הֵאָסֵף מִרְיָם"
"So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed. But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous… Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” but the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.”So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.”
Isn’t this awful? Is this the destiny of the one who saved Moses from death to be a sign of leprosy as written in Deuteronomy 24:8-9?
Maybe this is the reason why the sages of Israel decided that after the death of Miriam, when there was no water for the people , G-d created the well of Miriam,which wandered with them along the 40 years in the wilderness. This is the least that they could do with this beautiful character of Miriam!!!!
Hope to see all of you in the next webinars and summits, Eli