From her faith in things unseen, Jochebed gained her strength and force. As a mother who learned to trust her Creator without doubting, she seemed to live for the promises of God, was absorbed by them and even exhilarated by them.
Bible names are significant. Notice that Jochebed means JAH IS HONOR (Jah is part of the Hebrew words Yahova or Jehovah, i.e. God is honor.) She was born into the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe (Exo. 2:1). By name, she is only mentioned twice (Exo. 6:20; Num. 26:59, but her influence in Old Testament scripture is felt throughout.
Going from there to Hebrews 11:23, we see, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” “By faith” Jochebed hid her baby! She and Amram were obedient parents, for “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The passage in Hebrews 11:23 shows that Jochebed (and Amram) were unafraid of the king’s commandment—what a wonderful example that had to be for Miriam!
To protect her infant son from Pharaoh’s edict that every Hebrew male child be killed, she placed him in an ark of bulrushes on the river where Pharaoh’s daughter traditionally came to bathe (Exod. 2:3; Exo. 2:4-7). After Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the baby, Jochebed was asked to become his nurse throughout his formative years (Exo. 2:8-9). Jochebed was a mother who took advantage of the formative years to instill faith in her son in the same way Hannah did for Samuel in 1 Samuel, chapter 1 & 2. We get a bit more detail of Jochebed’s work as a mother from Exodus 2:2 and from two New Testament scriptures, which tell us how she dealt with an exceedingly fair and a proper child (Acts 7:20; Heb. 11:23). Notice what good training had to also be in Miriam for her to be willing to follow the instructions which saved her baby brother’s life (Exo. 2:10).
What do we know of the adverse circumstances of Jochebed’s life? Initially, when Joseph brought his family to the land of Goshen during the famine, seventy souls came—all descendants of Jacob (Gen. 45:10; Exo. 1:5). Goshen was apparently separated some distance from Egypt in the well-watered delta of the Nile, because we learn that Israel and his children were shepherds and needed land and space for their cattle (Gen. 46:34; Gen. 47:1; Gen. 47:4; Gen. 47:6). At the time of Moses birth, the Israelites had spent nearly 400 years in Goshen and multiplied greatly (Gen. 47:27; Acts 7:6; Gal. 3:17). At first they were treated well, but then there rose up a king who did not know Joseph and he began to use and abuse them cruelly, killing all the male children for fear they might rebel against him (Exo. 1:8-10). He first instructed the Israelites to throw all the male babies into the river. Later, when that was not working, he instructed the midwives to kill them as they were born (Exo. 1:16).
What else do we know of Jocebed and her family? Fast forward to the Hebrew cry for deliverance and the trial of plagues before the Pharaoh. “And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh” (Exo. 7:7). Obviously Miriam was at least 6-7 years old at the time Jochebed hid Moses. Aaron was second born and then Moses because we learn from the passage that Aaron was only three years older than Moses (Exo. 2:4). Miriam was at least old enough to be trusted to watch for dangers in the crocodile infested water and bring her mother word when the Pharaoh’s daughter asked her to bring someone to nurse the child.
Why do we remember the children of Jochebed? God chose Miriam to be His prophetess, which was no small honor for any woman in Old Testament times. It was Miriam who led the women in singing a song of deliverance after they crossed the Red Sea (Exo. 15:20-21). Aaron was chosen to be the first High Priest, and all subsequent High Priests (until Christ’ death on the cross) were descended from him. Moses and Aaron together led the children of Israel out of Egypt and Moses was the law-giver (Exo. 3:11; Exo. 6:26; Exo. 28:1). Moses was chosen to be the mediator of the Old Covenant, (Gal 3:19-20), as Christ was of the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6; Heb. 9:15). Jesus was the prophet who was raised up like Moses (Deut. 18:15, 18), and Christ’s faithfulness was compared to Moses (Heb. 3:5). What a grand honor to be the parents of three godly children all of whom were prophets and central to the establishment of the nation of Israel.
What do we know of Miriam’s later life and work? If we only see her as a little girl in her mother’s care, we miss a great deal of her character. Born into a time when the Hebrew people would be delivered from bondage, she knew the hardship they had faced and would come to know the joys of freedom from tyranny. The crossing of the Red Sea was a turning point in her life and in the history of the nation. Four centuries of bondage had been lifted. “And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea” (Exo. 15:21, KJV).
Another aspect of Miriam’s character is revealed at a time when the nation was already suffering through trial after trial during the wilderness wanderings. Miriam obviously inflamed Aaron against Moses, “And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it” (Num. 12:2, KJV). Jealousy, envy and backbiting were qualities of Miriam’s character one would least expect after all the good qualities she had displayed earlier. “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:6, KJV). The account in Numbers 12 is a sad account of Miriam’s sin and God’s punishment. God’s obvious displeasure is shown by the fact that the cloud departed from off the tabernacle and Miriam became leprous. The brother whom she had despised was the one to beg God for her forgiveness and healing (Num. 12:10-13). Was her heart touched by this undeserved forgiveness? We must assume it was, because she was healed and brought back into the camp (Num. 12:15). Miriam’s death is recorded in Numbers 20:1, and a very unpleasant reminder and warning to the people of the leprosy can be noted in Deuteronomy 24:9