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Jeremiah with Gedaliah the Governor
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in fetters along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God threatened this place with this disaster; 3and now the Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said, because all of you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice. Therefore this thing has come upon you. 4Now look, I have just released you today from the fetters on your hands. If you wish to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will take good care of you; but if you do not wish to come with me to Babylon, you need not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go. 5If you remain, then return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed governor of the towns of Judah, and stay with him among the people; or go wherever you think it right to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food and a present, and let him go. 6Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah, and stayed with him among the people who were left in the land.
7 When all the leaders of the forces in the open country and their troops heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, they and their troops. 9Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan swore to them and their troops, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Stay in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall go well with you. 10As for me, I am staying at Mizpah to represent you before the Chaldeans who come to us; but as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and live in the towns that you have taken over.” 11Likewise, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan as governor over them, 12then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been scattered and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah; and they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance.
13 Now Johanan son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14and said to him, “Are you at all aware that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15Then Johanan son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah at Mizpah, “Please let me go and kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah, and no one else will know. Why should he take your life, so that all the Judeans who are gathered around you would be scattered, and the remnant of Judah would perish?” 16But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, “Do not do such a thing, for you are telling a lie about Ishmael.”
Jer 40:1-16. Jeremiah Is Set Free at Ramah, and Goes to Gedaliah, to Whom the Remnant of Jews Repair. Johanan Warns Gedaliah of Ishmael's Conspiracy in Vain.
1. word that came—the heading of a new part of the book (the forty-first through forty-fourth chapters), namely, the prophecies to the Jews in Judea and Egypt after the taking of the city, blended with history. The prophecy does not begin till Jer 42:7, and the previous history is introductory to it.
bound in chains—Though released from the court of the prison (see on Jer 39:14), in the confusion at the burning of the city he seems to have been led away in chains with the other captives, and not till he reached Ramah to have gained full liberty. Nebuzara-dan had his quarters at Ramah, in Benjamin; and there he collected the captives previous to their removal to Babylon (Jer 31:15). He in releasing Jeremiah obeyed the king's commands (Jer 39:11). Jeremiah's "chains" for a time were due to the negligence of those to whom he had been committed; or else to Nebuzara-dan's wish to upbraid the people with their perverse ingratitude in imprisoning Jeremiah [Calvin]; hence he addresses the people (ye … you) as much as Jeremiah (Jer 40:2, 3).
2. The Babylonians were in some measure aware, through Jeremiah's prophecies (Jer 39:11), that they were the instruments of God's wrath on His people.
4. look well unto thee—the very words of Nebuchadnezzar's charge (Jer 39:12).
all the land is before thee … seemeth good—(Ge 20:15, Margin). Jeremiah alone had the option given him of staying where he pleased, when all the rest were either carried off or forced to remain there.
5. while he was not yet gone back—parenthetical. When Jeremiah hesitated whether it would be best for him to go, Nebuzara-dan proceeded to say, "Go, then, to Gedaliah," (not as English Version, "Go back, also"), if thou preferrest (as Nebuzara-dan inferred from Jeremiah's hesitancy) to stop here rather than go with me.
reward—rather, "a present." This must have been a seasonable relief to the prophet, who probably lost his all in the siege.
6. Mizpah—in Benjamin, northwest of Jerusalem (Jer 41:5, 6, 9). Not the Mizpah in Gilead, beyond Jordan (Jud 10:17). Jeremiah showed his patriotism and piety in remaining in his country amidst afflictions and notwithstanding the ingratitude of the Jews, rather than go to enjoy honors and pleasures in a heathen court (Heb 11:24-26). This vindicates his purity of motive in his withdrawal (Jer 37:12-14).
7. captains … in the fields—The leaders of the Jewish army had been "scattered" throughout the country on the capture of Zedekiah (Jer 52:8), in order to escape the notice of the Chaldeans.
8. Netophathite—from Netophah, a town in Judah (2Sa 23:28).
Maachathite—from Maachathi, at the foot of Mount Hermon (De 3:14).
9. Fear not—They were afraid that they should not obtain pardon from the Chaldeans for their acts. He therefore assured them of safety by an oath.
10. Mizpah—lying on the way between Babylon and Judah, and so convenient for transacting business between the two countries.
As for me … but ye—He artfully, in order to conciliate them, represents the burden of the service to the Chaldeans as falling on him, while they may freely gather their wine, fruits, and oil. He does not now add that these very fruits were to constitute the chief part of the tribute to be paid to Babylon: which, though fruitful in corn, was less productive of grapes, figs, and olives [Herodotus, 1.193]. The grant of "vineyards" to the "poor" (Jer 39:10) would give hope to the discontended of enjoying the best fruits (Jer 40:12).
11. Jews … in Moab—who had fled thither at the approach of the Chaldeans. God thus tempered the severity of His vengeance that a remnant might be left.
13. in the fields—not in the city, but scattered in the country (Jer 40:7).
14. Baalis—named from the idol Baal, as was often the case in heathen names.
Ammonites—So it was to them that Ishmael went after murdering Gedaliah (Jer 41:10).
slay—literally, "strike thee in the soul," that is, a deadly stroke.
Ishmael—Being of the royal seed of David (Jer 41:1), he envied Gedaliah the presidency to which he thought himself entitled; therefore he leagued himself with the ancient heathen enemy of Judah.
believed … not—generous, but unwise unsuspiciousness (Ec 9:16).
16. thou speakest falsely—a mystery of providence that God should permit the righteous, in spite of warning, thus to rush into the trap laid for them! Isa 57:1 suggests a solution.