Maybe you’ve sat staring, searching, scanning hoping to be the first to spot Waldo in the sea of people. Isn’t it fun?
He’s the iconic, elusive man in the red and white striped shirt, pommed hat and round wire rimmed glasses. He was first hidden away in 1987 by British illustrator Martin Handford. He got the idea for “Where’s Waldo” after working as a freelance illustrator where he drew crowd scenes for magazines and companies. “The art director suggested that he make a character to act as a focal point in his pictures of crowds to encourage people to look at the picture more closely.”
I like the art director’s idea of encouraging people to look closer at the crowds of people, trying to spotlight just one.
There’s a woman in the Old Testament who gets lost, not in a sea of people but in a crowd of commentators who, at the mention of her name, mostly make excuses as to why she, a woman, was used by God when there were male prophets at the ready.
When my friend texted me and asked if I’d ever heard of her, I had to admit I had not. Neither had she, a 4-year degreed Bible college graduate, and yet had not once heard of Huldah the prophetess taught in all her classes.
I asked a male pastor friend if he’d heard of Huldah. Nah. Maybe she didn’t get much press for a reason. (hmmm…?!)
I asked my man if he had heard of Huldah. Is that the lady who made those tops that was so popular in the ‘70s? Um. No. That would be halter. Not Huldah. (He does like to try and fire me up!)
Who is Huldah?
Her story can be found in 2Kings 22:14-20 and the parallel in 2Chronicles 34:22-28. Although Huldah appears in only fourteen total verses, much greater significance has been placed on those who occupy far less ink on a page. An extreme example of this is Jabez whose name is found in one verse and yet became a household name in 2000, when The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson sold more than nine million copies as a New York Times best seller.
So, who is she? And what was her role?
Huldah was a prophetess who lived in the Second District of Jerusalem. Significant, for their location was thought to be near the king and within the walled city. She was married to Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhus, keeper of the wardrobe. They were thought to be makers and menders of the priestly garments and the royal wardrobe.
What’s the backstory?
Josiah had become king when he was eight years old. Ten years pass between 2Kings 22:1 and 3. He was a righteous man who chose to follow in the footsteps of King David instead of the two generations of evil kings that led before him.
He had the temple repaired and in doing so, the book of the law was discovered. This would be like losing your Bible in a church building and not missing it for years. The book of the law was most likely all five books of Moses. King Josiah has the book read aloud to him (most scholars believe it was from Deuteronomy.)
Chapters 4-13 would convict this righteous king about the wicked things the nation had already done.
Chapters 14-18 would greatly disturb him about what the people had not done.
Chapters 27-30 would spell out what God would do if the nation did not repent of their sins of both commission and omission.
Josiah was so deeply torn by the state of his country that he tore his robes and ordered the high priest and several officers to ask the Lord about Judah’s spiritual condition.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
At the time there were two well-known prophets in the land, Jeremiah and Zephaniah who was a relative of Josiah. Neither of them were called upon to answer the King’s inquiry.
Scripture tells us Josiah gave these orders to a committee of royal officials, go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us. (2Kings 22:12-13NIV)
This royal committee shows up on the doorstep of our girl Huldah the prophetess. There are only a handful of other women who have this same title: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Naodiah (Nehemiah 6:14), the wife of Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36) and the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8-9).
The committee of men going to Huldah’s house is significant in the fact that lower ranking people were sent for by a messenger and brought before the committee or even the king. Instead, these royal officials, sought her out, at her house, to get the message to take back to the king. By this we know she was well regarded by King Josiah.
Part one of her message: She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on the place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’” (2Kings 22:15-17NIV)
Huldah has some hutzpah here. She is not fazed by the fact that she is speaking a message to the king. In fact, in the first part of her message she doesn’t even address him as such, calling him, the man who sent you to me. Her job was to relay the message of the Lord, not coddle the receiver of said message.
Part two of her message: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you have heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this place.
So they took her answer back to the king. (2Kings 22:18-20NIV)
The nation would feel the full cup of God’s wrath, but Josiah would be spared because of his humility and desire to serve the Lord. Huldah doesn’t mince words. She isn’t starry eyed, faint of heart or weak in her delivery.
In fact, the royal officials take this message back to King Josiah who calls the elders, priests and prophets together and gets the ship turned around. Josiah renews the covenant with the Lord. He cleans up the temple, tears down the shrines, ousts the priests who were up to no good, destroyed altars to idols, and reimplemented the celebration of the feasts.
