GEDALIAH (Heb. גְּדַלְיָה, גְּדַלְיָהוּ), son of Ahikam. Gedaliah was appointed by the Babylonians as governor of Judah after the capture of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.; members of his family had held important posts during the last decades of the kingdom of Judah. His grandfather *Shaphan and his father *Ahikam supported Josiah during the latter's reforms (II Kings 22:3ff., 12ff.). Ahikam held an important post during the reign of Jehoiakim and was able to save Jeremiah from the anger of the people after his speech at the Temple gate (Jer. 26:24). Evidently this family followed a line of moderation and submission to Babylon, which explains the choice of one of its members to govern the remnant in Judah (see also *Elasah, *Jaazaniah). Gedaliah may even have been a man of influence and status before this time (II Kings 25:22; Jer. 40:5). He has been identified with the official of the same name, who was "in charge of the house"; the identification was made by means of a seal impression reading lgdlyhw ʾšr ʿl hbyt, which was found at the town gate of *Lachish, a town burned and destroyed in the last days of the kingdom of Judah.
Gedaliah resided at *Mizpah in the territory of Benjamin. The remaining people of Judah who gathered around him included army officers who had escaped capture and deportation by the Babylonians. May and other critics claim that Gedaliah served as the representative of the exiled *Jehoiachin who was still considered king of Judah, but there is no real basis for this assumption. The center at Mizpah was not long lived and Gedaliah, together with the Judahites and Babylonians stationed at Mizpah, was murdered by *Ishmael b. Nethaniah, who was in contact with *Baalis, king of the Ammonites. The assassination was instigated apparently with the hope of overthrowing Babylonian rule. Those who were spared, including several army officers, fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them, out of fear that the Babylonians might consider them responsible for the murder of Gedaliah (II Kings 25:25–26; Jer. 41:1ff.).
Several scholars have suggested that the Babylonian Exile from Judah in the 23rd year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign (Jer. 52:30) is connected with the murder of Gedaliah (cf. Jos., Ant. 10:181), but this assumption requires the dating of the murder in 582/1 B.C.E., whereas according to the biblical record, Gedaliah governed only for a short time, either until the seventh month of the year of destruction (587/6) or the seventh month of the following year (586/5). The day of Gedaliah's death was observed as a fast day, and is called "the fast of the seventh month" in the Bible (Zech. 7:5; 8:19) and, at a later date, the Fast of Gedaliah (see *Fasts and Fasting). According to tradition it is observed on the third of Tishri (RH 18b).
Bright, Hist, index; Yeivin, in: Tarbiz, 12 (1940/41), 253, 255–8, 266–8; May, in: AJSLL, 56 (1939), 146–8; C.C. Mc-Cown et al., Excavations at Tell en-Nasbeh, 1 (1947), 30–34, 46–48; EM, 2 (1965), 440–2. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. Holladay, Jeremiah 2 (1989), 293–303; R. Althann, in: ABD, 2:923–24; S. Ahituv, Handbook of Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions (1992), 125; O. Lipschits and J. Blenkinsopp (eds.), Judah and the Judeans in the Neo-Babylonian Period (2003).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.