Jeremiah 41
Pulpit Commentary
Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.
Verses 1-10. - Assassination of Gedaliah and other Jews. Verse 1. - In the seventh month; i.e. two months after the destruction of Jerusalem and the appointment of Gedaliah. It seems strange, however, that the occurrences related in ch. 40. and 41. should have taken so short a time. Gratz calls in question the accuracy of the chronological statement. He quotes Ezekiel 33:24-29, which shows that at least six months (according to his calculation) after the fall of Jerusalem Jewish fugitives still lingered on, and hoped to obtain possession of their fatherland, and points out that time was necessary for Gedaliah to erect a temple at Mizpah (see on ver. 5), for cities to arise out of their ruins, and for cultivation of the soil to be resumed (Jeremiah 40:10). Besides, according to Jeremiah 52:30, a third deportation of Jews is mentioned. How can this be accounted for, if, only two months after the fall of Jerusalem, the remnant of the Jewish population emigrated under Johanan ben Kareah to Egypt? Gratz shows reason for thinking that this last deportation stands in close connection with Gedaliah's death, and that consequently the interval between this latter event and the fall of Jerusalem lasted, not two months, but five years. The son of Elishama. Perhaps the Elishama men. tioned in Jeremiah 36:12 as a secretary of state; or perhaps a son of David of that name (see 2 Samuel 5:18; 1 Chronicles 3:8; 1 Chronicles 14:7; "son" being taken here in a wider sense). And the princes of the king; rather, and (one of) the princes of the king. Even ten men; rather, and ten men. Elevon determined bravoes overpower a crowd of unprepared men. Did eat bread together. Gedaliah, then, had invited them to a friendly banquet.
Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.
Verse 2. - Smote Gedaliah. The day of the murder of Gedaliah (the third day of the seventh month) was kept as a fast day by the post-Captivity Jews (see Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19). It was the day on which the hope of living a separate life in the promised land, for a time at least, vanished; and the murder was avenged by a new captivity (see above).
Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.
Verse 3. - The Chaldeans. Gedaliah's Chaldean bodyguard. And the men of war; rather, even the men of war. Jewish as well as Chaldean warriors are meant; the non-military Jews, including the prophet, were carried away captive (see vers. 10,16).
And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,
Verses 4-7. - The news of the deed of violence had not yet been spread, and Ishmael seized the opportunity of imbruing his hands in fresh blood. He could have had no personal motive; but his employer, Baalis, desired that "the remnant in Judah might perish" (Jeremiah 40:15).
That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.
Verse 5. - There came certain from Shechem, etc. A number of pious pilgrims, descend. ants of the old ten tribes, passed by on their way to the holy site of the temple at Jerusalem (?) (comp. 2 Chronicles 34:9; 2 Chronicles 30:11). From Shiloh. The Vatican Codex of the Septuagint has a plausible reading, "from Salem," which is apparently supported by Genesis 33:18, "And Jacob cares to Shalem, a city of Shechem," and by its improvement thus introduced into the geographical order (Shiloh is, in fact, nearer to Mizpah than Shechem, and ought to be mentioned first). But though there is now a village called Salim, to the east of Nablus (Shechem), we have no sufficient ground for assuming a city of that name in the Old Testament, The rendering of Genesis, i.e. needs correction ("came in peace to the city," etc.) Their beards shaven, etc. They had, then, all the outward signs of mourning (for the public calamities); comp, Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:37. To bring them to the house of the Lord. Yet the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed. Hence Thenius and Gratz have conjectured that Gedaliah had erected a provisional temple at Mizpah, which was already hallowed by its association with the Prophet Samuel. This is confirmed by 1 Macc. 3:46, where it is said of the pious Jews in the Maccabean rising, that they "assembled themselves... and came to Maspha, over against Jerusalem; for in Maspha was the place where they prayed aforetime in Israel."
And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.
Verse 6. - Weeping all along as he went. To testify his sympathy with their grief. But the reading of the Septuagint is more natural, "As they were going along and weeping."
And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that were with him.
Verse 7. - The pit (see on ver. 9).
But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.
Verse 8. - Slay us not, etc. Bishop Callaway refers to this passage in his 'Zulu Nursery Tales' (1:242), in illustration of a Zulu form of deprecating death on the ground of having some important work in hand which absolutely requires the life of the person in danger. But the "ten men" do not, as the bishop supposes, beg their lives on the ground that they had not yet harvested, but rather offer a bribe. We have treasures (literally, hidden things) in the field. The allusion is to the "wells or cisterns for grain," in which "the farmers store their crops of all kinds after the grain is threshed and winnowed. These cisterns are cool, perfectly dry, and tight. The top is hermetically sealed with plaster, and covered with a deep bed of earth; and thus they keep out rats, mice, and even ants, the latter by no means a contemptible enemy .... These ten men had doubtless thus hid their treasures to avoid being plundered in that time of utter lawlessness" (Thomson, 'The Land and the Book,' p. 509). Honey. Probably that obtained from wild bees.
Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, was it which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.
Verse 9. - Now the pit... which Arm the king had made, etc. Nothing is said of this "pit" in the historical books, but only (1 Kings 15:22 = 2 Chronicles 16:6) that Asa used the material with which Baasha had fortified Ramah to build Geba and Mizpah. It would seem that this "pit" formed part of Asa's defensive works; probably it was a cistern to supply the town with water during the siege. Because of Gedaliah; was it. The rendering "because of" must be abandoned. The Septuagint has, in this part of the verse, the very natural words, "was a great pit," and this reading is adopted by Movers, Hitzig, and Graft.
Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king's daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.
Verse 10. - The king's daughters; rather, the royal princesses (see on Jeremiah 36:26).
But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done,
Verses 11-18. - Rescue of the captives from Ishmael, and plan for taking flight to Egypt.
Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon.
Verse 12. - The great waters.., in Gibeon; i.e. the pool mentioned in 2 Samuel 2:13. Dr. Thomson (p. 670) speaks of a "pond or small lake" near El-Jib. Ishmael seems to be lingering over his journey to Ammon, in order to find the subterranean stores spoken of in ver. 8.
Now it came to pass, that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, then they were glad.
So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.
Verse 14. - Cast about; i.e. turned about (an archaism).
But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.
Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:
And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt,
Verse 17. - And dwelt in the habitation of Chimham. Chimham was the son of the rich Gileadite Barzillai (2 Samuel 19:37-40), who probably founded this "habitation" or rather "hospice" ("khan," "caravanserai"), for the accommodation of travellers - a characteristic mark of public-spirited liberality. Josephus and Aquila, however, appear to have read "by the hurdles of Chimham" - a very possible name for a locality in such a pastoral country.
Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.
Verse 18. - Because of the Chaldeans. They were afraid of being held responsible for the crime of Ishmael. And they had good reason for their alarm, as the Chaldeans would naturally look upon Ishmael as the representative of the Davidic dynasty, and the heir of that dynasty's claims to the loyalty of the Jews.

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