King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had conquered Judah around 586 B.C. After he captured the territory of Judah he exiled thousands of its people back into his homeland of Babylon. He then appointed loyal governors to the territories that he defeated so that he could keep them under control. King Nebuchadnezzar appointed a Hebrew man named Gedaliah as governor of Judah once he took over their kingdom. Gedaliah appears on the Bible Timeline around 586 BC.
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Gedaliah was the son of Ahikam and the grandson of Shaphan the prophet. He came from a line of godly men who were devoted to the Lord. Ahikam had once saved the prophet Jeremiah from death, and Shaphan played a role in the discovery of the lost book of Moses Law which would later become the book of Deuteronomy. When Gedaliah became governor, he ruled the remaining Judeans in the land which were left behind after the exile. The remaining people were primarily poor people who were left in the area to work the vineyards and fields. Gedaliah treated these people with respect, and he cared for them greatly. The governor also encouraged a revitalization project in Judah which drew a lot of people in the area to the city of Mizpah where he resided. He always encouraged them to remain loyal to Babylon so that they would not experience any further problems.
During this turbulent period in Judah’s history rebel groups of guerilla fighters formed to against Babylon. These groups dwelt mainly in the open countryside of Judah, and they presented themselves as freedom fighters against the Babylonians. One particular rebel was named Ishmael, and he was well known among the people. Ishmael and the other rebel bands found out that Gedaliah was the governor of Judah, and they eventually went to Mizpah his home city to meet him. Once the rebels arrived Gedaliah told them that they must not fight against Babylon anymore and that they should stay in Mizpah with him. He befriended most of the rebels and developed a strong friendship with Ishmael. Even though this was the case, Ishmael had other plans for the governor.
Ishmael had been plotting with the King of Ammon, a nearby kingdom, to assassinate Gedaliah. Some of the other rebels had found out about this assassination plot, and they warned the governor. Gedaliah didn’t believe them and one day he invited Ishmael to his house for dinner and was killed by this man. Once Ishmael had killed the governor the people of Judah realized that Babylon was going to retaliate against them. So they wanted to run back to Egypt to avoid destruction. They consulted the prophet Jeremiah about their decision. He told them that if they went to Egypt God was going to kill them there. The Lord wasn’t finished with the punishment of Judah for its sins. Jeremiah wanted them to remain under Babylonian control until God’s punishments were carried out. Most of the people didn’t listen to Jeremiah, and they fled to Egypt. Eventually, Babylon found out what had happened, and they attacked Judah and then attacked Egypt. The Judeans that escaped to Egypt were eventually killed by the Babylonians just as Jeremiah prophesized. There weren’t any more leaders in Judah for many years after the death of Gedaliah. The Judeans lamented his memory with a fast called the “Fast of Gedaliah” and his name means “God has made great”.
- 2 Kings 25: 22 – 26 Gives a brief account of the life of Governor Gedaliah and the events surrounding his assassination.
- Jeremiah 40 – 42 Presents a detail description of the life of Gedaliah and how his assassination led to further harm for the people of Judah.
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