Thursday, March 6, 2008

Huldah: The Lost Prophetess

How many of you have honestly heard of Huldah?

Even though her story is intertwined with Josiah, a notorious and good king of Israel, she is rarely mentioned.

Paganism swept over Israel and reigned supreme for over fifty years. When Josiah became King, he began a long journey of undoing the wickedness done by previous kings. His "clergy" stumbled upon the Book of the Law, hidden in the temple (2 Chronicles tells us this book was from the law of Moses, many believe it to be a lost segment of Dueteronomy). The people had forgotten God's Law and turned their hearts to other gods. The two kings prior to Josiah were perhaps the most wicked in all of Israel's history, leading their nation into idolatry, witchcraft, human sacrifice, temple prostitution, and other heinous practices. When the words in the book were read out loud, Josiah tores his clothes and repented. Josiah then sent the High Priest Hilkiah to bring the book of the law to one of God's faithful:

“Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found” (2 Kings 22:13, emphasis added).

So Hilkiah brings the book to Huldah, a prophetess and wife of Shallum (another married women who holds a position of spiritual authority), who remained faithful in one of Israel's darkest moments in history. She interpreted the words in the book and delivered a prophetic message to Hilkiah, the high priest, for King Josiah. So, they took scripture to a woman to find out what it meant....interesting. I'll refrain from pointing out the obvious implications of this...Oh, who am I kidding? She's teaching them scripture! Men, in leadership no less, are asking a woman to tell them what the words of the book mean and what they need to do next! Sorry, I just couldn't resist. :)

Huldah then speaks for God:
"Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, 'This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you,' declares the LORD."--2 Kings 22:18-19

Read the entire story here: 2 Kings 22 or 2 Chronicles 34
So we have a king, a high priest, and other men holding a position of spiritual authority seeking spiritual direction from a woman. They even receive a blessing from the Lord because they humbled themselves and listened to what God has spoken through her.

She faithfully delivered the words God gave to her. Luckily, these men were not deluded by pride and could humbly receive the commands of God via woman.

J. Lee Grady makes this correlation:

"It is odd that a group of spiritual leaders operating under the Old Covenant in Israel looked to an anointed woman of God for advice when some Christian leaders today--in the New Covenant age--would consider Huldah 'out of order' for assuming a place of influence in the church."

Yet again, we have a woman, Huldah, who throws a wrench in rigid complementarians' "clean-cut" theology.


catrina said...

Yes, your last statement is the key, "rigid complementarions." At our church I believe women can speak and teach and prophecy, the difference is that the Pastors are still men and they hold the authority to correct or rebuke her if neccessary. That is how it is in a lot of moderate "C" churches. Long before your time we had a women apostle/teacher (she labeled herself) come speak at our church on a Sunday morning, she wasn't ten minutes into her sermon when she shared that she had been happily married for several years until she realized God's calling on her life to travel and preach. Her husband did not feel so led and so she divorced him to follow God. That never sat right with any who heard her that day, and I believe that therein lies a problem/misperception on the equalitarian position, who should have submitted in that case? She genuinely felt "called" and he didn't. So how do you submit yourselves one to another in a case like that if no one is the defined leader?

Tia Lynn said...

That story does not sit right with me either. I don’t think any egalitarians would advocate divorcing your spouse in such a case! That’s absurd. Maybe there is more to the story than what she shared. Now, had he left her, that would be a different story.

But here is the bigger question, if she truly did feel God’s call on her life, why would her husband deny her this? If he loved her the way Christ loved the church than he would have given Himself (his own desires up) for her. Even by the complementarian model, they both were wrong: she didn’t submit and he didn’t love her with Christ’s sacrificial love. If she loved him the way she’d been called to, she would have stayed, compromised, sought counseling, prayed, and given it over to God. But this one bizarre story that shows trouble will inevitably arise between flawed human beings doesn’t prove that the man has to have sole authority in the marriage relationship.

