Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

This week, I’ve been reading up about Huldah the prophetess. I’ve looked at various books, commentaries and articles. I also looked at what the authors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (RBMW) have to say about this woman whose prophetic counsel was sought out by some of the top men in Judah. Here’s what John Piper and Wayne Grudem write in RBMW: “Huldah evidently exercised her prophetic gift not in a public preaching ministry but by means of private consultation.”[1] Is “private consultation” a fair and reasonable way of describing Huldah’s ministry? What does the Bible say about her?

Huldah and the Scroll of the Law

We read about Huldah in 2 Kings 22:8-20 and, again, in 2 Chronicles 34:1-28 where the same account is repeated.[2] According to the story, Josiah, the king of Judah, has just been told that the book (i.e. scroll) of the law has been rediscovered after having been forgotten and neglected for many years.[3]

Shaphan, Josiah’s secretary, then reads the book to him.

Josiah, being a godly king, is deeply concerned with what he hears, and is stricken with remorse because he realises his nation has not followed God’s ordinances. So he commissions a delegation with the charge, “Go and ask the Lord on my behalf, and on behalf of the people, and on behalf of all Judah concerning the contents of this scroll that has been found” (2 Kings 22:13a CEB).

This is not a minor task. The king is asking for the LORD’s guidance for the sake of his nation. Reflecting the importance of the mission, Josiah sends some of his most important and trusted men.

Linda Belleville observes,

The size and prestige of the embassy that sought her counsel indicates something about not only the seriousness of the situation but also Huldah’s professional stature: the High Priest (Hilkiah), the father of the future governor (Ahikam), the son of a prophet (Achbor), the secretary of state (Shaphan) and the king’s officer (Asaiah).[4]

Five men are named in all.[5] They may have also been accompanied by unnamed attendants.

Jeremiah and Zephaniah were prophets at that time. (Jeremiah may have been in Jerusalem or nearby Anathoth.) But the narrative indicates that the delegation goes straight to Huldah who lives in Jerusalem near the temple (2 Kings 22:14).[6]

Christa McKirland suggests,

The fact that they immediately sought Huldah would seem to indicate one of two possibilities: either Josiah’s default prophet was Huldah, and the dignitaries already knew this; or Huldah was not the king’s default prophet, but she was the obvious choice for the five dignitaries, for whatever reason.[7]

The men then speak on behalf of the king and the nation. And Huldah replies on behalf of the LORD. Walter Kaiser writes that “Huldah held nothing back as she declared thrice over, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says’ (2 Chron. 34:23, 24, 26). Her exposition of a half dozen or more texts from Deuteronomy 29:20, 23, 25, 26, 28, 29 thundered against Judah and her King Josiah!”[8]

The men return and deliver her message to the king, which he accepts.[9]

The scroll of the law is central to the biblical record of Huldah’s story, as Claudia Camp observes:

Huldah’s story is notable in the biblical tradition in that her prophetic words of judgement are centered on a written document: she authorizes what will become the core of Scripture for Judaism and Christianity. Her validation of the text thus stands as the first recognizable act in the long process of canon formation. Huldah authenticates a document as being God’s word, thereby affording it the sanctity required for a text as authoritative, or canonical.[10]

The effects of Huldah’s words and her authentication of the scroll were far-reaching. Josiah enacts reforms based on the information in the scroll, and a national, religious revival follows (2 Kings 23:24ff).

Public Versus Private Ministry

Huldah’s ministry raises concerns for some people, and McKirland notes,

[Huldah] enters the narrative as one seemingly known and trusted by the king, sought with urgency, entreated by his highest officials, and consulted on the most authoritative basis possible. At the same time, her being inquired of is stated as a matter of fact, without any need to explain why she is sought over anyone else. . . this is an unsettling thought for some commentators, requiring their speculation as to why the king preferred—and why God used—a woman instead of a man.[11]

As well as speculation, some commentators have attempted to contain, that is, limit the parameters of, Huldah’s ministry. This includes the suggestion that her ministry was private and not public. Does the account of her ministry, as we have it in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, really amount to a private consultation, as Piper and Grudem have described it?

Huldah was consulted by a group of men who were acting as envoys of the king who was acting on behalf of “all Judah” (2 Kings 22:13). And, the story surrounding the consultation, along with a summary of her prophetic words, has been recorded in the Bible. Countless people have read about this consultation. So “private,” with the sense of being hidden from public view, does not seem an appropriate adjective.[12]

Nevertheless, Thomas Schreiner in chapter 11 of RBMW describes the prophetic ministry of Huldah, and surprisingly that of Deborah also, as being private. Schreiner writes,

