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Jeremiah and Gedaliah (40:1-12)
After being released from prison, Jeremiah was apparently recaptured when the Babylonian soldiers were assembling the people to be taken captive to Babylon. When the Babylonian leaders discovered what had happened, they realized a mistake had been made and released him again (40:1). They gave him freedom either to go to Babylon or to remain in Judah (2-4). Jeremiah chose to remain in his homeland. There he maintained his close association with Gedaliah, whom the Babylonians had appointed governor over the people left behind in Judah. He set up his headquarters at the town of Mizpah, north-west of Jerusalem (5-6).
The new governor then began the task of restoring order, peace and productivity in Judah. He saw that it would be useless for those who remained of Judah’s army to attempt any sort of military action against the Babylonian occupation forces. He advised instead that all the people, farmers and soldiers alike, settle down and help make Judah’s damaged farmland productive again. This would ensure for themselves a fairly comfortable existence under their new rulers (7-10).
Gedaliah also welcomed home those Judeans who had fled to neighbouring countries to escape the Babylonian army. Under Gedaliah’s leadership, the Judean people soon saw their country becoming productive again (11-12).
Ishmael’s plot against Gedaliah (40:13-41:18)
One of the former army commanders, Ishmael, was opposed to Gedaliah’s policy of submission to Babylon. With Ammonite support he plotted to kill Gedaliah. So sincere and trusting was Gedaliah, that when told of the plot, he refused to believe it (13-16). Gedaliah apparently took no precautions against the reported treachery, and when a suitable time arrived Ishmael carried out his brutal plot. He murdered Gedaliah, along with all the Judean officials and Babylonian supervisors at Gedaliah’s headquarters (41:1-3).
Ishmael wanted no news of the assassination to be made public till he had carried out the next stage of his plan. But he was surprised by the arrival of a group of men travelling to Jerusalem to mourn the destruction of the temple (4-5). To prevent news of the assassination leaking out, Ishmael killed the travellers, though some saved their lives by telling Ishmael where he could find needed food supplies (6-9). Ishmael, it seems, panicked. Not knowing exactly what to do, he decided to take the whole population of Mizpah captive to Ammon (10).
Johanan, who had first warned Gedaliah of the plot against him (see 40:13-16), decided to pursue Ishmael. He rescued the captive people of Mizpah, but Ishmael escaped into Ammon (11-15). Fearing revenge from the Babylonians because of Ishmael’s rebellion, the people of Mizpah decided it would be safer to look for refuge in Egypt than to return to Mizpah (16-18).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Jeremiah 40". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28