Did you know that the first person to declare written words as Scripture was a woman?
Her name was Huldah, and she was a prophet in Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah. Her story is found in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34. During Josiah’s reign he tried to bring the people of Judah back to the worship of Yahweh, the one true Godde. He had idols thrown out of the temple then he authorized repairs to the temple. During the renovations a scroll was found and brought to the high priest and king. Neither one knew if it was Godde’s word. Josiah ordered the high priest to take the scroll to a prophet. Although there were noteworthy male prophets in Jerusalem at the time–Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Nahum–Josiah sent the high priest to inquire of a female prophet, Huldah. Huldah verified the scroll was the word of Godde, and that it’s prophecies would happen. The scroll said that if Israel did not worship only Yahweh as Godde, they would lose their land and be sent into exile. Death and destruction would be the result of their disobedience. Huldah verified the Jewish people had passed the point of no return: both Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. But Josiah would be spared war and exile since his heart was grieved over the sin of his people. Huldah’s prophecy did happen within 35 years of this event. After Josiah heard her words, he stepped up his reforms and led the people in celebrating the first Passover that included all of the people since before the time of the judges (2 Kings 23:22).
Huldah was the first person to declare written words to be the word of Godde–Scripture. She was the first whose “words of judgment are centered on a written document as no others have been before her” (Claudia V. Camp, “1 and 2 Kings” in Women’s Bible Commentary, 115). She was the first to authenticate Scripture. Manuscripts had accumulated for years, if not centuries, but for the first time a prophet proclaimed the written word to be Godde’s word, and this prophet was a woman–the last female prophet before Judah falls to the Babylonians. Huldah started the process that would eventually give us canonized Scripture.
Efforts to marginalize Huldah’s leadership role claim her authority came from her husband. Huldah was married to Shallum who was the “keeper of the wardrobe” (2 Kings 22:14)–a royal position. But when the high priest and his entourage came to her home, they did not ask for her husband. According to Scripture these men were not embarrassed asking a woman about Godde’s will for their country. The high priest did not have an issue with a woman prophet. In fact, her gender was irrelevant in the text as was her marital status. Huldah was a religious leader in Jerusalem at that time, and the high priest had no problem going to her to confirm Godde’s word.