Both Deborah and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20) exercised their gift of prophecy differently from the men who possessed the gift. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other male prophets exercised a public ministry where they proclaimed the word of the Lord. But note that Deborah did not prophecy in public. Instead, her prophetic role seems to be limited to private and individual instruction. Judges 4:5 says, “And she used to sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the sons of Israel came up to her for judgment” (NASB). Note that Deborah did not go out and publicly proclaim the word of the Lord. Instead, individuals came to her in private for a word from the Lord. The difference between Deborah’s prophetic ministry and that of male Old Testament prophets is clear. She did not exercise her ministry in a public forum as they did. . . . A confirming argument for this view is found in the case of Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20). She did not publicly proclaim God’s word. Rather, she explained in private the word of the Lord when Josiah sent messengers to her.[13]

Huldah’s ministry was not dissimilar to the ministry of male prophets. Like prophets such as Nathan, Huldah acted as an advisor to a king.[14] Like prophets such as Micah, Huldah delivered warnings of divine judgement and punishment. Only a few male prophets are recorded as speaking to a crowd and, while the Bible does not record that Huldah spoke before a large group of people, we cannot rule out that she never did this.

Huldah was a highly respected prophetess, as demonstrated by the fact that she was sought out by the king’s men, and she was not summoned, which is what a ruler usually would do to a subordinate. Huldah must have prophesied on other occasions that are not recorded in the Bible. And unlike what Schreiner states, Huldah did indeed proclaim God’s Word, even if her audience, in the one biblical account of her ministry, consisted of five men.

William Weinrich follows a similar tack to Schreiner and, in chapter 15 of RBMW, he states that “there is no evidence that Deborah delivered speeches to the people.” Though not a speech, Judges chapter 5 is devoted to a song Deborah and Barak sang, presumably publicly. And it was prophetic communication (cf. 1 Chron. 25:1). If she sang this song publicly, there is no reason to presume Deborah did not also speak publicly at times, even if the Bible does not record these occasions.

Weinrich also mentions Huldah and states that she “did not speak to the people” (italics added). But we simply don’t know if this is the case. She certainly spoke to some people, some very important people who want information from God concerning all Judah.

But Weinrich goes further and asserts that Anna the prophetess, also, “did not speak publicly.”[15] Since Luke tells us in his Gospel that Anna never left the temple—the temple being a public place—and that she spoke about Jesus “to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 ESV), it is difficult to understand why Weinrich thinks that Anna did not, at least on some occasions, speak publicly.

Huldah, Deborah, and Anna had speaking ministries. They heard from God and spoke for God and gave guidance to men. They are plainly identified as prophets in the scriptures.[16] Moreover, there was a recognised and respected place for both male and female prophets in Israel; they did not, ordinarily, minister in the shadows. Deborah regularly ministered in a public place (Judg. 4:5)[17], as did Anna (Luke 2:37), and perhaps Huldah also. Huldah may even have been the official prophet of Josiah’s court.

Prophesying in Paul’s Churches

Unlike what the authors of RBMW assert, the Bible does not reveal a marked difference between the ministries of male prophets and female prophets.[18] And, the only reason a distinction between public ministry and private ministry is brought up is because some Christians think women are unsuitable for public ministry in churches. But the New Testament letters say nothing about public or private ministries or ministers. The setting of ministry was simply not significant, nor the size of congregations or audiences.

Furthermore, a public-private distinction does not take into account that New Testament churches typically met in homes, in domestic settings where the line between public and private was blurred. Differentiating between public and private speaking ministries is an unhelpful, artificial exercise that has no relevance to church-life in the apostolic period.

Women were not silent in churches founded by Paul.[19] They prophesied aloud in Corinthian assemblies, for instance (1 Cor. 11:5), where they could also contribute other vocal ministries.[20] Paul did not specify gender, or make a public-private distinction, when he wrote: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1 ESV).

We need to be encouraging people to desire, develop, and practise ministries, and not curtail or restrict the ministries of godly, gifted and capable people simply on the basis of gender. We need to dismiss the contrived public-private distinction. There are other Huldahs and Deborahs and Annas whose voices need to be heard.


Footnotes

[1] Piper and Grudem’s statement is in response to a hypothetical question, “How do you explain God’s apparent endorsement of women in the Old Testament who had prophetic or leadership roles?” John Piper and Wayne Grudem, “Chapter 2: An Overview of Central Concerns: Questions and Answers,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 60–92, 72.
https://document.desiringgod.org/recovering-biblical-manhood-and-womanhood-en.pdf 

[2] In Christian Bibles, 1 & 2 Kings come under the heading of “The Historical Books.” But in the Jewish canon of the Hebrew Bible, Kings (1 & 2), along with Joshua, Judges and Samuel (1 & 2), are categorised as “The Former Prophets.” Christa McKirland says this about the role of prophets in 1 and 2 Kings:

The primary markers of 1 and 2 Kings are ironically not the kings of the two kingdoms that comprise the people of God. Instead, the books focus is on the prophets, who establish the significant historical landmarks as the king and people either adhere to or reject Yahweh’s covenant, when reiterated through the prophet’s warnings and judgments.
Christa L. McKirland, “Chapter 10: Huldah: Malfunction with the Wardrobe-Keeper’s Wife,” in  Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible, Sandra Glahn (ed) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2017), 213–232, 217.

