Her shadow was cast on the side of the tent as she trimmed and lit her lamp. She was preparing for one more torturous, sleepless night.
She glanced down at her hands and shuddered. She was in the advanced stage of leprosy. It had eaten away most of the flesh – her fingers looked like dried white twigs that could easily be snapped off. There was hardly any life left in them.
The men of her tribe had been kind to Miriam. They had doubled pegged the tent for her safety. It was scary being alone in the wilderness, well away from the camp. She faced yet another night of fear – the nights could be terrifying!
Miriam was suddenly startled by growling animals that began scratching and pawing at her tent. A pack of wild canines had her scent and had seen the movement of her shadow. They were hungry dogs!
The lead dog frantically pawed the sandy soil and pushed its way partly in. It had managed to get its head and one leg inside the tent. The fangs protruding from its foaming mouth, and the rabid look of its wild eyes, frightened her into action.
Feebly, she scraped at the sandy earth, scooped up what she could and threw it in its face. The animal quickly retreated shaking its head, trying to clear its eyes. The pack followed the lead dog away. There was silence!
She sat on the edge of the bed; eventually she lay back. She felt distraught but could not weep – she had already cried herself dry.
Miriam thought back to Egypt and how she and her mother had crept along the Nile bank and placed her beloved younger brother among the reeds. They had saved his life! She had treasured the extra time with him, when they had been allowed to wean him. Then he was gone!
The exodus had been dramatic! Her brothers, Aaron and Moses, along with herself had been projected into positions of leadership among their people. She was Miriam the Prophetess – the lead lady! Together they had led the people to freedom.
Miriam despised Zipporah the wife of Moses. This Cushite woman was not under her authority and would often undermine her. She hated getting to know her brothers plans through this woman’s babbling. She felt demeaned among the Israelite women.
She had encouraged her younger brother Aaron to question Moses’ authority. What she stated had been dishonest. Miriam had said she wanted Moses disqualified because of his marriage status to a foreigner but it was really jealousy of Zipporah that had moved her against him. It was the humility of Moses that had qualified him for office and the approval of God.
Terror had struck her when the Lord had called her to the meeting tent. God’s penalty was severe: she was to be cast away from the camp for seven days and would have to bear in her body the curse of being a leprous woman.
Whilst outside the camp, a group of leading Israelite women had been attending to Miriam’s physical needs. Each morning they would place a day’s supply of food and drink near to her tent. They thought she had been badly treated.
It was now the seventh day. The regulation of isolation had been fulfilled according to their law. The appointed priest was to perform cleansing rites to her condition. Would she be cured? Would she be pronounced as clean?
Moses loved Miriam dearly and had been earnestly praying for her forgiveness and restoration. Ultimately, his prayers were fully answered and the priest proclaimed her cleansed.
The two brother’s beloved sister purposely withdrew from the official leadership of the womenfolk from that time on. Her hands, although healed of leprosy, had been left with marks; deep scars, where the leprosy had eaten into her flesh. It was a blot to remind her of her folly – how could she lead, with the stain of punishment upon her body?
Privately, Miriam was still the Israelite women’s champion. They would seek her out for counsel and look to her for direction. They too hadn’t cared for Zipporah and the position she held. Miriam had suffered for them all.
As time went on, the three siblings grew to respect each other again and Miriam was fully restored among the Israelite tribe.
The people greatly mourned the demise of Miriam. Israel’s beloved Prophetess died at Kadesh. Her epitaph was simply, ‘Miriam bore our punishment.’
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