Gedaliah, Nebuchadnezzar’s Governor of Judea

Mizpah

Ruins of Mizpah from www. Bibleplaces.org.

References: 2 Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:7-41:10.

Heart of Story: Nebuchadnezzar named Gedaliah governor of Judea. He was murdered by a remaining member of the Judean royal family.

Back Story: The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and deported many Jews; however, they knew a leader was needed for the area. They appointed Gedaliah, a man of Judah, as the territorial governor.  Although not from a royal family, Gedaliah was politically moderate and educated. He set the new capital at Mizpah, eight miles north of Jerusalem and in the tribal lands of Benjamin. Since the days of the Judges, Mispah was a rallying point and a place where the Israelites met the Lord (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 7:5-13).

Gedaliah knew Judah was no longer an independent nation; rather, he governed for Nebuchadenezzar. Babylonian soldiers were garrisoned at Mizpah to see that the king’s peace and wishes were carried out. Gedaliah told the people that if they remained in the country, farmed the land, and served Nebuchadenezzar, they had nothing to fear.

The Babylonian commander Nebuzaradan sent King Zedekiah’s daughters to Gadeliah so he could care for them. After being released from confinement in Jerusalem, Jeremiah went to Mizpah to be near Gedeliah; he knew and trusted Gedaliah’s family (Jeremiah 29:3). Jews who fled to other countries, e.g., Moab, Ammon, Edom, during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem returned to Judah and Mizpah. Jewish army officers and their men not killed in the Babylonian war went to Gedaliah at Mispah. That year the Jews who remained in the land harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit.

Story Synopsis: At Mizpah, Johanan a Judean army officer warned Gedaliah that Baais king of the Ammonites sent Ishmael to kill him.  Apparently Baalis’ motivation was to further disrupt the tenuous hold the remaining Jews had on Judea. From the time the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Ammonites warred against them. Ishmael was a member of Judah’s royal family. Perhaps his pride was hurt when Gedaliah was made governor. He saw Gedaliah as usurper and a traitor to the Jewish people. Secretly Johanan offered to kill Ishmael so he wouldn’t kill Gedaliah and bring further Babylonian reprisals on the already devastated Jews. Gedalish didn’t believe Johanan’s warning and ordered him not to kill Ishmael.

Shortly afterward Ishmael and 10 men came to Mizpah. Hospitably, Gedaliah served them a meal. While they were eating, Ishmael and his men killed Gedaliah, the Jews with him, and the Babylonian soldiers. The following day, Ishmael and his men slaughtered 70 men who came in mourning to make a sacrifice at the Lord’s house in Mizpah. Ishmael filled a cistern with the bodies of Gedaliah and the men he slaughtered including the Babylonian solders. Ishmael took captive all those who remained at Mizpah and headed toward Ammon.

Analysis: Bible chronology and history indicates that Gedaliah governed a short time. Study Bible notes suggested anywhere from two months to several years (587-582 B.C.; ESV study Bible, p. 1446). Ishmael killed Gedaliah in the seventh month which would have been September/October. In ancient Israel, the fall Festival of Tabernacles was the 15 day of the seventh month. Perhaps Gedaliah believed that Ishmael came to Mizpah with thank offerings for the fall harvest, thus, had no fear of him.

Everything recorded about Gedaliah indicated that he was humble and conciliatory; he desired to shield his people. He treated equally well the poor Jews who worked the land and the Judean military who escaped Babylonian slaughter. He did not gloat about his rank or power as governor; instead he offered to represent the Jews to any Babylonians who came to Mizpah. Gedaliah couldn’t conceive that anyone, particularly Ishmael a member of the royal family who knew how harshly the Babylonians treated the Jews, would devise a plot against the legal representative of King Nebuchadnezzer.  Killing Gedaliah was tantamount to declaring war against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar would have allowed the remaining Jews to live in Judea in peace under the governorship of Gedaliah. Ishmael’s murder of Gedaliah caused acute fear among the refugees from Mizpah. They fled from Judea to Egypt in an attempt to avoid the Babylonian army and famine.

Reflection: Was Gedaliah too gullible? Is it possible to be too gullible in today’s world?

Lesser Known Bible Characters has a chapter dedicated to Governors. Six relatively obscure governors set over the Israelites are discussed. For details of this book see http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.org/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13. All rights reserved.

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