[3] “The consensus view among scholars is that the book was probably an early form of the book of Deuteronomy and that this find played an influential role in the development of the Deuteronomistic movement that continued over a period, with some ups and downs, into the exile.” Louis C. Jonker, 1 & 2 Chronicles (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013) (Online Source)

[4] Linda L. Belleville, “Women Leaders in the Bible,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (eds) (Leicester: InterVaristy Press, 2004), 110–125, 113.

[5] Regarding the pedigree of the people listed in 2 Kings 22:14: “The detailed enumeration of the names and patrilineage of Josiah’s men, along with similar descriptive matter about Huldah in v.14 suggests a picture of social and economic identity among royal, priestly and prophetic families.” Burke O. Long, 2 Kings (The Forms of the Old Testament Literature Vol. 10) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991), 262.
As is the custom in patriarchal societies, Huldah, as a woman, is identified by her relationship to her husband, a man, and she is identified by his Levitical ancestry (2 Kings 22:14). Nevertheless, “such a formal convention does not detract from her own royally recognized authority to speak in the name of YHWH.” Claudia V. Camp, “Huldah,” in Women in Scripture:  A Dictionary of the named and unnamed women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament, Carol Meyer, et al (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), 96.

[6] Huldah lived in the “second quarter” of Jerusalem. “This district lay in the angle formed by the western wall of the temple and the ancient wall of the city.” Ronald F. Youngblood (ed), Unlock the Bible: Keys to Discovering the People and Places (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 360. “According to Jewish tradition, this area had been established by Samuel as a place where prophets could be trained. As appealing as this interpretation of her dwelling is, it . . .[goes] beyond the text.” McKirland, “Huldah,” 226. There is no actual evidence for the school.

On the other hand, Sarah Harris, who draws on the research of Pongratz-Leisten, writes,

Female prophetesses were well known in the ANE at this time [Huldah’s time]. They were highly educated and held considerable political power as they informed the king’s actions and policies through their oracles. The king would turn to the prophet and other cultic specialists in all religious, political, and health matters. Pongratz-Leisten describes prophets as the ‘intellectuals of their time’. Jewish tradition records Huldah as having a school for women in Jerusalem where she taught the word of God (Targum II Kgs 22.14), and in light of knowledge we have of prophets at this time in the ANE, this is entirely possible.
Sarah Harris, “Letting (H)Anna Speak: An Intertextual Reading of the New Testament Prophetess (Luke 2.36–38),” in Feminist Theology, 27.1 (2018), 60–74, 66–67.
See B. Pongratz-Leisten “Cassandra’s Colleagues: Prophetesses in the Neo-Assyrian Empire,” in Canadian Society for Mesopotamian Studies 1.1 (2006): 23–29.

[7] McKirland, “Huldah,” 219.

[8] Walter C. Kaiser, “Correcting Caricatures: The Biblical Teaching on Women,” in Priscilla Papers 19.2 (2005), 5–11, 7.
https://www.cbeinternational.org/sites/default/files/pp192_2cc_3.pdf

[9] McKirland, “Huldah,” 223

[10] Camp, “Huldah,” 96.

[11] McKirland, “Huldah,” 221. On page 224 of her essay, McKirland quotes from Calvin’s Commentary on Ezekiel (vol. 2) where Calvin diminishes the ministries of both Huldah and Deborah with, “God doubtless wished to raise them on high to shame the men, and obliquely to show them their slothfulness.”

[12] Consider the following definitions of “public” in the Oxford Dictionary and the influence of Huldah’s ministry: (1) Of or concerning the people as a whole; (1.1) Open to or shared by all the people of an area or country; (1.2) Of or involved in the affairs of the community, especially in government or entertainment; (2) Done, perceived, or existing in open view; etc. (Online source)

[13] Thomas R. Schreiner, “Chapter 11: The Valuable Ministries of Women in the Context of Male Leadership: A Survey of Old and New Testament Examples and Teaching,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper and Wayne Grudem (eds) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 209-224, 216.

[14] Many kings “when they inquired of the Lord, did so through trusted prophets. Jehoshaphat consulted Elisha (2 Kings 3:11), and Hezekiah conferred with Isaiah (20:1–11). During the reigns of Jotham and Hezekiah, the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah were the prophets on call (Isa. 1:1; Hos. 1:1; Mic. 1:1).” McKirland, “Huldah,” 214.

[15] William Weinrich, “Chapter 15: Church History: Women in the History of the Church: Learned and Holy, but Not Pastors,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper and Wayne Grudem (eds) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 263–279, 275.

[16] Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14//2 Chronicles 34:22; Luke 2:36.

[17] Deborah’s seat was under a palm tree, known as ”the Palm of Deborah.” This landmark was situated just north of the crossroads of busy trading routes in the centre of Israel (Judg. 4:5).

[18] With Huldah in mind, Claudia Camp observes, “The biblical evidence, however, makes clear that prophecy was a role open to women on an equal basis with men . . . and the narrators of Kings and Chronicles take no notice of Huldah’s gender.” Camp, “Huldah,” 96.

[19] The two Pauline passages where women are told to be silent (1 Cor. 14:34-35) and quiet (1 Tim. 2:11-15) are addressing the bad behaviour of a few women. Paul’s intention was not to silence godly women with valid speaking ministries. More on these verses here and here.

[20] Without respect to gender, Paul wrote, “In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:28); “All these manifestations of the Spirit are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person” (1 Cor. 12:11; cf. Acts 2:17-18); “When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church” (1 Cor. 14:26; cf. Col. 3:16).

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An excerpt from a grisaille distemper painting by Andrea Mantegna c. 1495. (Source: Wikimedia).

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Further Reading

Huldah A Prophet in Israel by Dr Claude Mariottini

I recommend Christa L. McKirland’s chapter on Huldah in Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible, edited by Sandra Glahn (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2017) available at Book Depository and Amazon.

Vindicating the Vixens

 

31 thoughts on “Huldah’s Public Prophetic Ministry

  1. The anti-egal strategy seems to be to try to point out things that seem to differ between males and females, prophets in this case. A prophet is the spiritual ministry that is most undeniably found in both the OT and the NT, so those that would choose to interpret Scripture to limit women’s ministries must address this.

    I see Huldah as an early example of the canonization process of at least an early version of Deu. This is a significant step in God providing us with the Bible we have today.

    1. It’s a very significant step considering that many Christians regard the Bible as having the highest level of authority.

  2. Hi,

    Glad to have met you at the CBE AGM.

    Appreciate your well researched, thoughtful and nicely put together article.

    I am reminded of an article by Kevin Giles in Interchange journal many years ago titled along the lines ‘Prophesy in the old Testament, the New Testament and the Church today’. He wasn’t addressing this particular slant of the hierarchical complementarians but I recall it was certainly positive about the part women have played in prophetic ministry.ministry.

    Thanks for posting and glad to now subscribe to your posts.

    1. Hi again, George.

      I personally think the public-private argument of the RBMW authors is ridiculous. And I even felt a bit ridiculous to spend so much time defending a position that really needs no defending: Women prophesied aloud, in public, to men. I wish we could all move on.

      I like what Claude Mariottini (Professor of Old Testament at Northern Baptist Seminary) says:
      “Patriarchy was a reality in ancient Israel, but the patriarchal view of women breaks down in the case of the women prophets. The reason is that while most positions of leadership were chosen by men or were past from father to son, the prophet was a person called by God.” (Source)

      1. Hi Marg,
        I think you did a well thought out research article on Huldah’s ministry. Without reading your article I wouldn’t have known exactly how to counter RBMW’s article about Huldah. Even though a reading of 2 Kings 22:8-20 assumes she had a public ministry. From what I have read of some of the authors of RBMW’s articles, they are in the habit of twisting scripture to support a return of “biblical” patriarchal society within the Church, misleading many.

        Personally, I think RBMW is fully aware that Huldah had a public ministry, and women like Priscilla, Junia and others had been used by God to teach men as well. It does seem odd to me that RBMW authors, teachers and pastors will chose an inordinate amount of time in their writings, preaching sermons and teaching to find any mention of a woman used by God in O.T. or N.T. to disprove what is obviously written in biblical text in order to support their “biblical” gender roles, covering it up by using cleaver lofty, verbose complex circular arguments in order to justify their position.

        Maybe that is why it seems so ridiculous in having to explain the obvious that God made and used Huldah to be a prophet having a public ministry who taught and counseled men speaking God’s Word. Until patriarchy is eliminated from society and within Church, the world desperately needs women and men like you, who are well skilled, educated and strong in the word of God who can effectively counter the patriarchal agenda, by educating people through your articles, thereby freeing the captives. Keep up the good work!

        Donna

        1. Thanks, Donna.

          If they admit Huldah had an authoritative and public ministry it causes problems for one of their basic tenets: that women cannot have an authoritative and public ministry in the church. So they have to dismantle and obfuscate the obvious in order to maintain their ideology. *sigh*

          1. Marg, I love this write up. I grew up in the households where women’s jobs were to follow the traditions of men but funny my grandfather who was always in the Bible seeking and finding loved to show me what he found And I loved seeing the truth that God revealed. My father and uncles were in a church that had some very cult like ideas and were thus wrong as many churches today that simply make up rules and paint ideas to support their man made power structures established by Satan not God. The churches should wake up to their traditions they accepted from the world ie Satan that thus incorporated have lead to rise of the left, the power of the Satanist because the right would not let women fight for God in the public forum even against other women. This for over 50 years the men ill equipped to battle the fast moving multifaceted mind of satanic women who frequently moved towards the emotional of arguments made the men appeared hardened and ignorant to the struggles of real people. The single sided male mind works in its wondrous way but God made the female mind to complete the other not be the “servant maid” but the help meet in all things engineering, science, family on all sides, to make good decisions for the totality is the home and farm life, what education should include and how to make men men and women women is necessary that top thought/wisdom/teaching/guidance come both form the gifted men and women and as a God has stated he will even use children to give us wisdom as their minds are clear and clean of the thick muck of traditions of men so that the simple truths of God’s beautiful word comes straight out to correct and teach us. God is so good. Thank you for defending God’s Women and their place God gave them That almost no Christian men truly understand has been an assualt by Satan to weaken the world, the family, and men themselves by making men think like tyrants and getting them addicted to power amongst themselves and protecting the power strongholds forgetting God and the family and humanity they were to watch over while God was away. They have not been good shepherds because ether harken to lies and liars keeping the truth of the God given to Woman from their minds saying it was beneath them and teaching young men also this disrespect and upside down confused idea of what God intended thus they are always confused and we only see the wrong type of women raised up today instead of the true prophetesses our there now. So many good strong women that God has raised up with great minds are kept quiet because society has been taught to shun them and disapprove no matter they let the world beat down the truth rid God because a whole set of warriors is blocked from end times battles . Battles today are of the mind not the body- sheer brut strength is not what wins but wisdom and talent , the gift of the spirit in us that God requires of us for his beloved children and the people need to hear because they are called to learn but have no where to go. God bless!!! Much love and honor on Christ! Amen. Women of God/the spirit-your voices are needs NOW EVERYWHERE- especially the Top. We are in full blown spiritual warfare like I’ve never seen and could not have imagined even as God wrote it today stills seems like a twilight zone of insanity – I know for sure that none of our words can break this chaos but only the Words is God right now, chapter by chapter and verse by verse – the truth is sword of the Lord to cut these chains that bind us as Satan laughs and giggles at our weeping and wailing.

          2. Thanks, Tina. I’m glad you liked the article.

  3. Great article! It’s sad that Grudem, Piper and Schreiner take such a clearly ideologically driven approach. Poor marks for truthfulness when you are going out of your way to diminish God’s prophet just because it’s a woman. Maybe God had the men seek her and Deborah out as a mark of distinction for these women — as one goes before a king. The king doesn’t trek all over.
    But RBMW is great for kindling.

    1. Hi Mark,

      RBMW is a frustrating and depressing read. But it helped me to become an egalitarian! When I was beginning to have some egalitarian ideas, I thought I should read this book to “keep me grounded” and remind me of the biblical arguments for patriarchy. What I read astonished me. I found the arguments in the book so poor and so contrived that it sped along my journey towards egalitarianism.

      Deborah as leader of Israel summoned people (e.g., Barak) or people came to her. But it’s different in Huldah’s story. I like what Christa McKirland says about this:

      “Typically, the person of lower status or honor would be summoned to the presence of the person with higher honor. The power differential was such that the individual with the greater power or authority traveled to the individual with less power or authority . . . Therefore, the sending of Josiah’s royal officials to Huldah communicated his (and/or their) respect for this woman even before she officially entered the story.”
      “Chapter 10: Huldah: Malfunction with the Wardrobe-Keeper’s Wife,” in Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible, Sandra Glahn (ed) (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2017), 213-232, 221.

      I speculate that Huldah played a big part in the upbringing of Josiah and that he had an immense respect for her. She may well have been a mother figure to him.

      “At a time in Judah’s history when every king had acted wickedly, a rare exception stands out in the young king Josiah. We know that even as a boy he actively sought the God of his forefather David (2 Chron. 34:3), even though Josiah had evil role models in both his father and grandfather (33:22–23). He not only had the wisdom to tear down the altars of worship to other gods (34:3-7) but also had the discernment to rebuild the house of the Lord, thereby finding the Book of the Law.”
      McKirland, “Huldah”, 220.

    2. Thoroughly agree Mark. I’ve had a look at other stuff by Piper. who is indeed driven ideologically. As I’ve gone back through the Hebrew and Greek in each Testament I am completely convinced that women’s have equal rights to leadership roles in and out of the church. The proof starts in Genesis. I’m currently writing a book on this very thing. I don’t think the so-called evangelicals have a leg to stand on. Marg’s work also has some tremendous insights. Very pleased to note she has males supporting her.
      Rev Tony Lang

  4. Margaret, thank you for this article. I have never read anything you have written that is not lucid, tightly reasoned, and enlightening. I deeply appreciate your commitment to answering the questions surrounding women in Christ’s Kingdom through careful reading of scripture. I am so glad to have been introduced to you.

