MIRIAM (Heb. מִרְיָם); the daughter of amram and Jochebed and sister of moses and aaron (Num.26:59; I Chron. 5:29. The name may mean "gift" (see von Soden, UF 2 (1970), 269–72). According to tradition, Miriam is the sister, mentioned in Exodus 2:2–8, who advised Pharaoh's daughter to call a Hebrew nurse for him. The critical view is that the representation of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam as "siblings" is secondary. In the earliest form of the tradition, Miriam was one of the leaders of the Exodus (Micah 6:4). The title "prophetess" was given to Miriam when she appeared, timbrel in hand, at the head of the singing and dancing women after the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 15:20–21). It was an Israelite custom for women to welcome the men with timbrels and dancing when they returned from the battlefield and at other celebrations (cf. Judg. 11:34; I Sam. 18:6–7; Ps. 68:26). Miriam is also mentioned in the context of her and Aaron's attempt to challenge Moses' exclusive right to speak in the name of the Lord (Num. 12). Miriam is mentioned first, and according to G.B. Gray, the verb appearing in the feminine, va-tedabber be- ("she spoke against"), suggests that Miriam led this revolt. In any event, she alone was punished. The text preserves two traditions: one that the cause of the rebellion was Moses' marriage to a Kushite (black Sudanese) woman (Num. 12:1), while the other cause was a challenge to the unique authority of Moses, i.e., Miriam and Aaron objected to Moses' exclusive right to prophesy in God's name (cf. Num. 11:25–30). Miriam was smitten with a dread skin disease (see leprosy ), and was healed only after Moses interceded on her behalf, and after she had been quarantined for seven days. Her punishment is recalled again (Deut. 24:9), as a warning against disobeying the laws against "leprosy." Miriam died in Kadesh and was buried there (Num. 20:1). It is likely that there were more traditions about Miriam that did not survive the canonization of the Bible. (Ephraim Stern / S. David Sperling (2nd ed.) -In the Aggadah: Miriam was so called in reference to the bitterness of the bondage of Egypt (מר, "bitter" Ex. R. 26:1). Although she is referred to as a prophetess in the Bible (Ex. 15:20), none of her prophecies is mentioned there. The aggadah, however, fills the lacuna. It explains that her father amram , unwilling to have children who would be doomed to death, divorced his wife after Pharaoh's decree. Miriam urged him to remarry jochebed , rebuking him for being even more cruel than Pharaoh since the latter had decreed only against the male children, and prophesying that a child would be born from them who would be the liberator of Israel. Amram acceded and Miriam   sang and danced before her parents on the occasion of the remarriage (Sot. 12a–13a; BB 120a). Miriam is identified by some rabbis with Puah (from פעה, "to open the mouth": Ex. R. 1:13; Rashi, Sot. 11b), one of the midwives (Ex. 1:15), who was so called because she comforted the mother and cooed to the child to make it open its mouth. As a reward she was destined to have illustrious descendants. She is also identified with Azubah, the wife of Caleb (I Chron. 2:18); their son, Hur (Ex. R. 1:17) was the grandfather of Bezalel, who inherited the wisdom of his great-grandmother and was the architect of the Sanctuary. Some rabbis hold that even King David was descended from her (Sif. Num. 78; Ex. R. 48:3–4). Miriam is portrayed as fearless in her rebukes. As a child, she reprimanded Pharaoh for his cruelty, and he refrained from putting her to death only as a result of her mother's plea that she was but a child (Ex. R. 1:13). She also saw fit to rebuke Moses when he separated from Zipporah, because she felt that he should procreate (Sif. Num. 99). Although Miriam was punished with leprosy, God honored her by Himself officiating as the kohen to declare her definitely a leper and subsequently to declare her cleansed (Zev. 102a). Because she had waited for Moses by the river, the Israelites waited for her to recover (Sot. 11a). A miraculous well, created during the twilight on the eve of the first Sabbath (Avot 5:6), accompanied the Children of Israel in the desert due to her merits (Ta'an. 9a). Like Moses and Aaron, she too died by the kiss of God since the angel of death had no power over her (BB 17a). (Aaron Rothkoff) -In Islam In his early prophecies Muhammad speaks about Miriam (Mary, Ar. Maryam) and her son Jesus, who was born of the Holy Spirit (Sura 19:20; 23:52; 66:12). It is, however, also said in Sura 19:29 that she was the sister of Aaron, while in the third Sura (3:31), known as the sura of the family of ʿImrān, she is described as the daughter of ʿImrān. In connection with the decrees of Firʿawn (pharaoh ), Muhammad related that the mother of Mūsā (Moses) ordered his sister to watch over the ark in which Moses had been placed (20:41–42; 28:10–12) – without mentioning her name. On another occasion (66:11–12), he mentions the wife of Pharaoh and Miriam (the mother of Jesus) among the righteous women. According to Tabarī and Thaʿlabī, Miriam was married to Caleb, while in Kisāʾī's tale about Qārūn (korah ), it is said that Miriam was his wife and that it was from her he had learned the science of alchemy, the reason for his attainment to wealth. (Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg) For Miriam in the arts, see moses , In the Arts. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: IN THE BIBLE: M.D. Cassuto, Perush al Sefer Shemot (19532), 125–6; Haran, in: Tarbiz, 25 (1955), 13–14; M.Z. Segal, Masoret u-Vikkoret (1957), 89–90; O. Bardenhower, Der Name Maria (1895); Haupt, in: AJSLL, 20 (1903/4), 152; Zorell, in: Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie, 30 (1906), 356–60; G.B. Gray, Numbers (ICC, 1903), 120–8; H. Gressmann, Moses und seine Zeit (1913), 264–75, 351–52; Humbert, in: ZAW, 38 (1919–20), 86; Voelten, ibid., 111–12; Noth, Personennamen, 60; Bauer, in: ZAW, 51 (1933), 87n. 2; 53 (1935), 59; Rozelaar, in: VT, 2 (1952), 226; CH Gordon, Ugaritic Manual (1955), 292, no. 1170. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S.D. Sperling, in: HUCA, 70–71 (2000–01), 39–55. IN THE AGGADAH: M. Haran, in: JSS, 5 (1960), 54–55; Ginzberg, Legends, index. IN ISLAM: Ṭabarī, Taʾrīkh, 1 (1357 A.H.), 307; Thaʿlabī Qiṣaṣ (1356 A.H.), 141, 203; Kisāʾī, Qiṣaṣ, ed. by Eisenberg (1922–23), 229–30; A. Geiger, Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen? (1902), 154; H. Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran (1931, repr. 1961), 242–3; "Maryam," in EIS2, 6 (1991), 628–32 (includes bibliography).

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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