Today’s section talks about the prophetesses Hulda and then Esther.
Hulda is called a prophetess by the verse. But she lived at the same time as the prophet Jeremiah. So if Jeremiah was the main prophet, how could she also prophesize.
The answer is that Jeremiah didn’t mind, because she was a relative. Like the force, prophecy seems to run in families.
We should note the tension the rabbis feel with women prophets. This is a tension we shall see at the end of this section as well.
Still, why did King Josiah send for Hulda and not Jeremiah. The first answer is that Josiah thought he would receive more mercy from Hulda. A woman prophet would pray for Josiah’s kingdom if the prophecy was evil. This answer also seems to relate to the ambivalence the rabbis felt about women prophets/leaders. The woman was chosen, according to this section, because of her special abilities, unique to women.
The second answer is that Jeremiah was trying to bring back the lost ten tribes. This is a major theme in parts of the book of Jeremiah—his attempt to restore the northern kingdom that had been conquered by Sancheriv nearly 150 years earlier.
The Talmud now proves that Jeremiah did indeed restore the ten lost tribes. In the verse quoted Ezekiel prophecies that the Jubilee law will be nullified. But this implies that in Ezekiel’s time, who lived after Jeremiah, the Jubilee was still observed. According to the rabbis, the Jubilee laws are observed only when all tribes dwell in their ancestral lands. Thus we can see that the ten tribes were returned and that is why the Jubilee was observed in the time of Ezekiel.
The king of Judah (the southern kingdom), Josiah, ruled over the ten tribes. In other words, they were restored to the kingdom of the south, Judah. This is proved from one of two verses. In the first verse Josiah has a connection with the altar in the north in Beth-El. In the second verse Judah is portrayed as ruling over the restored captives, which R. Nahman says are the ten tribes of the north.
We should note that according to a straightforward, non-midrashic reading of the Tanakh, the ten tribes of the north were not restored. They were lost.
Esther did not put on royal clothing—she dressed herself in the Holy Spirit of God, before going in to approach Ahashverosh.
Nahman notes that two of these seven prophetesses have animal names—Devorah means hornet, or bee, and Hulda means weasel. These are not particularly beloved animals. R. Nahman condemns these two women for the arrogant way in which they treat the authoritative men around them.
A feminist reading of this section would note the discomfort caused to R. Nahman by these strong women who don’t mind talking down to the men around them. This is the same discomfort the text noted above with regard to the king calling for Hulda instead of Jeremiah.
Nahman connects the word “Harhas” to the word “Heres” to conclude that Hulda was a descendent of Joshua.
Ena Saba (old R. Ena) uses a baraita to show that Hulda was the descendant of Rahab the prostitute, who helped Joshua conquer Jericho. So how could she be the descendant of Joshua.
Nahman resolves the difficulty—Rahav converted to Judaism and Joshua married her. Hulda is the descendent of both.
From the verse it seems that Joshua had no sons, this is why the book does not list them. So how could Hulda be a descendant of his? The answer is that he had only daughters, and Chronicles lists only sons.