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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 41

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

Verse 1

Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.

Seventh month - the second month after the burning of the city (Jeremiah 52:12-13).

And the princes - not the nominative. And the princes came; for the "princes" are not mentioned either in the And the princes - not the nominative. And the princes came; for the "princes" are not mentioned either in the next verse or in 2 Kings 25:25; but 'Ishmael, being of the seed royal, and OF the princes of the king' (Maurer). But the ten men were the "princes of the king;" thus Maurer's objection has no weight; so the English version.

There they did eat bread together. Ishmael murdered Gedaliah, by whom he was hospitably received, in violation of the sacred right of hospitality (Psalms 41:9, "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me").

Verse 2

Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Ishmael ... smote Gedaliah ... and slew him whom the king of Babylon had made governor. This assigns a reason for their slaying him, as well as showing the magnitude of their crime (Daniel 2:21; for "every soul" should "be subject unto the higher powers: for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God," Romans 13:1).

Verse 3

Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.

Slew all the Jews - namely, the attendants and ministers of Gedaliah; or, the military alone, about his person; translate, at the end of this verse, 'even (not and, as the English version) the men of war.' The main portion of the people with Gedaliah, including Jeremiah, Ishmael carried away captive (Jeremiah 41:10; Jeremiah 41:16).

Verse 4

And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,

No man knew it - i:e., outside Mizpah: before that tidings of the murder had gone abroad.

Verse 5

That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.

There came ... fourscore men, having their beards shaven ... - indicating their deep sorrow at the destruction of the temple and city.

Cut themselves - a pagan custom, forbidden Leviticus 19:27-28; Deuteronomy 14:1. These men mostly "from Samaria," where the ten tribes, previous to their deportation, had fallen into pagan practices.

Offerings - unbloody. They do not bring sacrificial victims, but "incense," etc., testify their piety.

To bring them to the house of the Lord - i:e., the place where the house of the Lord had stood, which was now burnt down by the Chaldeans (2 Kings 25:9). The place which a temple had stood, even when it had been destroyed, was held sacred (Papinian). Those "from Shiloh" would naturally seek the house of the Lord, since it was at Shiloh it originally was set up (Joshua 18:1).

Verse 6

And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.

Ishmael ... went forth ... to meet them, weeping - pretending to weep, as the "fourscore men from Samaria, Shechem, and Shiloh" did (Jeremiah 41:5) for the ruin of the temple.

He said unto them, Come to Gedaliah - as if he was one of Gedaliah's retinue.

Verse 7

And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that were with him.

Ishmael ... slew ... and cast them into the ... pit. He had not killed them in the pit (cf. Jeremiah 41:9): these words are therefore rightly supplied in the English version. The pit - the pit or cistern made by Ass to guard against a want of water, when Baasha was about to besiege the city (Jeremiah 41:9; 1 Kings 15:22). Or the trench or lease round the city (Grotius). Ishmael's motive for the murder seems to have been a suspicion they were coming to live under Gedaliah.

Verse 8

But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.

Ten men ... said unto Ishmael, Slay us not; for we have treasures. It was customary to hide grain in cavities underground in troubled times. "We have treasures," which we will give if our lives be spared.

He ... slew them not - (Proverbs 13:8, "The ransom of a man's life are his riches"). Ishmael's avarice and needs overcame his cruelty.

Verse 9

Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, was it which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.

Whom he had slain because of Gedaliah - rather, 'near Gedaliah'-literally by the hand (i:e., by the side) of Gedaliah. Those intercepted by Ishmael on their way from Samaria to Jerusalem were killed near Mizpah, where Gedaliah had lived. So 2 Chronicles 17:15, "next;" Nehemiah 3:2, margin, literally, as here, 'at his hand.' Calvin explains it, 'In the reign of Gedaliah.' However, the English version gives a good sense: Ishmael's reason for killing them was because of his supposing them to be connected with Gedaliah.

Verse 10

Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king's daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.

The king's daughters (Jeremiah 43:6) Zedekiah's Ishmael must have gotten additional followers (whom the hope The king's daughters - (Jeremiah 43:6) Zedekiah's. Ishmael must have gotten additional followers (whom the hope of gain attracted), besides these who originally set out with him (Jeremiah 41:1), so as to have been able to carry off all the residue of the people. He probably meant to sell them as slaves to the Ammonites (Jeremiah 40:14, note).

Verse 11

But when Johanan 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,

Johanan - the friend of Gedaliah, who had warned him of Ishmael's treachery, but in vain (Jeremiah 40:8; Jeremiah 40:13-14).

