Sing and Celebrate the Prophet Huldah

image of Huldah by James C. Lewis

Maybe you grew up in church hearing about Huldah, but I didn’t. During Women’s History month and throughout the year, we can celebrate Huldah and other unsung women leaders in Scripture. To reclaim some of these prophetic women, I have written songs featuring them.

When I discovered the Hebrew prophet Huldah, I felt immediately drawn to her and saddened that her story has been ignored. Not only is her story in the Bible, but she is the first authority on what should go in the Bible.

Recently as I’ve been writing songs to honor women leaders in Scripture and other prophetic women leaders, I wanted to write about Huldah, one of my favorites. But at first I wondered if the name “Huldah” would sing. Then the hymn tune, “Restoration,” came to me as a good vehicle for singing “Huldah” and her remarkable story. You may know this tune through the hymn “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy.” Here is “Sing a Song of the Prophet Huldah,” celebrating her story seldom told.

Sing a Song of the Prophet Huldah
2 Kings 22:13-20; 2 Chronicles 34:22-33

Sing a song of the prophet Huldah, lifting up her voice of power;
she began the holy canon; sacred Word with Huldah flowered.   Refrain

Hokmah Wisdom guided Huldah, speaking boldly without fear;
king and priests consulted Huldah, claimed her words for all to hear.   Refrain

Now reclaim the women prophets, rising up from sacred page;
follow Huldah and all prophets, speaking truth from age to age.       Refrain

Refrain:

Now we will honor the prophet Huldah, singing her story seldom heard;
first to name a book as Scripture, she declared the holy Word.

Words © 2016 Jann Aldredge-Clanton                     RESTORATION

image of Huldah by Elspeth Young

Although we seldom hear about the prophet Huldah in sermons and Sunday school lessons, she is the first authority on what should go in the Bible. Huldah begins the biblical canon with her validation of an ancient scroll, probably an early form of the book of Deuteronomy, as the divine word.

For The CEB Women’s Bible, I wrote a portrait of Huldah. Although Jeremiah had been prophesying for five years, the high priest Hilkiah and other officers of King Josiah chose Huldah as the most reliable prophet in Israel to determine if the recovered “Instruction scroll” was the authentic word of God. King Josiah told his royal officials to ask God about the scroll, and they consulted the prophet Huldah, who pronounced it to be God’s word.

image of Huldah by Julie Duschack

Huldah clearly spoke for God with authority, just as other biblical prophets did. The biblical evidence indicates that in ancient Israel the role of prophet was open to women on an equal basis with men. The narrators of Kings and Chronicles express no surprise over Huldah’s gender. When Huldah validated the scroll, she confirmed King Josiah’s fears about the disaster that will come to Judah. About thirty years later, Huldah’s prophecy was fulfilled.

Huldah authorized the first document that would become the core of Scripture for Judaism and Christianity. Significantly, Huldah, guided by Divine Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew), marks the beginning of the biblical canon.

In her book Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel, Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney further elucidates the importance of Huldah. She “is the only female prophet whose oracle the Hebrew Bible preserves in the standard ‘so says YHWH’ form,” Dr. Gafney writes. “She is the prophetic authority behind the reform usually attributed to Josiah.” The high priest Hilkiah and other officers of King Josiah chose Huldah over Jeremiah, “not as a last resort,” but because they preferred her. “The language of the text implies that the service of female prophets was commonplace and required no special introduction or accommodation.”

Then why is a book of Jeremiah included in the biblical canon and not a book of Huldah? Dr. Gafney comments on this exclusion of Huldah:

Huldah was a court prophet employed by Josiah’s administration, living in Jerusalem; yet her male contemporaries who were not court prophets had significant collections of their oracles preserved. Huldah’s case demonstrates both an apparent lack of gender bias on the part of the king and priests who consulted her (including the high priest) and the appearance of bias on the part of the tradition preservers and shapers of the Hebrew Bible who did not conserve her broader oracular legacy. It strains credulity to believe that a temple-sanctioned court prophet uttered only one oracle or that the temple and/or royal scribes failed to record her oracles. She is arguably the first person to grant authoritative status to the Torah scroll deposited in the temple treasure. That scroll is largely understood to have been the heart of the Deuteronomistic corpus.

Huldah, like many other biblical women, has not been given the credit she deserves. The fact that God gave authority to Huldah to pronounce the first official statement of scriptural authority demonstrates that the divine intention is—and has always been—for women to hold authority as spiritual leaders.

How sad that a book of Huldah is not included in the biblical canon! Through our stories and songs, however, we can help reclaim Huldah’s remarkable contributions to our faith.

 

 

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