Huldah (Hebrew: חֻלְדָּה) was a prophet mentioned briefly in 2 Kings 22, and 2 Chronicles 34. After the discovery of a book of the Law during renovations at Solomon's Temple, on the order of King Josiah, Hilkiah together with Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan and Asaiah approach her to get the Lord's opinion.
According to Rabbinic interpretation, Huldah and Deborah were the principal professed woman prophets in the Nevi'im (Prophets) portion of the Hebrew Bible, although other women were referred to as prophets. "Huldah" means "weasel" or "mole", and "Deborah" means "bee" or "wasp".
Huldah in the Bible
The Bible recounts the consulting of Huldah as follows:
- And the King commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Miciah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asiah the King's servant, saying,
- Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
- So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah, went unto Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe—now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the second quarter—and they spoke with her.
- And she said unto them: Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell ye the man that sent you unto me:
- Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will bring evil upon this place and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah hath read. (2 Kings 22:13–16)
Huldah, after authenticating the book and prophesying a future of destruction for failure to follow it, ends by reassuring King Josiah that because of his piety, God has heard his prayer and "thou shalt be gathered unto thy grave in peace, neither shall thy eyes see all the evil which I shall bring upon this place." (2 Kings 22:20).
Huldah's prophetic oracle identifies the words the King of Judah heard (2 Ki 22:18) with what Yahweh had spoken (2 Ki 22:19). According to William E. Phipps, Huldah is the first person to declare certain writings to be Holy Scripture.
Huldah appears in the Hebrew Bible only in nine verses, 2 Kings 22:13-20, 2 Chronicles 34:22–28. This short narrative is sufficient to make clear that Huldah was regarded as a prophet accustomed to speaking the word of God directly to high priests and royal officials, to whom high officials came in supplication, who told kings and nations of their fates, who had the authority to determine what was and was not the genuine Law, and who spoke in a manner of stern command when acting as a prophet. Nonetheless the Bible does not offer the sort of background information it typically does with other pivotal prophets. Indeed, we are left knowing more about her husband's background than we know of hers, and the little information we know of her personally is largely in relation to her husband.
Huldah in Rabbinic literature
According to Rabbinic interpretation, Huldah said to the messengers of King Josiah, "Tell the man that sent you to me," etc. (2 Kings 22:15), indicating by her unceremonious language that for her Josiah was like any other man. The king addressed her, and not Jeremiah, because he thought that women are more easily stirred to pity than men, and that therefore the prophet would be more likely than Jeremiah to intercede with God in his behalf (Meg. 14a, b; comp. Seder 'Olam R. xxi.). Huldah was a relative of Jeremiah, both being descendants of Rahab by her marriage with Joshua (Sifre, Num. 78; Meg. 14a, b). While Jeremiah admonished and preached repentance to the men, she did the same to the women (Pesiḳ. R. 26 [ed. Friedmann, p. 129]). Huldah was not only a prophet, but taught publicly in the school (Targ. to 2 Kings 22:14), according to some teaching especially the oral doctrine. It is doubtful whether "the Gate of Huldah" in the Second Temple (Mid. i. 3) has any connection with the prophet Huldah; it may have meant "Cat's Gate"; some scholars, however, associate the gate with Huldah's schoolhouse (Rashi to Kings l.c.).E. C. L. G.
The book that Huldah authenticated
Rabbinic sources such as Rashi explain that it was the original Torah written by Moses that was hidden from Ahaz. Modern critical scholars suggest that the book of the law was most likely Deuteronomy.
Two conflicting traditions exist regarding the final resting place of Huldah. The Tosefta records Huldah's burial site as between the walls in Jerusalem. During the Middle Ages a second tradition developed identifying Huldah's burial site with a cave carved out of the rock beneath a mosque on Mount of Olives. (See: Chapel of the Ascension (Jerusalem)) The cave is considered holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
"Huldah", The Jewish Encyclopedia (Article in 1903 public domain Jewish Encyclopedia).
- Hershel Shanks, Jerusalem an Archaeological Biography. Random House, 1995, p. 143.
- William E. Phipps, Assertive Biblical Women, p. 85.
- Michelson, Menachem (1996). מקומות קדושים וקברי צדיקים בארץ ישראל [The Jewish Holy Places in the Land of Israel] (in Hebrew). Milner, Moshe; Salomon, Yehuda. Israel: Israel Ministry of Defense. p. 48. ISBN 965-05-0836-8.
בתוספתא מסופר אמנם במפורש כי חולדה הנביאה נקברה בירושלים שבין החומות, אולם המסורת העממית מימי הביניים ואילך מצביעה על קברה דווקא בהר הזיתים – חצוב בסלע בתוך מרתף של מסגד בתחום הכפר א-טור.
Reti, Irene Helen. The Kabbalah of Stone. ISBN 978-0-9843196-0-2