Huldah is shown here in a beautiful painting by Elspeth Young. She is a woman from the Bible you may not know. I didn’t really learn her story till a couple of years ago when I had been contracted to write a quarter of Sunday school material for a religious publisher and Huldah played a role in one of the lessons included in my assignment. We find her story in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34. Huldah played many roles. She was a daughter and although the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly who her parents are we do discover from rabbinical literature that she is believed to be a direct descendant of Rahab’s. You may remember Rahab as this daring woman who hid the Israelite spies on her rooftop when they were about to be discovered.
In this 1881 drawing by Frederick Pirkersgill we see Rahab opening the door and sending the spies to her rooftop so they won’t be discovered on their secret scouting mission ordered by Joshua just before the battle of Jericho. Rahab is in fact one of only a few women listed in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew. So in Rahab, Huldah had a pretty awesome ancestor to claim as her own.
Huldah was a wife too. She was married to a man named Shallum. The Midrash relates what an incredibly kind person he was. He would often sit at the gates of Jerusalem providing water to weary travelers. He also had a very important job as the keeper of the Israeli King Ammon’s wardrobe. I like to think this beautiful bronze plate of Huldah from the 1800s shows her and Shallum discussing the Scriptures together.
Huldah had a job of her own. She was a teacher and everyday she sat in the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem with her students, young girls and older women who wanted to learn about the Torah.
I have been to the Temple in Jerusalem the site of two huge gates, one with two arches and one with three, gates that would later be named after Huldah, I could just imagine Huldah and her eager students there. I like to think of the women gathered in a circle oblivious to the chatter of other temple goers as Huldah spellbinds them with stories from the Torah and they eagerly discuss how those stories might apply to their lives.
Huldah was also a mother. She had a son of her own named Hanamel but according to the accounts in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles and the Midrash, a second century Hebrew commentary, Huldah and her husband Shallum also played the role of guardians or foster parents providing care and keeping and teaching to little prince Josiah. We can imagine Huldah fulfilling that role in another beautiful art piece by Elspeth Young.
Josiah was the son of King Amon and Queen Jedidah. Amon was a pretty cruel and corrupt guy but under Huldah and her husband Shallum’s influence Josiah, Amon’s son grew up to be really good man completely unlike his dad.
Huldah was also a prophet a very important prophet it turns out. In this 19thcentury etching she is prophesying outside the temple.
She was a prophet at the same time as Jeremiah but according to traditional rabbinical literature he did not resent Huldah or take offense to her prophesying because they were distantly related and he respected her.
And Jeremiah was not the only one who respected Huldah. Josiah, her former ward did too. In this 1897 drawing by W.A. Foster we see an adult Josiah and Huldah talking together. After his father King Amon died young Josiah who Huldah had been caring for, became the king of Israel. At one point he decided the Temple in Jerusalem needed cleaning up and during that process an ancient scroll was discovered that hadn’t been read for a long time. And whom did Josiah ask to figure out what that scroll’s message meant for his people? Not the great Jeremiah who was the most popular prophet of the time, not Hilkiah who was a wise priest with a huge reputation and was Josiah’s most highly placed spiritual advisor, no………
As we see in this colorful 1989 art piece from Dina Cormick an artist from South Africa Josiah sends his men to seek the counsel of his former caregiver the prophet Huldah. Huldah could have hemmed and hawed and tried to be diplomatic about what the words meant in the scroll Josiah had found but no………
as we see in this drawing by Christian Weigel a German artist popular in the mid 1800s, Huldah told Josiah’s men straight up honest and direct that the words in the scroll he had found made it clear the people of Israel had strayed far from where God wanted them to be and that if Josiah tried to turn things around he’d have a happy and prosperous reign as king. Josiah followed Huldah the prophet’s advice and her predictions about his time as king came true.
I am so intrigued by this art piece of Huldah done by Ilene Winn- Lederer in 2009. Ilene is a Pittsburgh artist whose illustrations have appeared in many major American newspapers and magazines. She says that the name Huldah means weasel and as you can see in her art piece Huldah is holding a weasel. At first that doesn’t seem very flattering till you learn that in many cultures weasels are symbols for the model woman, one who possess both great beauty and great intelligence. In fact in Greek myth a weasel is the midwife at the birth of the hero Hercules. In her art Ilene says she has portrayed Huldah near the end of her life. Ever the prophet and scholar she still holds a scroll in her hand to show she continues to read and study and look to the future for her people.
Huldah played many roles. She was the descendant of a famous and daring woman, she was a wife to a kind and important man, she was a mother and foster-mother who raised honest decent children, she was a teacher who shared her wisdom with women. She was a student of the Scriptures trying to discern their meaning, and a prophet who it turns out had a big influence on her nation.
In this linoleum block and watercolor print by Minnesota artist Sara Ronnevik Huldah is displayed as women were in ancient art produced by people living near the Agean Sea.
The Midrash names Huldah as one of the most upright and righteous women ever to come out of Israel. I found evidence that Huldah has been sited again and again throughout history as an example by those who were fighting for equal rights for women in both the church and society.
As I work to do the best job I can of fulfilling the many different roles I have to play in life, Huldah is a real inspiration.
This will be the last in my series of blog posts about women in the Bible featured in presentations I gave at a women’s retreat at the end of October.
Other posts in this series………..