• Issue: September 1984
  • Designer: A. kalderon
  • Stamp size: 20 x 51.4 mm
  • Plate no.: 88 - 90
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

Hannah, one of the seven prophetesses, was the favourite of the two wives of Elkanah of Ramathaim on Mount Ephraim. They lived in the eleventh century BCE, when the Tabernacle of the Lord rested in Shiloh, before the Holy Ark was brought to Jerusalem.

Elkanah's second wife, Peninah, had borne him children, but Hannah, to her great sorrow, was barren. Peninah frequently taunted her on her barrenness, often provoking her until she wept. Hannah, depressed and melancholy, refused to be comforted by her husband, who tried to console her and asked, "why is the heart grieved am not I better thee than ten sons" (I Samuel 1:8).

Mourning her childless state, Hannah used to go to Shiloh year after year, longing for a son who, she vowed, would be a Nazirite and dedicated to the service of the Lord. On one of her visits Hannah, with tears streaming down her face, was praying silently with only her lips in motion. Eli the high priest noticed what he thought was a drunken woman and upbraided her, but when he heard her sorrowful story, he added his plea to hers, and soon a joyful Hannah had her dearest wish fulfilled.

When the child was born, Hannah named him Samuel for, she said, "I have asked him of the Lord." (I Samuel 1:20). After the birth, Hannah refused to go to Shiloh for the annual sacrifice, but waited until Samuel was weaned, when "she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shilohi" (I Samuel 1:24).

When she had left the infant with Eli the high priest, Hannah sang a song of praise and thanksgiving - one of the most beautiful in the rich treasury of the Bible. The biblical tale goes on to tell how "the child Samuel grew before the Lord," and how "his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice." (I Samuel 2:19).

As she matured, Hannah became a happy and contented wife and mother. Elkanah loved her dearly; Samuel her firstborn, destined to be one of the major prophets, was a Nazirite serving God, while following Samuel's birth, Hannah and her husband were blessed with three more sons and two daughters:

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Ruth the moabitess is one of the Bible's most attractive characters. Her story is told in "Megillat Ruth," one of the five megillot, or scrolls, included in the Bible. It goes back to the time of the Judges in the eleventh century BCE, and begins when a Bethlehem family - Elimelech, Naomi his wife and their two sons - emigrated across the Jordan to Moab to escape the famine which had stricken the Land of Israel.

During their stay in Moab Elimelech died, and the sons, Mahlon and Chilion, married Moabite girls named Ruth and Orpah. Within ten years both brothers died childless, leaving the widowed Naomi without either sons or husband.

Naomi must have been a kind and warm person, for her daughters-in-law were deeply attached to her. When she decided to return to her homeland, she said to Ruth and Orpah, "Go, return each to her mother's house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead and with me." (Ruth 1:8).

Eventualley Orpah was persuaded to go back home, but Ruth, Mahlon's wife, refused, telling Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave thee...for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." (Ruth 1:16).

So Naomi and her daughter-in-law made their way to Bethlehem, now again flourishing and fruitful. It was the month of the barley harvest, and all the townsfolk were gathered in the central square. Many of the people recognized Naomi, but she felt at a disadvantage, having come back penniless and bereft of husband and sons.

Ruth, however, was a source of strength to her mother-in-law. $he pleaded with Naomi, "Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn," in accordance with the precept in Deuteronomy 24:19, that if "thou forget a sheaf in the field it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow."

By a happy chance, Ruth's gleaning was on the estate of Boaz, a relation of Elimelech. Boaz noticed the pretty stranger and spoke to her, insisting that she continue to glean in his fields and that she share the general midday meal. Obviously, Boaz had heard of Naomi's homecoming and had enquired about her companion, for he told Ruth that he knew of "all thou hast done unto thy mother-in-law since the death of thine husband." (Ruth 2:11).

Overjoyed by these events, Naomi pointed out that Boaz was related to Elimelech and might redeem the family land and marry Ruth, "to raise up the name of the head upon his inheritance." (Ruth 4:5). Naomi advised her daughter-in-law to bathe and dress nicely, and after Boaz had fallen asleep at the harvest festival, to lay down at his feet.

During the night Boaz awoke, startled to find the young woman lying near him. Ruth asked for his protection, which he gladly gave. Next day Boaz met Ruth's nearest kinsman at the city gate and told him that Naomi and Ruth wanted to sell a parcel of Elimelech's land, but at the same time, according to Jewish custom, he must take Ruth as his wife. This the man refused to do, so Boaz himself accepted the duties and privileges qf redeeming the inheritance and marrying Ruth.

From this union was born Obed, who brought with him a special blessing for Naomi and words of praise from the women of Bethlehem for her daughter-in-law "which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons." (Ruth 4:15). Obed became the father of Jesse, whose son was David the king, founder of the First Monarchy.

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Huldah the prophetess lived in the seventh century BCE, during the reign of King Josiah of Judah. She was the wife of Shallum, a man of noble descent, son of Tikvah, keeper of the king's wardrobe - a very distinguished position - while Huldah herself was held in high esteem for her wisdom and sagacity.

Huldah and her husband dwelt in Jerusalem, in the quarter called the "Mishneh," or "Second," on the western outskirts of the city. It was to her home that the emissaries of Josiah came when, in 621 BCE, while the Temple was being restored, Hilkiah the high priest "found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, and gave the book to Shaphan the scribe." (II Kings 22:8).

Shaphan read the newly-rediscovered Book of the Law to Josiah, who feared "the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of the book." (II Kings 22:1 3). Josiah then sent Hilkiah, Shaphan the scribe and his son Ahikam, together with court officials, Achbor and Asahiah, to Huldah the prophetess to "inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah." (II Kings 22:13).

After communing with the Lord, she sent a message to the king, referring to him rather strangely, not as Josiah, or the king, or the King of Judah, but as "the man that sent you to me." Her prophecy was that God would destroy Jerusalem and its inhabitants because of the sins of Josiah's wicked forefathers, but because of his own piety and genuine repentance, Josiah was told he would be "gathered in to thy grave in peace, and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place." (II Kings 22:20).

Tradition claims that .Huldah conducted an institute of learning in Jerusalem, and further that the Huldah Gates on the southern edge of the Temple enclosure led under the wall and up to the school house. Curious stories, too, have grown up around the cave on the Mount of Olives where Huldah is supposedly buried. Revered in Jewish folklore as the Grave of Huldah, it is also sacred to Christians as the burial place of a fifth century saint, margarita Pelagia, a former actress of Antioch who converted from paganism to Christianity, and to Moslems as the dwelling of the eighth century holy woman, Rabieh el-Adawiyah, a doer of good deeds.

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Festival stamps 5745 (1984)