Mir'iam (Heb. Miryam', מַריָם, rebellion; Sept. Μαριάμ, but in 1Ch 4:17 Μαών v. r. Μαρών; Josephus Μαριάμμη, Ant. 4:4, 6), the name of a woman and of a man. The name reappears in the N.T., Μαριάμ being the form always employed for the nominative case of the name of the Virgin Mary, though it is declined ; while Μαρία is employed in all cases for the three other Marys. At the time of the Christian era it seems to have been common. Among others who bore it was Herod's celebrated wife and victim, Mariamne. SEE MARY.
1. The sister of Moses and Aaron, and supposed (so Josephus, Ant. 2:9, 4) to be the same that watched her infant brother when exposed on the Nile; in which case she was probably ten or twelve years old at the time (Ex 2:4 sq.). B.C. 1738. She was the daughter of Amram and Jochebed, of the tribe of Levi (Nu 26:59; comp. Mic 6:4). When the Israelites left Egypt, Miriam naturally became the leading woman among them. "The sister of Aaron" is her Biblical distinction (Ex 10:20). In Nu 12:1 she is placed before Aaron; and "Miriam the Prophetess" is her acknowledged title (Ex 15:20). The prophetic power showed itself in her under the same form as that which it assumed in the days of Samuel and David poetry, accompanied with music and processions. The only instance of this prophetic gift is when, after the passage of the Red Sea, she took a cymbal in her hand, and went forth, like the Hebrew maidens in later times after a victory (Jg 18:1; Jg 11:34; 1Sa 18:6; Ps 68:11,25), followed by the whole female population of Israel, also beating their cymbals and striking their guitars (מחֹלֹת, otherwise "dances"). It does not appear how far they joined in the whole of the song (Ex 1:15-19); but the opening words are repeated again by Miriam herself at the close, in the form of a command to the Hebrew women. "She answered them, saying, Sing ye to Jehovah, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." B.C. 1658. The arrival of Moses's Cushite wife in the camp seems to have created in her an unseemly dread of losing her influence and position, and held her into complaints of and dangerous reflections upon Moses, in which Aaron joined (see Kitto's Daily Bible Illustr. ad loc.). SEE ZIPPORAH. Their question, "Hath Jehovah spoken by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us?" (Nu 12:1-2), implies that the prophetic gift was exercised by them; while the answer implies that it was communicated in a less direct form than to Moses. "If there be a prophet among you, I Jehovah will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so... With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches" (Nu 12:6-8). A stern rebuke was administered in front of the sacred tent to both Aaron and Miriam. But the punishment fell on Miriam, as the chief offender. The hateful Egyptian leprosy, of which for a moment the sign had been seen on the hand of her younger brother, broke out over the whole person of the proud prophetess. How grand was her position, and how heavy the blow, is implied in the cry of anguish which goes up from both the brothers — "Alas my lord!... Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb... Heal her now, O God! I beseech thee." And it is not less evident in the silent grief of the nation: "The people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again" (Nu 12:10-15). The same feeling is reflected, though in a strange and distorted form, in the ancient tradition of the drying up and reflowing of the marvellous well of the Wanderings. SEE BEER. This stroke, and its removal, which took place at Hazeroth, form the last public event of Miriam's life. She died towards the close of the wanderings at Kadesh, and was buried there (Nu 20:1). B.C. 1619. Her tomb was shown near Petra in the days of Jerome (Onomast. s.v. Cades Barnea). According to the Jewish tradition (Josephus, Ant. 4:4, 6), her death took place on the new moon of the month Xanthicus (i.e., about the end of February), which seems to imply that the anniversary was still observed in the time of Josephus. The burial, he adds, took place with great pomp on a mountain called Zin, i.e. the wilderness of Zin); and the mourning which lasted, as in the case of her brothers, for thirty days was closed by the institution of the purification through the sacrifice of the heifer (Nu 19:1-10), which in the Pentateuch immediately precedes the story of her death. According to Josephus (Ant. 3:2, 4; 6, 1), she was married to the famous Hur, and, through him, was grandmother of the architect Bezaleel. In the Koran (chapter 3) she is confounded with the Virgin Mary; and hence the Holy Family is called the Family of Amram, or Imram (see also D'Herbelot, Bibl. Orient. s.v. Zakaria). In other Arabic traditions her name is given as Kolthum (see Weil's Bibl. Legends, page 101).
2. The first named of the sons of Mered (the son of Ezra, of the family of Caleb) by Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh (1Ch 4:17). B.C. prob. cir. 1658. SEE MERED.