Who was Hilkiah in the Bible?

Hilkiah is a fairly common name in the Bible. In Hebrew, the name means "the allotment or inheritance of Yahweh." This name was popular among the Levites because "Levi has no portion or inheritance with his brothers. The LORD is his inheritance, as the LORD your God said to him" (Deuteronomy 10:9). The Levites were not given an individual allotment of territory in the Promised Land as their own. Rather, they were given the role of priests and were to serve in cities throughout the land of Israel to assist all the people in proper worship of God. Instead of inheriting land, they inherited a unique position of service to God. God Himself was their inheritance, and thus the name Hilkiah was an appropriate name for a Levite.

The most well-known Hilkiah in the Bible is the high priest during King Josiah's reign who found the Book of the Law. The account of this Hilkiah can be found in 2 Kings chapters 22 and 23 and 2 Chronicles chapters 34 and 35. When repairs were being made to the temple, "Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the LORD given through Moses" (2 Chronicles 34:14). When King Josiah heard the Scripture and realized how he and his people had been failing to live accordingly, he mourned. Josiah then commanded Hilkiah and four other officials, "Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book" (2 Chronicles 34:21).

A reader of the Bible might expect that Hilkiah, being the high priest, would inquire of the Lord directly, through prayer, or by using the Urim and Thummim, or perhaps by casting lots. However, "Hilkiah and those whom the king had sent went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter) and spoke to her to that effect" (2 Chronicles 34:22). Seeking God's response through Huldah the prophetess ended up being a wise decision because the message she gave of God's mercy for Josiah and coming judgment for the nation proved to be true.

After hearing the words of Scripture and then being assured by Huldah's prophecy of God's mercy, Josiah "commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel" (2 Kings 23:4). After cleansing the temple and the land from idol worship, Josiah commanded the people to observe and celebrate Passover. Hilkiah certainly would have been involved in this. Scripture records, "no such Passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah" (2 Kings 23:22).

This Hilkiah faithfully fulfilled his duty as high priest, first by bringing Scripture to the king, then by seeking a word from God through a reliable prophetess, and finally by overseeing proper worship for the nation.

Other Hilkiahs in the Bible are listed as fathers of influential people. The prophet Jeremiah's father was a priest in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin named Hilkiah (Jeremiah 1:1). Eliakim, a palace administrator under King Hezekiah, had a father named Hilkiah (2 Kings 18:18; Isaiah 22:20; 36:22). Gemariah who carried a letter to King Nebuchadnezzar also had a father named Hilkiah (Jeremiah 29:3). One of Ezra's ancestors was named Hilkiah (Ezra 7:1). The name shows up in many other genealogical lists and census lists of priests and temple workers (1 Chronicles 6:13, 45; 9:11; 26:11; Nehemiah 8:4; 11:11; 12:7, 21).

Thus, there is not just one Hilkiah in the Bible, but a whole group of men with the name who served God in various ways. The truth of the meaning of their name is reflected in Jeremiah's declaration, "'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him'" (Lamentations 3:24). It wasn't just the tribe of Levi who was invited to think of God as their inheritance. At Sinai, God instructed Moses to tell all the people of Israel, "You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:4–6). Peter echoed this sentiment when he wrote to the believers, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

All followers of God can proclaim with the psalmist, "The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance" (Psalm 16:5–6). Not only is God our portion and inheritance, but God declared that His followers are His inheritance too. "But the LORD's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage" (Deuteronomy 32:9). "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!" (Psalm 33:12). Every person is invited to live out the truth of Hilkiah's name by placing their hope in God and proclaiming Him as the only inheritance they need (John 3:16–18; Galatians 3:27–29; Ephesians 1:3–14; Hebrews 9:11–15; 1 Peter 1:3–12). Those who trust in and follow Jesus become children of God and part of His inheritance as well (John 1:12; 14:1–7; 17:20–26; Ephesians 2:1–10; Philippians 2:5–11; Hebrews 2:5–18; Revelation 21:3).

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