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Yishma'el Ben Netanyah murders Gedalyah
treacherouly kills others and
casts their bodies into cistern
41:1 Now it came to pass in the seventh (Tishri) month, [that] Yishma'el (ישׁמעאל) Ben Netanyah (נתניה) Ben Eli'shama (אלישׁמע), of the melukah (royal) zera (seed), and the sarim of ha melekh, even ten men with him, came to Gedalyah Ben Ahikam to Mitzpah; and there they did eat lechem together in Mitzpah.
41:2 Then arose Yishma'el Ben Netanyah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedalyah Ben Ahikam Ben Shafan with the sword, and slew him, whom melekh Bavel had made governor over the land.
41:3 Yishma'el also slew all the Yehudim that were with him, [even] with Gedalyah, at Mitzpah, and the Kasdim that were found there, [and] the men of war.
41:4 And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedalyah, and no man knew [it],
41:5 That there came certain from shekem (שׁכם), from Shiloh (שׁילה), and from Shomron (שׁמרון), [even] fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring [them] to ha bayit ADONAI (יהוה).
41:6 And Yishma'el Ben Netanyah went forth from Mitzpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said to them, Come to Gedalyah Ben Ahikam.
41:7 And it was [so], when they came into the midst of the city, that Yishma'el Ben Netanyah slew them, [and cast them] into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that [were] with him.
41:8 But ten men were found among them that said to Yishma'el, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.
41:9 Now the pit wherein Yishma'el had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedalyah, [was] it which Asa ha melekh had made for fear of Baasha melekh Yisra'el: [and] Yishma'el Ben Netanyah filled it with [them that were] slain.
41:10 Then Yishma'el carried away captive all the residue of the people that [were] in Mitzpah, [even] ha melekh's daughters, and all the people that remained in Mitzpah, whom Nevuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedalyah Ben Ahikam: and Yishma'el Ben Netanyah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.
41:11 But when Yohanan Ben Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that [were] with him, heard of all the evil that Yishma'el Ben Netanyah had done,
41:12 Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Yishma'el Ben Netanyah, and found him by the great waters that [are] in Gibon (גּבעון).
41:13 Now it came to pass, [that] when all the people which [were] with Yishma'el saw Yohanan Ben Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that [were] with him, then they were glad.
41:14 So all the people that Yishma'el had carried away captive from Mitzpah cast about and returned, and went to Yohanan Ben Kareah.
41:15 But Yishma'el Ben Netanyah escaped from Yohanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.
41:16 Then took Yohanan Ben Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that [were] with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Yishma'el Ben Netanyah, from Mitzpah, after [that] he had slain Gedalyah Ben Ahikam, [even] mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibon(גּבעון):
41:17 And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Beit Lechem, to go to enter into Mitzrayim,
41:18 Because of the Kasdim: for they were afraid of them, because Yishma'el Ben Netanyah had slain Gedalyah Ben Ahikam, whom melekh Bavel made governor in the land.
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1) GedalYah, Ben Ahikam meaning Yah is Great! (the friend and protector of Yirmeyahu) and grandson of Shaphan (the scribe in the reign of Yoshiyahu) (2Ki 25:22-25; Yirmeyahu 39:14; Yirmeyahu 40:5-16; 41:1-18).
1. His Appointment as Governor in Yehudah
After the destruction of Yerushalayim and the carrying away captive of the Yehudim to Babylon (586 bc), GedalYah was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar governor over the poor Yehudim who had been left in the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen (2 Melekhim 25:12, 2 Melekhim 25:22). To his charge were committed also some royal princesses ( Yirmeyahu 43:6) and courtiers ( Yirmeyahu 41:16) who had been allowed to remain as unlikely to cause any trouble. GedalYah fixed his residence at Mitzpah, a few miles Northwest of Yerushalayim. Here he was joined by Yirmeyahu ( Yirmeyahu 40:6).
2. His Conciliatory Spirit and Wise Rule
The Yehudim soldiers who had escaped capture, having heard that the Kasidim had departed, and that GedalYah, one of their own nation, had been appointed governor in Yehudah, came with Yishma'el, Yochanan and other officers at their head, to GedalYah at Mitzpah (2 Melekhim 25:23, 2 Melekhim 25:14; Yirmeyahu 40:7-10).
