Very shortly after this, and only three months after the sack of Jerusalem, Ishmael (who we now learn was of the seed royal, which accounts in large measure for his hatred of Gedaliah), and ten princes came again to the house of the governor at Mizpah, and all ate bread together - a complete expression of fellowship according to Eastern custom. But, alas, it was like the feasting of Judas at the last passover. Those who ate bread with Gedaliah lifted up the heel against him. At Ishmael's signal, he and the ten princes rose up against their gracious host, slew him in cold blood, and then massacred the Jews and the Chaldeans that were in Mizpah (Jeremiah 41:2).
None of those connected with Gedaliah had escaped to carry to other parts the awful tale of carnage and bloodshed. On the morrow, fourscore men from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, came to bring an offering to the house of the Lord. How they had corrupted the way of approach to GOD, and taken up with heathen manners, is evident by their shaven beards, and rent clothes, and gashes upon their flesh, as were commonly made by the worshipers of Baal. Yet offerings and incense were in their hand, and however ignorant, they felt the need of seeking the face of the Lord.
Ishmael's abominable hypocrisy and horrid treachery stalk out again.
Assuming the air of one sorely grieved over the desolations of the land, he goes out weeping and lamenting, and offers to be their guide to Gedaliah the governor. Having led the doomed men into the midst of the city, he suddenly threw off the mask, and, with his associates, slew these unsuspecting men, as he had the others before, and cast their bodies into a pit - sparing ten of them for the hidden stores of wheat, barley, oil and honey which they were to reveal (Jeremiah 41:5-8).
The pit into which the slain had been cast was a subterranean chamber, built by order of Asa, king of Judah, as a hiding-place in case Baasha king of Israel should besiege him during the rebuilding of Mizpah, nearly four centuries earlier (1 Kings 15:22). It now became the tomb for the guileless Gedaliah and his attached followers, as also for the seventy visitors (Jeremiah 41:9).
Having thus disposed of the dead, Ishmael beat a hasty retreat to the land of the Ammonites, carrying with him the king's daughters and all the people (probably the poor) who dwelt in Mizpah that had not been included in the massacre.
As was to be expected, the awful news of his bloody acts soon got abroad.
Johanan and the other captains being apprised thereof, at once pursue the fleeing traitor, and overtake him by "the great waters that are in Gibeon" (Jeremiah 41:12) - the old battlefield where Joab and Abner contended - pitching on either side of the pool (2 Samuel 2:12-17), and near the historic spot where Joshua achieved his great victory over the allied armies of the Canaanites, when he went to the defence of the men of Gibeon.
The freebooters who followed Ishmael made no attempt to stand against the men of Johanan, but fled with their leader, while all the people they were carrying away "cast about and returned" (Jeremiah 41:13-15).
Johanan was unquestionably a brave and a patriotic man, but lacked the piety of Gedaliah; a man of action, but not one who waited upon GOD for his path. Without hesitation, or inquiring of the Lord, he leads his confederates and the delivered company to Chimham, near Bethlehem, the route to Egypt, determined to leave the land of Palestine, fearing the wrath of the Chaldeans because of Ishmael's assassination of the governor deputed by Nebuzaradan, and the Babylonian guard (Jeremiah 41:16-18).
Having thus determined upon their path, like multitudes before and since, they make a pretence of seeking the mind of the Lord.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 41". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany