Why Not, Jeremiah?
Let's change the punctuation to fit the conclusion of Passover: "Why Not Jeremiah?" In a turn of events, Jeremiah was passed over by the great King Josiah, who led Judah to national repentance, beginning with a Passover meal. Why was Jeremiah passed over?
Well, that can happen at Pass Over.
Yes, very bad pun, but I thought you could use a giggle with all that matzah gurgling in your digestive system.
Jeremiah was passed over in favor of the prophetess Huldah, advisor to King Josiah and the High Priest Hilkiah (II Kings 22:11-20). Although most of our information about Huldah is extra-Biblical, the passage in Kings reinforces previous Biblical examples of Adonai's model of female leadership in women such as Sarah, Deborah, and Miriam.
Huldah is introduced in relation to her husband, Shallum. Shallum, however, is not the one anointed for public ministry in the marriage. Huldah is esteemed for her prophetic anointing, and King Josiah, of whom the Scriptures say "There was no king like him before who turned back to the Lord with all his heart and soul and might, in full accord with the teaching of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him," sought her advice on a crucial question of Judah's spiritual direction. Her word from Adonai sparks a great Judean revival and repentance, and the covenant is renewed during Josiah's reign, staving off the disaster decreed to that generation for its idolatry.
Huldah was contemporaneous to and related to the Prophet Jeremiah. Although Jeremiah had begun prophesying destruction upon Judah in King Josiah's thirteenth year, it was to the Prophetess Huldah that the High Priest Hilkiah and the king's top advisors sought advice and prophecy in King Josiah's eighteenth year. Huldah is recorded as having lived in the Second Quarter of Jerusalem, and the southern entry gates to the Temple are named after her.
One can still approach the Huldah Gates and sit on the massive steps today. High above on the southwest corner of the Temple Wall was a huge cornerstone inscribed with "To the Place of the Blowing of the Shofar" in Hebrew. From there, the High Priest stood to announce the approaching Sabbath and festivals, such as Passover and Yom Kippur. The ornamental carvings above the Huldah Gates are still visible today.
But did Huldah really live "in the Second Quarter of Jerusalem"? The Hebrew wording and Aramaic translation of Targum Yonatan of 2 Chronicles 34:22 suggest otherwise:
וְהִיא יֹושֶׁבֶת בִּירוּשָׁלִַם בַּמִּשְׁנֶה
Literally, "and she sat/dwelled in Jerusalem in the study house [ba- mishneh]." The Mesorah Edition of 2 Chronicles 34:22 reads:
So Hilkiah the Kohen, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah son of Harhas the keeper of the royal garments, who dwelled in Jerusalem, in the study house, and they spoke to her.
Huldah had married into a family responsible for maintaining either the royal or priestly garments. According to the commentary on the above verse,
Huldah sat there to teach the people, as the prophetess Deborah had done...whatever the translation, the
mishneh was a public place. In yet another comment, Rashi cites
Sod Mesharim that the word refers to
Mishneh Torah, another name for the Book of Deuteronomy, which Huldah expounded to the public.
When Jeremiah 25:3-4 is cross-referenced to Hilkiah's consultation with Huldah in 2 Kings 22:1-20, the overlap is easy to see. In King Josiah's eighteenth year, he orders the repair of the Temple, and Hilkiah the High Priest discovers the Book of the Torah. The king repents by tearing his garments, mourning Israel's idolatry, and seeking spiritual leadership to correct the course. By this point, the Prophet Jeremiah would have already been prophesying for five years in Judah.
...even to this day, these twenty-three years the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear...
Presumably, Jeremiah included Huldah in this reference to the warnings of the prophets during King Josiah's reign, and now Jeremiah is delivering a final warning after twenty-three years of prophecies that began in King Josiah's thirteenth year. Why would the King and High Priest seek Huldah's counsel and prophetic gift above Jeremiah's in this instance? Jeremiah had begun prophesying five years previously.
One clue is a Jewish tradition that Huldah had a house of learning adjacent to the Temple Mount, possibly close to the gates that bear her name to this day. If Jeremiah was "on the road" prophesying, dictating his book of prophecy, or tending to home matters, we may explain away their preference for Huldah. She was simply handy. King Josiah, however, does not appear in the pages of Scripture as a king who would settle for "handy" in a matter that concerned the fate of the entire nation, including himself.
Huldah was a respected prophetess, and like Miriam before her, the brevity of words concerning her leadership does not conceal the honor afforded her by Israel, even the highest two officers, the king and the high priest. Like the women's Jerusalem mikvaot had an extra recess for modesty, female judges and prophets are partially concealed, yet they emerge equally as pure as the males, who approached with seven straightforward steps. Bohrer describes the archaeological discoveries around the Temple Mount:
The fact that the entire family made at least the annual Passover pilgrimage can be clearly demonstrated by the existence of two types of public mikvaot. One type is clearly a structure for women. In this type, we find a large rock-cut anteroom, and the pool of purifying will be recessed at the far end.
The regular mikvaot, however, designed for men, have seven steps, which lead directly to the pool. The same difference can be seen in the large mikvaot found on the monumental staircase leading up to the Hulda Gates. On these steps, known as Maalot Har HaBayit, priests would administer the ashes of the Red Heifer required for those who were in contact with the dead.
...Ben Zomah recalls (Berachot 58), that he stood on the very same steps and was able to pronounce a unique blessing, which applies only upon seeing an Uchlusa, a host as large as the Exodus. Ben Zoma must have seen the pilgrims ascending to the Holy Temple on the Eve of Passover. (Bohrer, 2007, p. 189-190)
At each Passover, the family recites the Hallel. The Hallel includes a passage from Psalm 115:4-8, which equates idols with the dead. Huldah's prophecy assured King Josiah that Judah's punishment for idolatry would not occur before his death. Death was coming, but the king's sincere repentance provided a stay of execution for the dead, those who worshiped idols and became "like them," dead. Upon these very steps leading to the Huldah Gates, the priests would sprinkle those who had purified themselves from a corpse, and upon these very steps, Ben Zoma saw the throngs of Israelites coming to celebrate Passover.
A blessing is hidden even deeper, though.
Somewhere between Jerusalem and the outskirts of Hebron is a spring known as Ein Eitam. An ancient aqueduct carried its water from Hebron and Bethlehem to Jerusalem:
The aqueduct begins at the Ein Eitam spring near Solomon's Pools south of Bethlehem and stretches 21 kilometers to Jerusalem. 'Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer of distance.'
The waters of this spring were located 23 amot (cubits) higher than the floor of the Temple. From at least the times of the Hasmoneans, an aqueduct flowed from the Hebron spring into the mikveh in which the High Priest immersed himself on Yom Kippur for his service in the Temple:
Five immersions and ten sanctifications the High Priest immerses and sanctifies his hands and feet, respectively, on the day of Yom Kippur. And all of these immersions and sanctifications take place in the sacred area, the Temple courtyard...Conclude that Ein Eitam, the spring from which water was supplied to the Temple, was twenty-three cubits higher than the ground of the Temple courtyard. (Yoma 31a)
The twenty-three amot from Hebron to the Temple Mount correspond to the twenty-three years that Jeremiah prophesied to Judah to repent from idolatry. His prophecy connects his message to Huldah's. Under Huldah's counsel, King Josiah led the nation to repentance, beginning with the Passover meal. The day of great national repentance, Yom Kippur, in the Seventh Month, is rooted in the beginning of the months, the First Month of Passover.
Although Yeshua's resurrection occurred in the week of Passover, all seven festivals have interlocking and overlapping themes, giving them unity. Each prescribed feast prophesies something of the Divine plan for salvation, redemption, and return to the Garden. As a type and shadow of Messiah, the High Priest immersed before the Yom Kippur service in the pool of water supplied by the Ein Eitam spring at Hebron twenty-three amot above it. The aqueduct flowed through Bethlehem, the place of Yeshua's birth, and terminated in the Temple courtyard. From there, after his immersion, the High Priest could make atonement for sin each year. This brings us back to the question, why select Huldah for prophecy and counsel when Jeremiah was already prophesying and warning Judah?
The Jewish sages write that "a woman would be more merciful than a man, and would pray passionately for the annulment of the decree." As proof, look to Queen Esther, who pled the case of her people earnestly to the king to annul his death decree. This Jewish tradition of Huldah's mercy connects Huldah directly to Sarah, who is believed to have gone to Hebron to intercede for mercy on Isaac, the type of Messiah, and a greater resurrection as well. In her passionate prayer for mercy, Sarah collapsed and died.
Miriam (Mary) sees the resurrected Yeshua in a garden before he ascends to the Father, so he must rise to another level than that which Miriam sees. Did you ever notice that it is women who receive their dead back by resurrection? At Hebron, Sarah prayed and died for a better resurrection even than that of her own son Isaac. She had faith in the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua. From that faith sprang the water that would supply the High Priest of the Temple. His prayers, service, and incense would arise on Yom Kippur from the various symbolic Temple stations that reflected how the atonement for sin was occurring simultaneously in the Upper Chamber of the Throne. Yeshua embodied both salvation from death and the service of forgiveness for repented sin.
Everywhere do we see the more recessed, but honorable leadership of holy women in Scripture. From Sarah's intercession and death at Hebron, to Rachel's burial place on the road to Bethlehem to wait for her banished children's return, to Huldah's prophecy of a grace period for repentance, to Miriam's gospel proclamation of life from the dead, each is a strong and honorable inspiration for women who proclaim the resurrection "beginning with Moses" and Passover.
Why not, Jeremiah?
Maharsha, Megillah 14b
N. Scherman, Ed. (2007). The Prophets:I-II Kings, The Rubinstein Edition. New York: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. p. 406.
By TOI STAFF. 21 May 2015. The Times of Israel. "Section of Ancient Jerusalem Aqueduct Uncovered." https://www.timesofisrael.com/section-of-ancient-jerusalem-aqueduct-uncovered/