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3. Incidents after the fall of Jerusalem chs. 40-45
One of the important theological lessons of this segment of the book, especially chapters 40-44, is that disobedience leads to judgment.
"One would think that the fall of Jerusalem would have taught Judah a lesson she would never forget. However, by recording the events that happened after the fall of the city, Jeremiah demonstrated that the basic character of the people who remained in the land was unchanged. They still refused to trust in God or to submit to Babylon (cf. Ezekiel 33:23-29)." [Note: Dyer, "Jeremiah," p. 1186.]
Events in Judah 40:1-43:7
This narrative section relates what happened in Judah shortly after Jerusalem fell.
The phrase "the word of the LORD came [to Jeremiah]" in Jeremiah 1:2 introduced Jeremiah’s prophecies in chapters 1-39, before the destruction of Jerusalem. Similarly, "the word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD" in Jeremiah 40:1 introduces his prophecies in chapters 40-45, after the fall of Jerusalem. [Note: Keil, 2:126.]
Evidently, after Jeremiah’s release in Jerusalem, Babylonian soldiers arrested him when they saw him in the city streets, supposing him to be a regular Judean. They took Jeremiah to Ramah, about five miles north of Jerusalem, along with the other chained Judean prisoners headed for exile. Ramah appears to have been a collection point for deportees before the long trip to Babylon.
The second account of Jeremiah’s release 40:1-6
This account describes other things associated with Jeremiah being set at liberty. It contains more detail than Jeremiah 39:11-14.
In Ramah, Nebuzaradan learned that Jeremiah was among the captives about to be sent to Babylonia, so he released him again. The captain of the guard confirmed to Jeremiah that Yahweh had done to Jerusalem just as He had said He would because of the sins of His people. This pagan could see what Yahweh was doing, whereas Judah’s leaders could not see because they were spiritually blind.
"As God’s people, we have to bow in shame when the world publicly announces the sins of the saints (Genesis 12:10-20; Genesis 20:1 ff; 2 Samuel 12:14)." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 131.]
Nebuzaradan freed the prophet from his shackles, and gave him the choice of going to Babylon as a free man or staying in Canaan. If he went to Babylon, the captain promised to take care of him there. If he chose to stay in Canaan, he could live and move about wherever he wished.
As Jeremiah lingered, Nebuzaradan urged him to go back and remain with Gedaliah (cf. Jeremiah 39:14), whom Nebuchadnezzar had appointed governor over the cities of Judah, and the other remaining Judahites. Gedaliah was a part of the noble family of Shaphan. [Note: See the diagram of Shaphan’s descendants near my comments on 26:24.] Yet the choice was entirely up to the prophet; he had complete freedom to go wherever he wanted. Nebuzaradan also gave Jeremiah some provisions and a gift when he let him go.
"The courteous and humane treatment from the nation’s enemy contrasts markedly with what Jeremiah had received from his own countrymen." [Note: Harrison, Jeremiah and . . ., p. 160. Cf. Matthew 13:57.]
Jeremiah left Ramah and proceeded to Mizpah, two miles to the northwest of Jerusalem, where he stayed with Gedaliah and some of the Judahites who were settling there. Mizpah became the center for Nebuchadnezzar’s provincial government in Judah (cf. Jeremiah 40:8). Jerusalem was uninhabitable (cf. Lamentations 2:13; Lamentations 4:1), and Mizpah had been a political and religious center over the centuries (cf. Judges 20:1-3; 1 Samuel 7:5-14; 1 Samuel 10:17). Some scholars place the site of this Mizpah (lit. watchtower) four miles southwest of Ramah, at Nebi Samwil.
Several of the Judean guerrilla commanders, who had escaped from the Babylonian invaders, came to Gedaliah in Mizpah, with some of their men, when they heard that Nebuchadnezzar had appointed him over the region.
Gedaliah’s leadership of the surviving community 40:7-12
Gedaliah urged these commanders not to fear the Babylonians but to cooperate with them. If they remained in the land and submitted to Babylonian authority, things would go well for them.
Gedaliah would act as a liaison with the Babylonians, and the commanders could continue to harvest the summer crops as usual, in the outlying towns that they had taken over. The Babylonians did not colonize Judah as the Assyrians had done with Israel (cf. 2 Kings 17:24-27).
When the Jews who had previously fled to surrounding neighbor nations heard how the Babylonians were allowing their brethren to live in the land, they returned and joined in the harvest.
The assassination of Gedaliah 40:13-41:3
One of the remaining Judean princes, Johanan (cf. Jeremiah 40:8), asked Gedaliah if he was aware that the king of Ammon had encouraged another one of the Judean princes, Ishmael (cf. Jeremiah 40:8), to assassinate him. Ishmael’s ancestor Elishama (Jeremiah 41:1) was one of David’s sons (2 Samuel 5:16), so he may have aspired to rule Judah. Baalis, the Ammonite king, shared Zedekiah’s antagonism for Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 27:1-11), so he did not want a Babylonian puppet governing Judah. Furthermore, a politically unstable condition in Judah would cause Nebuchadnezzar to concentrate his attention and troops there, rather than on Ammon. Gedaliah did not believe that any such plot existed.
"Gedaliah had apparently forgotten that Ishmael was of the house of David [as well as a former chief official of Zedekiah’s, Jeremiah 41:1] and thus did not appreciate being passed by in Gedaliah’s favor. Or Ishmael may have considered Gedaliah a traitor for agreeing to govern under the Babylonians. Baalis [the king of Ammon] may have felt that eliminating Gedaliah would make it easier to carry out his own plans to conquer Judah. The king of Ammon may have feared that Gedaliah might again make Judah a formidable nation and a potential threat to him. Also, Baalis (Jeremiah 40:14), an ally of Zedekiah and an enemy of the Babylonians (cf. Jeremiah 27:3), was angry that the family of Ahikam opposed the league referred to in chapter 27." [Note: Feinberg, "Jeremiah," p. 628.]
Johanan offered to assassinate Ishmael secretly, so Gedaliah would not die, and harm would not come to the remnant community.
Gedaliah refused to permit Johanan to carry out his assassination plot, because he thought Johanan was misjudging Ishmael. Gedaliah was too trusting and naïve, even though he was a capable ruler and apparently a man of faith. His commitment to his own people seems to have blinded him to the political intrigues that were swirling around him (cf. John 2:24-25). He would have been wise to seek the Lord’s will through Jeremiah and then follow it.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Jeremiah 40". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29