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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Jeremiah 40

 

 

Verses 1-6

3. Jeremiah liberated in Ramah and committed the second lime to Gedaliah

Jeremiah 40:1-6

1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after that Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when[FN1] he had taken him being bound in chains[FN2] among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, 2which were carried away captive unto Babylon. And the captain of the guard took[FN3] Jeremiah, and said unto him, The Lord [Jehovah] thy God hath pronounced 3 this evil upon this place. Now the Lord [Jehovah] hath brought it,[FN4] and done according as he hath said: because ye have [had] sinned against the Lord [Jehovah], and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you 4 And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand.[FN5] If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient5[right] for thee to go, thither go. Now while he was not yet gone back [answered],[FN6] he said, Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward [present], and let him 6 go. Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

In the unavoidable confusion Jeremiah, contrary to the command of the king ( Jeremiah 39:11-14), is included among the captives, and bound with chains. This error is first remarked in Ramah. The captain of the halberdiers has him immediately liberated, and gives him the choice to go with them to Babylon or remain in the country. As Jeremiah, as it appears, hesitated in answering, the captain of halberdiers, guessing the wish of the prophet, decides himself that he is to remain. Provided with a supply of food and presents, Jeremiah hereupon betakes himself to Gedaliah, who was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar governor over the country, in Mizpah.

Jeremiah 40:1. The word … unto Babylon. The superscription is of the larger kind. It extends over the four chh40–43, for a similar one recurs only in Jeremiah 44:1. Since the formula, “the word that came,” etc., appears constantly as the superscription to the longer sections (comp. Jeremiah 7:1; Jeremiah 11:1 [ Jeremiah 14:1]; Jeremiah 18:1; Jeremiah 21:1, etc.), it has gradually assumed a double character. It is primarily, according to the meaning of the words, the announcement of a word of God spoken to the prophet. Since, however, these words represent at the same time the main sections of the prophetic book, historical narrative being annexed only as introductory or supplementary commentary, the formula has gradually become the superscription of a main section, even where historical narrative predominates. This is certainly nowhere to so great an extent the case as here. In a less degree it is found also in Jeremiah 21:1-3 (comp. “And Jeremiah said,” Jeremiah 40:3). The formula is certainly never found as a superscription of a purely historical section. Nor are chh40–43. such. For in Jeremiah 42:7-22 we have an account of a revelation made to the prophet, to which all the previous and subsequent context is related as historical background. In Jeremiah 43:8-13 is a second oracle, from which it again follows, that we are to regard the formula in this verse as a comprehensive title of a section, which may refer not only to other matter besides a Revelation, but also to more than one revelation. Moreover the superscription here is related also to Jeremiah 1:3. For there the narrative of the events till the deportation in the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah is announced. Our section, being written at a later date, records the events immediately after this date, and till the arrival in Egypt.—When he had taken him. This is to explain why a liberation of Jeremiah can be spoken of, after what is narrated in Jeremiah 39:11-14. Nebuzar-adan had to liberate the prophet in Ramah, because he had taken him captive (by a misunderstanding. Comp. rems. on Jeremiah 39:11-13), and bound him with chains.—Being bound, etc., more particularly describes in what condition Jeremiah was in consequence of being taken, and when he was liberated by Nebuzaradan.—Among all, etc. This addition also is evidently to contribute to the explanation of Jeremiah’s being bound. Jeremiah standing alone would not have suffered this indignity. It was only in consequence of his remaining “among the people” ( Jeremiah 39:14), and was contrary to the purpose of the general. It has been already remarked above that Ramah, being the first station after Jerusalem, served as the place of assembly and final arrangement of the caravan, (in reference to its position. Comp. rems. on Jeremiah 31:15).

Jeremiah 40:2-4. And the captain … thither go. What Nebuzar-adan here says to Jeremiah presupposes that he was well acquainted with the purport of his prophecies, and that he acknowledged their fulfilment as a manifestation of the power of the God in whose name they had been pronounced. It could not be difficult for a heathen to admit that the national deity of the Jews, enraged because this people preferred other deities to Him, had given them up to their enemies. Nebuzar-adan may also have spoken Hebrew, though the mode of expression betrays that Jeremiah gives only the sense, not the precise words of his speech. Comp. Jeremiah 16:10; Jeremiah 19:15; Jeremiah 32:42; Jeremiah 36:31; Jeremiah 39:16; Jeremiah 44:2.

