Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 40

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon.

Word that came - the heading of a new part of the book (Jeremiah 41:1-18; Jeremiah 42:1-22; Jeremiah 43:1-13; Jeremiah 44:1-30) - namely, the prophecies to the Jews in Word that came - the heading of a new part of the book (Jeremiah 41:1-18; Jeremiah 42:1-22; Jeremiah 43:1-13; Jeremiah 44:1-30) - namely, the prophecies to the Jews in Judea and Egypt after the taking of the city, blended with history. The prophecy does not begin until Jeremiah 42:7, and the previous history is introductory to it.

To Jeremiah ... being bound in chains. Though released from the court of the prison (note, Jeremiah 39:14), in the confusion at the burning of the city, he seems to have been led away in chains with the other captives, and not until he reached Ramah to have gained full liberty. Nebuzaradan had his quarters at Ramah in Benjamin, and there he collected the captives previous to their removal to Babylon (Jeremiah 31:15). He in releasing Jeremiah obeyed the king's commands (Jeremiah 29:11). Jeremiah's "chains" for a time were due to the negligence of those to whom he had been committed, or else to Nebuzar-adan's wish to upbraid the people with their perverse ingratitude in imprisoning Jeremiah (Calvin); hence, he addresses the people (ye ... you) as much as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40:2-3).

Verse 2

And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place.

The Lord thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place. The Babylonians were in some measure aware, through Jeremiah's prophecies (Jeremiah 39:11), that they were the instruments of God's wrath on his people.

Verse 3

Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you.

Ye have sinned - (note, Jeremiah 40:1). His address is directed to the Jews as well as to Jeremiah. God makes the very pagan testify for him against them, (Deuteronomy 29:24-25, "All nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of His great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken, the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers," etc.)

Verse 4

And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. 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.

I will look well unto thee - the very words of Nebuchadnezzar's charge (Jeremiah 39:12).

All the land is before thee, where it seemeth good ... there go - as Abimelech said to Abraham; (Genesis 20:15, margin.) Jeremiah alone had the option given him of staying where he pleased, when all the rest were either carried off or forced to remain there.

Verse 5

Now while he was not yet gone back, he said, 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. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go.

While he was not yet gone back - parenthetical. When Jeremiah hesitated where it would be best for him to go, Nebuzar-adan proceeded to say, 'Go, then, to Gedalish,' etc. (not as the English version, "Go to back also"), if thou preferrest (as Nebuzaradan inferred from Jeremiah's hesitancy) to stop here rather than go with me.

Victuals - (Isaiah 33:16, "Bread shall be given him").

Reward - rather a present. This must have been a seasonable relief to the prophet, who probably lost his all in the siege.

Verse 6

Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.

Mizpah - in Benjamin, northwest of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 41:5-6; Jeremiah 41:9). Not the Mizpah in Gilead, beyond Jordan (Judges 10:17). Jeremiah showed his patriotism and piety in remaining in his country amidst afflictions, and notwithstanding the ingratitude of the Jews, rather than go to enjoy honours and pleasures in a pagan court (Hebrews 11:24-26). This vindicates his purity of motive in his withdrawal (Jeremiah 37:12-14).

Verse 7

Now when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields, even they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon;

Captains ... in the fields. The leaders of the Jewish army had been "scattered" throughout the country on the capture of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 52:8), in order to escape the notice of the Chaldeans.

Verse 8

Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.

Netophathite - from Netophah, a town in Judah (2 Samuel 23:28).

Maachathite - from Maachathi, at the foot of Mount Hermon (Deuteronomy 3:14).

Verse 9

And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.

Fear not - they were afraid that they should not obtain pardon from the Chaldeans for their acts. He therefore assured them of safety by an oath.

Serve - literally, to stand before (Jeremiah 40:10; Jeremiah 52:12, margin.) - i:e., to be at hand ready to execute the commands of the King of Babylon.

Verse 10

As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken.

Mizpah - lying on the way between Babylon and Judah, and so, convenient for transacting business between the two countries.

As for me ... but ye. He artfully, in order to conciliate them, represents the burden of the service to the Chaldeans as falling on him, while they may freely gather their wine, fruits, and oil. He does not now add that these very fruits were to constitute the chief part of the tribute to be paid to Babylon; which, though fruitful in corn, was less productive of grapes, figs, and olives (Herodotus, 1: 193). The grant of "vineyards" to the "poor" (Jeremiah 39:10) would give hope to the discontented of enjoying the best fruits (Jeremiah 40:12).

Verse 11

Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan;

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.

Jews ... in Moab - who had fled there at the approach of the Chaldeans. God thus tempered the severity of his vengeance, that a remnant might be left.

Verse 13

Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah,

In the fields - not in the city, but scattered in the country (Jeremiah 40:7).

Verse 14

And said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not.

Baalis - called from the idol Baal, as was often the case in pagan names.

Ammonites. So, it was to them that Ishmael went after murdering Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:10).

Slay - literally, strike thee in the soul - i:e., a deadly stroke.

Ishmael. Being of the royal seed of David (Jeremiah 41:1), he envied Gedaliah the presidency to which he thought himself entitled; therefore he leagued himself with the ancient pagan enemy of Judah.

Gedaliah ... believed them not - generous, but unwise unsuspiciousness (Ecclesiastes 9:16).

Verse 15

Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.

Thou speakest falsely - a mystery of providence, that God should permit the righteous, in spite of warning, thus to rush into the trap laid for them. Isaiah 57:1, "The righteous is taken away from the evil to come," suggests a solution.

Remarks: (1) Nebuzaradan, the pagan captain of Nebuchadnezzar's guard, having as God's instrument executed the divine vengeance on Jerusalem which Jeremiah, God's messenger, had foretold, proceeds to admonish the vanquished Jews that it was their own sins against the Lord which were the cause of all their sufferings. How strikingly thus did God mark that the destruction which overtook His ancient people was no mere work of man, but was His own doing, and was designed to vindicate His unchangeable righteousness, which spares not even His elect people when they transgress His eternal ordinances! The very pagan were constrained to perceive and proclaim this great truth. And how humiliating it must have been to the covenant people of God to have to be admonished of their sin by a Gentile ruler who knew not God! If those who make a profession of religion walk inconsistently with their high calling, the worldly, who make no profession of religion, are sure to observe their inconsistency, and to bring it up a gainst them sooner or later.

(2) It was now that Jeremiah was appreciated aright, after the long period in which he was treated with contumely and opposition. The pagan discerned the true character of his mission as from God, which his own countrymen, through willful blindness, had failed to recognize. Here also his true patriotism, which had been so cruelly mistrusted (Jeremiah 37:12-21), was brought out in brightest colours. He whom his countrymen had dishonoured, and whose prophecies from God their had despised, now, when he had his free choice to go where he would (Jeremiah 40:4-5), of his own unfettered will chose to remain among his own people in their season of deep humiliation and suffering. Like Moses of old, he chose affliction with those who were by God's election the people of God, rather than the pleasures and honours of a pagan court, which were at his command (Hebrews 11:24-26). True religion is the surest basis of true patriotism.

(3) Scarcely had Jerusalem paid the awful penalty of her transgress ions than the Jewish princes and leaders, as Ishmael and Johanan, commenced to hatch fresh plots of violence and bloodshed (Jeremiah 40:13-15). So long as pride, ambition, and revenge are harbored in the breast, men will restlessly form new schemes, which generally end in their own hurt. The rebellion of Zedekiah against the Babylonian king, which ended so awfully for its framers, had hardly been crushed when Ishmael devises a fresh plot. Nothing but the Almighty and transforming grace of God will effectually renew the heart and life.

(4) Meantime it is one of the mysteries of the present order of things that men of unsuspecting generosity and honesty of purpose, like Gedaliah, should be allowed to fall victims to unscrupulous and murderous adventurers (Jeremiah 40:16). This is one of the many proofs of the presence of an enemy in this fallen world. It is the privilege of faith to believe already that God is ordering all things for the ultimate good of His people, whatever appearances there may be now to the contrary; and th at a righteous judgment is soon coming, when all that is dark shall be cleared up, God's ways shall be vindicated, sin and Satan, with his seed, shall forever be cast out, and He who is the rightful King shall deliver the earth from its past misrule and violence.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 40". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.