Be Like Miriam

Yael Eckstein  |  December 9, 2022

Miriam at Nile illustration

She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks. —
Proverbs 31:16-17

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

Ever since my appointment to lead The Fellowship, I’ve had to make a lot of big decisions and there have been many long days. And when I need inspiration to carry on, I look no further than Moses’ sister, and to be like Miriam, as a role model of diligence and decisiveness.

The Jewish sages teach us that when Pharaoh decreed that all baby boys of Israel must be killed, Miriam’s parents decided not to have more children. Why bring a child into the world only to have him killed?

Since Miriam’s father was an influential leader and many would follow his lead and guidance, Miriam confronted her parents. According to Jewish tradition, Miriam said to her father, “Your decree is worse than Pharaoh’s! At least Pharaoh’s decree allows the girls to live! But your decree spells certain death for our entire people!”

As a result of Miriam’s plea, Moses was born. When Moses’ mother tried to save his life by putting him in a basket floating in the Nile, Miriam diligently stood guard over her baby brother, ready to step in and save him from harm. When Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby, it was Miriam who spoke up to made sure that Moses was provided for. (See Exodus 2:7-8.)

Be Like Miriam

These traits of diligence and decisiveness are part of the biblical description of the “woman of valor” in Proverbs 31. We read:

She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. (vv. 13-18)

The word translated as “food” is lechem, Hebrew for “bread,” rather than the more general ochel, meaning “food.” The implication is clear. The woman of valor labors in relative poverty to secure her family’s basic needs. The food that she goes to great lengths to acquire is bread, the most basic of all foods.

Then, in the next verse, the imagery changes. She has servants. She’s now wealthy. But even though she has achieved a position that would allow her to enjoy a life of leisure, she continues to work hard deep into the night. Despite her wealth and status, her diligence does not waver.

She takes initiative, she makes decisions, and most of all, she works hard to provide for all who are in her care. This is a true woman of valor — and she inspires me to be like Miriam and as industrious and decisive as she was.

Your Turn:

Who are the courageous, diligent, and decisive women who have blessed your life? Reach out to a “woman of valor” who has impacted you and let them know they are appreciated.

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