How does reading Miriam’s story within the context of the events surrounding Exodus and Deuteronomy inform your understanding of her role in history?



Review Miriam’s story as recorded in Exodus 2:1-10, 15:20-21 and Numbers 12, 20:1-2; and review The Blue Parakeet chapter 12. Then, think back on your own experience and past perspective as you engage in the discussion.


  • What about Miriam’s story surprises you?
  • How does reading Miriam’s story within the context of the events surrounding Exodus and Deuteronomy inform your understanding of her role in history?
  • How can you apply this ancient story to your life today?

    Applying the Bible for Today: Miram Audio Transcript

    How do we Understand and Apply an Ancient Story?

    Telling Miriam’s story (Exodus 2:1-10, 15:20­21; Numbers 12, 20:1-2)

    Adapted from McKnight, S. (2006). The blue parakeet: Rethinking how you read the Bible

    (pp.145-212). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

    I. Slide 1

    How do we understand and apply an ancient story? How do we know what the Bible

    means for our life and living today? It can be easy to say, “just follow the Bible” ­ but we

    must admit that we each bring our own lens, our own set of glasses, to how we read

    and understand the Bible’s message and meaning. Whether we realize it or not, we all

    place our own assumptions and experiences onto the text. So, how do we overcome

    this? Christians believe that the Bible is a living text, that its message is new each and

    every day. Yet its foundational message always stays the same. What, the, does it

    mean to navigate this tension between the ancient and present meaning of the Bible?

    II. Slide 2

    In the Wesleyan tradition, it is common to use a four-fold framework for biblical

    interpretation. Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are taken together in what’s

    called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Scripture acts as the primary and authoritative

    source for understanding and meaning, while Tradition, Reason, and Experience help

    us answer the question “What does the Bible say?”

    III. Slide 3

    Based off Scripture, Tradition takes into account the beliefs and practices of the diverse

    and formative stream of Christian tradition. Understanding the meaning of the Bible is

    not an individualized endeavor – our understanding takes place within the centuries of

    church history and tradition.

    IV. Slide 4

    Reason acknowledges that “all truth is God’s truth” and celebrates the resources we have

    at our disposal for further studying and understanding the world around us – including the

    social and physical sciences, philosophy, the arts, and other cultural factors.


    V. Slide 5

    Finally, both practical Experience and the movement of the Holy Spirit in one’s life

    validate the movements of the other three elements in the Quadrilateral. As our day to

    day practical experience is shaped by God’s work our lives, we can find clarity and

    direction for how to apply the Scriptures within our Tradition, Reason, and Experience.

    VI. Slide 6

    In our textbook, “The Blue Parakeet,” we can see how Scot McKnight maintains a primary

    focus on the Scripture, while using tradition, reason, and experience to study how women

    have played a critical part in the biblical story. In his methodology, he insists that we

    know the story of the Bible, and that means that we must know about the women in the


    VII. Slide 7

    Miriam, Moses’ sister, is one of many women in the Bible that we engage within the

    Exodus story. McKnight describes her as a spiritual leader, explaining that she was

    one­third of Israel’s triumvirate of leadership: with Moses as lawgiver, Aaron as priest,

    and Miriam as prophetess. When the children of Israel escaped the clutches of Pharaoh,

    it was Miriam who led the Israelites into worship with these inspired words: “Sing to the

    Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea” (Exodus


    VIII. Slide 8

    Scholars also think that the Song of Moses, found in Exodus 15, may well have been

    composed under the inspiration of Miriam. In the Bible, singing is connected to the gift of

    prophecy, and in this way, prophets and prophetesses both played a leadership role

    among the Israelites. Even the later prophet, Micah, identified Miriam and Aaron

    alongside Moses as the three leaders who aided Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.

    IX. Slide 9

    It was Miriam who fetched Moses out of the Nile and helped ensure his survival. But

    Aaron and Miriam receive a scolding from God when they gossip about Moses’ higher

    status among the Israelites. Miriam is envious of Moses, even as she knows that God

    also speaks through her as a prophetess. Her envy and jealousy caused her to sin, but in

    this way she was no different than many others in the Old Testament – and even no

    different than us today. In her repentance, she maintained her position of leadership, and

    continued to work alongside Moses and Aaron for the good of the Israelites and the glory

    of God.


    X. Slide 10

    As we read the story of Miriam – and the story of anyone else in the Bible – we can ask the

    formative question: “what did they do?” This seems like a simple question, but until we

    slow down and examine the Bible for what it actually says, then we run the risk of

    answering that question from our own reasoning and experience apart from the foundation

    of Scripture.

    XI. Slide 11

    The more we study the Bible, the more we see the need to acquire the right tools for

    understanding the meaning and purpose of a text. First and foremost, we need to spend

    time in the story itself. We need to identify the broad contours of the story and the

    overarching themes of creation, fall, and redemption. Then, we begin to ask questions

    about the original context and meaning of an individual event or story. We research the

    cultural, historical, theological, and literary factors in order to grasp the original purpose of

    a text. Once we understand what it meant to the original hearers, then we begin to look at

    our own contemporary context. What are the pressing issues and questions facing us

    today? How does this text speak to our experiences, in this new day?

    XII. Slide 12

    It’s important to understand that Scripture interprets Scripture. Biblical understanding is not

    done in isolation. Proof-texting is a danger here. It is easy to make the Bible say whatever

    we want by taking a verse and using it to support our own understanding and agenda.

    While individual verses are important to remember, memorize, and lean on for comfort and

    inspiration, faithful biblical interpretation means that we look at how each verse fits into the

    wider biblical witness. We can see this commitment at play in how McKnight traces the

    diverse experiences of women in the Bible. To address the question of women in ministry,

    McKnight looks to the entirety of the biblical witness, carefully taking into account the

    various historical and cultural factors. Only in this way, can we discover the united

    message of the Bible.

    XIII. Slide 13

    Make no mistake, biblical interpretation is not easy. Scholars dedicate entire careers to

    issues of translation, historical research, or archeology in order to discover the nuances of

    the text. But neither is faithful biblical interpretation out of your reach. You have access to

    an abundance of resources, but these resources are diverse and often put forth competing

    agendas. And that is okay. Your job is to start participating in the grand conversation of

    biblical meaning and application. Pull up a chair at the table and start asking questions

    and offering your thoughts. But do so with these questions at the forefront: what is the text

    actually saying? and, what, then, does the text mean for us today?

    Welcome to the conversation!