Too Far Gone

Some people claim good leadership is all it takes to turn a country around. But sometimes nations can slide so completely down the sewer of moral degradation that God finally flushes the pipes and clears them out altogether. Such a cleansing is what God had in store for the southern kingdom of Judah, and Hulda was the woman He chose to tell of it.

Judah’s steady descent into ignominy culminated with Manasseh, an intensely evil king who reigned from 696 to 642 B.C. If there was something God said not to do, Manasseh probably did it. The Bible says he seduced the Israelites “to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Ki. 21:9). And that was saying something.

Consequently, God promised, “I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down” (2 Ki. 21:13).

Although Manasseh repented toward the end of his reign, it was too little too late to turn the nation around. Furthermore, his successor was as evil as he once had been. Amon, his son, ruled two years and was murdered (642–640 B.C.). Then came Josiah (640–608 B.C.).

Hulda appears in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34—both times in connection with the reign of King Josiah, a genuine man of God who sought the Lord and pursued righteousness. Yet even Josiah’s godly leadership could not stay the coming judgment. Although he labored tirelessly to undo all the evil his grandfather Manasseh had done, the nation was too far gone. God had had it.

Hulda is one of only five prophetesses mentioned by name in Scripture. The other four are Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Jud. 4:4), Noadiah (Neh. 6:14), and Anna (Lk. 2:36). In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s rule (he was only 26), Hilkiah the high priest found a book containing the Mosaic Law while workmen were repairing the Temple. Some commentators believe most copies were destroyed during Manasseh’s reign. Hilkiah may have unearthed a complete Pentateuch or at the least the book of Deuteronomy because what he found apparently contained the curses God promised Israel if the nation abandoned Him.

When Josiah realized how far the nation had departed from God, he tore his clothes in mourning and dispatched Hilkiah, Shaphan the scribe, and three others to inquire of the Lord: “For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD” (2 Chr. 34:21).

So Hilkiah took the book and went straight to Hulda. Interestingly, he did not go to Jeremiah, who was then probably 25 and in his fifth year of ministry. Nor did he go to Zephaniah, who had prophesied God’s judgment on Judah about three years earlier (around 625 B.C.). Perhaps these men were unavailable. Or possibly Hilkiah did not consider the matter critically important because he sent the book to the king via Shaphan rather than bringing it himself. And when Shaphan delivered it to Josiah, he thought it more important to tell the king first about the money gathered in the Temple (34:17).

Dr. Israel W. Slotki, a Jewish scholar, suggested that Jeremiah was not yet well known whereas Hulda may have been the wife of a Temple official because the Bible says her husband, Shallum, was “keeper of the wardrobe” (34:22).1 This phrase also could mean he was in charge of the royal garments. In any event, God divinely ordained Hulda and placed her nearby in a suburb of Jerusalem. Moreover, she must have been a well-known woman of excellent character and reputation for the high priest to have consulted her.

According to 19th-century commentator Alfred Edersheim, the fact that such an important matter was brought to a woman “indicates the exceptional position which Hulda occupied in general opinion” and sheds light on the religious conditions of the time.2 The conditions were terrible. And Hulda’s message said so:

And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel . . . I will bring evil upon this place, and upon its inhabitants, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah, Because they have forsaken me (34:23–25).

Yet God showed mercy to Josiah because his heart was tender toward the Lord (34:27). God promised to stay the judgment until after Josiah’s death.

Immorality and godlessness will destroy a nation. Judah had become so corrupted that even the brief revival under Josiah did not produce the sincere, national repentance God desired. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Ps. 33:12). And the nation whose God is not has little to look forward to but the message from Hulda.

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