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Ishmael, treacherously killing Gedaliah and others, purposeth with the residue to flee unto the Ammonites. Johanan recovereth the captives, and mindeth to flee into Egypt.
Before Christ 588.
Jeremiah 41:1. In the seventh month— Answering partly to our September, and partly to October, two months after the taking of Jerusalem. The murder of Gedaliah gave occasion to the fast of the seventh month, which the Jews observed after their return from the captivity. See Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19. Ishmael was of the family of David.
Jeremiah 41:5. Having their beards shaven, &c.— These were tokens of great mourning, by which they expressed their grief for the destruction of their city and temple: such expressions of sorrow were forbidden to be used at funeral obsequies (see Leviticus 19:27-28.), but might be lawfully used upon other mournful occasions. See Isaiah 15:2. Some suppose, that these devout persons brought their oblations to the place where the altar formerly stood, which they looked upon as consecrated ground; a custom which they think countenanced by the words of Baruch, ch. Jer 1:10 where the exiles of Babylon are supposed to send money to buy offerings for the altar of the Lord, after Jerusalem was taken and burnt. Compare Jeremiah 41:2. Others understand the house of the Lord, of an altar or place of worship erected by Gedaliah at Mizpah, in imitation of that which was formerly set up there by Samuel, 1Sa 7:7-9 which place continued to be a proseucha or place of worship in after-times, as appears from 1Ma 3:46. There were many such sanctuaries or places of worship both in Judaea and elsewhere among the Jewish dispersions. See Lowth and Calmet. Ishmael went weeping along with them, as if he sympathised in their affliction, Jeremiah 41:6. He appears to have been a thorough-paced hypocrite.
Jeremiah 41:7. Slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit— This pit was the cavern or ditch which Asa cast up against the walls of Mizpah, when he rebuilt and fortified it against the attempts of Baasha; see Jeremiah 41:9. Houbigant renders it, Slew them at the midst of the pit.
Jeremiah 41:8. We have treasures in the field— Dr. Shaw tells us that in Barbary, when the grain is winnowed, they lodge it in mattamores or subterraneous repositories; two or three hundred of which are sometimes close to each other, the smallest holding four hundred bushels. These are very common in other parts of the East, and are in particular mentioned by Dr. Russel, as being in great numbers near Aleppo, about the villages; which renders travelling there in the night very dangerous, the entrance into them being often left open, when they are empty. The like method, it should seem, of keeping corn, obtains in the Holy Land; for Le Bruyn speaks of deep pits at Ramah, which he was told were designed for corn; and Rauwolf talks of three very large vaults at Joppa, actually used for the laying up of grain, when he was there. The treasures in the field of wheat, &c. which the ten men here proposed to Ishmael as the ransom for their lives, were doubtless laid up in the same kind of repositories. Dr. Shaw only speaks of the Arabs hiding corn in these mattamores. But as these ten Jews mentioned their having honey and oil in these repositories, so the author of the history of the piratical states of Barbary tells us, that it is usual with the Arabs, when they expect the armies of Algiers, to secure their corn, and other effects which are not portable, in subterraneous repositories, wandering about with their flocks till the troops are returned to their quarters. See the Observations, p. 420.
Jeremiah 41:9. Now the pit, &c.— בור bor, signifies a basin, cistern, or reservoir; a large pit for receiving rain water, which Asa, who built and fortified Mizpah at the time he was at war with Baasha king of Israel (1 Kings 15:22.) caused to be made in the midst of the city, in order that the people might not be in want of so necessary an article in case of a siege. Reservoirs of this kind were much in use in Palestine, as Jerome tells us in his commentary upon Amos 4:7-8. And Josephus testifies the advantage of them to the besieged, when he tells us, that when Masada was reduced to the greatest distress for want of water, it was relieved by a fall of rain in the night, which filled all the reservoirs. Ant. lib. 14: cap. 14 edit. Hudson. Each private family seems also to have had one of these pits or reservoirs for its own use: "Drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern;" בורו boro, "his pit," or "reservoir," says Rabshakeh to the people of Jerusalem, Isaiah 36:16.