Christy Fritz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christy Fritz said...

the leader in relationships should be defined as christ. as tia said, both models would advocate this. they both should have submitted their opinions to eachother and then to christ, and waited to make a decision. i'm not saying there needs to be a long, drawn out process with every decision in a relationship. but, when a couple comes to an impasse, sometimes it is best to practice patience, rather than to have one spouse practice authority over another. it gives more time for the spirit to lead and for more insight into the situation.
i don't think egalitarians have much issue with leadership in their relationships. there is no "co-leading" only mutual submission to eachother and then the father's will. that isn't always as cut and dry and business like, but it is possible, and often seems to grow both people in ways that might not have happened if one person was perceived as in "charge". i can only speak from my own experience. obviously that is not the same experience for many, and i totally respect that. both models have value and effectiveness in different ways to different people, and for different purposes IMO.

a final thought. even if the curse meant that a woman's desire would be to rule or control her husband, i believe, as a new creation, even in a fallen world, a woman under christ can resist that temptation because it is right to do so, and submit to her husband. she doesn't need his authority over her to do that, or a system of heirarchy explained. she doesn't need to know she is a helpmeet, she just needs to be obedient to christ and love another as she loves herself, showing respect.
a man may struggle with being passive, as work will be viewed as a curse, but he doesn't need a leadership position of authority to be a provider or to be responsible. he can do the right thing in love, because he should as a follower of christ, regardless of his rank or how he is respected.

i'm not saying a complementarian view negates that truth, but i sometimes think it highlights the system of hierarchy as the answer to the problems of the fall, rather than christ's work in our hearts. i don't think that is the intention, but how it can come across.
catrina your comment about how you viewed heirarchy as the system before the fall, helped me see your perspective better. i think that would be where the controversy of interpretation truly lies.

catrina said...

I totally agree that the story I shared was bizarre and not representing of E position, it does though represent some of the fear factors that "C's" may have.

I do think that God established a heirarchy for most aspects of animal and human life and it doesn't prove to be a problem at work, in the military, on a team or anywhere else except in the areas we have been discussing. I completely believe that how I submit to my husband and how he submits to me will "look" totally different than how another couple works it out. So I don't judge their marriage or their spirituality in any way. Just wanted to make that perfectly clear.

musicmommy3 said...

This comment has nothing whatsoever to do with this post. :)

I tagged you over at my blog. COme check it out!!

Blessings!- Angela :)

Terry said...

I had never heard of Hulda. Kind of embarassing given that I read my Bible everyday. How did I miss her?

On Catrina's comment: Our church is kind of like hers in that all the positions of executive authority are held by men. There are women in ministerial positions, and they do preach, but our Sr. Pastor, executive pastor, and so on are men. I don't know that I could serve in a church with a female pastor. As for marriage, I don't see how it works when you come to an impasse if no one is in position to cast the deciding vote. There are times in life when a decision has to be made and it has to be made NOW. It can't be tabled. We've had those moments in our family. And when we have a different opinion of th right course of action, I defer to my husband's perspective. I would be curious to know how you would handle such a scenario.

Christy Fritz said...

usually whoever is most informed on the subject or has the most wisdom/experience regarding the issue. it is quite obvious in a pinch. sometimes we defer to the one the issue is most important to and ask that one to do the legwork and make the decisions whilst keeping the other spouse informed.
i've defered to my husband, he knows the most about how to spend the landscape budget. he incorpoates my ideas, but since he is the landscaper, he's the master designer and i don't mess with it. and he's defered to me too,as he wouldn't really be interested in picking out curricullum. i listen to his requests regarding how i use the space in our house, but bottom line he usually defers to my ideas in that area, since i'm the one with the experience in that area. this hasn't always been easy for either of us, but has proved to be a good character and trust builder in our relationship.
most things, there is time to be patient though, especially if both spouses are willing and find that process as a discipline in itself.

catrina said...

Christy, in a healthy marriage that is exactly how it should look, Nate "submits" to me all the time, however Terry and I are wondering about when a decision has to be made and the 2 parties feel passionate about their position. You can't table something important forever while you wait for each side to defer.

Christy Fritz said...

in our experience, outside counsel has been most advantageous when needing to make that kind of decision. most times we have been able to wait to come to an agreement though. although,we've moved several times, had various jobs and gone through serious trauma,so there have definitely been times we've asked those with more wisdom to give us insight when at an impasse. we've only gone to 6 weeks of counseling together at one point, and one session of financial counseling recently, so it isn't like we are constantly having to seek it outside of our relationship. but in those circumstances,it proved to be very effective for breaking an impasse and motivating both of us to keep centered on christ.
our parents have provided good counsel at times, as well as our siblings or other couples furthur along the path or more experienced with the particular issue we're dealing with.

April said...

Tia... I've been reading this series and enjoying very much your posts, but what I'm really loving is the conversation taking place in the comments section.

I'm reading every word -- not commenting due to time constraints -- but taking it all in and digesting. Great stuff. Thanks.

