Women of the Bible: Miriam and Pharaoh’s Daughter

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting significant named and unnamed women of the Bible. The CEB Women’s Bible provides helpful indexes of all these named and unnamed women as well as over 140 insightful profiles. Written by female pastors, scholars, and faith leaders, these profiles encourage us to witness the stories and valuable contributions of biblical women. Below are the profiles of Miriam (from Exod. 2 & 15, Num 12, 20, & 26, Deat 24:9, 1 Chron 6:3, Mic 6:4) written by Jann Aldredge-Clanton and of Pharaoh’s Daughter (from Exod 2:5-10, Acts 7:21, Heb 11:24) written by Kathi Macias.


The Old Testament portrays Miriam as holding power and prestige in early Israel. She was the first woman to be called a prophet (Exod 15:20), and she participated equally with her brothers, Moses and Aaron, in leading the Israelites to freedom from slavery (Mic 6:4). Earlier Miriam played another vital part in Israel’s history by protecting baby Moses (Exod 2:1-9). Unlike many biblical women, Miriam is never called wife or mother but has power on her own.

Together Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses. From the narrator’s patriarchal perspective, God punished only Miriam, perhaps because she claimed prophetic authority along with her brothers (Num 12).

Miriam’s song, celebrating the exodus victory, is one of the earliest works in Hebrew literature and one of the oldest extant parts of the Bible (Exod 15:21). Miriam is an iconic figure for women as leaders.

Pharaoh’s Daughter

Pharaoh’s daughter isn’t named in the Bible, but it’s easy to see that though she was raised in opulence, with servants of her own (see Exod 2:5), she was a compassionate person (see Exod 2:6). Had she not been, Moses would have been killed as a baby and would not have grown up to serve God as deliverer and establisher of the Instruction to the Hebrew Nation.

This story shows God’s guidance throughout. Placing a baby in a basket and setting him in the river could have proved fatal for Moses, but God had ordained that Pharaoh’s daughter would be the one to discover and save him. Eventually, though, Moses came to understand who he was and to choose to identify with God’s people rather than with the Egyptians. I wonder how that choice must have affected his adoptive mother when Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” (Heb 11:24).

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