Josiah asked Huldah. Huldah answered. Josiah listened. He didn’t delay or seek a second opinion or dismiss the words of a woman.
As I read through the chapter on Huldah written by Christa L. McKirland, ThM from the book Vindicating the Vixens, imagine my surprise at the rationale of some of the early Christian writers:
~ One “remarks that God uses women, and Huldah in particular, since ‘it is the rule of Scripture when holy men fail, to praise women to the reproach of men.’” (fourth-century theologian Jerome) (pg 224)
So God can only use women in key roles to shame men?
Then radio silence on any mention of Huldah…for more than a millennium.
~ John Calvin pairs together Huldah with Deborah, agreeing with Jerome that God wished to raise them on high to shame the men and obliquely show them their slothfulness. Whatever may be the reason, women have sometimes enjoyed the prophetic gift. (pg. 224)
I’m sure you’re right Mr. Calvin, because women love to give messages of doom and gloom. And only when the men are lazy and don’t feel like messing with being a messenger.
I can’t help but wonder if these men thought Jeremiah and Zephaniah needed shaming? And if so, why? The fact that they want to add to the story, creating a reasoning that simply isn’t there, tells more about them than it does about the men in Huldah’s day.
~ Matthew Henry wanted to give all the props to the fact that Huldah was a wife who was speaking under her husband’s authority, revealing his need to justify God’s using a woman. Never mind that her title of prophetess came before her name and the revelation that she was married was listed after. (pg. 224-225)
~ John Wesley suggests that Jeremiah is in some remote part of the kingdom and Zephaniah might not be a prophet at the time of Josiah’s inquiry. Wesley goes beyond the text trying to justify how this can be…God using a woman to speak a message to the king. (pg. 225)
Yep. Because God would have no idea if Jeremiah would be vacationing at the same time Josiah needed a word. Obviously God’s timing on delivering the message was poor…he had to use a woman to do it.
What about a more modern-day preacher? Surely he would talk more about the message given rather than the messenger giving it.
~ John McArthur says this, Huldah. This prophetess is otherwise unknown in the OT. She was held in some regard for her prophetic gift, though why she was consulted and not another prophet like Jeremiah or Zephaniah is unexplained. Rarely did God speak to the nation through a woman and never did a woman have an ongoing prophetic ministry identified in Scripture. No woman was inspired to author any of Scripture’s sixty-six books. (The MacArthur Bible Commentary)
Thanks John. Maybe you think, like you did with Beth Moore, Huldah should have stayed home too? (See what I wrote to Dear Jane when this incident occurred.)
Could it simply be there was no explanation needed? Could it be Josiah preferred to use Huldah as his prophetess. Why does there need to be such speculation? Why can’t we be thankful that Huldah used the gifts God gave her when called upon to do so?
At the end of the day, does the “why” matter more than the “what”? Is it more important to try and figure out why God would use a woman to deliver the message or the message itself?
Hunches and hypothesis beyond the text about Jeremiah and Zephaniahs shame or absence or whatever, is futile and distracts from the message. The priests went to speak to the prophetess Huldah (period). If God didn’t see the need to explain why, maybe we shouldn’t make up excuses and just let it be as it is.
We can exemplify and acknowledge the uniqueness of a female prophet, especially in a male dominant culture, without diminishing the validity of Huldah’s gifts. Ditto for the women of today!
Modern Day Huldah’s
What can we learn from this oft forgotten woman of the Old Testament?
- Huldah was ready when called upon. They needed a message from the Lord and she delivered. She didn’t ask “why me” or where the other prophets were, she simply did what she was gifted to do. Are you prepared, in season and out, to give a message, to share a word, to teach, rebuke, admonish or offer hope when asked to do so?
- Huldah didn’t worry about who her audience was, she was obedient in using her gifts of prophecy no matter the sex, title or status of the receiver of the message. We have a responsibility to use our gifts regardless of our or anyone else’s sex, title, degree, status or station in life.
- Huldah was a willing vessel for being used by God. I’m sure, given the status of women in Huldah’s culture it wasn’t easy being a prophetess. It was, in fact, a male dominant space. But she did it….with no apologies. We live in a culture that has turtle crawled toward recognizing women in leadership roles in the male dominant church. Are we willing to keep using our gifts and talents? Are we willing to keep having conversations?
What a fantastic role model Huldah is for us! Now when someone says, Where’s Huldah? you’ll be able to find her right away and share the story of how God used this woman to bring a message to the king and help turn a nation back to Himself.
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