The governor assured them that they need have no fear of vengeance from their conquerors, and promised them on oath protection and security, if they would remain and cultivate the land and become the peaceful subjects of the melekh Bavel.
This assurance led to a general gathering around GedalYah of refugees from all the neighboring countries ( Yirmeyahu 40:11, Yirmeyahu 40:12). For two months (some think longer) GedalYah's beneficent and wise rule did much to consolidate affairs in Yehudah and to inspire the feeble remnant of his countrymen with heart and hope.
3. His Treacherous Assassination
But evil spirits were at work against him. Baalis, melekh Ammon, had determined upon his life ( Yirmeyahu 40:13-16). The shalomful and popular rule which was being established by the good governor stood in the way of the accomplishment of any plan of conquest he entertained.
Baalis found a ready instrument for his murderous design in Yishma'el who, as one of royal birth and in the counsels of the melekh ( Yirmeyahu 41:1), was doubtless jealous of the man who had been chosen governor in preference to himself.
GedalYah was informed by Yochanan and the other captains of the plot to assassinate him, and Yochanan at a private interview expressed to him a strong desire to go himself and slay Yishma'el secretly, declaring that the safety of the Yehudim depended upon the life of the governor. But GedalYah refused to allow Yochanan to anticipate his enemy, believing, in the generosity of his heart, that Yishma'el was not capable of such an act of treachery. He soon found, however, that his confidence had been sadly misplaced. Yishma'el, with ten of his companions, came on a visit to him to Mitzpah, and after they had been hospitably entertained they fell upon their good host and murdered him, along with all the Yehudim and the Chaldean soldiers whom he had with him for order and protection (2Ki 25:25; Yirmeyahu 41:1-3). They then cast the bodies of their victims into the cistern which Asa had made ( Yirmeyahu 41:9). Yishma'el was pursued and overtaken by Yochanan, but he succeeded in effecting his escape to the Ammonites ( Yirmeyahu 41:11-15).
Then Yochanan and the other captains, afraid lest the Kasidim should avenge upon them the murder of the governor ( Yirmeyahu 41:16-18), and against the earnest entreaties of Yirmeyahu (chapter 42), fled to Mitzrayim, taking the prophet and the Yehudim remnant with them ( Yirmeyahu 43:5-7). In memory of the date of GedalYah's assassination the Yehudim kept a fast (which is still retained in the Yehudim calendar) on the 3rd day of the 7th month, Tishri (Zekaryahu 7:5; Zekaryahu 8:19).
4. His Noble Character
The narratives reveal GedalYah in a very attractive light, as one who possessed the confidence alike of his own people and their conquerors; a man of rare wisdom and tact, and of upright, transparent character, whose kindly nature and generous disposition would not allow him to think evil of a brother; a man altogether worthy of the esteem in which he was held by succeeding generations of his fellow-countrymen.
After the Babylonians destroyed Yerushalayim and the First Temple in 586 B.C. and abducted the majority of Judea's upper class, the former appointed a Yehudim governor, Gedalyah ben Achikam, over the remaining population. Gedalyah was a realistic leader of the people: He supported recognition of the political situation and opposed nationalistic adventurousness. Land legislation transferred ha Eretz the abducted upper class to the remaining poorer population. Under the circumstances, he tried to secure the survival of the Yehudim people in ha Eretz Yisra'el. Radical groups claimed he was a traitor. Yishma'el ben Netanyah, member of the remaining upper class, invited Gedalyah to talk with him.
Despite his advisors' warnings, Gedalyah attended the meeting. He was naive enough to believe that a Yehudi would never murder another Yehudi. Gedalyah was beaten to death by Yishma'el ben Netanyah. Whatever the exact motives may have been: This murder eliminated Judea's last attempts towards autonomy and ensured the fall of the first Yehudim state. During his lifetime, Gedalyah's efforts for the preservation and renewal of Yehudim life were never fully acknowledged. After his murder, the extent of his heroism was recognized and his death was greatly mourned. Today, he is still paid tribute to on Zom Gedalyah.
Yehudim in Bavel
Whether this fast is maintained during times of shalom, and times when the Jews
have their sovereignty: Rosh HaShanah 18b-19b
That people fast on the anniversary of Gedalyah's death: Nedarim 12a
Gedalyah was killed by Yishma'el ben Netanyah: Rosh HaShanah 18b
The evil of Yishma'el ben Netanyah's ancestors: Megillah 15a