Jeremiah 41:17. In the habitation of Chimham— The parcel of ground, in the general opinion of interpreters, which David had settled upon Chimham, the son of Barzillai. The passage may be rendered, And they went and dwelt in Geruth Chimham, which is near Bethlehem, in order to proceed to go into Egypt, out of the reach of the Chaldeans, &c.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, A scene of more complicated villany and unprovoked barbarity can hardly be found than is here recorded.
1. Gedaliah is assassinated. Unsuspicious of Ishmael, and the princes with him, who came with a pretence of paying a visit of friendship, he kindly and generously entertained them; when, at a signal given, Ishmael, and the rest of the conspirators, suddenly rose on Gedaliah and slew him; nor sheathed their swords till they had, in cold blood, massacred all the men, both Jews and Chaldeans, who were in Mizpah. And to this they seem to have been instigated by their revenge, because Gedaliah and the Jews had fallen to the Chaldeans; or by their envy, because Ishmael, of the seed royal, and the princes, could not bear to see Gedaliah preferred before them. Such horrid work do the satanical tempers of fallen sinners make, when left without restraint.
2. Not content with all the blood that they had shed, their wanton cruelty seeks new objects. Fourscore men from Schechem, Samaria, and Shiloh, wholly ignorant of what had passed, were on their way to the temple at Jerusalem, with deepest signs of expressive woe to lament its desolations; and present, if but on the ruined altar, their oblations; so dear to them was the very dust thereof. These, with hypocritical tears, Ishmael went forth to meet, that he might decoy them to Mizpah, under pretence of an invitation from Gedaliah, as if he was yet alive; and they, unsuspicious of his design, went with him into the midst of the city, where they were instantly slain, and their bodies cast into one pit with those who fell with Gedaliah. This pit was dug by Asa, when he fortified Mizpah against Baasha, 1 Kings 15:22. Ten men only escaped, by pleading the treasures that they had concealed in the field; and, covetousness prevailing over cruelty, they permitted them to live to discover them. While we read of such scenes of horror, how great reason have we to bless God for his restraining grace upon the hearts and hands of wicked men: but for this the world would be an aceldama, a field of blood.
3. The bloody work being done, Ishmael attempts to secure the plunder and the prisoners, the king's daughters, and others, by a retreat to Baalis, king of the Ammonites, who seems to have instigated him to perpetrate this horrid deed.
2nd, A deed so atrocious could not be long concealed; and no sooner does the report of it reach Johanan, than, fired with indignation, he collected all the forces that he could muster, pursued the fugitives, and overtook them at the pool of Gibeon; which road, though not the direct one, they might have taken to prevent a pursuit, or get the treasures of the men whose lives they had spared: thus oftentimes we see men's covetousness their destruction. No sooner had Johanan and his troops appeared, than those with Ishmael immediately deserted him, and with difficulty he himself, with eight of the assassins, escaped to the land of Ammon; perhaps now unwelcome guests, when stripped of that plunder which the king of Ammon hoped to share. Johanan with his forces, and those whom he had recovered, either through his own fiery spirit, or the just judgment of God upon the people, which would give them no rest till they were utterly consumed, resolved hereupon to depart into Egypt; either hoping that under the Egyptian government they should enjoy greater safety, or, as was pretended, fearing the Chaldeans would punish them for the death of Gedaliah; though, in fact, they might rather have expected commendation from them, as his avengers. The resolution however being taken, they left Mizpah, and pitched in the habitation of Chimham (so called, probably, as being given by David to that son of Barzillai) near Bethlehem, in the way that led to Egypt, ready to fly thither if any danger threatened them. Note; Men's unbelieving fears often plunge them into the very miseries that they dread.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 41". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30