Women of the Bible: Prophettesses

Very little is said about the prophetesses of Scripture. Six are mentioned. They are: Miriam (Exo 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Neh 6:14), the mother of Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Isa 8:3) who is not named (but seeing that the latter was the son of Isaiah, we suppose that she was the wife of the prophet), and Anna (Luke 2:36), the widow at Jerusalem. The words of only four of them are recorded: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Anna.

Miriam: Aaron and Miriam spoke against Moses for having married an Ethiopian woman thinking that God could speak by them as well as him (Num 12:15). Moses, despite his importance and heavy duties, was a man of deep humility (Num 12:3) and made no attempt to justify himself. It was God Who came to his defense. Miriam seems to have been more responsible than Aaron for she was the one who was smitten with leprosy and shut out of the camp for seven days. She did not want an outsider to be found among the people but it was she who was banished. How sad that, as a prophetess, she did not use her tongue for good instead of criticizing Moses. James says “Speak not evil one of another brethren” (James 4:11), and ”Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).

Deborah: The period of the judges was one of wars, with Israel constantly confronted by enemies. After the death of Joshua, God raised up judges, individuals who delivered the people from their oppressors. There were 12, but they were not magistrates as we understand the term, but rather administrators and governors called out from the tribes of Israel. Among them, there was one woman, Deborah. She reminded Barak that God had told him to defeat Sisera, the captain of the host of Jabin, king of Canaan, but he refused to go if she would not accompany him. In the battle, Sisera fled, and it was a woman, Jael, who hid him in her tent and then killed him. The victory was attributed to Deborah, not Barak, and she celebrated in her song (Judges 5), much like the song of Moses in Exodus 15.

Huldah: The message that Huldah pronounced was one of great severity (2Kings 22:15-17). The people had forsaken God and given themselves over to idolatry. Josiah had just ascended the throne and was deeply affected by the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Huldah spoke to him to warn of the imminent judgment of God against Jerusalem. Then she spoke words of encouragement and told the king that he would not see this judgment. Not content just to hear the Word of God, he acted with energy to do what God ordered. This should be true of us. It is not sufficient to read and hear the Word of God – we must follow what James says: ”Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22).

Anna: Anna was a widow of 83, belonging to the tribe of Asher. We read that she “departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and tears night and day” (Luke 2:36-38). She also spoke, not of herself, but “of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” She was a worthy descendant of Asher, for before he died, Jacob told his sons that Asher would “yield royal dainties”(Gen 49:20). Indeed, what better “royal dainties” than those that were yielded by Anna, who glorified and honored the Lord Jesus Christ?

We see that Miriam murmured against God, Deborah sang the glory of God, Hul­dah gave a warning from God, and Anna spoke of the Son of God.