Tia Lynn said...

Don’t feel too bad Terry. I did a little poll among a lot of people I know that read their bibles, and I didn’t find anyone who had heard of her. I’m in that group too. I had never heard of her either until I started researching this topic. Again, she is not the “norm” especially if she is teaching men about scripture with authority and speaking for God! I really believe there are those who do not know exactly what to do with her, so she becomes an obscurity.

As I’m reading everyone’s comments (good and thoughtful input everyone), I started thinking more about accountability and spiritual authority in a church setting. It seems a reoccurring concern is that if a woman is to speak/pray/teach/preach/lead in church that there must be an authority present to correct her if needed. I surprisingly agree with this! (don’t get too excited). When men get up and speak in church, I also believe there needs to be an authority that also keeps them accountable as well. When a pastor gets up, he needs to be accountable too. So who has the final say then? I think an interesting lesson that can be learned from Huldah is mutual leadership and mutual submission. The priest and king submitted themselves to her authority and obeyed the words that came from the Lord through her. In turn, she then submitted herself to their place of spiritual and civil authority. There is not “one” person that is in charge, well at least there shouldn’t be. People from GCF, don’t you think that even though Brian is our pastor that he is still accountable to others in leadership and the congregation? I see no reason why a woman could not hold the same position and be in the same scenario of accountability while still being a leader. All christians need to be accountable, because we are all (men, women, pastors, and prophets,) flawed, susceptible to deceit, pride, control, and sin.

catrina said...

April, I too am enjoying the conversation and I know Tia personally and she is a great person wno desires unity in the body. She knows that she may not change my mind and I hers, but the point of respectful dialogue is to show that we can love each other under the banner of Christ and not agree on these issues. I could almost care less about this topic, I have "personal" convictions and experiences that have led me to where I am at today. I NEVER EVER want to look at someone with disdain just because they see things differently than I. Grace, grace and more grace for all who call Jesus Lord.

Tia Lynn said...

I'll Amen that!

Christy Fritz said...

amen here too.:)

musicmommy3 said...

Amen here too!

Terry don't feel too badly...I didn't know who she was either.
Sad-isn't it? But now we're "in the know" thanks to our wonderful researching friend.

Julie said...

I only discovered Huldah a few years ago. but given the C churchs I grew up in it doesn't surprise me that she was never mentioned.

As for the being open to correction and rebuke and the final decision maker... sure those things are sometimes necessary, but to assume that a man automatically has the right to do that because he has the right plumbing is a tad absurd in my opinion. The most qualified person should hold such positions, and decisions should always first look to God and then look to the other person's needs. Asserting dominance because of the accident of one's birth makes no sense.

Tia Lynn said...

Yes Julie. I think people confuse leadership with "control" or "dominance." Neither sex should exert this type of worldly leadership, but servant leadership that empowers others. Leadership positions most certainly shouldn't be determined by sex organs.

Terry said...

Leadership is not determined by sex organs, it's been determined by God. His word is clear that a wife is to submit to her husband. Being God, I hesitate to insult His sovreignty by saying it's just a matter of sex organs. In most of our day to day decisions, my husband defers to me because I manage most of our day to day affairs. His leadership is just that- leadership-not dictatorship. Dictators think they know everything about everything and refuse to consider anyone else's wisdom. That's not what we are advocating and neither do I think its what the Bible is advocating. It troubles me that this is such a troubling thought for so many Christian women. I realize that authority in the wrong hands can turn abusive, but that's a different subject and I don't want to confuse the issue.

Tonya said...

Very interesting discussion. I just came upon it and have enjoyed reading it.

We must remember that the Bible can be used to make just about any point one wishes to make. I really appreciate Catrina's points in the post about Deborah. I think she might be right. You are having to add things that you guess might be the way it was to make your point. Others can read the exact same portion of scripture and guess other things that might have been in order to make their point. Know what I mean?

We know that Deborah led Israel and that she did a very good job of it. We have no idea what that looked like, do we. She was a prophetess- which means that she was the mouthpeice of God. And she was a judge. God was the ruling authority in Israel through the judges before the time of the kings, so Deborah was His mouthpeice and the distributor of His justice. She didn't hold "authority" and we don't know that she "taught" out of her own wisdom or understanding. God was the authority in Israel. That was why God said that the Israelites had rejected Him when they asked for a king- an authority and lawmaker. The judges were obedient to direct the people in obedience to God. And the Bible (both OT and NT) is all for women prophetesses. Just do it biblically...:) OH, and Deborah herself told Barak that he would be shamed because God would deliver the enemy into the hands of a woman. Just because she led in battle doesn't mean that a right precedent was set. God blessed all sorts of wrong stuff in the OT because He is soveriegn and He makes His plan work, no matter how many times we go "human" on Him. In fact, several of the judges were VERY human.

