Huldah: the Woman Who Inspired a Nation to Repent
Josiah’s reign and Huldah’s prophecy are recounted in 2 Kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35. Josiah became king of Judah when he was eight years old (2 Kings 22:1; 2 Chr 34:1), and reigned for 31 years. As a teenager, he became serious about following the Lord and by the age of twenty, he had begun cleansing Jerusalem and Judah of idols. In his mid-twenties he sent Shaphan, the royal secretary, to repair the Temple using the money entrusted to Hilkiah, the High Priest. In the process, Hilkiah found “the book of the law of the LORD written by the hand of Moses,” which he gave to Shaphan who took it to Josiah and read to the king from the book.
As the king heard the words of the Lord (most likely from Deuteronomy), he became agitated because he realized that his people were guilty of breaking the covenant they had made with God as recorded in the book, and that God’s judgement was imminent. Josiah sent a delegation of royal officials to seek out Yahweh’s will and they went to find Huldah, a prophetess in Jerusalem. Huldah told them to tell the king that God would indeed bring disaster to Judah in judgement against them for their idolatry and rebellion against the Lord. Josiah himself, however, would be spared seeing the destruction in his lifetime because he had responded with tenderness, obedience and repentance when he heard the words of the Lord being read to him.
Huldah’s prophesying to Josiah caused him to increase and greatly expand his religious and political reform. Josiah responded to Huldah’s prophecy by gathering all the leaders and all the people of Judah, reading the book of the Law to them and having them renew their covenant with the Lord, which they kept as long as he was alive. He instigated a far-reaching program of tearing down idols in Judah and Samaria and brought the people back to the sole worship of Yahweh. Josiah was killed in battle with the Egyptians and was buried in peace, fulfilling Huldah’s prophecy. After his death, the Babylonians invaded and destroyed Judah and took many of the prominent inhabitants into Exile.
Rabbinical literature lists Huldah among the seven legitimate female prophets along with Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, and Esther (Megillah 14:a-b). The Rabbis speculated that Josiah went to Huldah rather than to Jeremiah, who was also a prophet to Josiah, because he thought that a woman might be more compassionate and likely to positively intercede for Jerusalem to the Lord. Also, according to Jewish tradition, Huldah and Jeremiah (like Jesus!) descended from Rahab, and Jeremiah didn’t mind that the king went to his relative, Huldah. The Biblical text shows nothing unusual about the king consulting Huldah, even over Jeremiah. When she confirmed that Hilkiah had found the long-lost Torah, Huldah became the first person to confirm a written book as Scripture.
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