Who is Hephzibah?

Mesu Andrews Featured Articles 11 Comments

Who is Hephzibah?There are several women in Scripture for whom my heart absolutely aches. Leah, because her husband Jacob openly loved his other wife, Rachel, more. Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose joy of birth and early motherhood gave way to letting go of the unpredictable and divine Son she watched die on the Cross.  

And then there is Hephzibah. She was wife of Hezekiah, the most righteous king of Judah and mother of Manasseh, the most wicked king of Judah. Oh, how her heart must have broken, watching her son destroy every righteous reform Hezekiah had made during his reign—after his father (King Ahaz) had nearly destroyed Judah with idolatry. 

Truth, Fact, and Fiction 

As with every story I write, there are certain Jewish traditions I rely on to fill in details of stories that aren’t included in our biblical text. Many of the stories come from Jewish Midrash, oral histories passed down for centuries, which are fascinating reading but not inerrant as is the cannon of Scripture. Hephzibah’s identity is mentioned in the Bible only once: 

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah.” 2 Kings 21:1–2 

The name Hephzibah is used a second time in Isaiah’s prophecy to describe the restored Jerusalem. As a young believer, I remember thinking this odd. So I looked up what the name “Hephzibah” meant. I was both intrigued and amazed to discover it meant, delight of the Lord. What kind of woman would merit such a name? What qualities did she possess? Was she someone special to Isaiah? Someone special to God? In that moment, I decided I wanted to be a Hephzibah—a delight to my God. 

Many years later I discovered, in the centuries-old Jewish stories, that the prophet Isaiah was Hephzibah’s father. How precious that he had spoken of his daughter with the same tenderness and joy that Yahweh felt for Jerusalem after its perfect and complete restoration. 

A Father & His Daughter 

My dad always adored my sister and me. My sister was his firstborn and the apple of his eye. I was his baby girl, and even until his last breath, I lit up his face when I walked into the room. Dad loved my brother dearly, of course, but it was different with us girls. He was our provider and protector until he gave us to our husbands—exactly as Isaiah speaks of his daughter and as God spoke of Jerusalem in the prophecy . . . 

“No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.” Isaiah 62:4 

When I read and pondered this passage, I felt that Hephzibah’s early years in the story needed to be more than just a troubled teen in a prophet’s home. Deserted and Desolate imply some pretty hard circumstances, which is why the fiction portion of my story includes Isaiah’s adoption of the orphan girl named Ishma (which in Hebrew means, Desolation). 

Who Gives This Woman? 

Did Isaiah believe Hezekiah was the Messiah of his prophecies? Here’s an even more interesting thought: Did he think he was offering his daughter to marry the Messiah? It becomes evident, later in Isaiah’s prophecies, that he realizes Hezekiah is not the Messiah of his prophecies. What then?  

Has something similar ever happened to you with a family member or friend? What happens when the person you once thought so noble or righteous falls off the pedestal you placed them on? Who gets hurt—you or them? Both?  

Questions for Eternity 

Hephzibah was a real woman, and I certainly have lots of questions I’d like to ask when I finally meet her in eternity. My guess is I’ll forget every question for Hephzibah when I stand in awe of the One who delights in her. May our prayers be that He delights in us. May His grace be sufficient to cover all we don’t know, all we think we know, and all we wish we knew. 

Tweet-A-Licious! 

Today’s Question: 

  • If you could ask Hephzibah, Hezekiah, or Isaiah any question at all, what would it be? 

Comments 11

  1. I would ask Hephzibah about Manasseh. I wouldn’t do it to dredge up bad memories, but rather in a Titus 2 way…a younger woman seeking advice from an older, wiser woman. Growing up, I was the rule-following, chruch-going, good kid. I got straight As. I played soccer. I didn’t drink. I didn’t do drugs. I tried never to cause trouble. But, I watched my three brothers almost destroy themselves. I always wondered how four people from one mom and dad could be so different. We all got the same raising and Bible study and church time. How does one person live like Hezekiah while one lives like Manasseh? You know with a dad like Hezekiah, Manasseh was receiving proper, Biblical instruction. So I would talk to Hephzibah about this. Would she have advice for me so my 5 year old, who’s being raised in a very God-centered home, stays God-centered? Whew! Sorry for the long comment. I guess I know what I need to bring to God today in my prayers! God bless, Mesu!

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      No apology needed for that post, gal! I think in working out your thoughts, you’ve expressed many of our (those of us reading) thoughts as well. Haven’t we all seen the very same thing happen to families we know or our own family? A great question–and a great reason to stay on our knees for our own children and grandchildren.

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      YES!! I want to know if the legend is true! 😉 And I want to know if she was natural-born or adopted. And I want to know why she was “once called desolate” as his prophecy says of Zion–or if that was strictly referring to Zion. Oooops…sorry. I just shifted into “what-if” overdrive. LOL! 😉

  2. With how women were viewed in that time period, I would ask Hezekiah if his mother was a good influence and did he really love his wife.

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      Abijah and Hephzibah are mysterious. Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about either woman’s spiritual condition. In Lynn Austin’s CHRONICLES OF THE KINGS Series (which I LOVE, BTW), she portrayed the two women exactly opposite of how I’ve portrayed them in my novel. That’s what I love about biblical fiction. When Scripture is silent, we can imagine a different scenario that could have brought about the TRUTH we read in the Bible. We don’t know what influence these important women had in Hezekiah’s life, but we see the fruit of God’s Spirit working through him!

  3. As a grandparent, it makes me wonder what influence Hezekiah’s grandfather may have had on him. It also shows us, as parents, that ultimately our children choose their own paths and we can only pray that our attempt at ‘godly parenting’, and teaching them to see their world through the lens of scripture, does indeed have an impact on the outcome of their adulthood.

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      So true, Gay. As parents and grandparents, we DO influence our kids and grandkids, but ultimately, they have to make their own choices and cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus.

  4. Pingback: Isaiah’s Daughter (Mesu Andrews) – Review | Fiction Aficionado

  5. Hi Mrs.Andrews, I just wanted to thank you so much for writing your books they have helped me to have a better love for God and Jesus each day,Because I used to be a Jehovah’s Witness and was so confused about my life and the Bible, But thanks to Jesus I’m free and known I enjoy reading my Bible and your Biblical fiction books,words can not say enough of how thankful I am to be able to read your books, May God continue to bless you as you continue to be a blessing in my life and others too.

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