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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:3, Fall 2023

Epistles: Biblical Profile: Miriam Through the Ages

By Hanna Tervanotko

Biblical Archaeology Review

Miriam is one of the most prominent female figures in the Hebrew Bible. Whereas women typically function as wives and mothers in biblical texts, Miriam is an independent figure—not connected to a husband or children. She serves as a prophet (Exodus 15:20–21) and leader (Micah 6:4), and she even challenges Moses (Numbers 12).

These early traditions about Miriam situate her alongside the figures of Moses and Aaron during the Exodus era. However, their exact relationship is not explicit. Exodus 15:20 refers to Miriam as “Aaron’s sister.” Interestingly, though, Numbers 12 and Micah 6 do not mention their kinship at all. Perhaps trying to correct this, the writers of the family genealogies of Numbers 26:59 and 1 Chronicles 6:3 place her in Moses and Aaron’s lineage.

There were other Jewish traditions about Miriam that circulated in antiquity, but these were not included in the biblical canon.1 They appear in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the writings of the first-century CE Jewish authors Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus. These writings expounded on Miriam’s prophecy and family relationships.

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