Here's the thing. The NT seems to point towards equality in regards to our faith, the love the Father has for us, our giftings,etc, but towards gender specific roles in the church. That is the stronger position and you don't have to wiggle around for it. Should that offend us? No way. God desires the best for us and we should be happy and smart enough to obey His word. Does that mean that women can't serve in the church? No. There are plenty of "non-authority-over-men" positions for women to serve in and use their giftings.

And since I know you are going to bring up Junia sometime, the whole Junia argument can be taken one of two ways. Egalitarians choose to believe that Junia was outstanding AS an apostle. Complemintarians choose to believe that Junia was outstanding IN THE OPINION OF the apostles (held in high regard) since it seems to fit best with other writings of the time. Both are valid ways of interpreting that tiny portion of scripture out of context.

And since you talked about Huldah here, I'll touch on another interpretation for that one too:):):). Huldah interpreted the scripture for the king. How is that proof of biblical egalitarianism? She wasn't in authority over, or even equal in authority to, the King. He asked her to do something for him and she did. She was under his authority and under the authority of God as a PROPHETESS. The king was also under the authority of God and was in obedience to God. Huldah wasn't teaching, she was PROPHESYING - speaking the words of God- (remember, allowable according to Paul as well under certain conditions). And she probably had a head covering on when she did it, signifying her submission to the authority of God and her husband. We don't know that she taught. The Bible just says that she said "this is what the Lord says...." and then she prophesied. The king already knew that they hadn't obeyed the words in the book, he didn't need an interpretation or a teaching...he knew they were lacking. He just wanted to know what to do about so he sought a prophet since God didn't speak directly to the people through the Holy Spirit at that time.

Just something to ponder.

I appreciate all of your study, Tia. And I am looking forward to reading more when I have time.

Tonya said...

OH! and guess what! I had already heard of Huldah before this:):):). (my dad was really good with the Bible stories)

Christy Fritz said...

i think the idea that god did not want isreal to have a king, an authority or leader besides him,is one to ponder. what would it have looked like for his people to have continued to follow him without needing or having human leadership in that sense, whether male or female? it seems that at least that system of heirarchy, maybe modeled after the worldly systems of the time, was not what he thought of as his best for his people.

Julie said...

The bible says husbands and wives are to submit to each other. For some reason the church has ignored half of that and insist that all women submit to all men. Seems a bad twisting of scripture to me.

But as I've read elsewhere. if husbands and wives love each other the submission/decision think shouldn't even be an issue. It's when love has been replaced by power that such discussions arise. so its unfortunate that most churches start marriage counseling by making it about hierarchy and power. Nothing could be further from biblical love and submission.

As for prophesy - that is teaching. Twisting it into something lesser (or putting unbiblical modern preaching as high more authoritative is untrue to the narrative or the history).

Tonya said...

Old testament propheseying was speaking the words of God, not preaching or teaching. The prophets spoke for God and acted for God. They spoke the scriptures. Prophets spoke in the place of God.

In modern culture, prophesying has taken on a new meaning which I am not sure is Biblical (haven't studied on this much though). Off the top of my head, I remember that we have gifts of Preaching, teaching, evangelizing, prophesy and apostleship. They are differentiated between. I think true prophets and true apostles are rare these days....that's not to say that many have labeled themselves such (yikes).

And yes, husbands and wives are to submit to each other. My husband submits to my choices on homeschool curriculum and what color to paint to walls:). He also wisely listens to me when I talk to him about the children and what is going on with them. He lets me pick the restarant even if he wants to go somewhere else and he asks me where I would like to go on vacation. But he still holds final veto power. If he feels that something I am choosing is bad for us or even if he feels his choice is better, he makes the final decsion. That's proper biblical headship. For example, last spring, we moved from my hometown to Alabama. I did not want to leave, but he made that decision for our family. I trusted his judgement because #1 I trust God and #2 my husband loves God and me. Reason #1 would be enough, though.

