Jeremiah 41:1. In the seventh month, two months after the city had been taken, and the temple burned. Ishmael and his ten companions, who had held high commissions under Zedekiah, were feasted by the governor. What sort of moral masks must their faces have assumed in presence of the hospitable governor, who, while wishing him long life and prosperity, had their detachment ready for assassination.
Jeremiah 41:2. And smote Gedaliah. This cut off the hopes of the Jews afresh: heaven would not allow them to be restored in their sins. They afterwards observed this day in the fifth month as a day of fasting and prayer.
Jeremiah 41:3. Ishmael also slew all the Jews—the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war. The governor’s house, it would seem, was isolated from the city, and not a soul in the household was left alive. Still there is an eye that sees, and a conscience that echoes the voice of God.
Jeremiah 41:5. Fourscore men having their beards shaved. They had cut themselves with knives for the destruction of the temple, a practice forbidden in Leviticus 19:27. They had also collected together to come to the annual fast on the tenth of this month, and brought offerings to the house of the Lord. They probably thought that peace-offerings would now be presented in Mizpah, as had been the case in former times.
With offerings and incense. Samuel had offered a sucking lamb in Mizpah, 1 Samuel 7:10, on which account some have thought that Gedaliah had repaired the old altar there. But the Lord, at that time, had not by fire from heaven chosen Jerusalem, after which it was not lawful for any one to offer except in that place. And in Tobit 1:10, we find an altar was erected in Jerusalem in the midst of its ruins.
Jeremiah 41:9. The pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies, was the pool which king Asa had dug for water, when he fortified Mizpah against Baasha king of Israel. 1 Kings 15.
Jeremiah 41:11-12. Johanan—and all the captains went to fight with Ishmael, who escaped, and left all the captives behind. But cowardice, and innocent blood pursued him, and he was to die like Cain, never more to enjoy repose.
Jeremiah 41:15. Ishmael escaped with eight men. He escaped to harden the Ammonites, as was the case in Jerusalem, to rebel against the Chaldeans, and in four years more to be all involved in flames. Jeremiah 49:2. “Nebuchadnezzar in the twenty third year of his reign subdued the Moabites, the Ammonites, and invaded Egypt.”—Antiq. of the Jews, book 10. chap. 11.
Jeremiah 41:17. Dwelt in Chimham, a hamlet undestroyed, which David had given to Chimham, son of Barzillai. 2 Samuel 19:36-37. Johanan feared that the Chaldeans, mistaking his case, would destroy him, and the men of war who were with him.
Continuing the sad history of Ishmael, we find it connected with the most detestable characters of hypocrisy. He and ten of Zedekiah’s courtiers, who had by some means escaped the calamities of their country for farther mischief, came to pay their respects to the new governor, and consequently, in him to the king of Babylon. They were feasted by Gedaliah, and treated with every respect due to their birth and rank; and their retinue, assassins in disguise, were also treated with suitable indulgence. And behold, they massacred the governor, the court, and all the Jews who supported his influence.
To cover a crime, and to escape punishment, the wicked will fill the earth with new atrocities. The terrors which followed Ishmael’s guilt, drove him through a horrible policy to slay seventy innocent men, who came to bewail their country, and to worship the Lord. These were scattered men of the ten tribes, against whom Ishmael could have no quarrel: yet he allured them with his tears, and slew them under the mask of sympathy. We talk of the cruelties of lions, tigers, and wolves; but their depredations are all generous and noble, compared with those of man when the reins of reason are abandoned to frantic passions. What then becomes of the refined theories of those degenerate divines, who talk about the innocence and dignity of human nature? Well is it said, “Man is to man the sorest and surest ill.” God suffered this evil to come on the remnant, because they were unworthy of the favour which Nebuzaradan had conferred upon them.
Punishment soon or late is sure to follow guilt, unless a very extraordinary work of repentance should procure favour with God for the sinner. Here Johanan pursued, recovered the captives and the booty, and so assaulted the assassins that but nine of them escaped. Thus the wicked are sometimes respited for future punishment. But so great was the calamity of the times that the people durst reside no longer in Mizpah, lest the murder of the governor should excite the Chaldeans to general vengeance. Ten thousand things in the ruin of a nation must however be left to the decision of the great day. God cannot err: he does all things well. Our faith therefore must comfort us under the clouds of providence, and the deficiency of human knowledge. When borne away with the tempest, we must leave the helm in the hands of providence.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 41". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany