#123. Is Miriam Aaron’s sister only OR Aaron and Moses’ sister? (Ex 15:20, 4:14 vs Ex 7:20)


And Miriam, the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a drum in her hand, and all the women went behind her with drums and with dances. And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to Yahweh for he triumphed!
Horse and its rider he cast in the sea.

This passage (Ex 15:20) identifies Miraim as Aaron’s sister only, and says nothing of Moses. It comes from the same source that defines Aaron and Moses’ relationship as brother Levites, not siblings (see #95). Thus in this textual tradition Miriam is not Moses’ sister.

On the other hand, the only Pentateuchal source that identifies Aaron as Moses’ sibling is the Priestly source (Ex 7:20). Exodus 7:14-25 is another Priestly genealogy whose single purpose was to give Aaron—the forefather of the Priestly writer’s guild—a pedigree. This was done by grafting Aaron into the Mosaic line. But it does more than that. This genealogy’s sole focus is, not Moses, but Aaron, Aaron’s son Eleazar, and most importantly his grandson Phinehas, with whom Yahweh makes the last of the Priestly covenants—the eternal covenant of the priesthood (Num 25:13). Making Aaron Moses’ older brother was a rhetorical device employed by the Aaronid priestly writer to heighten the stature of his ancestor, Aaron, over Moses. See also contradictions #91, #93, #95, and #105.

At any rate, making Aaron Moses’ older sibling also makes Miriam Moses’ sister.

3 thoughts on “#123. Is Miriam Aaron’s sister only OR Aaron and Moses’ sister? (Ex 15:20, 4:14 vs Ex 7:20)

  1. Tajia, please read Exodus 6:20; why is Miriam only called Aaron’s sister in Ex. 15:20?

    Miriam also has an interesting tie-in with Exodus 2, where she seems to make an appearance as protector of her baby brother Moses, but she isn’t named for some reason (and Aaron isn’t mentioned, either, even though he was three years old at the time).

    1. Thank you tajia. Indeed, it is a thankless, unloved, unwanted, burdensome, and laborious task!—defending the biblical texts and their authors, allowing the individual voices of the authors to sing through, their stories, their beliefs (not ours), their literary influences, political views, and even the disputes they had with one another, etc. In a modern world that is constantly focused on the reader—“me, me, me”—much too often the actual texts and the claims of their authors go unheard, and unappreciated. We’re trying to change all that here. I highly recommend the last post #120-122, because these aims are best exemplified there.

      Lastly, remember I have, nor will I, speak here of God, belief or non-belief, mine or yours, our subjective wants and whims as it pertains to the Bible, theology except when it pertains to our authors, etc. It’s only about the texts and their authors and understanding them on their own terms, not the terms of later readers who labeled these texts “the Book” nor those of our modern culture. In today’s modern parlance, the biblical texts on their own terms (not ours) is rarely mentioned nor even cared for. Often the use of the word “Bible” today is merely a rhetorical and authoritative substitute to speak about said person’s beliefs, personal views about God, sin, condemnation, etc. We fight for the authors here.

      χάρις καὶ ειρήνη

Leave a Reply