Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Who Is Hephzibah? By Mesu Andrews

Mesu Andrews
One of the college pastors at our local university contacted me recently and asked if I’d be willing to meet with a short-term exchange student in her ministry.

I’m pushing mid-fifties, so I said, “Why does your student want to meet with me?”

She laughed and said, “She’s struggling with her name. I thought you could help.”

With a name like Mesu, I thought maybe she needed someone who could relate to a crazy first name. I asked what the girl’s name was.

“Hephzibah,” my friend said. “I knew you were writing about Hezekiah’s wife and felt you could give her a new perspective on the biblical name.”

I can’t tell you how excited I was to meet a real Hephzibah—my favorite name in the Bible.


Jewish Tradition

When I first read the name Hephzibah, I researched its meaning: the Lord’s delight. Immediately transfixed, I began researching how to become Hephzibah in the Lord’s eyes. Unfortunately, the Bible only mentioned her twice (2 Kings 21:1; Isaiah 62:4). Jewish tradition told a bit more of her story.

2 Kings 21:1 tells us she was Manasseh’s mother, so we can extrapolate her position as Hezekiah’s wife, but only Jewish tradition calls her Isaiah’s daughter. After more study on Isaiah 62:1-4, I felt certain enough of his role in her life to base a whole book (Isaiah’s Daughter, releasing January 16, 2018) on Jewish lore.
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent…The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 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 62:1–4

A Father’s Love

In many chapters before, Isaiah prophesied Israel’s (Zion’s) judgment, desolation, and destruction. Now, in these verses, he finally gets to announce the restoration of God’s beloved Jerusalem and calls the sacred city, Hephzibah. I believe—as did ancient Rabbis who passed down the story—Isaiah likened God’s love for the vindicated, new Jerusalem to the love he felt for his own daughter. 

The love of a father for his daughter is different than a father’s love for his son. Not greater—just different. A father feels a ferocious need to protect his daughter. A desire to provide. And when she comes of age, he yearns for her to be cherished by a husband as she should be loved.


A Name to Cherish

As I recounted this Scripture, and the precious status of the name, to the college-girl-Hephzibah sitting before me, she said through a smile, “I never understood why the prophet Isaiah called Jerusalem by my name.” She walked a little taller out of the coffee shop that day, and I said a silent prayer. Lord, I hope that today, in this moment, I am Hephzibah in Your eyes. Because I believe we can all be called Hephzibah, delight of the Lord, as we walk through each day.
About the Author
Isaiah's Daughter
by Mesu Andrews
Gifted Bible teacher and award-winning author Mesu Andrews reaches into the pages of Biblical prophecy and Hebrew tradition to unearth a rags-to-royalty story of the devastated orphan, Ishma—meaning “desolation”—in Isaiah’s Daughter (Jan. 16, 2018, WaterBrook). At just 5 years old, Ishma’s life crumbles around her when Israelite soldiers violently kill her family and take her into captivity. Upon her release, the royal prophet Isaiah welcomes her into his home where she meets Prince Hezekiah (Hezi)—a boy who has also experienced great tragedy. Ishma and Hezi bond in their suffering, and as they grow in age, so does their love for each other. Aware of their developing relationship, Isaiah adopts Ishma as his daughter and presents her with a new name that will qualify her to marry royalty—Hephzibah (Zibah), meaning “delight of the Lord.” Hezi and Zibah marry, but after difficult times of barrenness, Assyrian aggression, disease and challenging prophecies from Isaiah, Zibah learns that loving her husband will require more of her than she ever imagined.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story with us. How cool that you could encourage her and us by telling her the lovely story of her name. Thanks for visiting with us, Mesu!

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    1. Thanks for inviting me to share Hephzibah's story on your blog--both Hephzibahs! ;)

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  2. It's great to have you on Seriously Write, Mesu. I really enjoyed your teaching Saturday, and the book cover is gorgeous.

    I met a girl at my daughter's church Sunday named Haddasah. I've always liked that name. And it's a very "young" church, so I can relate to your opening question. **Sigh**

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    1. Hi Sandra! So good to meet you at the ACFW meeting last Saturday! And, yes, I love the cover designer's work. He's amazing at letting the cover tell its own story before you even open the book!

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  3. Mesu, such an interesting story. I'm sure that young lady will find herself much happier with her name as a result of meeting you.

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    1. I think she was happier with it, Terri, not just because of the meaning itself but because of the significance it held in Scripture and perhaps the significance it held to her parents when they named her. We all want to feel treasured. What a joy to be the "delight of the Lord."

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