Do you know the Bible story of Huldah?
Many people have attended Sunday school and church for their entire lives, yet they have never even heard of her. Even those who went to a Christian grade school or college might be thinking, “Umm, in the Bible? Are you sure? Wasn’t that Hagar the Horrible’s wife’s name?” (Nope, that’s Helga). Many of you have spent thirty, forty, or eighty years in the church and still, you’ve never heard of Huldah. I have asked Christians who have all of the above credentials (and more) and generally, they have never heard her name or story.
She almost never shows up in children’s Bible story books. She does not appear in the majority of Sunday school curriculum. Huldah’s story is absent. I have attended church my whole life, all thirty-six years. I have listened to pastors preaching online, on the radio, in different churches, in different denominations, in this country, and overseas. And I have never once heard a pastor tell the story of Huldah or teach on the significance of her life.
And why not? She was arguably the most respected and influential prophet during the reign of King Josiah. Most of us know the story of King Josiah, a godly leader who was crowned as a young boy. So then, why have we not heard about Huldah, an important female prophet from the same period?
It is hard to say why her story is obscure, except that we have made it so by ignoring it. God used Huldah’s prophecy in a powerful way. Her work was followed by the most thorough religious renewal in the entire history of Judah. There were a few Southern kingdom monarchs who had turned away from idolatry in Judah's history. But it was only under King Josiah in response to Huldah’s prophecy that every visible trace of idol worship was wiped out. Stone idols were even smashed and ground to powder so that no one could salvage a crumb and worship it. Of course, as soon as Josiah died, idolatry popped right up again. But under Josiah’s and Huldah’s leadership, it was completely forbidden.
So why is it that we have overlooked the story of Huldah—a story recorded twice in Scripture (2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34)? Why do most people not know her name? Why is she not remembered with other Bible women such as Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, and Esther?
Quite simply, Huldah’s story does not fit with the prevailing theology on women in ministry that is held by most evangelicals in America. There is really nothing to her story except that she preaches the word of God, quite authoritatively, to a group of men who happened to be the highest civic and religious leaders in the country. Even the high priest was there.
Imagining Huldah: this linoleum block and watercolor print was inspired by women depicted in ancient art from Egypt and the Aegean Sea.
We cannot pull the focus of her story toward co-operative military leadership as we can with Deborah. We cannot put a magnifying glass over her childhood story, her musical talents, or her mistakes as we often do with Miriam. We cannot make her into a beauty contest winner as we can with Esther. Huldah really does only one thing. She preaches a sermon. And it was not sharing time at women’s ministry night. Her audience was men. In the Bible, that is really all that Huldah did. She held a respected position of spiritual leadership, and she clearly taught the word of God to men.
But you thought “ladies” weren’t supposed to do that! Huldah’s story raises difficult questions about why women today are not allowed to be spiritual leaders and religious teachers in the church.
In Jerusalem at the time of Huldah’s ministry, there were some very dark practices going on. There were prostitutes whose services were available right inside the temple of Yahweh. People thought that in order to keep the gods happy, the crops healthy, and the invading armies away, they needed to throw their children into the open jaws of the evil god, Molech. Their children were burned alive as human sacrifices. But all of that ended after King Josiah encountered the word of God. God spoke to the king in two ways, through the Book of the Law found in the temple (probably Deuteronomy) and through the preaching of a woman.
So, here’s my question today:
Would you like to see the church purified from its modern day idols? Would you like to see our “Molech” ground to dust?
Then let the women preach! Do not put up roadblocks of doubt and shame about what a woman can do for God’s people. Tell your daughters about Huldah. Encourage women who want to learn and teach God’s word. Invite them to share what God has taught them to women and men. In the humble footsteps of Josiah, seek out the wisdom of godly women in your church. Be prepared for God to speak in an unexpected way with an unexpected voice.
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)