According to the Book of Exodus, Miriam was the elder sister of Moses. Along with him and her brother Aaron, she was sent by God to help bring Israel out of Egypt (Micah 6:4). The first time we read about her is not long after Moses was born, when his mother had hidden him in a basket on the Nile. It was who Miriam had the courage to speak to Pharaoh’s daughter about it (Exodus 2:1-10).
However, this stained glass scene is from an event much later in her life. Here Miriam is seen celebrating the Crossing of the Red Sea. The Book of Exodus says that once the Israelites were safely across – and the Egyptian army had sunk beneath the waves – she seized the moment: “Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’ (Exodus 15:20-21)
Following the Exodus, Miriam ran into trouble for criticising Moses and was punished with leprosy for seven days (Numbers 12:1-15). She later died and was buried in the desert (Numbers 20:1).
Since she shared the same name as the Virgin Mary (who would also have been referred to as ‘Miriam’ or ‘Maryam’), she is considered her forerunner. As a result, this particular window is found in the former Lady Chapel of the church of Corpus Christi in Brixton, alongside other Old Testament women. The stained glass was designed by the neo-Gothic revivalist John Francis Bentley and dates to the late 1890s.
See the full image:
John Francis Bentley / Miriam the Prophetess / Stained glass / late 1890s
Where to find this work of art
Corpus Christi, Brixton
Read the relevant passage
On a similar theme
- From the Old Testament: Miriam joined her brother Moses in leading the Israelites in song, following the successful Crossing of the Red Sea.
- From the New Testament: The Virgin Mary celebrated her pregnancy with a song, known as the Magnificat.
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