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CRITICAL AND EXEGETICAL NOTES.—A purely historical chapter, of events following the city’s ruin. It records the out-gleaming of a ray of hope upon the appalling gloom which had befallen the land, in the appointment of Gedaliah as its governor; and also its quick extinction in the conspiracy of Ishmael, a prince of the royal family (chap. Jeremiah 40:1).
Personal Allusions.—Jeremiah 40:5. “Gedaliah” (vide note on chap. Jeremiah 39:14).
Jeremiah 40:8. “Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah.” The most conspicuous of a band of well-known chiefs, who during the siege had fled across the Jordan. Here he had become closely leagued with Baalis, king of Ammon (Josephus, Antiq. x. 9, 2). Prompted by Baalis (Jeremiah 40:14), and coveting Gedaliah’s place and power, be plotted Gedaliah’s assassination.
“Johanan and Jonathan:” Jewish chiefs and brothers. Johanan warned Gedaliah of Ishmael’s treachery, and subsequently pursued the assassin (chap. Jeremiah 41:13, &c.)
Geographical References.—Jeremiah 40:6. “Mizpah.” Asa had fortified it as an outpost of his capital against the northern kingdom (chap Jeremiah 41:9; 2 Chronicles 16:6). A ridge north-east of Jerusalem, and immediately overlooking the city.
Jeremiah 40:8. “The Netophathite.” Netophah, a village near Bethlehem (1 Chronicles 2:54).
Literary Criticisms.—Jeremiah 40:5. “Now while he was not yet gone back”—Ewald’s correction of the Hebrew text, substituting ושיב for וָשׁוּב; “And as he yet answered nothing:” or, “Before he made any reply” (Henderson).
Jeremiah 40:10. “To serve the Chaldeans,” לַעֲמֹד לַפֲנֵי הַכַּשְׂדִּים, “to stand before the Chaldeans,” i.e. to act as their representative, to negotiate with them.
Ver., 14. “Slay thee:” lit. “strike thee in the soul,” i.e. a deadly stroke.
SECTIONS OF CHAPTER 40
Jeremiah’s release and patriotism.
Gedaliah’s elevation and peril.
Jeremiah 40:1-6. JEREMIAH’S RELEASE AND PATRIOTISM
(See on previous chapter, “Kindness shown to the Lord’s Prophet.”)
Jeremiah 40:1. Theme: THE CHRISTIAN IN THE TUMULT OF THE WORLD.
(i.) He is regarded externally like others. Treated as a captive. Carried away with the exiles to Ramah.
(ii.) Watched over by God with especial care; so that he is unharmed; kindly dealt with; his worth recognised and rewarded.
(iii.) Directs all his efforts to the welfare of God’s kingdom. His concern being to preserve God’s honour, to vindicate His righteousness, and to be useful to his own people.
From this patriotic purpose, neither the violence nor the friendliness of the world can turn him aside. (Comp. Naegelsbach in Lange.)
Jeremiah 40:2-3. Theme: GOD RECOGNISED IN HIS JUDGMENTS. And this by a heathen! Thus God makes the very heathen testify for Him against His rebellious people. Out of even great and terrible calamities, such as Jerusalem’s overthrow, good is brought; this heathen captain’s eyes are opened to Divine truths.
His hopeful progress towards conversion—
(i.) He acknowledges Jehovah as God (Jeremiah 40:2).
(ii.) That the Lord foresees future events (Jeremiah 40:2).
(iii.) That it is in His name that God’s servants speak (Jeremiah 40:2), and pronounce upon future events.
(iv.) He recognises the Divine Hand in judgments (Jeremiah 40:3). No claiming that the Chaldeans had wrought the overthrow; no! “The Lord,” &c.
(v.) Traces calamities to their cause: the moral degeneracy and spiritual apostasy of the people (Jeremiah 40:3).
(vi.) Declares that disobedience to God brings doom (Jeremiah 40:3).
Jeremiah 40:4. Theme: GOD’S HIDDEN HAND IN HUMAN KINDNESS.
I. Benefactors are God’s benefactions. They come from Him, at the right moment, to supply our pressing wants.
II. Unconscious agencies of Divine kindness. This captain knew not that he worked out God’s designs and administered God’s mercies.
III. God’s disguised Hand. He conceals Himself in His works; there is “a hiding of His power”—
In Nature. Stored out of sight in flowers, fruits, delights of creation.
In Providence. “Men are Thy hand.” He works through them. For He uses His creatures as channels of His help.
In Grace. Light and peace come into human souls through human words; from “sermons in stones, books in the running brooks,” &c. Yet all grace is God’s gift.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father of lights.”
Jeremiah 40:5-6. Theme: A PATRIOTIC CHOICE.
I. Contrasted offers.
1. Of location. In Babylonia, honour and comfort; in Judea, sadness and privation.
2. Of service. In Babylonia, among the noblest of his countrymen, and in the favour of royalty; in Judea, amid the poor and rabble.
II. A difficult choice. Hence his faltering a moment (Jeremiah 40:5).
1. A heart drawn in opposite directions: in pity towards his exiled people; in love for his dear but dishonoured land.
2. In perplexity concerning God’s will. Not easy to see where he could best serve God; not clear as to God’s purpose.
III. A patriotic decision.
1. Thus he disproved his sympathy with the Chaldeans, notwithstanding his advice to his countrymen to surrender to them. For his counsel had proceeded from purest love to his fatherland.
2. Thus he proved his devotion to his suffering people, imitating Moses (Hebrews 11:25).
3. Thus he kept alive God’s word amid a despondent remnant. In Babylon the exiles had Ezekiel and Daniel; but had he gone, these scattered remnants would have been “as sheep having no shepherd.” In all this “he looked not on his own things, but also on the things of others.”
Jeremiah 40:7-16. GEDALIAH’S EXALTATION AND PERIL
I. Integrity rewarded (Jeremiah 40:5). His faithfulness to Chaldea had arisen from the consciousness that God willed it so. His obedience to duty won him human confidence and high exaltation.
II. A renewal of hope (Jeremiah 40:13). Under Gedaliah’s wise administration the desolation might have been in part repaired. God gives to the downcast agleam of hope (Jeremiah 40:9-11). It is well to make the best of our misfortunes, and wisely accept the facts of Providence (Jeremiah 40:10).
III. Treachery in ambush.
1. Envy covets what it has no right to claim.
2. A generous nature finds it difficult to be suspicious (Jeremiah 40:14).
3. It is a mystery in God’s Providence that He suffers the righteous to act unwisely, and thus fall into the hands of malignant and envious men (Jeremiah 40:16). But an explanation is indicated in Isaiah 57:1.
“Those who are of a pious disposition cannot believe so much evil as is told of people. But we must not trust too much, for the world is full of falseness (Wis. 11:22). He who believes too easily will be often deceived; and he who believes no one is also deceived. Therefore is he the happy man who can preserve the golden mean.”—Cramer.
“Gedaliah seems to have been of our Queen Elizabeth’s temper, who was heard to declare that she could believe nothing of her people which mothers could not believe of their children.”—Trapp.
“Gedaliah thought that Ishmael durst not attempt anything against him because of the Babylonians; besides he knew his own innocency; and he believed in Ishmael’s pretended familiarity with him, which, he might think, other captains envied. Sure it is that good Gedaliah was too secure. ‘Nam qui omnia credit, et qui nihil credit, ex œquo peccat’ (Seneca). It is no less a fault to believe nothing than to believe everything. Reports are to be neither over-heeded nor overslighted, especially when life is concerned.”—Trapp.
GENERAL REFLECTIONS: ISRAEL’S MISFORTUNES TYPICAL OF HUMAN LIFE
This overthrow of the people has its analogies:—
I. The deportation of the whole people in chains and fetters is a type of our universal human misery, from which no one (not even Jeremiah) is free.
II. The fate of Gedaliah and the journey to Egypt is a type of the insufficiency of all human help.
III. As the Jews after Gedaliah’s murder, so men at all times find protection and deliverance in the Lord alone.—Naegelsbach.
“Misfortune is like the waves of the sea: when one is broken another follows, and the end of one trouble is the beginning of another.”—Cramer.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Jeremiah 40". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29