Scripture challenges us to ask: What defines a mother?
In the account of Moses’s deliverance from death in the Nile, we find an account of three “mothers.” But it’s tempting to only see two. Sometimes we need to clean our implicit lens to have a closer view.
A man from the family of Levi married a Levite woman. The woman became pregnant and had a son. She saw there was something special about him and hid him. She hid him for three months. When she couldn’t hide him any longer she got a little basket-boat made of papyrus, waterproofed it with tar and pitch, and placed the child in it. Then she set it afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile.
The baby’s older sister found herself a vantage point a little way off and watched to see what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the Nile to bathe; her maidens strolled on the bank. She saw the basket-boat floating in the reeds and sent her maid to get it. She opened it and saw the child—a baby crying! Her heart went out to him. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.”
Then his sister was before her: “Do you want me to go and get a nursing mother from the Hebrews so she can nurse the baby for you?”
Pharaoh’s daughter said, “Yes. Go.” The girl went and called the child’s mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter told her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me. I’ll pay you.” The woman took the child and nursed him.
After the child was weaned, she presented him to Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him as her son. She named him Moses (Pulled-Out), saying, “I pulled him out of the water.”
All three characters in this account worked together to save Moses’s life. Yet, it’s easy to dismiss Miriam because she was only a child. However, she was acting as a mother.” Despite her young age, she recognized her significant role in playing a role in protecting the life of her brother. In the midst, she chose to act against the laws seeking to oppress her people. Laws implemented by the Pharoah. Dangerous work. But God’s desire for justice invites us into that role as participants. Regardless of age and gender.
The irony? Miriam never married. She never had “official” descendants which would have affected her reputation and status in Jewish culture. But God doesn’t define us by the cultural status quo. Her leadership as an adult was likely shaped by her early participation in God’s work. It created a zeal to care for her people-to empower them to seek their God given identity and purpose. She “mothered” many. As Kelley Nikondeha says in her book, Defiant, “We are Miriam’s descendants….may we carry her drum.”
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