the sister of Moses and Aaron, one of the leaders of the Israelites in the wilderness. In Exodus 15.20–21 she is described as a female prophet who leads the Israelite women in a victory song after the defeat of the Egyptians at the Sea of Reeds. Unfortunately, the text of Miriam's song is not given. In Numbers 12 she is stricken with leprosy after she and her brother Aaron challenge the supremacy of Moses, and Numbers 20.1 describes her death and burial. Miriam is also traditionally identified as the unnamed sister (Ex. 2.4–10), who watches over Moses after he has been cast adrift in the bulrushes by his mother. In later biblical tradition, Miriam retains her identification as one of the leaders of Israel during the wilderness period (Mi. 6.4).

In the literature of the Second Temple period and in rabbinic literature, Miriam's biblical functions are mentioned (e.g., Jub. 47.4), but her role as a prophet is emphasized (she does not appear in the New Testament). In Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities, she prophesies that the child Moses will redeem Israel (P.-Ph. 9.9–10). Targum Yerushalmi highlights Miriam's role in leading the singing of the Israelite women at the Sea of Reeds. It is in this role that Miriam appears in the Qumran text, Reworked Pentateuchc (4Q365).

Reworked Pentateuchc, which is dated paleographically between 75 and 50 bce, is one of five manuscripts (all found in Cave 4 at Qumran) that reflect a text of the Pentateuch (or Torah) that has been thoroughly reworked. In particular, it contains material not found in any other known version of the Pentateuch. This is illustrated by the so-called Song of Miriam (4Q365 6a.ii.1–7), the fragmentary remains of a poetic text that appears to be missing in the received text of Exodus. This additional material appears to belong between Exodus 15.21, where Miriam sings the opening words of the Song of the Sea found in Exodus 15.1–18, and 15.22, where the narrative continues. The Song of Miriam tells of God's victory over the enemy at the Sea of Reeds in language that is reminiscent of, but not identical to, the Song of the Sea. Whether Miriam's song found in Reworked Pentateuchc is from a different and hitherto unknown tradition or is an addition to the received text by an unknown author is not clear, but the song fills a gap in the narrative and serves to bring the shadowy figure of Miriam, who is all but lost in later tradition, into sharper focus.

[See also Reworked Pentateuch.]


  • Brooke, George J. “Power to the Powerless—A Long-Lost Song of Miriam.” Biblical Archaeology Review 20.3 (1994): 62–65.
  • Tov, Emanuel, and Sidnie A. White. “4QReworked Pentateuch.” In Qumran Cave 4: Parabiblical Texts, Part 1, edited by Emanuel Tov et al., pp. 255–308. Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, 13. Oxford, 1994. Editio princeps of the text of 4Q365.
  • White, Sidnie A. “4Q364 & 365: A Preliminary Report.” In The Madrid Qumran Congress: Proceedings of the International Congress on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Madrid, 18–21 March 1991, edited by Julio Trebolle Barrera and Luis Vegas Montaner, pp. 217–228. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah, 11. Leiden, 1992.

Sidnie White Crawford