Hebrew Fasts and Feasts: Who was Gedelia?

The day after ‘Rosh Ha-Shanah’ is known in the Jewish tradition as ‘Tzom Gedaliah'{צום גדליה} which means ‘The Fast of Gedalia.’

‘The Fast of Gedalia’ is one of the SIX fast days of the Hebrew-Jewish calendar and one of the four fast days which are related to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Gedalia, the son of Ahikam {גדליה בן אחיקם} was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar – the king of Babylon – as governor of the province of Judea, after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Gedalia came from one of the most respected families in Judea – an aristocratic family that had close ties with the Babylonians and that is why he was appointed as the governor by Nebuchadnezzar.

As you can probably imagine, not everyone particularly ‘liked’ this appointment and on the third day of the seventh month (which is TODAY according to the Hebrew calendar), Gedalia was assassinated by Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah {ישמעל בן נתניה}, who was a descendant of the royal family, as can be found in the Book of Jeremiah:

“In the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him rose up and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor in the land.” (Jeremiah 41: 1-3)

Gedalia’s murder ended the Jewish autonomy following the destruction of the First Temple and was determined as a day of fast for generations. Like all four fast days which are related to the destruction of the Temple, the fast of Gedalia will become too a day full of joy, as was prophesied by Zechariah (the fast of Gedalia is ‘the fast of the seventh’):

“And the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:18-20)