Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took the timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them: “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!” (Exodus 15:20-21)
From the time that Moses was hidden in a basket and set afloat upon the waters of the Nile, women played important roles in the redemption of Israel. Miriam was one of those women. At the crossing of the sea, she and other women expressed their joy by singing and repeating phrases from previous song. Obviously, the people were overjoyed at their deliverance and expressed that through song and, I would imagine, outbursts of praise and dancing.
Rabbinical commentary says that Moses had to compel the people to leave the scene at the Red Sea because they wanted to linger. It is human nature to want to remain at the sight of something so dramatic and supernatural. But as spectacular as it was, it was a means to an end –- they had to go to Sinai; that is why the path was cleared for them through the sea in the first place. And so they made their way through the wilderness and, according to the Scripture, just three days later they encountered a problem — they found no water suitable to drink.
The place they came to was called Marah because the water was bitter. The Hebrew word translated as “bitter” is marim]; and is spelled identically to the Hebrew rendering to Miriam (in fact, her name means “bitterness”). The point is, just three days prior to this, Miriam led the ladies in praise because of what happened regarding the salty waters of the sea. At Marah the people were complaining because they found only bitter (salty) water. In other words, it didn’t take long for God’s people to become bitter and see their circumstances in a a negative light. As we know, this was just the first of many things they found fault with.
From our perspective, it is easy to criticize them for their lack of trust and thankfulness. However, be honest and consider whether or not we have been guilty of the same thing. God blesses us and delivers us from one circumstance for which we are thankful. When the next crisis occurs we have a tendency to do the same thing they did — complain. So perhaps we should stop and think before we are inclined to complain. Think of all the great and wonderful things He has done for us and maybe that will inspire us to believe that He will continue do deliver us from inconvenient circumstance. It seems to me that is what the wilderness experience is all about any way.
Blessings and Shalom,