Huldah, the Prophet: Midrash and Aggadah

by Tamar Kadari

In Brief

Huldah, one of the seven women prophets, is identified by the rabbis as a descendent of Rahab and Joshua and a relative of Jeremiah. The rabbis describe her husband as a righteous man and state that it was on account of him that she was gifted with prophecy. The rabbis also explore her encounter with King Josiah, who believed that she would not be as harsh as her male counterparts. However, Huldah proved him wrong, acting harshly and even arrogantly towards the king. Another tradition records her prophesying alongside Jeremiah and Zephaniah. The midrash and Tosefta record that a gate was named after her in Jerusalem and that she was buried within the city.

Contents

Huldah is one of the seven women prophets of Israel enumerated by the Rabbis: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther (BT Lit. "scroll." Designation of the five scrolls of the Bible (Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther). The Scroll of Esther is read on Purim from a parchment scroll.Megillah 14a); she is also mentioned among the twenty-three truly upright and righteous women who came forth from Israel (A type of non-halakhic literary activitiy of the Rabbis for interpreting non-legal material according to special principles of interpretation (hermeneutical rules).Midrash  Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein], p. 474).

Genealogy

Huldah was descended from Joshua son of Nun, as is alluded in II Kings 22:14, according to which she was “the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah son of Harhas”; and Jud. 2:9 states that Joshua was buried “at Timnath-heres'' (BT Megillah 14a). Another tradition maintains that Huldah was one of the eight prophets and priests, including Jeremiah, who were descended from the harlot Rahab. This is derived from her identification as “the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah,” combined with the account of Rahab’s actions in Josh. 2:18: “you tie this length [tikvat] of crimson cord” (Sifrei on Numbers, 78). In an attempt to resolve these two traditions, the Lit. "teaching," "study," or "learning." A compilation of the commentary and discussions of the amora'im on the Mishnah. When not specified, "Talmud" refers to the Babylonian Talmud.Talmud suggests that Rahab converted and became Joshua’s wife, so that Hulda is a descendant both of Rahab and of Joshua (BT Megillah 14a).

Huldah’s Prophecy

The midrash relates that Huldah was gifted with ruah ha-kodesh (the spirit of divine inspiration) by merit of her husband Shallum son of Tikvah, who was one of the outstanding individuals of his generation and who engaged in acts of kindness every day. He would sit at the entrance to the city and would revive any new arrival by giving him drink from a goatskin of water. According to the Rabbis, Shallum son of Tikvah is “the man” of whom II Kings 13:20–21 speaks. After Shallum’s death, according to the midrash, all Israel sought to repay him for his kindnesses and accompanied him to his grave. When they came there, they saw the legions of Moab, and they cast Shallum into the tomb of Elisha. Upon coming into contact with the latter’s bones, Shallum immediately came back to life. Afterwards a son was born to Huldah and Shallum, named Hanamel, who is Hanamel the son of Jeremiah’s uncle Shallum who features in Jer. 32:7 (Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer [ed. Higger], chap. 32).

In the Rabbinic account, three prophets were active in the time of Josiah: Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Huldah. Jeremiah would prophesy in the marketplaces, Zephaniah in the synagogues, and Huldah’s audience consisted of women. The Israelites ignored all this prophetic activity and did what was displeasing to the Lord (Yalkut Shimoni, Zephaniah, para. 566; R. David Kimhi on II Kings 22:14, in the name of the Rabbis).

In another tradition, Huldah lived during the time of Jeremiah and prophesied concurrently with him. Because they were related (see above), he did not take offense at her prophesying together with him, even though he was a more important prophet. When King Josiah found the Torah she-bi-khetav: Lit. "the written Torah." The Bible; the Pentateuch; Tanakh (the Pentateuch, Prophets and Hagiographia)Torah scroll in the House of the Lord, he sent messengers to the prophet Huldah, and not to Jeremiah, on the grounds that women are merciful (BT Megillah 14b). Josiah apparently hoped that Huldah would be more moderate in her revelations, or that her compassion would succeed in canceling the anticipated future tribulations. However, contrary to his expectations, Huldah uttered harsh prophecies to the king.

The Rabbis charge Huldah with acting arrogantly when she told King Josiah’s emissaries (II Kings 22:15): “Say to the man who sent you to me”; she should have honored the king and said to his representatives, “Say to the king.” Because of her haughty deportment, she was given a denigratory name, “huldah,” meaning “weasel” (even the Aramaic translation of her name—karkushta—sounds ugly) (BT Megillah 14b).

II Kings 22:14 has Huldah “living in Jerusalem in the Mishneh,” which the Aramaic Targum renders as “study hall,” i.e., academy, a place of Torah. Another view is that she taught the Oral Law (= the Codification of basic Jewish Oral Law; edited and arranged by R. Judah ha-Nasi c. 200 C.E.Mishnah) to the elders of the generation. According to another tradition, she would preach in public and expound all the subjects mentioned twice in the Torah, and revealed the punishments for those who act counter to the allusions and hidden things in the Torah. Huldah’s chamber, close to the Gazit Chamber, was open to the outside and closed in the direction of the Sanhedrin, out of modesty (see the midrashic traditions cited in Rashi’s commentary on II Kings 22:15; and on II Chron. 34:22).

These traditions might possibly be connected with the Huldah Gates on the Temple Mount. The Tannaim assert that there were five gates to the Mount, two of which, known as the Huldah Gates, were the southern entrance to the Temple Mount (M Middot 1:3). The Holy One, blessed be He, took an oath that the Western Wall, the Priest’s Gate and the Huldah Gates would never be destroyed, until He restored them to their former glory (Song of Songs Rabbah 2:9:4).

Huldah’s tomb has been in Jerusalem from her death to the present, like the Tombs of the Kings from the Davidic line. Despite the ban on graves within the original area of the city of Jerusalem, these have never been disturbed or moved ((Aramaic) A work containing a collection of tanna'itic beraitot, organized into a series of tractates each of which parallels a tractate of the Mishnah.Tosefta Bava Batra 1:11; Tosefta Negaim 6:2).

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How to cite this page

Kadari, Tamar. "Huldah, the Prophet: Midrash and Aggadah." Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 13, 2024) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/huldah-prophet-midrash-and-aggadah>.