Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hearing About Huldah

Among the many prophets who predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, only one prophetess is recorded. Huldah was a descendent of Joshua and Rachav, as well as a cousin of the prophet Jeremiah and the wife of Shallum ben Tikvah, who was part of the King Josiah’s household.

According to the commentaries, Huldah ran her own school for women, which, it has been suggested, was located at the southern gates of the Temple (now referred to as Huldah’s Gates). The Midrash Yalkut Shimoni notes that while Jeremiah prophesied in the marketplace and the prophet Zephaniah preached in the synagogues, Huldah spoke to the women.

Huldah’s famous prophecy, which is recorded both in II Kings 22 and II Chronicles 34, occurred shortly after King Josiah discovered an ancient Torah scroll in the Temple. The first passage that was read to King Josiah described the calamities that would befall the nation if they abandoned God’s ways. Being that his father and grandfather had both led their subjects into idolatry, Josiah was quite worried. He sent a delegation to Huldah rather than to Jeremiah (who was the major prophet at that time) because he hoped that Huldah, as a woman, would be more compassionate and would also try to intercede. But Huldah’s response was definitive:

“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man that sent you to me: Thus says the Lord: Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read; because they have forsaken Me, and have offered to other gods, that they might provoke Me with all the work of their hands; therefore My wrath shall be kindled against this place, and it shall not be quenched” (II Kings 22:15-17).

As a result of Huldah’s prophecy, Josiah summoned the people and persuaded them to repent.  Huldah thus played an important role in the fateful return and repentance of the people to their traditions and faith. God also acknowledged Josiah’s own piety and promised that none of this would come to pass while he was still alive.

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