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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jeremiah 40



Jeremiah, being set free by Nebuzar-adan, goeth to Gedaliah. The dispersed Jews repair unto him. Johanan, revealing Ishmael's conspiracy, is not believed.

Before Christ 588.

THE five following chapters contain a particular account of what passed in the land of Judah from the taking of Jerusalem to the retreat of the people into Egypt; and the prophesies of Jeremiah concerning them there.

Verse 1

Jeremiah 40:1. The word, &c.— Some understand the word here in the sense of matter or thing;—that which happened to Jeremiah from Jehovah, &c.

Verse 5

Jeremiah 40:5. Now while he was not yet gone back, &c.— But if this also doth not please thee, go to Gedaliah, &c. Houbigant. There are many other versions given of this passage; but this of Houbigant, which agrees with the Chaldee, appears the best.

Verse 9

Jeremiah 40:9. Sware unto them That is, assured and promised them by an oath, that they should be safe under the protection and government of the Chaldeans.

Verse 10

Jeremiah 40:10. I will dwell at Mizpah, &c.— "I will keep my residence here, to be ready to obey any orders which the king of Babylon sends me by his servants."

Verse 14

Jeremiah 40:14. Baalis, the king of the Ammonites The king of the Ammonites had concerted this matter with Ishmael, with a design to make the Jews, who still remained in their own country, his vassals. See chap. Jeremiah 41:10. It appears, that Gedaliah, though a man of great honesty and goodness, was too credulous. Grotius compares him to Eumenes. He received Ishmael to his house and table with far too little circumspection. See Calmet.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The chapter begins with, The word which came to Jeremiah; not that this chapter contains any prophesy, but it is a general title to this and most of the chapters which follow.

The rendezvous of the captives, it seems, was appointed to be at Ramah, about seven miles from Jerusalem. Thither, among others, Jeremiah was led, chained with the rest, probably through mistake of some inferior officer, who, after he had been discharged, chap. Jer 34:14 finding him at large, and not knowing the exemption granted him, joined him with his countrymen. But Nebuzar-adan, on the review of the captives, immediately discovered, unbound, and discharged him, with the greatest respect and kindness.

1. Nebuzar-adan, though a heathen, could not but acknowledge the truth of Jeremiah's mission and prophesies, now so exactly fulfilled; and, to the shame of those who rejected his warning, addresses the captives, reminding them of their sins and disobedience to the prophet's voice, which had provoked God's wrath, and brought this righteous judgment upon them.
2. He gives him his choice: either to go to Babylon with him, and be treated with all kindness, and provided for to his heart's wish; or, if he would rather stay in his native country, he was at full liberty to choose his abode, and perhaps to take possession of what estate in the country he pleased, the whole being at the disposal of the conquerors. Note; They who sacrifice all for God, even in this life, are often found no losers by their fidelity to him.

3. Jeremiah appearing, it should seem, irresolute where to fix, Nebuzar-adan advised him to join Gedaliah, a prince of Judah, who seems early to have followed the prophet's advice, and fallen to the Chaldeans, and now as a reward was made governor of the land: yet he would not prescribe to him, but left the matter to his own consideration, having supplied him with victuals, which, in the exhausted state of the country, were necessary for his present subsistence, and made him a handsome present besides; a noble instance of generosity in a heathen officer towards a holy prophet. With his advice Jeremiah complied, and joined Gedaliah at Mizpah, rather choosing to sustain the hardships that he might be exposed to in God's heritage, among his poor people, than dwell in affluence in the land of the heathen.
2nd, A sudden gleam of unexpected prosperity prepares only for the last stroke, which should ruin the miserable remnant which was left.
1. Under Gedaliah's government, notwithstanding the late desolations, things seemed to wear a promising aspect. The captains of the forces, who had not been able to throw themselves into the city during the siege, and had lurked in some retreat; or rather had escaped with the shattered remains of the soldiery, when Zedekiah was taken, came to Gedaliah at Mizpah; and as he had, it seems, full power left him from the king of Babylon to receive all who quietly submitted, he gave them a solemn oath of protection on condition of their fidelity, and assures them, that their fears were groundless, of being delivered up to the Chaldeans because they had been in arms against them; but if they now lived peaceably, they might live comfortably. He himself would reside at Mizpah, and transact all the matters of tribute to be paid the Chaldeans, or to stand before them, to intercede for them if any inquiry was made after them; to convey to them any orders, and render homage on their behalf; while they had nothing to do but to occupy the land, to gather the vintage, the summer fruits, and oil, lay up their winter's store, and enjoy the plenty which God had once more restored to them. The rumour of this peaceable re-establishment of the government, under so good a man as Gedaliah, soon reached the neighbouring nations, and drew a vast concourse of Jews, who had taken refuge there, to return and submit to the Chaldean government; so that the country was again replenished with inhabitants, and they gathered wine and summer-fruits very much. Thus once more they began to taste God's goodness, if that at last might lead them to repentance.

2. A dark scheme appears framed to interrupt and destroy this short-lived prosperity. Johanan, one of the captains who had returned, got intelligence of a plot contrived by Baalis king of the Ammonites, the hereditary enemy of the Jews, and to be executed by Ishmael, who had undertaken to dispatch Gedaliah, envious probably at his advancement, and thinking himself, as of the seed royal, more fit to rule. Of this Johanan informed the governor; and, to prevent the threatened mischief, offered privately to dispatch Ishmael; Gedaliah, however, being a man of integrity himself, would not entertain a suspicion of Ishmael as capable of so base a deed, but rejects the intelligence as false, and forbids him to proceed a step farther in the affair. Note; (1.) Love hopeth all things, thinketh no evil; and they who are conscious of their own simplicity are ready to believe others guileless as themselves. (2.) No obligations can bind the swellings of ambition; men of that character would mount the throne over the corpses of those to whom they are even indebted for the very power of destroying them. (3.) It would be highly dangerous to kill by way of prevention; in such a case, no man's life would be safe from a malicious tongue. (4.) Though it be sinful to be suspicious, yet, when advertised of our danger, it is wise to be on our guard.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 40". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.