February 8, 2017
The Bible stories this week illustrate how the Word cannot be destroyed because it is Everlasting and Ever-present. There is a comparison between the obedience of good King Josiah (who repented after discovering part of the Book of Deuteronomy while repairing the Temple) and the disrespect of bad King Jehoiakim (who cut up Jeremiah’s scroll and threw it in the fire). Josiah consulted the prophetess Huldah, so whenever there is a woman in the Bible, I have to do some more research. Here is what I learned:
Huldah was one of the seven prophetesses, with Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, and Esther. (We’ve covered them all on Wednesdays, so I’m glad I didn’t miss Huldah!)
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. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7923-huldah
There is some disagreement as to why King Josiah went to Huldah instead of Jeremiah. According to another Jewish website, Jeremiah was not consulted because he was visiting the Jewish exiles in Assyria at the time. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112503/jewish/Huldah-the-Prophetess.htm
Under bad King Jehoiakim (Josiah’s son), Jeremiah used the example of the Rechabites’ faithful obedience to the rules of their human father compared to the Hebrews’ disobedience of the Word of their heavenly Father. The Rechabites were a guild of metal workers who made chariots and other weaponry. They lived apart and abstained from alcohol so they wouldn’t divulge their trade secrets while under the influence. (Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses, pages 135-136).
I am so grateful to be reading the Book of Jeremiah. I had not discovered Huldah or the Rechabites until I started studying Jeremiah from beginning to end. If the Bible is our Temple, then discovering this book could be how King Josiah felt when he found Deuteronomy. Or Mary Baker Eddy’s discovery of Christian Science — the Word was always there, waiting for the receptive heart.
Here is a beautiful poem reflecting this sentiment in this month’s Journal which begins:
Fresh upon the listening ear
Of one who waits upon the Word,
Comes inspiration, calm and clear,
As whispers of God’s truth are heard.
New concepts only Mind can give
Call gently at the open door
Of consciousness, which longs to live
In heavenly places, more and more!
(Revelation for a Reader, by Wanda Richard, from the February 2017 issue of the Christian Science Journal)
Here are the Bible notes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible:
2 Kings 22: For the authors of the book of Kings, Josiah (640-609 BCE) is the perfect king, a new David, but also a new Moses and a new Joshua. . .8-10: The book, which reaches the king through Shaphan and Hilkiah is meant to be some form of the book of Deuteronomy. . . 19-20: Hilkiah’s oracle concerning Josiah is inconsistent with what is reported later, since he did not die in peace but was killed by the Egyptian king. Perhaps her prophecy meant that Josiah would be spared the agony of Judah’s destruction and exile.23.1-3: The king himself reads the book to all the people and renews the covenant with the Lord. The book of the law can therefore also be called the book of the covenant.
2 Kings 23. 34-35: When making Eliakim the new king, Neco changes his hame to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim reigned 608-597 BCE.
Jeremiah 36: In a pivotal year, the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians in battle and asserted themselves as the dominant power over Judah, forcing the radical reshaping of Judean aspirations and allegiances. . . Jeremiah has the assistance of Baruch, who serves as his scribe, and is supported by the family of Shaphan within the royal court and who sent Baruch and Jeremiah into protective hiding. Piece by piece Jehoiakim burned the scroll, likely as a means of mitigating the effects of the words of judgment, which would have been received as a type of curse. Most scholars assume that the second scroll, produced to replace the first destroyed by Jehoiakim contained the core of material now found in chapters 1-24. . . Jeremiah 36:22 Ninth month, November-December.