International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam (the friend and protector of Jeremiah) and grandson of Shaphan (the scribe in the reign of Josiah) (2 Kings 25:22-25; Jeremiah 39:14; Jeremiah 40:5-16; 41:1-18).
1. His Appointment as Governor in Judah
After the destruction of Jerusalem and the carrying away captive of the Jews to Babylon (586 bc), Gedaliah was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar governor over the poor Jews who had been left in the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen (2 Kings 25:12 , 2 Kings 25:22 ). To his charge were committed also some royal princesses (Jeremiah 43:6 ) and courtiers (Jeremiah 41:16 ) who had been allowed to remain as unlikely to cause any trouble. Gedaliah fixed his residence at Mizpah, a few miles Northwest of Jerusalem. Here he was joined by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40:6 ).
2. His Conciliatory Spirit and Wise Rule
The Jewish soldiers who had escaped capture, having heard that the Chaldeans had departed, and that Gedaliah, one of their own nation, had been appointed governor in Judah, came with Ishmael, Johanan and other officers at their head, to Gedaliah at Mizpah (2 Kings 25:23 , 2 Kings 25:14; Jeremiah 40:7-10 ). The governor assured them that they need have no fear of vengeance from their conquerors, and promised them on oath protection and security, if they would remain and cultivate the land and become the peaceful subjects of the king of Babylon. This assurance led to a general gathering around Gedaliah of refugees from all the neighboring countries (Jeremiah 40:11 , Jeremiah 40:12 ). For two months (some think longer) Gedaliah's beneficent and wise rule did much to consolidate affairs in Judah and to inspire the feeble remnant of his countrymen with heart and hope.
3. His Treacherous Assassination
But evil spirits were at work against him. Baalis, king of Ammon, had determined upon his life (Jeremiah 40:13-16 ). The peaceful and popular rule which was being established by the good governor stood in the way of the accomplishment of any plan of conquest he entertained. Baalis found a ready instrument for his murderous design in Ishmael who, as one of royal birth and in the counsels of the king (Jeremiah 41:1 ), was doubtless jealous of the man who had been chosen governor in preference to himself. Gedaliah was informed by Johanan and the other captains of the plot to assassinate him, and Johanan at a private interview expressed to him a strong desire to go himself and slay Ishmael secretly, declaring that the safety of the Jews depended upon the life of the governor. But Gedaliah refused to allow Johanan to anticipate his enemy, believing, in the generosity of his heart, that Ishmael was not capable of such an act of treachery. He soon found, however, that his confidence had been sadly misplaced. Ishmael, with ten of his companions, came on a visit to him to Mizpah, and after they had been hospitably entertained they fell upon their good host and murdered him, along with all the Jewish and the Chaldean soldiers whom he had with him for order and protection (2 Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 41:1-3 ). They then cast the bodies of their victims into the cistern which Asa had made (Jeremiah 41:9 ). Ishmael was pursued and overtaken by Johanan, but he succeeded in effecting his escape to the Ammonites (Jeremiah 41:11-15 ). Then Johanan and the other captains, afraid lest the Chaldeans should avenge upon them the murder of the governor (Jeremiah 41:16-18 ), and against the earnest entreaties of Jeremiah (chapter 42), fled to Egypt, taking the prophet and the Jewish remnant with them (Jeremiah 43:5-7 ). In memory of the date of Gedaliah's assassination the Jews kept a fast (which is still retained in the Jewish calendar) on the 3rd day of the 7th month, Tishri (Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19 ).
4. His Noble Character
The narratives reveal Gedaliah in a very attractive light, as one who possessed the confidence alike of his own people and their conquerors; a man of rare wisdom and tact, and of upright, transparent character, whose kindly nature and generous disposition would not allow him to think evil of a brother; a man altogether worthy of the esteem in which he was held by succeeding generations of his fellow-countrymen.
(3) A priest of the "sons of Jeshua," in the time of Ezra, who had married a foreign woman (Ezra 10:18 ).
(5) Grandfather of Zephaniah the prophet, and grandson of Hezekiah, probably the king (Zephaniah 1:1 ).
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