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According to the Hebrew Bible, Gedaliah - the son of Ahikam (who saved the life of the prophet Jeremiah -- Jer. 26:24) and grandson of Shaphan (who was involved in the discovery of the scroll of Teaching that scholars identify as the core of the book of Deuteronomy -- II Kings 22:8-10) served briefly as governor of Judah. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah as governor of Judah and left him to govern the country as a tribute to him (2 Kings 25:22; Jer. 40:5; 52:16).
Gedaliah was a wise man, gentle and modest. He zealously began to encourage the people to cultivate the fields and vineyards, and thus lay the foundation of security. Many who had fled to neighboring lands during the war of destruction were attracted by the news of the revival of the community. They came to Gedaliah in Mizpah and were warmly welcomed by him.
Among the refugees who had joined Gedaliah in Mizpah was Yishmael, the son of Nataniah, a descendant of the royal house of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. Baalis the king of Ammon, who had been following with apprehension the regrowth of Judah under its new governor Gedaliah, encouraged and sent Yishmael to assassinate him. In the seventh month (Tishrei) Yishmael came to Gedaliah in the town of Mitzpa, and was received cordially. Gedaliah had been warned of his guest's murderous intent, but refused to believe his informants, believing that their report was mere slander. Yishmael murdered Gedaliah, together with most of the Jews who had joined him and many Babylonians whom Nebuchadnezzar had left with Gedaliah (Jer. 41:2, 3). The remaining Jews feared the vengeance of Nebuchadnezzar (seeing as his chosen ruler, Gedaliah, had been killed by a Jew) and fled to Egypt. This happened about three months after the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple, in 586 BCE.
Fast of Gedaliah
To lament the assassination of Gedaliah, which had left Judah devoid of any Jews and Jewish rule and made the destruction of the first Temple complete, the Jewish Sages established the third day of Tishrei, as the Fast of Gedaliah. Although Gedaliah's assassination apparently occurred on the first day of Tishrei, the fast is observed on the third day so as not to coincide with Rosh Hashanah.
- ↑ see Jeremiah 41,1