🔼The name Miriam in the Bible
There are two Miriams mentioned in the Old Testament. The most famous one is the prophetess and older sister of Moses and Aaron. Another Miriam (most probably a male!) is mentioned in the genealogy of Judah (1 Chronicles 4:17).
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Miriam
The origin and meaning of the name Miriam is unclear, although — as many Levite names are for some reason Egyptian — it may have to do with the Egyptian word for Beloved (see the name Merari). On a Hebrew stage, most scholars derive the name Miriam from the verb מרה (mara) meaning to be rebellious or disobedient:
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Their Rebellion. NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Obstinacy, Stubbornness.
To a creative audience, the first part of the name Miriam could also be regarded as related to the verb מרר (marar), meaning to be bitter or to be strong:
And the second part of the name Miriam holds some resemblance to the word ים (yam) meaning sea:
Hence, the name Miriam also means Bitter Waters or Waters Of Strength.
Jerome (4th century AD) suggested relations with the word מאור (ma'or), meaning star, from the verb אור ('or), to be light or shine. Combined with the word ימ (yam), sea, the name Miriam would translate to Stella Maris (star of the sea), but that strikes as a very free interpretation.
Here at Abarim Publications we like to believe that these names have to do with מר (mor), meaning myrrh. The name Miriam could be construed as a regular plural form, which thus means Myrrhs or rather Wedding Nights. It denotes a people that consists entirely of Christs or anointed ones (1 John 2:20). Please read our article on the name Mary for a closer look at this.