Huldah, the wife of Shallum ben Tikvah, was one of seven prophetesses mentioned in Tanach who lived in different times. These seven prophetesses were: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah and Esther.

Huldah lived in the time of the reign of Josiah in Jerusalem (3285–3316). It was during this time that the spirit of prophecy came to her, and she became known as a prophetess. This was also the time of the outstanding prophets Jeremiah and Zephaniah.

According to the Midrash,1 Jeremiah prophesied in the streets of Jerusalem; Zephaniah delivered his prophecies in the synagogues; and Huldah had a school for women in Jerusalem, whom she taught the word of G‑d insofar as it pertained to Jewish women, mothers and daughters.

In the Talmud2 it is stated that Huldah was a relative of the prophet Jeremiah. She was a descendant of Joshua bin Nun (of the tribe of Ephraim). The prophet Jeremiah was also a descendant of Joshua—on his mother’s side. On his father’s side, Jeremiah was a kohen, the son of Hilkiah, who came from a long line of kohanim going back to Aaron (of the tribe of Levi).

Huldah’s husband, Shallum, had a prominent position in the royal court. He was the keeper of the king’s wardrobe, in charge of the king’s robes and clothes for all occasions. He was also one of the king’s instructors when Josiah was still a child. Josiah was only eight years old when he inherited the crown from his father, Amon. His father, who had turned to idolatry, was murdered in a plot by his palace servants after he had ruled for two years.

Young Josiah had eminent teachers: Hilkiah, the kohen gadol (he was the great-grandfather of Ezra the Scribe); the prophet Jeremiah; Shafan the scribe, and his son Ahikam; as well as Shallum and his wife, Huldah, who took care of him in his early childhood. Under their teaching and influence Josiah developed into a G‑d-fearing person. He did not follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather (King Manasseh), who worshipped idols and encouraged idolatry in the kingdom of Judah. Rather did he follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Hezekiah, who was a G‑d-fearing, Torah-loving king. At the age of sixteen years Josiah grasped the reins of his kingdom firmly in his hands, and began to introduce changes in the spiritual life of his people which brought a new era into the land. For he steered the people toward the old spirit of fear of G‑d and devotion to His Torah and Mitzvot.

Some years later, in the eighteenth year of his reign, the young king undertook the huge task of restoring the Beit Hamikdash, which had been neglected for so many years. He called a mass rally for the purpose of getting the people to participate in the great undertaking. The people responded enthusiastically, and the contributions flowed in generously. The work of repairing and restoring the Beth Hamikdash swung into stride under the able supervision of the high priest Hilkiah.

In the midst of this work, Hilkiah was thrilled to discover an ancient Sefer Torah from the time of Moses. This unique Torah scroll had been kept in the Holy of Holies of the Beit Hamikdash, but in the time of the idol-worshipping kings the upright kohanim removed it from there and hid it in a secret place in the Beit Hamikdash. For it had once happened that the treacherous King Ahaz had burnt a Sefer Torah.

Now the high priest came upon this hidden Torah scroll, and he gave it to the king’s scribe Shafan to take it to the king.

The king told Shafan to read from it. It so happened that the scroll opened at the section in Deuteronomy containing the admonition (tochachah) where G‑d warns the Jewish people of the terrible consequences of neglecting the Torah and Mitzvot, leading to destruction and exile.

The king was deeply shaken and heartbroken—remembering how his father and grandfather had lived, desecrating the Holy Land with idolatry and evil. He rent his clothes (a sign of mourning and repentance), and ordered Hilkiah and four more royal messengers to go to the holy prophets to inquire as to what should be done in view of the divine warning that had just been received.

Normally they would have immediately gone to the greatest prophet of that time, Jeremiah, but he was not in Jerusalem. G‑d had sent him to visit the Jewish exiles in Assyria, where they had lived in captivity ever since Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, had conquered the northern kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel (in the year 3205). Jeremiah was to bring them a message of encouragement and hope, assuring them that G‑d had not forgotten them, and that neither should they forget G‑d, but bear bravely their exile until the day when G‑d would gather in all Jewish exiles dispersed in various lands and bring them back to the Land of Israel.

In Jeremiah’s absence, the king’s messengers went to the prophetess Huldah, hoping at the same time that her compassionate womanly heart and tender feelings would soften a possibly harsh prophecy that awaited them.

Huldah delivered to them the following prophecy:

Thus says the L‑rd G‑d of Israel: Tell the man that sent you to me, thus says the L‑rd: ‘I will bring a calamity on this place, and upon its inhabitants—all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read—because they have forsaken Me and have worshipped other gods . . . Therefore My anger shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched.

But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the L‑rd, you shall say: Thus says the L‑rd G‑d of Israel regarding the word which you have heard: Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the L‑rd when you heard what I decreed against this place and against its inhabitants . . . and you rent your clothes and wept before Me—I heard you. Therefore I will gather you unto your fathers, and you will go to your grave in peace; your eyes shall not see all the misfortune which I will bring upon this place.3

No sooner had the messengers brought the answer from the prophetess Huldah to the king than he immediately sent for the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem and ordered them to summon the entire nation—“small and great”—to the Beit Hamikdash.

Standing on a platform, the king read to the people the solemn words of the Torah from the scroll that was found in the Beit Hamikdash—the divine warning followed by the covenant that Moses and all the Jews had made with G‑d. Now the king renewed this covenant for the entire nation—“To walk in the way of G‑d, to keep His mitzvot, commandments and laws with all their heart and soul.”

The whole nation solemnly accepted the renewed covenant and undertook to carry it out fully.

Under the personal leadership of the king, and with the help of the high priest Hilkiah, the nation began to clean up the land of all idolatry with its abominable customs. A spirit of repentance, holiness and purity filled the entire nation.

Pesach—the Festival of Liberation—was approaching. King Josiah resolved to strengthen the feeling of true freedom—freedom from the slavery of the previous generations which were addicted to idol-worship—by an extraordinary national celebration of this great festival. Indeed, such an inspired and joyous Pesach celebration had not taken place since the days of the Prophet Samuel.

The prophetess Huldah had an important share in the great spiritual revival of the Jewish people under the reign of King Josiah, through her prophecy and influence.

Huldah’s prophecy came true. King Josiah still had another 13 years to live: he reigned for 31 years. But he did not have to witness the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Beit Hamikdash. That took place at the end of the eleven-year reign of his son Zedekiah. (In the meantime, Josiah’s two older sons and a grandson succeeded him for brief periods: Jehoahaz for three months and Jehoiakim for 11 years, followed by the latter’s son Jehoiachin, or Jeconiah, for 100 days.)

Nor did the prophetess Huldah have to witness—as did her relative the prophet Jeremiah—the terrible destruction she had foretold. But her prophecy and influence—as one of the seven divine prophetesses that our Jewish nation had—remained an everlasting inheritance of our people.