    This article in particular floored me. The quote from Claudia Camp just made me stop short and go “whoa.” I had never considered this, or heard it before, and it caused me a moment of amazement, followed by a moment of doxology.

    As far as I am concerned, all that other stuff you had to write to to deal with the foolishness around public and private ministry — that was just an excuse for that one insight.

    So, thanks again. May the Spirit of our Lord enlighten your hours, and fill your heart with peace and joy.

    1. Hi David,

      I feel the same way. The good stuff is in the first section of the article. The rest just deals with foolishness.

      Allow me to add what Renita Weems has written about Huldah and the scroll.

      “She has been called by some ‘the first biblical text critic. Others have dubbed her ‘the founder of biblical studies.’ She is the first figure in Scripture, male or female, whose contribution to biblical history centered on verifying a written document as sacred and holy writ.”
      “Huldah, the Prophet: Reading a (Deuteronomistic) Woman’s Identity” in A God So Near: Essays on Old Testament Theology in Honor of Patrick D. Miller Brent A. Strawn and Nancy R. Bowen (eds) (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2003), 321-339, 321. (source)

      I do wonder, though, if these are overstatements.

      Thank you for your blessing!

  5. This a brilliant, fascinating, important and in depth article. Thank you so much for writing it Marg.
    I had never thought much about Huldah before.
    Simon

    1. Hi Simon,

      I hadn’t thought about her much before either. 🙂

  6. A wonderful article, happy to spread it around!
    God Bless.

    1. Thanks for sharing it, Jerri.

  7. Dear Marg,
    I am really delighted to read the excellent and very detailed work on Huldah.. She is the seventh of the Old Testament prophetesses. In Chapter 3 of the book I am writing: “What the Bible REALLY Says about Women” which is strongly supportive of women’s rights both in the Church and out of it to have leadership roles. I’ve already mentioned you in one of your other writings on prophetesses (acknowledged of course) and with your permission I’d like to use a little of your work here (acknowledged). I’ve been reading a work by Dr Andrew Sloane of Morling College Sydney who is very supportive. He wrote “At Home in a Strange Land” – an excellent work for those who support women’s rights. Anyway, I’m 16000 words into this book and so far it looks like creating a lot of interest. I want it to be read by men too who may get some surprises. I write books under the pseudonym of Lachlan Ness. This is the first very serious work I’ve done, although “The Ness Fireside Book of God Ghosts Ghouls and other true stories” goes close. Three are children’s stories.
    Sent with blessings and may you be granted more power for your pen!
    Kind Regards,
    Rev Anthony (Tony) Lang OAM

    1. Thanks, Anthony.

      I had a look around your website the other day.

  8. Thanks, Marg. I’m currently doing a study on what the Bible has to say about women. Specifically, I’ve listed all the lies I’ve believed (or been told) about women, and then turned to God and His Word for His truth, listing Scripture references to back it up. The study has been mind-blowing and chain-breaking for me. So many women lived out God’s purpose for their lives in so many ways, often “unorthodox” ways. In my study, I came across the story of Huldah, so I was interested when this post popped up in my email.

    I’ve been astounded at how much the church community I grew up in glossed over the lives and roles of women in the Bible. They never addressed Huldah or Esther or Ruth or Abigail or Priscilla or Junia or Phoebe or Deborah and what their lives and callings had to say about God’s purpose and call on women. I also never understood how much Jesus valued and called women during His earthly life until this study. My church community never addressed any of this, because if they had, great cognitive dissonance would have ensued. You can’t truly read God’s Word with an open mind and heart and still relegate women to “second place” or “helpers only.”

    1. Hi Ellen,

      I don’t recall hearing anyone preach about women such as Priscilla and Phoebe in a Sunday sermon either. I remember coming across the idea, for the first time, that Phoebe was a minister and it astonished and confused me. But now I realise that women were prominent in the churches Paul founded, and probably in other first-century churches also. Paul valued his female ministry colleagues. And Jesus’ treatment of women is so heartening and uplifting when we bother to look at it.

      Women, most definitely, were not created or designed to be the auxiliaries of men. This knowledge has been mind-blowing and chain-breaking for me also.

  9. Although we may have more written work of some of the Male prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, the bottom line is that prophets and prophetesses prophesy, which is what Deborah, Anna and Huldah did.. It seems to me that Piper and Co don’t have any grounds whatsoever for their statements. What you said is quite true. There is nothing to suggest that these prophetesses didn’t prophesy in public and the very fact that Josiah’s agents went to Huldah and not Jeremiah or Zephaniah is very significant.

  10. Hello Marg. As a female Christian, I very much admire appreciate your work. I spend my free time reading many of your articles, they really inspire me and I hope to share your insight with others especially my sisters in Christ. BTW, I’d really love for you to share your thoughts on the Shunammite woman in 4 kings 2:8-27.
    Thanks in advance, God bless!

