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Tuesday, June 18th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 40

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-16


(Chaps. 40-44)

Kaleidoscopic were the changes through which the remnant passed, while left in the land by the clemency of Nebuchadrezzar, in the year following the destruction of Jerusalem.

Gedaliah, the governor, was a truly pious man, of upright principles, but not at all the kind of a person to take the lead in the troublous times that had fallen upon his native land. Brave, honorable and unsuspicious, he yet lacked that genius for true leadership, and that necessary sternness in dealing with evil, which the times demanded. It was not long, therefore, ere he became the victim of a diabolical conspiracy which resulted in his assassination by one whom his too generous heart had implicitly trusted, and who owed his own preservation from death to the man he so basely murdered.

Nebuzaradan having given him his liberty Jeremiah, as we have seen, attached himself to the governor. The Chaldean captain had given him free choice as to his abode; even offering him a safe and comfortable asylum in Babylon, had he desired it.

How much this man really understood the ways of the Lord in the chastening of His people, we know not; but he shows himself to be at least familiar with the words spoken by both Ezekiel and Jeremiah, alleging this in his interview with the latter: "The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place" (Jeremiah 40:1-2).

He gives, too, the correct reason for this strange dealing.

Because Judah had sinned, and not obeyed His voice, their GOD had brought these afflictions upon them. Sad it is to note that this heathen conqueror had a clearer sense of the truth than the majority of the leaders among the Jews.

Loosing Jeremiah from his chains, he gave him the king's message:

"If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go" (Jeremiah 40:4).

Then, apparently divining the prophet's mind, and courteously seeking to relieve him of the embarrassment of refusing his well-meant offer to go to the imperial city, which, after all, represented the power of the oppressor of his people, Nebuzaradan added, "Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go." (Jeremiah 40:5)

This offer Jeremiah accepted, and departed to seek the governor, receiving both victuals and a reward from the captain of the guard. He found Gedaliah at Mizpah, a historic trysting-place never to be forgotten by lovers of Israel. Many and varied had been the scenes enacted there, both in the unsettled days of the judges and the early days of the kings. Here Gedaliah kept his simple and unostentatious court, and here Jeremiah dwelt with him, "among the people left in the land" (Jeremiah 40:6).

It was the choice of a man who walked with GOD, and could view things in the light of His presence. To many it might have been considered a fine thing to be invited to the conqueror's capital, there to be honored as a sage and a seer, and to receive various tokens of the king's appreciation because of his steady opposition to the policy of resistance to Babylon and dependence upon Egypt. But in all this, Jeremiah had been in no sense the servant or tool of the Chaldean emperor. He had remained to the last the simple prophet of the Lord.

- If he counseled submission to Babylon, it was because the Word of the Lord so directed.

- If he warned the princes and the people of the folly of counting upon the Egyptian alliance, he did so because he had the mind of the Lord regarding it.

This did not alter his personal abhorrence of all that Babylon stood for. None knew better than he its abominable paganism and its cruel tyranny. None knew more clearly, too, the doom soon to fall upon it. In GOD's government He had used it to chastise His erring people. Soon it also must pass under the rod of His vengeance. Consequently the city by the Euphrates had no charms for the man of GOD. Far better a small place among "the poor of the flock" (Zechariah 11:11) in Immanuel's land, than a large place in the Gentile oppressor's palace.

He desired not the world's patronage, as he feared not its wrath. In this he is the consistent type of the man of GOD still - “in the world, but not of the world" - perchance even serving the world; as Abraham long before had, in delivering Lot, really served Sodom; but looking for no recognition from the world: leaving all that to the judgment-seat of CHRIST.

Self-interest would surely have taken Jeremiah to Babylon. Providence, too, might have seemed to favor such a move; for, how useful to his people might he not have been in the councils of the empire - as in the cases of Mordecai and Nehemiah at the court of Medo-Persia some years later.

Faith, however, kept him in the desolated land of Canaan, among the poor and distressed remnant who called upon the name of the Lord. Like Moses, he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of GOD than to enjoy the temporary prosperity that an abode in the royal city might have brought him. Faith ever runs counter to the mere pleadings of nature.

We shall see something very different to this disinterested and unselfish devotion to the Lord and His people as we now turn to consider the captains of the roving bands of the Jews, concerning which the next part of the chapter treats.

Jerusalem being destroyed, several companies of unsubdued warriors remained, or fled to mountain fastnesses and wilderness hiding-places, thus safely eluding the Chaldean armies.

These bands, formed in what we call "guerrilla corps," officered by daring, impetuous leaders, were determined not to own the sway of the king of Babylon. Hearing that Gedaliah, one of their number, had been appointed governor, and that he had established himself at Mizpah, these outlawed bands now gathered about him, hoping doubtless to find independence and rebellion.

Ishmael, two sons of Koreah (Johanan and Jonathan by name), Seraiah, Jezaniah, together with the sons of Ephai, with their companies, were the ones who repaired thither (Jeremiah 40:7-8). If they expected Gedaliah to break his plighted word, and assist in him one who would further their schemes of them in throwing off the yoke of Chaldea, they soon learned their mistake.

He faithfully counseled submission, bidding them: "Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you" (Jeremiah 40:9).

As for himself, he declared his full determination to dwell at Mizpah, and to render service to the nation into whose power GOD had given them. He also counseled them to cease from warfare, and to seek to reap the fruits of peace and quietness, bidding them gather wine, and summer fruits and oil, and dwell in the cities they had taken (Jeremiah 40:10). We read of no dissenting voice on the part of the guerrilla captains or their men; but it is plain from what follows that they were thoroughly opposed to what must have seemed to them a peace-at-any-price policy. Resentment burned fiercely in the heart of one at least, Ishmael, though he was politic enough to hide his feelings for the time.

Hearing the cruel war was over - even if disastrously ended - numbers of Jews who had fled to Moab, Ammon, and Edom, also returned to their land and gathered to Mizpah, owning the gentle sway of the pious Gedaliah. These quietly followed the advice given, and proceeded to harvest the summer fruits and wines, thus making provision for the approaching winter (Jeremiah 40:11-12). A people not strong were they, but they prepared their meat in the summer (Proverbs 30:25).

Meantime Ishmael, returning from the country of the Ammonites, was secretly plotting the assassination of Gedaliah. We gather from the context he had pledged himself to Baalis, the king of Ammon, before he left, to do this, if Gedaliah was not prepared to be a tool in his hands. The too-confiding governor was warned of the foul errand upon which the captain of the sinister name had come, for there was jealousy and treachery among the various outlawed chiefs, leading Johanan and the rest of the captains at last to inform upon the traitor.

They told Gedaliah the errand upon which he had come, sent by Baalis the Ammonite.

Simple and honest himself, the governor discredits the tale of Ishmael's depravity, and takes no measures to protect his life, so valuable to his compatriots at this dark period. Johanan accordingly sought another, and this time a private, interview with him, assuring him of the truth of the former report, and pleaded for commission to forestall the murder, by himself taking the life of Ishmael in secret, so that no man should know it, pleading that in no other way could the death of, not only the governor, but all the Jews that were gathered with him, be averted. The noble-hearted Gedaliah replied, "Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael" (Jeremiah 40:13-16). The sequel shows how ill-placed his confidence was.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 40". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/jeremiah-40.html. 1914.
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