Verse 12

Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon.

The great waters that are in Gibson - (2 Samuel 2:13). A large reservoir or lake.

Gibeon - on the road from Mizpah to Ammon, one of the sacerdotal cities of Benjamin, four miles northwest of Jerusalem, now El-jib.

Verse 13

Now it came to pass, that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, then they were glad.

All the people which were with Ishmael ... were glad - at the prospect of having a deliverer from their captivity.

Verse 14

So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.

All the people ... cast about - came round.

Verse 15

But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:

Men of war. Therefore "the men of war," stated in Jeremiah 41:3 to have been slain by Ishmael, must refer to the military about Gedaliah's person; "the men of war" here, to those not so.

Eunuchs. The kings of Judah had adopted the bad practice of having harems and eunuchs, from the surrounding pagan kingdoms.

Verse 17

And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt,

They ... dwelt - for a time, until they were ready for their journey to Egypt, (Jeremiah 42:1-22.)

In the habitation of Chimham. David, in reward for Barzillai's loyalty, took Chimham his son under his patronage, and made over to him his own patrimony in the land of Bethlehem (2 Samuel 19:34; 2 Samuel 19:37-40). It was thence called the habitation of Chimham (Geruth-Chimham), though it reverted to David's heirs in the year of jubilee. Caravanserais (a compound Persian word, meaning 'the house of a company of travelers') differ from our inns, in that there is no host to supply food, but each traveler must carry with him his own.

Verse 18

Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.

Because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid - lest the Chaldeans should suspect all the Jews of being implicated in Ishmael's treason, as though the Jews sought to have a prince of the house of David (Jeremiah 41:1). Their better way toward gaining God's favour would have been to have laid the blame on the real culprit, and to have cleared themselves. A tortuous policy is the parent of fear. Righteousness inspires with boldness (Psalms 53:5; Proverbs 28:1).


(1) How much of history consists of the intrigues, ambition, slander, treachery, deeds of violence, and bloodshedding of men! There is no hope that it will be otherwise until He comes who shall reign in righteousness. Ishmael's murder of Gedaliah was accompanied with foul treachery. After having been hospitably received (Jeremiah 41:1), he availed himself of the opportunity afforded, by his unsuspecting host being off his guard, to murder him and his retinue (Jeremiah 41:2-3). As death may surprise any of us, at a time and in a way least expected, we should seek to be always ready to meet our Almighty Judge.

(2) One crime generally leads to another, in order to shield the perpetrator, as he hopes, from the penal consequences of the first crime. So Ishmael added to his first awful crime of setting aside the Chaldean government, and murdering the appointed governor, the fresh crime of killing thirty out of fourscore men. As the greed of gain often accompanies cruelty and treachery, he spared the remaining ten, not from any relenting or pity, but in the hope of getting "treasures" which they professed to have hidden "in the field" (Jeremiah 41:8).

(3) But judgment, even in this life, generally overtakes the bloody and deceitful man. God employs one bad man as the instrument of chastising another, and, in one form or another, the nemesis of crime overtakes the criminal. However cunningly the sinner weaves his web of iniquity, the web, which has cost him a world of trouble, and which seemed a complete success, is in a moment torn asunder by the breath of God, and the victims escape. Cleverly and secretly as Ishmael perpetrated the deed, Johanan heard of it, and found the transgressor at the waters in Gibeon, where he rescued the captive multitude out of his hands (Jeremiah 41:2); and the only fruit which Ishmael derived from his crime was, he was forced to flee as an outlawed fugitive to Ammon (Jeremiah 41:15), bearing about with him, like Cain, the brand of the murderer wheresoever he went, and enduring in the accusations of conscience a torment worse than any temporal death, and a fearful foretaste of the eternal death before him. The success of villany is short, and is only a prelude to a terrible and ten-fold retribution.

(4) Had Johanan adopted a straightforward course after the overthrow of Ishmael, and explained to the Chaldeans the facts of the case as to Gedaliah's murder, instead of fleeing from the lawfully-constituted authorities toward Egypt (Jeremiah 41:17-18), he would have stayed himself, and the Jews with him, from many sorrows, and from destruction in the end. A right line is the shortest that can be drawn between two points. A crooked policy tends to misery in the end, and generates fear in the meantime. Those who guiltily fear where no fear is, are sure at last to get real cause for fear. A clear conscience and the path of rectitude produce at once fearlessness and safety.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 41". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-41.html. 1871-8.
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