    1. Hi Debby,

      That warms my heart! <3

      I have a few writing projects going at the moment, but I will keep your request in mind.

  11. Hi Marg, I have read several of your articles and Wow, I am blown away by how much you know and your understanding of the scriptures. It is evident that you have studied to shew thyself approved! I am fairly new to the egalitarian mindset. It started about a year ago. I was reading the Gospels over and over again and I was struck by the fact that Jesus treated women with the same high regard and respect as men. Then one day I was reading the few verses by Paul that seem to prohibit women from having equal standing with men. I got really angry, which was weird because I have been a good little complementarian for nearly 30 years. I love Paul’s writings but those specific verses did not sit well with me. They really never have but because every church I have ever attended believed the same thing, I figured they must be right. However, on that day I just couldn’t reconcile how Paul, someone who was so in love with the Lord and personally called by Him, who was supposed to be Christlike, could say something that was so unlike the Jesus I had come to know in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I prayed that God would help me understand if Paul was truly being a sexist pig or if maybe, I had been misinformed all those years about what he really meant. I started doing A LOT of research and ran across ideas and explanations I had never heard before. One of the biggest shocks to me was that there are men who actually advocate for the equality of women in the church and want them to lead if they are so gifted! I never knew until that day there were people called egalitarians. I didn’t even know that I was a complementarian. My head was swirling with all this new information. I thought maybe Satan was trying to get me to be disobedient to God’s word. I actually read statements from complementarian women saying that if someone was having egalitarian thoughts they should repent of their disobedience. I gulped and thought gee, I don’t want to go down a wrong road and be disobedient to what God has commanded. I love Jesus and want to honor Him in everything I do and say. But I had so many questions. Why exactly is it that I can’t teach a man? Why is my husband to have authority over me? I was told that this is just the order of things. I shouldn’t be offended. A woman can be anything she wants to be but at the end of the day her husband has final say and she can only hold certain positions in the church. But I kept wondering, when exactly is the cutoff for me being able to teach males since I have taught children for decades? Is it 18, 21? Also, music is my main ministry. I am a soloist. Why is it ok for me to get up and sing (which I consider a form of teaching) to a group of men and women but I can’t be a leader of those same men? Well, through much prayer and study I have now come to believe that what I had been taught for so long is not what God ever intended for us. There is more than enough evidence to back up equity within classes and genders if we are willing to listen and learn. You do a phenomenal job of explaining everything. Your site is the best I have been privileged to run across on this topic. You make me feel like I am enrolled in a college class in theology. It is great! I can’t wait to read more. Thank you for being faithful and so loving as well in how you write! (Hope everything I wrote makes sense. I only had a few hours of sleep last night.)

    1. Hi Regina,

      What you’re describing has been experienced, more or less, by thousands of women. I made a similar journey myself. I write about it here: https://margmowczko.com/towards-biblical-equality-my-story/

      Thank you for your kinds words. I believe, as you’ve discovered, that egalitarianism makes better sense of the New Testament.

      1. Thank you for responding to me. I just read about your journey. My goodness, there are a lot of similarities between your life and mine! I will be 47 in two days and I am now very interested in pursuing a degree in Theology. I felt God calling me to do this years ago but I kept pushing down the idea thinking it was silliness. I feel much more free as a Christian, now that I believe I have the same rights as a man does to proclaim Christ. My old beliefs were really holding me back. I pray that more Christians will come out of heirarchial thinking and realize we have crippled generation after generation of women in the ministry of Jesus Christ. I am also praying about whether I should stay at my current church, which is complementarian, or find a different one. We will see where God leads me!

        1. My old beliefs definitely held me and my husband back from doing what we were good at, and it stopped us pursuing what we were passionate about.

          Now my husband and I can use our strengths in our home and in ministry without illogical and artificial restraints that benefit no one.

          Like you, I truly hope that others will see that, in the vast majority of cases, God really doesn’t care whether it’s a man or a woman who is serving him and his people in a godly fashion, even as leaders.

          I wish you the very best in your journey. For many, it’s not an easy one because of lack of human support. But I know there will be divine support.

  12. Interestingly, I found that Origen used the private-public distinction to explain 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and the ministries of prophetic women. He believed the daughters of Philip did not prophesy inside the church assemblies since there was no indication of this in Acts, and that OT prophetesses were even less public. He maintained Deborah never corporately addressed the people as Isaiah and Jeremiah did by delivering speeches, and that Huldah did not speak to the people, but only to a man at home. He said similar things about Miriam only speaking when leading a choir of women, and Anna not speaking in public either. Basically, that even if a woman prophesies, they can’t speak in an assembly, and then he quotes 1 Timothy 2:12 to support it. (I’m not sure that he ever said where he thought they should prophesy, however, which seems like a significant omission if that’s the case.)
    What I find so interesting about this is that it sounds almost exactly like RBMW. The comments on Deborah, Huldah, and Anna are eerily similar. It’s odd to see it be mentioned so early, especially since it seems flawed. I’ve had few thoughts on it I’d like to get out of my system:

