And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron
The same, it is highly probable, that is called the sister of Moses, ( Exodus 2:3 Exodus 2:4 Exodus 2:7 Exodus 2:8 ) , her name Miriam is the same as Mary with us, and signifies bitterness; and, as the Hebrews F24 observe, had it from the bitterness of the times, and the afflictions the Israelites endured and groaned under when she was born; which is a much more probable signification and reason of her name than what is given by others, that it is the same with Marjam, which signifies a drop of the sea; from whence, they fancy, came the story of Venus, and her name of Aphrodite, the froth of the sea: Miriam was a prophetess, and so called, not from this action of singing, here recorded of her, for so all the women that sung with her might be called prophetesses, though sometimes in Scripture prophesying intends singing; but rather from her having a gift of teaching and instructing, and even of foretelling things to come; for the Lord spoke by her as well as by Moses and Aaron, and she, with them, were the leaders of the people of Israel, sent to them of the Lord, see ( Numbers 12:2 ) ( Micah 6:4 ) , she is particularly called the sister of Aaron, though she was likewise the sister of Moses; the reason is, that being older than Moses, she was Aaron's sister before his, and having lived all her days with Aaron almost, and very little with Moses, was best known by being the sister of Aaron; and it is possible she might be his own sister by father and mother's side, when Moses was by another woman; however, it is said of her, she took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with
timbrels and with dances;
timbrels were a sort of drums or tabrets, which being beat upon gave a musical sound, somewhat perhaps like our kettledrums; and though dances were sometimes used in religious exercises, yet the word may signify another kind of musical instruments, as "pipes" or "flutes" F25, as it is by some rendered; and by the Syriac and Arabic versions, "sistrums"; which were musical instruments much used by the Egyptians, and from whom the Israelitish women had these; and as they were going to keep a feast in the wilderness, they lent them to them, it is very probable, on that account; otherwise it is not easy to conceive what use the Israelites could have for them, and put them to during their hard bondage and sore affliction in Egypt: now with these they went out of the camp or tents into the open fields, or to the shore of the Red sea, and sung as Moses and the men of Israel did: to this the psalmist seems to refer in ( Psalms 68:25 ) .
F24 Seder Olam Rabba, c. 3. p. 9. Dibre Hayamim, fol. 2. 2.
F25 (tlxmb) "cum fistulis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "cum tibiis", Drusius; so Ainsworth.