Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. — Exodus 15:20
Today is the seventh day of the Jewish celebration of Passover, which continues for eight days. For each day of Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, we will offer a devotional reflection from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s collection of timeless teachings. We pray that these reflections will deepen your understanding of Passover and its many lessons for both Christians and Jews.
One of the most joyous moments in the story of the Exodus – and perhaps in the entire Bible – is the singing and rejoicing that occurred just after the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. This was the climactic moment of what had begun as a wayward prince demanding the freedom of an oppressed people and ended with the most spectacular miracles that the world had ever seen on behalf of the downtrodden Israelites. God’s hand was never so apparent, and the people rejoiced for the good that He had done for them.
Let’s picture the scene: The Israelites have finished crossing the sea and they watch their Egyptian enemies getting closer. Suddenly, the sea crashes down on the entire Egyptian army. Not only are the Israelites now safe, they are also free. The Egyptians will never be able to pursue them again. Moses leads the people in a beautiful song of praise to God. Just as he finishes, his sister Miriam leads the women in song. And what’s this? They are dancing and making music, too!
The question is where in the world did the women get those timbrels from in the middle of the desert? Did these instruments fall from the sky?
The Jewish sages share a beautiful explanation. They say that the Israelite women, in their great faith, prepared these instruments while in Egypt and while they were still enslaved. Led by Miriam, the women refused to give up hope that the day of salvation would come. Their faith led them to make these instruments, so that when the day came, they were ready.
Miriam’s name has two meanings. It comes from the Hebrew word that means mara, “bitter.” Miriam was born into bitter times of slavery. But the name Miriam is also related to the Hebrew word meri, “rebellion.” Miriam rebelled against the bitterness in her life. She would not accept it — she refused to submit to hopelessness or depression. She lived her life with complete faith that the bitterness would be sweetened. And indeed, it was.
Friends, it’s not enough to talk about faith; we need to be willing to act on our faith. That means making life decisions based on faith in God and taking action that fits with His purposes. Our faith must be turned into actions that reflect God’s Word and promises.
Perhaps it wasn’t the parting of the sea that caused Miriam to dance, but rather the sea parted because Miriam began dancing way back in Egypt when she prepared for that day. Remember, while miracles have the ability to inspire faith, it also works the other way around. Our faith has the ability to inspire miracles.