    The daughters of Philip are paralleled with Agabus and his ministry. Agabus had a message for Paul, but Acts 21:12 seems to indicate that the local people were around when he delivered this prophecy. I’ve seen some translations have “the people there” and not the “local residents”, but if it was the local residents, then the prophecy was delivered in the midst Christians from a particular area. That seems to indicate “church”, and if Agabus prophesied in church, then it seems that it is reasonable to assume Philip’s daughters did since their ministries are parallel in the narrative. I also think of the women who prophesied on the day of Pentecost, and Acts 4:23-31 that says God’s people prayed and spoke God’s Word, which includes women, since they would have been a part of that group.

    And when we look at Deborah’s song, she addresses kings, princes, and those walking on the road (Judges 5:3,10). I’ve even read that the reference to donkeys in Judges 5:10 may indicate merchants who were riding on public roads. It would be odd to address people who weren’t around or weren’t ever going to listen to the song, so there must have been those people around. And from what I’ve learned, the word for “sang” is feminine singular; Deborah sang and Barak accompanied. Singing is also an important way to communicate in the N.T., even in 1 Corinthians 14. Judges 5:23 talks about a message from an angel about Meroz, which sees to indicate the message is somewhat prophetic in nature, just expressed through a song. But I can’t help but wonder, how much more public does Origen and RBMW want Deborah to get than to be the leader of the nation who sang a public song of praise with prophetic elements (similar to 1 Chronicles 25:1-6, which was clearly public)? People came to Deborah and she could summon them; she didn’t need to go out. Another big difference between Isaiah/Jeremiah and Deborah is that she led the nation and they didn’t.

    Huldah gave a message to a delegation representing a whole country. And Miriam speaking when leading a public choir of women would seem to undermine Origen’s thesis, since several women were singing in public to men. Also, the wailing women of Jeremiah 9 and Psalm 68:11 would have had a difficult time getting the Lord’s word out without being before the people.

    What I also find interesting about Origen is how he thought of church and assemblies. He saw church as formal and public it seems; a formality and publicity that must exclude women. Tertullian, though, who also thought women shouldn’t speak, admitted that even they had the right to prophesy. He even used prophecies of one woman in one of his writings. He did say she only talked when the service was dismissed, but it seems she talked in front of the same people in the same place as where the service was. If he thought that was a distinction, it was a subjective one. And regarding Philip’s daughters, I’ve read your article and know people respected them and that they had a widespread influence. Origen’s comments seem out of place even in his own time; I wonder if this was another area where he was more influenced by philosophy than Scripture. But more importantly, I wonder how long his ideas on women and their prophecies will be taught.
    (I just realized this is a bit long; I apologize. I just starting typing while thinking about and looking into this, and it turned out a bit longer than expected.)

  13. Great article! I never heard of Huldah until I started rediscovering my Christian roots long abandoned in childhood. Not knowing any better, I tried to go with Complementation believes, but something didn’t seem right. I discovered egalitarianism quite by “accident” although I believe the Lord knew I was searching so He gave me a nudge in the right direction. Anyway, comp teachings did not mesh when I read about Deborah or Pricilla. I remember asking some comp teacher at some ministry, “Well what about Deborah, Priscilla?”. This guy got sarcastic and said, “Yeah, what about Huldah or Phoebe?” Well I heard about Phoebe, but who was Huldah? Never heard of her. He gave me a very brief description, but it wasn’t until I read her story in the Bible that I understood what she did. This guy never knew it, but his mention of Huldah expelled any lingering doubts about egalitarianism. Since then, I have read testimonies by different women (and a man) who said they never heard the name of Huldah or a sermon preached about her. One woman on CBE website said she specifically asked her pastor to do a sermon on Huldah, but he never did,not would. She later found out that the pastor was forbidden by the church to teach anything that appeared to endorse feminism or women’s ministry. What! Huldah’s ministry is clearly biblical. A comp guy argued he always heard about Huldah so he didn’t believe most people never heard of her. Yeah, well, it probably was a very water downed version of Huldah considering how this guy tried to dismiss Huldah as not important. The lengths these people will go to to explain away the obvious. Btw, the testimony by the one guy who said he never heard of Huldah was by a guy who went to seminary and was a pastor. He said Huldah was never mentioned his entire time in seminary! Why is that? Too feminist or something? Anyway, Huldah is the one biblical character who really sealed the deal for me on my journey to egalitarianism. No wonder why they don’t want to mention her!

    1. Ignoring her is one way of avoiding the fact that a woman gave strong instructions to a king. Another way is to downplay her ministry; this is what many ministers have done with Huldah, and also Deborah, Anna, Prisca, Phoebe, Junia, Nympha … the list goes on.

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