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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 41

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-18

Tonight let's turn to Jeremiah chapter 41 as we continue our study through the Bible.

Now, these are prophecies that Jeremiah made to the people after Nebuchadnezzar had come and carried away king Zedekiah as a captive to Babylon and left the poor of the people in the land, and he gave unto Gedaliah the office of governor over the people that remained there in the land. Jeremiah was given his choice of going to Babylon where he was promised special treatment, or of staying in the land with the people. And Jeremiah opted for staying in the land with the people. And so Jeremiah continued then to prophesy to the people that remained there in the land. Now he dates this particular prophecy,

in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, who was of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men that were with him, came to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah ( Jeremiah 41:1 ).

Now this would have been about three months after Zedekiah had been taken away captive. Now Johanan had warned the governor Gedaliah that this fellow Ishmael was no good. He said, "The king of the Ammonites has really sent him to murder you." He said, "Let me go out secretly and I'll take care of him. He's really no good. He's intending to assassinate you." But Gedaliah says, "Oh, you've been reading too many mystery novels. That's not so at all." So Gedaliah did not heed the warning of Johanan.

Now about thirty days after Johanan had given him this warning, of course Johanan had left Mizpah, that in the seventh month... Now this was the month in which, of course, they gathered for worship. It was the month of the latter part of September, the early part of October in the Jewish calendar, and it was that important month for their various feasts - the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Trumpets, the Yom Kippur - all of that took place at this particular time. And so, no doubt, this Ishmael came... and he was of the royal seed. He wasn't a descendant of Zedekiah, because all of Zedekiah's sons were wiped out. But he was probably a nephew to Zedekiah. At least he felt that he had a right to the throne and was no doubt upset that Nebuchadnezzar had set Gedaliah who was not from the royal seed at all as the governor over the land. And so he came, no doubt, under the guise as a friend to worship, and Gedaliah received him and they ate bread together there in Mizpah, which he had set up as the capital because Jerusalem had been devastated.

Then Ishmael arose, and the ten men that were with him, and they smote Gedaliah with the sword, and they killed him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land. Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, there at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were there, that is the men of war ( Jeremiah 41:2-3 ).

Now "all" is to be thought of in a, not in a literal sense, but all of those that might rise up against him--all of the military men that were there, all of the men that had surrounded him, his officers and those that were his military men who could retaliate against Ishmael.

So it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, [that they had been able to keep it a secret] no one knew it, That there was coming certain men from Shechem, from Shiloh, and Samaria, eighty men, who had their beards shaved, and their clothes were rent, and they had cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD ( Jeremiah 41:4-5 ).

Now, under the law if you wanted to make a special vow to God you would shave yourself and you would tear your clothes. You wear rags. But it was forbidden to cut yourselves. God didn't want them making any markings on their bodies. And quite often in the pagan worship people would cut themselves.

You remember when the prophets of Baal were in contest with Elijah on mount Carmel and they had built their altars, and the conditions were that the god who answered by fire would be the God. And it said that these prophets of Baal prayed until about lunchtime and Elijah began to sort of kid around with them and say, "I bet your god is on a vacation. Or maybe he's gone to the bathroom. Why don't you cry a little louder?" Elijah was a coarse fellow, and the Bible says he was. So he was just, you know, that kind of a guy. And so these guys, it says, began to cut themselves. That was typical in the pagan worship, of defiling your body. They would cut themselves with their nails, scratch themselves until they bleed. Or they would take knives and slash themselves before their gods.

So that these eighty men who were coming with their offering unto the Lord and with their incense were a sort of a strange admixture, but you remember they're coming out of Samaria and Shechem and Shiloh. Now when Israel had been taken away captive by the Assyrian king, he sent other people into the land so that there was probably the admixture of these religious systems, and because it was the seventh month it would appear that these men were probably going to Jerusalem. Because Ishmael when he meets them he invites them. He says, "Well, come and see Gedaliah. Turn in and see Gedaliah." Of course, they didn't know and maybe he was testing to see if they knew about Gedaliah being slain.

Now the reason why he turned on these men is to keep them from spreading the word. He was trying to keep the word from going out that Gedaliah had been killed because he feared that the other people might come and get him if they found out. So he wanted to really establish himself firmly in the position of the ruler of the land until the new... and keep the news from going out until he could really secure himself in that position. And then it would have been too late for anybody to react or respond. So he went out to these eighty men and he invited them.

he said, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael slew them, and cast them in the middle of the pit, he, and the men that were with him. But ten men among them said unto Ishmael, Don't kill us: for we have hid treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey ( Jeremiah 41:6-8 ).

Now this didn't mean that they had crops on the field, because at the seventh month all of the barley and wheat crops were already in. But they had to hide them, the barley and all. They would dig pits and put them in them to keep the enemy from discovering them and finding them and ripping them off. And so they said, "Hey, we've got these treasures. We've hid them in our field. We've got some honey and barley and wheat and all," and it was really a ransom that they were offering for themselves.

So he did not slay them from among their brethren. Now this pit that he threw them was the pit that Asa the king had dug ( Jeremiah 41:8-9 ).

Probably to get a fresh water supply within the city when Baasha, the king of Israel, was ready to attack them.

And so he filled this pit with these dead bodies ( Jeremiah 41:9 ).

Verse ten:

Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were there at Mizpah ( Jeremiah 41:10 ),

He took all of the rest of the people as captives and he was heading back towards Ammon.

even the king's daughters ( Jeremiah 41:10 ),

Probably the daughters of Zedekiah, they left them. They killed his sons, but they had no reason to kill the girls. They couldn't do much anyhow.

and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah: Ishmael carried them away, and departed to go over to the Ammonites. But when Johanan ( Jeremiah 41:10-11 )

Now, he was the one that had warned Gedaliah that this guy's out to kill you and he was wanting Gedaliah's permission to go and kill him first.

the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, that they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael, and they found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon ( Jeremiah 41:11-12 ).

Now to go from Mizpah to Gibeon is not a direct route to Ammon, but he was probably going to pick up the loot that these guys said that they had hid. In Gibeon there were these beautiful pools of water. We remember that the men of Ishbosheth and David met by the pools of Gibeon sitting on either side. And then the generals had the guys fighting and killing each other for their own sport there at the pools of Gibeon. So there at Gibeon, Johanan caught up with the people. And when all of the people saw Johanan, they left Ishmael and Ishmael, of course, escaped and returned to Ammon.

Then Johanan, and all of his captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people that he had recovered from Ishmael, they were brought again from Gibeon: And they departed, and dwelt in Chimham, which is by Bethlehem ( Jeremiah 41:16-17 ),

In other words, they started south toward Egypt. They were fearful now of the retaliation of Nebuchadnezzar because Gedaliah had been slain. And so they were heading south now and were as far as Chimham, which was near Bethlehem. And so it indicates that they already have purposed in their hearts to go to Egypt. It's something they had already determined to do.

Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah, and he was the appointed governor from the Babylonian, Nebuchadnezzar ( Jeremiah 41:18 ).


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 41". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/jeremiah-41.html. 2014.
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