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Gedaliah was the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, who was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar as governor of Judea. Because of the rampant and enduring sin among God’s people, God allowed the Babylonians to invade the land and take many of God’s people captive to Babylon. Only the poorest were left in the land (2 Kings 24:14). The Babylonians then appointed Gedaliah as governor.
When the veteran army officers among the people heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. Among them were Ishmael, Johanan, Seraiah , Jaazaniah, and some of their followers. Gedaliah assured the officers and their men, giving them his word,
“Don’t be afraid of the Babylonian officials. Go back to your farms and families and respect the king of Babylon. Trust me, everything is going to be all right.”
Many Judeans returned to Judah, and Gedaliah urged them to submit to the Babylonians so they could live in peace. King Baalis of Ammon (an enemy country of Judah), however, conspired with a Judean named Ishmael to kill Gedaliah. Another Judean named Johanan learned of the plot and even warned Gedaliah, but Gedaliah didn’t believe him. The mistake proved to be fatal, for Ishmael and his men did indeed assassinate Gedaliah and all those with him at the time, including some Babylonian soldiers. Johanan chased after Ishmael and his men, but they managed to escape to Ammon.
The prophet Jeremiah was a contemporary of Gedaliah and even went to live with him after he was nearly sent into exile in Babylon (Jeremiah 39:14; 40:6).