A woman of hope - 18 August 2020
By Xanthe Hancox
As for the king himself, this is what I, the LORD God of Israel, say: you listened to what is written in the book, and you repented and humbled yourself before me, tearing your clothes and weeping, when you heard how I threatened to punish Jerusalem and its people. I will make it a terrifying sight, a place whose name people will use as a curse. But I have heard your prayer,
When you read those verses above, would you have guessed that the person giving God’s word to the king of Judah was a woman? They were spoken by Huldah, an advisor to King Josiah. Earlier in the chapter we’re told a little bit about her: “Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter.” (2 Kings 22:14)
When scrolls containing the Book of the Law are discovered during Temple renovations, Huldah is the one the king’s envoys consult because she is a trained scholar and prophet. This discovery was the most significant thing to happen during Josiah’s reign. She speaks the word of God with confidence and clarity. Like male prophets, she uses technical prophetic language and speaks God’s word in the first person. It is she who brings Josiah, the most righteous king in the history of Israel and Judah, words of judgment for the people of Israel without fear or hesitation. She also brings him hope by telling that he won’t live to see the destruction of Israel.
What’s truly remarkable about Huldah’s story though, is that her prophetic words of judgment are centred on a written document. She authorizes what will become the core of Scripture for Judaism and Christianity. Her validation of a text stands as the first recognizable act in the long process of canon formation. Huldah authenticates a document as being God’s word, affording it the sanctity required for it to become part of the Bible we know today, isn’t that wonderful?
This Women’s Month, let Huldah remind us that God has no problem giving women the same difficult work as men, and that the voice of a godly woman carries authority and value.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for the example of Huldah. May her story remind us that women can be bearers of hope and powerful witnesses to the hope you promise all of us. Amen