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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 41

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Verses 1-3

The Murder of Gedaliah

In the seventh month, Ishmael – someone of whom we now read that he is of royal descent – comes with the chief officers and ten men to Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:1). He pretends to have peaceful intentions. Gedaliah seems to be up to no good, as he offers them a meal. During the meal, a picture of fellowship, the company, led by Ishmael, turns against Gedaliah and they kill him (Jeremiah 41:2). It is emphasized that they kill him “whom the king of Babylon had appointed over the land”. Ishmael also kills all who are with Gedaliah, including some Babylonian men (Jeremiah 41:3).

In Ishmael we see the madness of power-seeking men, something we see again and again throughout human history and in the Word of God. Satan is always out to destroy the testimony of God. He succeeds here by a man bent on seizing power. The king of Babylon has allowed the poorest of the land in Israel to stay and has put Gedaliah over them. Under his leadership, they can rebuild something that can be to the glory of God, acknowledging the authority of a heathen ruler whom God has set over them because of their unfaithfulness.

Verses 4-10

The Massacre of the Pilgrims

After two days, no one knows about the murder of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:4). But rest is not here for Ishmael. Men come from Shechem with the intention of offering grain offerings and incense in the house of the LORD (Jeremiah 41:5). These offerings are sacrifices without blood because there is no possibility of slaughtering animals (cf. Deuteronomy 12:13-2 Chronicles :; Deuteronomy 12:17-Job :).

The company consists of eighty men. They wear signs of mourning including the heathen sign of carving in the body. Ishmael leaves Mizpah to meet them and hypocritically joins them by weeping with them (Jeremiah 41:6). He invites them to go with him to Gedaliah. When they arrive in the city, Ishmael casts off his mask and slaughters them (Jeremiah 41:7). The bodies he casts in the cistern. However, ten of the eighty men escape death by telling Ishmael that they have hidden supplies of wheat, barley, oil and honey in the field (Jeremiah 41:8).

The cistern into which the bodies of all the slain men are thrown, including those of Gedaliah and his men, has a history (Jeremiah 41:9). It is the cistern that King Asa made as a shelter. He did this for fear of Baasha, the king of Israel, threatening him (2 Chronicles 16:6). This cistern is filled by Ishmael with the fallen.

Then he carries off the remnant as captives and seeks refuge with the Ammonites (Jeremiah 41:10). He thought he could be king of Israel, but sees that he has ventured into an adventure, the consequences of which he has not seen. This is how many criminals act who expect a lot from their crime to improve their lives, while it only brings misery.

Verses 11-15

The Escape of Ishmael

Johanan, who has warned Gedaliah of Ishmael’s evil intentions, hears of all the evil that Ishmael has done (Jeremiah 41:11). He realizes that Nebuchadnezzar’s anger will ignite when he hears this and he will kill all in the land. To prove himself a faithful servant of the king of Babylon, he wants to fight Ishmael (Jeremiah 41:12). He meets Ishmael at the great pool that is in Gibeon. When all the people who are with Ishmael see Johanan, they are glad (Jeremiah 41:13) and run over to him (Jeremiah 41:14). Ishmael flees with eight of the ten men who are with him and escapes (Jeremiah 41:15). It appears that two were killed.

Verses 16-18

The Run Into Egypt

Starting in Jeremiah 41:16, it is about the journey to Egypt. In it we see the human considerations for running to Egypt. Everything is plausible to the human mind. However, it is not a work of faith. Faith is the great missing factor in all deliberations. The LORD is consulted, but without the willingness to do what He says, because the plans have been made and the decision has been made. The LORD only has to put His signature on it, as it were, by blessing their self-made plans.

Johanan is the deliverer of the remnant of the people who had been taken captive by Ishmael (Jeremiah 41:16). However, this does not put him out of danger. The king of Babylon will certainly hear what has happened and send a punitive expedition to Israel. Therefore, with all who are with him, he goes to Geruth Chimham, which is near Bethlehem, and from there continues on to Egypt (Jeremiah 41:17). He flees from the Chaldeans because Ishmael has killed the governor whom the king of Babylon had appointed over the land (Jeremiah 41:18). Ishmael has fled and therefore Johanan can prove nothing of his intention to kill him in order to thereby show that the whole rebellion was not from him.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 41". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/jeremiah-41.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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