Jeremiah 40:5-6. Now while … in the land. The words וְעוֹדֶנּוּ לֹא יָשׁוּבּ mock at every attempt to explain them according to the grammar and lexicon. For1. It is contrary to rule to take עוֹדֶנּוּ as simply equivalent to עוֹד, since it is a complete sentence (and he is still), and either requires no predicate or it can have one only in the form of a participle or adjective. It must be וְעוד לֹא יֲשׁוּב, or וְעוֹד הוּא לֹא יָשׁוּב, or וְעוֹדֶנּוּ לְֹא שָׁכ, or מֵשִׁיב, or something like this2. The connection with the following שֻׁבָה by the mere וְ is likewise abnormal. We should expect, since in sense וְשֻׁבָה cannot simply continue the speech interrupted by a parenthesis—as a contradiction would thus be produced—some connective formula like וַאֹמֶר. 3. The meaning of יָשׁוּב is enigmatical. For whomsoever we take as the subject, Jeremiah or the king of Judah or Gedaliah, or (with Seb. Schmidt) the inhabitants of the place of residence selected by Jeremiah, or an indefinite “they,” no satisfactory meaning is obtained. The ancient translators therefore rendered with arbitrary freedom, LXX. ἐι δὲ μὴ, ἀπότρεχε, ἀνάστρεφον πρὸς τὸν Γοδολίαν. Vulg.: et mecum noli venire, sed habita apud Godoljam. Syr.: dixit etiam ad eum: si maneas, commorare in medio populi apud Gedaljam. Chald.: et si tu non vis reverti, revertere ad Gedaljam. I consider the text corrupt. Since in Jeremiah 40:4 Nebuzar-adan leaves it to Jeremiah to go wherever he wishes, but Jeremiah 40:4 says distinctly that he must return to Gedaliah, there must have stood between the two a sentence reporting the preference, which Jeremiah somehow intimated, to remain in the country. How this sentence read is no longer to be ascertained. Since from Jeremiah’s not returning it could not be concluded that he wished to return, while from his not answering this conclusion might easily be drawn, since more honor would be done to the Chaldeans if Jeremiah preferred a residence in their country to one in his desolated home, I am of opinion, that originally some form of שׁוּב stood here, involving the idea of answering.—Nebuzar-adan now dismisses the prophet with a supply of food (אִַרְחָה, comp. Jeremiah 52:34; Proverbs 15:17) and presents (מַשְׂאֵת, literally load, what is carried away, i.e. presents. Comp. Esther 2:18; Amos 5:11). Jeremiah, following the advice given him, betakes himself to Gedaliah in Mizpah, doubtless that city among the five of this name which was situated in Benjamin, and is named together with Gibeon and Ramah in Joshua 18:25-26; comp. 1 Samuel 7:16; 1 Samuel 10:17; 1 Kings 15:22; 1 Maccabees 3:46; Raumer, Paläst, S. 213. [This Ramah is supposed to have been about six miles north of Jerusalem, on the road to Bethel. Comp. Smith, Dict.—S. R. A.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Jeremiah 40:1.—כְּ is here causal. Comp. 2 Chronicles 16:7; 2 Chronicles 28:6.

FN#2 - Jeremiah 40:1.—אזקים. The form with א only here and in Jeremiah 40:4. Besides זִקִים in Job 36:8; Isaiah 45:14; Nahum 3:10. From עַל־יָדֶךָ, Jeremiah 40:4, we see that hand-fetters are meant.

FN#3 - Jeremiah 40:3.—The construction of לקח with לְ is an Aramaism. Comp. Ewald, §277, e.

FN#4 - Jeremiah 40:3.—The pronominal object of וַיָבֵא is to be supplied from the foregoing context. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 78, 2, Anm. The absence of the article before דָּבָר to which the Masoretes object, is no rare occurrence. Comp. Jeremiah 32:14; Jeremiah 38:14; Jeremiah 50:16 : Naegelsb. Gr., 72, 2, Anm.

FN#5 - Jeremiah 40:4.—יָדֶךָ ver 4 may be taken both grammatically (comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 44,4, Anm.), and according to the sense either as singular or plural. On אלִ־טב. Comp. Ewald, § 335, a.

FN#6 - Jeremiah 40:5.—[Naegelsb.: Since, however, he had not yet answered. See Exeg. and Crit. “So J. D. Micraelis, Dahler, Umbreit, Neumann. But Jeremiah never uses the verb שׁוּב in this sense, but always in the sense of returning.” Wordsworth.—S. R. A.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Jeremiah 40:1-3. “Although the calamity, which has come upon Jerusalem, is great and terrible, God does not allow such evil to befal it that good will not result from it, as the Chaldean captain not obscurely intimates, that he has made a fair beginning in the knowledge of the true God. For he confesses, first, that the God of the prophet is a lord; secondly, that He knows future things; thirdly, that He causes His servants to proclaim these beforehand; fourthly, that God has conducted the war and done everything; fifthly, that He was displeased with the sinful manners of the people (among which idolatry was the worst); sixthly, that He has punished their disobedience to His word.” Cramer.

2. On Jeremiah 40:4. “The friendliness, shown to the prophet, appears to proceed from men, but it comes from God. For God’s works are all made so that they are hidden among the creatures; for as He conceals His wisdom in the creation of heaven and earth, as He hides His kindness in the fruits of the earth, so also He disguises His help in the king of Babylon. For God executes. His works now by rational and anon by irrational creatures. As when He fed Elijah by the widow and by the ravens and by the angels ( 1 Kings 17:3 sqq.; 14sqq. and Jeremiah 19:5). For all are His instruments.” Cramer.

3. On Jeremiah 40:2-3. “Nebusaradan attestatione sua comprobat et confirmat veritatem ac certitudinem prædictionum prophetæ. Unde haud inscite colligi conjicique potest, quod Satrapa ille Babylonicus præditus fuerit agnitione veri Dei eâque salvatus. Et sic Deus subinde aliquos ex Magnatibus ad sui agnitionem et æternam salutem traducit ( Psalm 68). Potest istud exemplum ἐλεγκτικῶς obverti absoluto Calvinianorum decreto.” Förster.

