Miriam (Hebrew: מִרְיָם) was the daughter of Jochebed and the sister of the prophets Aaron and Moses. Her story is recounted in the Book of Exodus, the Book of Numbers, and Suwar 20 and 28 of the Qur'an.
During the time of the prophets Jacob and Joseph, the Israelites migrated to Egypt in order to escape famine. In accordance with God's plan, the prophet Joseph had become one of the Pharaoh's chief ministers and established policies that allowed Egypt to possess grain and provide for the Israelites during the famine.
The Israelites prospered and multiplied in number. Eventually, a new Pharaoh unfamiliar with Joseph and his deeds came to power. This Pharaoh saw the Israelites and their high birth rate as a threat and oppressed the Israelites.
Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are too many and too mighty for us [they greatly outnumber us]. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they will not multiply and in the event of war, join our enemies, and fight against us and escape from the land.— Exodus 1:8–1:10 (AMP)
The Pharaoh had the Israelites used as slave labor in construction projects.
Yet the Israelites continued to multiply in number, and the Pharaoh sought to cull their numbers. The Pharaoh ordered newborn Israelite sons to be thrown into the Nile and for newborn Israelite daughters to be kept alive.
Amram married Jochebed, and Jochebed gave birth to Miriam, then Aaron, and finally Moses. The Pharaoh's orders endangered the newborn Moses, so she hid Moses for three months.
Qur'anic account of Moses being saved
God then commanded Jochebed to hide Moses in the Nile. Jochebed waterproofed a papyrus basket with pitch and tar, placed Moses in it, and hide it among the reeds of the Nile.
The Pharaoh's wife, who is left unnamed in the Quran but is known as Asiyah in Islamic tradition, found the basket and the baby Moses in it and decided to adopt Moses.
Seeing this, Jochebed sought to cry out to his son, but God strengthen her heart and kept her from crying out. Jochebed then had her daughter Miriam watch and follow Moses from a safe distance.
In order to reunite Moses with Jochebed, God prevented Moses from accepting the Pharaoh's wet nurses, which allowed Miriam to suggest Jochebed as Moses' nurse.
Now We had forbidden to him [Moses] aforetime to be suckled by any foster-mother; therefore she [Miriam] said,Shall I direct you to the people of a household who will take charge of him for you and look after him?
So We returned him [Moses] to his mother, that she might be comforted and not sorrow, and that she might know that the promise of God is true; but most of them do not know.— Surah 28:12–13 (Arberry)
Biblical account of Moses being saved
The Biblical account is similar to the Qur'annic account. The main differences are that the Bible leaves God's intervention to save the infant Moses and reunite him with his mother unstated and that the Bible has the Pharaoh's daughter, rather than wife, adopt Moses.
After crossing the Red Sea
After the miraculous parting of the Red Sea and defeat of the Pharaoh's army, the Israelites celebrated. Miriam took a timbrel (a tambourine-like instrument) and led the Israelite women in song, dance, and the praising of the Lord:
Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously and is highly exalted;
The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.— Exodus 15:21 (AMP)
Disciplined by God
After the Israelites left Sinai, Miriam and Aaron started expressing doubts about Moses' leadership due to their disapproval of Moses' marriage to a Cushite woman. God then summoned them to the Tabernacle and chastened them for doubting Moses, who God trusted and spoke with directly.
God then cursed Miriam with leprosy. Moses pleaded with God to heal his sister, but God stated that disciplining her required seven days of shame, so Miriam was shunned for seven days. After the seven days passed, the curse was lifted, and Miriam was allowed to return.
- Genesis 45:7–8
- Genesis 50:20
- Exodus 1
- Surah 2:49
- Surah 7:141
- Surah 14:6
- Surah 28:4