The problem with the extreme version of the egalitarian stance is that it takes so much finnegeling to make it biblical. You have to reinterpret the Bible over and over and you have to make certain verses more important than others. The verse that says that husbands and wives should submit to each other seems to trump all for the egalitarian when it can simply be interpreted exactly the way I said that we interpret it in our family.

My point is that you can't make egalitarianism (in the form we are discussing it in) biblical without a lot of work. If you hold an egalitarian conviction with a truly clear conscience, fine and God bless you! But don't try to convince others by using "bibical" arguments that egalitarianism is the true and best way for Christians. We all agree on the important things and we need to cling to that. Discussions like this are interesting because they make us all think outside our own boxes...:).

Peter said...

Tonya-did you attend the university of splitting hairs?

If we want to get technical, Huldah hears the exact words of God, which are recorded in two places, becoming part of scripture. By imparting God’s word to others is she not also teaching? Old testament prophets both spoke for God and taught His people how to return to God. Are we to believe that the woman Huldah can be entrusted with God’s Word, but is forbidden to teach on it? Since you seem to take the complementarian position, believing that an inherent hierarchy exists among God’s people, it’s odd that you think women can prophesy (speak for God) but not teach scripture. If we are talking about “rank,” prophecy is higher on the list than teaching, at least according to Paul (1 Corinthians 12:28). It hardly makes sense that women would be allowed to prophecy and not teach, when prophecy is considered a “higher” calling.

If you want to argue that Deborah and Huldah had no authority, when they clearly gave orders and lead men and women, and spoke God’s word in the presence of men (an act forbidden in most complementarian circles), then you must argue that the male prophets held no authority either and were also simply a mouthpiece. God is the ultimate authority of all people, but He still bestows authority to those He has gifted in ministry, including women.

Tonya said...

Yes, my diploma from HSU is hanging on the wall next to my diploma from Don't Add Your Own Iferences To the Bible University, aka, DAYOITTBU:):):)

Why should it matter if Prophesy is a "higher calling" if the Bible says that women can prophesy? If God says that it is okay for women to "channel" Him but not to teach, why should that bother anyone? He's God! You assume that Deborah and Huldah taught. They might have, but the Bible doesn't say that they did. It just says that they said "the Lord says...". And even if they did teach, that doesn't mean that it was best in God sight. Rahab the prostitute lied but God still blessed and honored her for her faith and her heart towards His people. David murdered and adulterated:) and God brought Jesus out of that line. Jacob was a deceitful sneak but God made his sons the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. Samson was a rebellious, spoiled, murdering womanizer but God used him as a judge and to wreak havoc on the enemy. Deborah may or may not have been God's first choice for judge, but she took on the job and God blessed her heart. The thing is that WE DON'T KNOW and you are guessing that this was God's best, and that it sets a precedent, just becasue it was recorded in the Bible. The NT seems to indicate that women are NOT to hold authoritative positions in the church. I am sure Tia is planning on addressing those verses so we can talk about that then.

The point I am making here is that you can't make a theology out of this soley from what is recorded in the Bible. You have to add in things that aren't recorded. I totally believe (from the Bible) that women can prophesy. I also beleive (also from the Bible) that there is a difference between Prophesy and Teaching.

Huldah did not "clearly give orders and lead men" as you said up there. If you find that that is clear, then we must be reading different versions of the Bible. God gave His Word through Huldah. That is called Prophesy. She was the instrument of God, in submission to the request of her king.

Deborah may or may not have led men. The Bible doesn't say. We do know however that several of the judges were great bit sinners and not walking in complete obedience to God and that God blessed their ministry anyway. (NOT that Deborah was one of them). We do know that she accompanied nervous Barak (who didn't hear directly from God as Deborah had done) to the place where she said "go on now, God has given the enemy into your hands" (prophecy again) and then he went into battle by himself and routed Sisera. Right? That's what we know from the Bible. Deborah wasn't astride her trusty steed yelling instruction to the men. She reluctantly went along until she felt like scardy cat Barak could be sent on by himself to do the job. Not honorable for Barak, but kind of Deborah to submit to his request for her company.

If complementarians want to forbid women prophesying properly, then they can do that but it won't be because all the peices fit in their theology. And if egalitarians want women preaching to and teaching men, then they are welcome to do it, but it won't be because all the peices fit in their theology.

And don't label me:):):). I am a Christian, just like you are. I had never heard of the words complementarian or egalitarian (couldn't even pronounce egalitarian right for weeks) until a couple of months ago. I am simply trying to point out that while this is an interesting discussion, it is not biblically sound as a teaching.