4. On Jeremiah 40:5. “In this, that Jeremiah preferred remaining in the country to going to Babylon, it strikes me further—that a discreet Prayer of Manasseh, who knows the world and his heart and the true interest of God’s cause—is as much as possible contented, and does not think to better himself by going further. He is willing to remain at court unknown, and at any rate he would rather be taken away than go away.—The advice, which Solomon gives, is verified, ‘Stand not in the place of great men.’ We are a generation of the cross, and our symbol is ‘an evil name and little understood.’ ” Zinzendorf.

5. On Jeremiah 40:5. In Babylonia honor and a comfortable life invited the prophet, in Judea danger, dishonor and need in the desolated country. In Babylonia a respectable field of labor was opened to him among the great mass of his people, in Judea he had only rabble and condottieri about him. Jeremiah, however, was not a bad patriot, as many accused him of being. By remaining in Judea he showed that the import of his prophecies, apparently friendly to the Chaldeans and hostile to the Jews, had proceeded from the purest love to his people and his fatherland. Thus he imitated Moses, of whom it is written in Hebrews 11:25, that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. The holy ground of the fatherland bound him to it, and in addition—if he went, who was to take spiritual oversight of the poor forsaken remnant, to proclaim the word of God and bestow on them consolation and admonition? Those who were in Babylon had Ezekiel. And could not the Lord raise up other prophets for them? So he remained with the sheep, who had no shepherd. Jeremiah had not sought his own through his whole life, nor did he here.

6. On Jeremiah 40:7 sqq. “Human reason, and indeed nature shows, that in worldly government men cannot be without a head. For as the been cannot be without a queen, or the sheep without a shepherd, so no large number of people can exist without a head and government. God has wisely ordered it, and we should be thankful for the authorities.” Cramer.

7. On Jeremiah 40:11 sqq. We may well perceive in this “remnant of Judah” a fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 6:11 sqq.: “Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without Prayer of Manasseh, and the land be utterly desolate, and Jehovah have removed men far away, and great is the forsaking in the midst of the land. And if a tenth remains in it, this again must be removed. Yet as the terebinth and the oak, in which when they are felled, a ground-stock still remains, so is its stock a holy scion.”

8. On Jeremiah 40:13 sqq. Gedaliah, in whom not only Nebuchadnezzar, but also his people, had confidence, must have been a noble Prayer of Manasseh, to whom it was difficult to think evil of his neighbor. “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 (Wisd37:3). He who believes too easily, will be often deceived, and he who believes no one is also deceived. Therefore is he indeed a happy Prayer of Manasseh, who can preserve the golden mean.” Cramer.

9. On Jeremiah 40:13 sqq. “Misfortune is like the waves of the sea; when one is broken another follows, and the end of one trouble is the beginning of others.” Cramer.

10. On Jeremiah 41:1-3. “Judas’s kiss and Jacob’s brethren are very common in the world and take after their grandfather Cain, who spake kindly to Abel and yet had blood-thirsty thoughts ( Genesis 4:8). Yea, they take after their father, the devil, who is a murderous spirit ( John 8:44), and disguises himself as an angel of light ( 2 Corinthians 11:14).” Cramer.

11. On Jeremiah 41:1 sqq. “Similia perfidiæ exempla (simulatæ fraternitatis): 2 Samuel 13:24; 2 Samuel 20:9 sq. Quadrat etiam huc historia nuptiarum Parisiensium celebratum 1572 mense Augusto.” Förster.

12. On Jer 41:4 sqq.

“Murder and avarice love to go with each other,

And one crime is often a prolific mother.”—Cramer.

13. On Jeremiah 41:16 sqq. It is very remarkable that even this last centre and rendezvous of the unfortunate people must be destroyed. It might be supposed that with the destruction of the city and deportation of the people the judgments would have terminated. It seems as if the deed of Ishmael and the removal of the remnant to Egypt transcended the measure of punishment fixed by Jehovah, for the Lord did not send Ishmael, and the removal to Egypt He directly forbade. And yet it seems that only by Ishmael’s act and the flight to Egypt could the land obtain its Sabbath rest, which is spoken of in Leviticus 26:34-35.

14. On Jeremiah 42:1-6. “Had not Johanan and his people asked for advice, but gone directly to Egypt, their sin would not have been so great. They feigned, however, submission to the will of God, while they yet adhered to their own will. It is a common fault for people to ask advice while they are firmly resolved what they will do. For they inquire not to learn what is right, but only to receive encouragement to do what they wish. If we advise them according to their inclination they take our advice, if not, they reject it.—We must be on our guard when we appeal to God’s decision, that we do not previously decide for ourselves. For thus we fall into hypocrisy, which is the most fatal intoxication and blindness.” Heim and Hoffman, The Major Prophets. [“Those will justly lose their comfort in real fears, that excuse themselves in sin with pretended fears.” Henry.—S. R. A.]

15. On Jeremiah 42:7. After the murder of Gedaliah the anger of Nebuchadnezzar seemed inevitable. But the Lord, to whom nothing is impossible ( Jeremiah 32:17), promises to perform a miracle, and restore Israel to new prosperity in their land if they will give Him the honor and trust in Him. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart is indeed in His hand. If this is not acknowledged and Nebuchadnezzar more feared than the Lord, their sin is then against the first commandment.

16. On Jeremiah 42:13 sqq. “God reminds His people of the favor with which He adopted them as His people, which was the most sacred obligation to obedience; that Egypt was to them a land of destruction, a forbidden land, as indeed all confidence in human aid is forbidden to those who would live by faith, which was known to them from the history of their fathers and all the prophets. It is a great sin to deem one’s self safer under the protection of man than under that of God. It is incomprehensible, how blind unbelief makes people, so that the Jews have not yet learned the truth in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of God.” Heim and Hoffman. “Fides futurorum certa est ex præcedentibus.” Tertull. “Venient hæc quoque sicut ista venerunt.” Augustin.—Förster.

17. On Jeremiah 43:2 sqq. “Hypocrites forsooth do not wish to be regarded as rejecting and setting themselves in opposition to God’s word, or accusing God of falsehood. For then is all the world pious, and no one refuses to be submissive to the dear Lord. God is truly God and remains so. It is only against this parson Jeremiah that they must act he lies, he is not sent, his ruling and preaching cannot be endured.” Cramer.

18. On Jeremiah 43:3. “Observe the old diabolical trick: when preachers practice God’s word and their office with zeal, the world understands how to baptize it with another name and call it personal interest, as even here Baruch must bear the blame, as if he only wished to vent his anger on them and be contrary,” Cramer.

19. On Jeremiah 43:6. The ancients here examine the question why Jeremiah accompanied the people to Egypt and take occasion to discuss the1 Comm. de fuga ministrorum with reference to Augustin. Epist. 150 ad Honorar. With respect to Jeremiah, it is clear that he did all in his power to avert the journey to Egypt. After the whole people, however, were once on their way it was impossible for him and Baruch to remain alone in the deserted country. They were obliged to go with their flock. The more these were wandering, the more need they had of the shepherds. Thus, even if they were not compelled, they had to go with them. It seems, however, to follow from the expression וַיִַּקּח, Jeremiah 43:5, that no choice was given them. The people wished to have the prophet with them. In no case can we say that Jeremiah fled, for according to his own prophecy, he knew that he was going to meet ruin in Egypt.

20. On Jeremiah 43:8-13. At the present day when we wish to convey to posterity the account of some accomplished fact, or the prediction of some fact to be accomplished (ex. gr. a last testament), we take paper and ink, write it down, seal it, have it subscribed by witnesses and preserve it in the registrar’s or recorder’s office. In ancient times they took a simpler and surer way. Jacob and Laban simply erected a heap of stones ( Genesis 31), the two and a half tribes ( Joshua 22) built an altar on the bank of the Jordan. As long as the heap and the altar were standing, the record was transmitted from generation to generation for what object these stone witnesses were set up, and thus, that which it was desired to convey to posterity lived in the memory of men. Jeremiah also knows how to use ink and pen ( Jeremiah 32), but here he returns once more to the old manner of preserving archives. He simply places great stones in the clay, declaring what they signify, viz., that here, on this spot, Nebuchadnezzar’s tent shall stand. Whether the Egyptians and Jews then believed him or not, is of no consequence. The record of these stones and their meaning at any rate remained alive, and the Lord’s word was thus safely preserved till the day of its fulfilment.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. On Jeremiah 40:1-12; Jeremiah 41:1-3; Jeremiah 42:1-16. Israel, the chosen nation, is in its destinies a type of human life in general. Consider only the exodus from Egypt. So also the destinies of the people of Israel, after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, are pretypical. For1. 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 free2. The fate of Gedaliah and the journey to Egypt is a type of the insufficiency of all mere human help3. As the Jews after Gedaliah’s murder, so men at all times, find protection and deliverance in the Lord alone.

2. On Jeremiah 40:1-6. The Christian in the tumult of the world1. He is regarded externally like others2. The eye of the Lord watches with special care over him, so that (a) not a hair of his head is bent, (b) all his wants are provided for3. Hebrews, however, on his part directs all his efforts to the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and will not be turned aside from this either by the violence or the friendliness of the world.

3. On Jeremiah 40:7 to Jeremiah 41:3. Gedaliah’s fate an example of what befals even the most noble in times of deep corruption1. They enjoy general confidence2. They are incapable of attributing extreme wickedness to men3. They become a sacrifice to their confidence4. They are therefore not in a condition to stay the divine judgments.

4. On Jeremiah 42:1-16. What is the surest way of coming to the right conclusion in difficult cases? 1. To inquire of the Lord2. To obey unconditionally the direction which the Lord communicates. [“We must still in faith pray to be guided by a spirit of wisdom in our hearts, and the hints of Providence.” Henry.—S. R. A.]

5. On Jeremiah 43:1-7. Characteristic example of the artfulness of the human heart: the Jews inquire of the Lord and promise to obey His direction ( Jeremiah 42:20). But when the direction does not accord with their wish, they at once declare it to be supposititious, not from the Lord. The prophet must be a liar, an alleged enemy has incited him. But what was long previously determined in the heart is obstinately brought to execution. [“Those that are resolved to contradict the great ends of the ministry, are industrious to bring a bad name upon it. It is well for persons who are thus misrepresented that their witness is in heaven, and their record on high.” Henry.—S. R. A.].

6. On Jeremiah 43:8-13. The ways of the Lord are wonderful. Israel flees before Nebuchadnezzar far away to Egypt. But there they are not safe. The Lord causes it to be proclaimed to them that at the entrance of the king’s palace at Tahpanhes Nebuchadnezzar’s tent shall stand. Now indeed there is a brick-kiln there, in the clay of which Jeremiah is to place stones, the foundation stones, as it were, for the Chaldean king’s pavilion. Thus the Lord lays the germs of future events, and whatever He prepares in secret He reveals in His own time to the glory of His Wisdom of Solomon, omniscience and omnipotence.


Verses 7-16

4. The gathering of the people under Gedaliah

Jeremiah 40:7-16

7Now when all the captains of the forces[FN7] which were in the fields, even they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto[FN8] him men and women, and children, and of the poor[FN9] of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon; 8then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even[FN10] Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan[FN11] the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a [the] Maachathite, 9they and their men. And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell 10 in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah, to serve the Chaldeans,[FN12] which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your 11 vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken. Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant[FN13] of Judah, and that 12 he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan; Even all the Jews returned out of all the places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits 13 very much. Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the 14 forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, and said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee?[FN14] But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed 15 them not. Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it; wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered and the remnant in Judah 16 perish? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing:[FN15] for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The leaders of the scattered bands roving through the country, who had managed to escape the Chaldean forces, assembled to Gedaliah in Mizpah on the news that he had been set by Nebuchadnezzar over the country ( Jeremiah 40:7-8). Gedaliah, after promising them on oath on his part protection and support, urges them to collect whatever the land contains of the necessaries of life and willingly to serve the Chaldeans ( Jeremiah 40:9-10). The dispersed Jews from the neighboring countries also gathered about Gedaliah ( Jeremiah 40:11-12). It however came to be rumored that one of those band-leaders, Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, of the royal stock, had been incited by Baalis, king of the Ammonites, to murder Gedaliah. The rest of the band-leaders, therefore, warned Gedaliah of Ishmael, but Gedaliah believed them not ( Jeremiah 40:13-14). One of the leaders, Johanan the son of Kareah, even offered to murder Ishmael secretly. Gedaliah, however, would not permit it, declaring the suspicion prevailing against Ishmael to be based on a lie ( Jeremiah 40:15-16).

Jeremiah 40:7-8. Now when all … their men. These two verses are also found in 2 Kings 25:23 in an abridged form.—This Ishmael was, according to Jeremiah 41:1, of royal lineage, which partly explains his enmity to Gedaliah. The other persons named are otherwise altogether unknown.—Who the sons of the Netophathite were (the place belonged to Bethlehem, comp. 1 Chronicles 2:54; 1 Chronicles 9:16; Nehemiah 7:26; Ezra 2:22) is as little known as what the proper name of the Maachathite was (Maachah a province of Syria on the northeastern borders of Palestine, Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 12:5 coll. 2 Samuel 10:6; 2 Samuel 10:8; Raumer, Paläst, S. 226, 7). Comp. rems, on Jeremiah 42:1.

Jeremiah 40:9-12. And Gedaliah … fruits very much. Jeremiah 40:9 is also found in 2 Kings 25:24, reproduced with the noteworthy alteration, “to be the servants of the Chaldeans” instead of “to serve the Chaldeans.” The former expression however (we should expect at least “servants of the king of the Chaldeans”) corresponds neither to the usage of the prophets, nor the connection of the passage. Remarkably also the LXX. translate here: μῆ φοβηθῆτε ἀπὸ προσώπου τῶν παίδων τῶν Χαλδαίων, while in 2 Kings 25:24 they have μὴ φοβεῖσθε πάροδον τῶν Χαλδαίων.—What Gedaliah has sworn to them Isaiah, according to Jeremiah 40:10 a, that he would stand in Mizpah before the Chaldeans, who would come to them. He means by this that he would be the medium of intercourse with the Chaldean ambassadors, officers, soldiers, etc., and would represent the interest of the country with them (comp. Jeremiah 15:1). The Jews on their part are to care for their sustenance by collecting the fruits still to be found in the country (it was now autumn, comp. Jeremiah 52:12; Jeremiah 41:1). In the desolated and plundered land this was naturally a matter of the highest importance. The collected supplies they were to preserve in the cities which, according to their own choice, they had taken into their possession. On the news that Nebuchadnezzar had left of the Jewish people, as it were a remnant of root in their land, and over this feeble remnant had appointed Gedaliah overseer, the dispersed Jews also returned from the neighboring lands, in order to gather around Gedaliah in Mizpah, who must thus have been a persona grata.

Jeremiah 40:13-16. Moreover Johanan … of Ishmael. Whether Baalis, king of the Ammonites, had any special hatred towards the person of Gedaliah, or whether he wished to destroy the Jews’ last point of cohesion and crystalization, is uncertain. His making use of Ishmael may have been due to the personal jealousy of this Prayer of Manasseh, who as a prince royal ( Jeremiah 41:1) regarded Gedaliah’s post of honor as properly belonging to him. The plan became known. The captains came to Mizpah (in the fields is not a thoughtless repetition from Jeremiah 40:7, but indicates that the bands were still essentially the same, namely, free corps roving through the country) to warn Gedaliah. Hebrews, however, did not believe them. And when Johanan alone in secret conference offered to kill Ishmael, he directly forbade him, declaring the accusation to be a lie.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Jeremiah 40:1-3. “Although the calamity, which has come upon Jerusalem, is great and terrible, God does not allow such evil to befal it that good will not result from it, as the Chaldean captain not obscurely intimates, that he has made a fair beginning in the knowledge of the true God. For he confesses, first, that the God of the prophet is a lord; secondly, that He knows future things; thirdly, that He causes His servants to proclaim these beforehand; fourthly, that God has conducted the war and done everything; fifthly, that He was displeased with the sinful manners of the people (among which idolatry was the worst); sixthly, that He has punished their disobedience to His word.” Cramer.

2. On Jeremiah 40:4. “The friendliness, shown to the prophet, appears to proceed from men, but it comes from God. For God’s works are all made so that they are hidden among the creatures; for as He conceals His wisdom in the creation of heaven and earth, as He hides His kindness in the fruits of the earth, so also He disguises His help in the king of Babylon. For God executes. His works now by rational and anon by irrational creatures. As when He fed Elijah by the widow and by the ravens and by the angels ( 1 Kings 17:3 sqq.; 14sqq. and Jeremiah 19:5). For all are His instruments.” Cramer.

3. On Jeremiah 40:2-3. “Nebusaradan attestatione sua comprobat et confirmat veritatem ac certitudinem prædictionum prophetæ. Unde haud inscite colligi conjicique potest, quod Satrapa ille Babylonicus præditus fuerit agnitione veri Dei eâque salvatus. Et sic Deus subinde aliquos ex Magnatibus ad sui agnitionem et æternam salutem traducit ( Psalm 68). Potest istud exemplum ἐλεγκτικῶς obverti absoluto Calvinianorum decreto.” Förster.

4. On Jeremiah 40:5. “In this, that Jeremiah preferred remaining in the country to going to Babylon, it strikes me further—that a discreet Prayer of Manasseh, who knows the world and his heart and the true interest of God’s cause—is as much as possible contented, and does not think to better himself by going further. He is willing to remain at court unknown, and at any rate he would rather be taken away than go away.—The advice, which Solomon gives, is verified, ‘Stand not in the place of great men.’ We are a generation of the cross, and our symbol is ‘an evil name and little understood.’ ” Zinzendorf.

5. On Jeremiah 40:5. In Babylonia honor and a comfortable life invited the prophet, in Judea danger, dishonor and need in the desolated country. In Babylonia a respectable field of labor was opened to him among the great mass of his people, in Judea he had only rabble and condottieri about him. Jeremiah, however, was not a bad patriot, as many accused him of being. By remaining in Judea he showed that the import of his prophecies, apparently friendly to the Chaldeans and hostile to the Jews, had proceeded from the purest love to his people and his fatherland. Thus he imitated Moses, of whom it is written in Hebrews 11:25, that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. The holy ground of the fatherland bound him to it, and in addition—if he went, who was to take spiritual oversight of the poor forsaken remnant, to proclaim the word of God and bestow on them consolation and admonition? Those who were in Babylon had Ezekiel. And could not the Lord raise up other prophets for them? So he remained with the sheep, who had no shepherd. Jeremiah had not sought his own through his whole life, nor did he here.

6. On Jeremiah 40:7 sqq. “Human reason, and indeed nature shows, that in worldly government men cannot be without a head. For as the been cannot be without a queen, or the sheep without a shepherd, so no large number of people can exist without a head and government. God has wisely ordered it, and we should be thankful for the authorities.” Cramer.

7. On Jeremiah 40:11 sqq. We may well perceive in this “remnant of Judah” a fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 6:11 sqq.: “Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without Prayer of Manasseh, and the land be utterly desolate, and Jehovah have removed men far away, and great is the forsaking in the midst of the land. And if a tenth remains in it, this again must be removed. Yet as the terebinth and the oak, in which when they are felled, a ground-stock still remains, so is its stock a holy scion.”

8. On Jeremiah 40:13 sqq. Gedaliah, in whom not only Nebuchadnezzar, but also his people, had confidence, must have been a noble Prayer of Manasseh, to whom it was difficult to think evil of his neighbor. “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 (Wisd37:3). He who believes too easily, will be often deceived, and he who believes no one is also deceived. Therefore is he indeed a happy Prayer of Manasseh, who can preserve the golden mean.” Cramer.

9. On Jeremiah 40:13 sqq. “Misfortune is like the waves of the sea; when one is broken another follows, and the end of one trouble is the beginning of others.” Cramer.

10. On Jeremiah 41:1-3. “Judas’s kiss and Jacob’s brethren are very common in the world and take after their grandfather Cain, who spake kindly to Abel and yet had blood-thirsty thoughts ( Genesis 4:8). Yea, they take after their father, the devil, who is a murderous spirit ( John 8:44), and disguises himself as an angel of light ( 2 Corinthians 11:14).” Cramer.

11. On Jeremiah 41:1 sqq. “Similia perfidiæ exempla (simulatæ fraternitatis): 2 Samuel 13:24; 2 Samuel 20:9 sq. Quadrat etiam huc historia nuptiarum Parisiensium celebratum 1572 mense Augusto.” Förster.

12. On Jer 41:4 sqq.

“Murder and avarice love to go with each other,

And one crime is often a prolific mother.”—Cramer.

13. On Jeremiah 41:16 sqq. It is very remarkable that even this last centre and rendezvous of the unfortunate people must be destroyed. It might be supposed that with the destruction of the city and deportation of the people the judgments would have terminated. It seems as if the deed of Ishmael and the removal of the remnant to Egypt transcended the measure of punishment fixed by Jehovah, for the Lord did not send Ishmael, and the removal to Egypt He directly forbade. And yet it seems that only by Ishmael’s act and the flight to Egypt could the land obtain its Sabbath rest, which is spoken of in Leviticus 26:34-35.

14. On Jeremiah 42:1-6. “Had not Johanan and his people asked for advice, but gone directly to Egypt, their sin would not have been so great. They feigned, however, submission to the will of God, while they yet adhered to their own will. It is a common fault for people to ask advice while they are firmly resolved what they will do. For they inquire not to learn what is right, but only to receive encouragement to do what they wish. If we advise them according to their inclination they take our advice, if not, they reject it.—We must be on our guard when we appeal to God’s decision, that we do not previously decide for ourselves. For thus we fall into hypocrisy, which is the most fatal intoxication and blindness.” Heim and Hoffman, The Major Prophets. [“Those will justly lose their comfort in real fears, that excuse themselves in sin with pretended fears.” Henry.—S. R. A.]

15. On Jeremiah 42:7. After the murder of Gedaliah the anger of Nebuchadnezzar seemed inevitable. But the Lord, to whom nothing is impossible ( Jeremiah 32:17), promises to perform a miracle, and restore Israel to new prosperity in their land if they will give Him the honor and trust in Him. Nebuchadnezzar’s heart is indeed in His hand. If this is not acknowledged and Nebuchadnezzar more feared than the Lord, their sin is then against the first commandment.

16. On Jeremiah 42:13 sqq. “God reminds His people of the favor with which He adopted them as His people, which was the most sacred obligation to obedience; that Egypt was to them a land of destruction, a forbidden land, as indeed all confidence in human aid is forbidden to those who would live by faith, which was known to them from the history of their fathers and all the prophets. It is a great sin to deem one’s self safer under the protection of man than under that of God. It is incomprehensible, how blind unbelief makes people, so that the Jews have not yet learned the truth in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple of God.” Heim and Hoffman. “Fides futurorum certa est ex præcedentibus.” Tertull. “Venient hæc quoque sicut ista venerunt.” Augustin.—Förster.

17. On Jeremiah 43:2 sqq. “Hypocrites forsooth do not wish to be regarded as rejecting and setting themselves in opposition to God’s word, or accusing God of falsehood. For then is all the world pious, and no one refuses to be submissive to the dear Lord. God is truly God and remains so. It is only against this parson Jeremiah that they must act he lies, he is not sent, his ruling and preaching cannot be endured.” Cramer.

18. On Jeremiah 43:3. “Observe the old diabolical trick: when preachers practice God’s word and their office with zeal, the world understands how to baptize it with another name and call it personal interest, as even here Baruch must bear the blame, as if he only wished to vent his anger on them and be contrary,” Cramer.

19. On Jeremiah 43:6. The ancients here examine the question why Jeremiah accompanied the people to Egypt and take occasion to discuss the1 Comm. de fuga ministrorum with reference to Augustin. Epist. 150 ad Honorar. With respect to Jeremiah, it is clear that he did all in his power to avert the journey to Egypt. After the whole people, however, were once on their way it was impossible for him and Baruch to remain alone in the deserted country. They were obliged to go with their flock. The more these were wandering, the more need they had of the shepherds. Thus, even if they were not compelled, they had to go with them. It seems, however, to follow from the expression וַיִַּקּח, Jeremiah 43:5, that no choice was given them. The people wished to have the prophet with them. In no case can we say that Jeremiah fled, for according to his own prophecy, he knew that he was going to meet ruin in Egypt.

20. On Jeremiah 43:8-13. At the present day when we wish to convey to posterity the account of some accomplished fact, or the prediction of some fact to be accomplished (ex. gr. a last testament), we take paper and ink, write it down, seal it, have it subscribed by witnesses and preserve it in the registrar’s or recorder’s office. In ancient times they took a simpler and surer way. Jacob and Laban simply erected a heap of stones ( Genesis 31), the two and a half tribes ( Joshua 22) built an altar on the bank of the Jordan. As long as the heap and the altar were standing, the record was transmitted from generation to generation for what object these stone witnesses were set up, and thus, that which it was desired to convey to posterity lived in the memory of men. Jeremiah also knows how to use ink and pen ( Jeremiah 32), but here he returns once more to the old manner of preserving archives. He simply places great stones in the clay, declaring what they signify, viz., that here, on this spot, Nebuchadnezzar’s tent shall stand. Whether the Egyptians and Jews then believed him or not, is of no consequence. The record of these stones and their meaning at any rate remained alive, and the Lord’s word was thus safely preserved till the day of its fulfilment.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

1. On Jeremiah 40:1-12; Jeremiah 41:1-3; Jeremiah 42:1-16. Israel, the chosen nation, is in its destinies a type of human life in general. Consider only the exodus from Egypt. So also the destinies of the people of Israel, after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, are pretypical. For1. 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 free2. The fate of Gedaliah and the journey to Egypt is a type of the insufficiency of all mere human help3. As the Jews after Gedaliah’s murder, so men at all times, find protection and deliverance in the Lord alone.

2. On Jeremiah 40:1-6. The Christian in the tumult of the world1. He is regarded externally like others2. The eye of the Lord watches with special care over him, so that (a) not a hair of his head is bent, (b) all his wants are provided for3. Hebrews, however, on his part directs all his efforts to the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and will not be turned aside from this either by the violence or the friendliness of the world.

3. On Jeremiah 40:7 to Jeremiah 41:3. Gedaliah’s fate an example of what befals even the most noble in times of deep corruption1. They enjoy general confidence2. They are incapable of attributing extreme wickedness to men3. They become a sacrifice to their confidence4. They are therefore not in a condition to stay the divine judgments.

4. On Jeremiah 42:1-16. What is the surest way of coming to the right conclusion in difficult cases? 1. To inquire of the Lord2. To obey unconditionally the direction which the Lord communicates. [“We must still in faith pray to be guided by a spirit of wisdom in our hearts, and the hints of Providence.” Henry.—S. R. A.]

5. On Jeremiah 43:1-7. Characteristic example of the artfulness of the human heart: the Jews inquire of the Lord and promise to obey His direction ( Jeremiah 42:20). But when the direction does not accord with their wish, they at once declare it to be supposititious, not from the Lord. The prophet must be a liar, an alleged enemy has incited him. But what was long previously determined in the heart is obstinately brought to execution. [“Those that are resolved to contradict the great ends of the ministry, are industrious to bring a bad name upon it. It is well for persons who are thus misrepresented that their witness is in heaven, and their record on high.” Henry.—S. R. A.].

6. On Jeremiah 43:8-13. The ways of the Lord are wonderful. Israel flees before Nebuchadnezzar far away to Egypt. But there they are not safe. The Lord causes it to be proclaimed to them that at the entrance of the king’s palace at Tahpanhes Nebuchadnezzar’s tent shall stand. Now indeed there is a brick-kiln there, in the clay of which Jeremiah is to place stones, the foundation stones, as it were, for the Chaldean king’s pavilion. Thus the Lord lays the germs of future events, and whatever He prepares in secret He reveals in His own time to the glory of His Wisdom of Solomon, omniscience and omnipotence.

Footnotes:

FN#7 - Jeremiah 40:7.—חֲיָלִים. The word is found in the sense of “riches” in Isaiah 30:6. In the sense of “forces, bands,” it occurs only in Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 40:13; Jeremiah 41:11; Jeremiah 41:13; Jeremiah 41:16; Jeremiah 42:1; Jeremiah 42:8; Jeremiah 43:4-5), and in later books ( 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 25:23; 2 Kings 25:26; Ecclesiastes 10:10; 1 Chronicles 7:5-7; Daniel 11:10). By the addition of אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׂדֶה these bands are distinguished from the main forces of the regular army in the capital.

FN#8 - Jeremiah 40:7.—הִפְקִיד אִתּוֹ This Hiphil denotes not only inspicientem, but also inspiciendum facere: Jeremiah 41:10; Jeremiah 36:20; Jeremiah 37:21; Psalm 31:6; Isaiah 10:28; 2 Chronicles 12:10, in which case he to whom the inspectio is committed is designated in various ways by לְ, by אֵת, by בְּיָד or עַליָּד

FN#9 - Jeremiah 40:7.—ומדלת. Comp. Jeremiah 39:10; 2 Kings 25:12. The partitive מִן expresses that not all the “poor of the land” were left behind, which also follows from Jeremiah 52:15 coll16. In the following מִן before אֲשֶׁר there is a sort of attraction, and it is therefore not to be emphasized, as it would then signify that Gedaliah was not set as inspector over all the remaining people.

FN#10 - Jeremiah 40:8.—The Vau is explicative=and indeed. Comp. Naegelsb. Gr., § 111, 1.

FN#11 - Jeremiah 40:8.— 2 Kings 25:23 has only “Johanan son of Kareah.” The words “and the sons of Ephai” are also omitted, so that “the Netophathite” is referred to Tanhumeth. Instead of יֲזנְיָה finally we read there יַאֲזַנְיָה. From these alterations it follows that the present text is the original. For the similarity of the names Johanan and Jonathan, which appears more in writing than in speaking, as well as the obscurity of the name עכָּי (which according to the Chethibh is to be spoken עוֹכַּי, according to the Keri עֵיכַּי Comp. עֵיכָּה, Genesis 25:4; Isaiah 60:6; 1 Chronicles 2:46-47) well explains the omission of these words, while their insertion in the text appears in the highest degree improbable.

FN#12 - Jeremiah 40:10.—[“Literally, to stand at the face of the Chaldeans: to be their representative, and to do their will, and also to mediate with them in your behalf (Hitzig).” Wordsworth.—S. R. A.]

FN#13 - Jeremiah 40:11.—נָתַן שִׁאֵרִית. Comp. Jeremiah 44:7; Genesis 45:7; 2 Samuel 14:7.

FN#14 - Jeremiah 40:14.—לְהַכֹּתְךָ נֶפֶֹשׁ. Comp. Genesis 37:21; Deuteronomy 19:6; Deuteronomy 19:11; Deuteronomy 27:25; Naegelsb. Gr., § 70, f.

FN#15 - Jeremiah 40:16.—אַל־תַּעַשׂ. The Keri would read תַּעֲשֵׂה (comp. on this form Olsh, § 240, a Anm.), unnecessarily. Comp. Jeremiah 39:12; Genesis 22:12; Job 13:20.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 40:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/jeremiah-40.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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