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Jeremiah, Chapter 40
Jeremiah lives with the new governor, Gedaliah.
This and the following five chapters deal mainly with the history of Jeremiah's life after the fall of Jerusalem.
It seems to distress some commentators that this chapter begins with a statement that applies to all six of these chapters, The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD.
This comes from the ignorance of writers who have never learned that in the Holy Word of God, the history written by God's prophets is just as divinely inspired as are the prophecies, or predictive prophecies. Thus saith the LORD is especially suitable, not just for a future prediction, but also to what is past, if it were written by an inspired prophet!
We have taken our leave of the captives that were carried to Babylon, not expecting to hear any more of them in this book: perhaps we may in Ezekiel; and we must in this and the four following chapters observe the story of those few Jews that were left to remain in the land after their brethren were carried away, and it is a very sad story; for although at first there were some hopeful prospects of their well-doing, they very soon appeared as determined to sin as ever. They refused to humble themselves, refused to repent, refused to reform, until all the rest of the judgments threatened in Deu.28, were brought upon them, that which in the last verse of that frightful Chapter completes the threats was accomplished, The LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again. In this chapter we have, (1). A more specific account of Jeremiah's discharge and his settlement with Gedaliah (vs.1-6). (2). The great choice of the Jews that remained scattered in the neighboring countries to Gedaliah, who was made their governor under the king of Babylon; and the good posture they were in for a while under him (vs.7-12). (3). A treacherous plan formed against Gedaliah, by Ishmael, which we shall find performed in the next chapter (vs.13-16).
Theme: Jeremiah prophecies to remnant left in land.
In this and the next Chapter or two, we find Jeremiah speaking to those who were left in the land of Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem. These would be the very poor, the blind, the crippled, the lame and another group which would be the criminals, a hard group of people. Jeremiah chose to stay with the people in the land, and he had a message for them.
Specific Account of Jeremiah's Discharge and His Settlement with Gedaliah (Jer. 40:1-6)
Jer. 40:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon. (KJV)
The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD . . . the word of prophecy, is a story of facts, the time of this prophecy was,
After that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah . . . which was a city in the land of Benjamin near Gibeon, about seven miles from Jerusalem, where Nebuzaradan had his meetings, where he brought his captives as they fell into his hands, among whom was Jeremiah.
When he had taken him . . . out of the court of the prison, and out of Jerusalem, and brought him to Ramah.
Being bound in chains among all them that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, that were carried away captive unto Babylon . . . how this came to be is not certain, but so it was, even though by the orders of Nebuzaradan and the princes, agreed to the command of the king of Babylon, Jeremiah was taken out of the court of the prison, yet was not set free; but without the knowledge of Nebuzaradan, and through the carelessness of inferior officers, he was taken and bound, and with other prisoners brought to Ramah, in order to be transported to Babylon, which lay in the way to it; for Ramah was to the north of Jerusalem, as Babylon was. The chains were for the hands, or what we call handcuffs, and as appears from verse 4.
Jer. 40:2 And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place. (KJV)
And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah . . . when Nebuzaradan gathered his prisoners, to his great surprise he found the prophet among them, whom he immediately took out and set him free; even though, before he dismissed him, he had the following conversation with him.
And said unto him, the LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil on this place . . . the city of Jerusalem; from where the prophet and the rest of the captives were just brought, and which now lay in ruins. The houses had been burned, the city walls broken down, and the people spoiled and carried captive. This was the evil which the LORD, he says, had declared, and was to bring upon it; and which the LORD had declared and pronounced by the mouth of Jeremiah, who’s LORD and God he was, being His prophet, and a worshipper of Him. Nebuzaradan was described by the Jews that deserted to the Chaldeans; and mainly, as is probable by Gedaliah.
Jer. 40:3 Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is
come upon you. (KJV)
Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said . . . so it came to pass; as the LORD foretold by His prophet, so it was brought about by His wisdom. This heathen captain acknowledges the Hand of the LORD in all this; and suggests, that his master, the king of Babylon, himself, and the rest of the generals, were only instruments that the LORD made use of; which is very piously as well as wisely said, for even the Jews themselves were not willing to believe that God had determined evil against them, or that He would bring it upon them.
Because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you . . . not meaning Jeremiah, but his countrymen. Here he defends the justice of God; and ascribes the ruin of this people, not to the valor of King Nebuchadnezzar and his captains; nor to the strength, courage and skilfulness of his army; or to any righteousness and merits of the king of Babylon; or to the justness of his cause; but to the sins of the people.
Jer. 40:4 And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. 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 convenient for thee to go, thither go. (KJV)
And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hands . . . when he said these words, it is most likely the chains were on him, but now they were ordered to be taken off.
If it seem good unto thee to come with me unto Babylon, come, and one will look well unto thee . . . as the king of Babylon had ordered him to do, do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee (Jer.39:12); for the LORD would favor him, protect him, provide for him, and use him in the most kind and merciful way.
But if it seem ill unto thee to come with me to Babylon, forbear . . . if it was not agreeable to Jeremiah to leave his country, and to go into Babylon, Nebuzaradan would not insist, but let him decide.
Behold, all the land is before thee . . . the land of Judea, which was at the disposal of the king of Babylon; and Jeremiah has a grant from him, by his officer, to settle where ever he pleased.
Whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go . . . Nebuzaradan left him to take his own way, and do as he thought fit; and this agrees with his master's orders to him (Jer.39:12).
Jer. 40:5 Now while he was not yet gone back, 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, and let him go. (KJV)
Now while he was not yet gone back, he said, go back also to Gedaliah . . . there are different opinions on this phrase. It seems best to understand it of Jeremiah, who, having left the captain, did not immediately set out anywhere; but, seeing to be at a loss which way to go, Nebuzaradan gives him his advice; that seeing he did not care to go to Babylon, that he would go to Gedaliah.
The son of, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over all the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people . . . Ahikam was one of the princes of Judah, who, during the siege, went over to the Chaldeans, and who had great regard for them; and no doubt, was recommended to the king of Babylon by his generals, he made him governor of the land under him.
Or go wherever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go . . . although Nebuzaradan gave him his advice, he did not force it, but left Jeremiah free to decide his own way, and go into whatever part of the land he pleased, and settle there.
So the captain of the guard gave him victuals, and a reward, and let him go . . . since Jeremiah had just come out of prison, and was destitute of all the necessaries of life, and the land was laid waste by the enemy; he could not have survived without a supply of food, which was liberally given to him by Nebuzaradan; not just food for the day, but sufficient for his journey, no matter which way he went, and it seems also a gift of money and clothes, which was indeed very kind compassion on the prophet by a heathen officer.
Jer. 40:6 Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land. (KJV)
Then went Jeremiah to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah . . . Mizpah was a city in the tribe of Benjamin, not far from Ramathon; which Josephus says was about five miles from Jerusalem. Jeremiah took the captain's advice, although it might have been better with him had he gone with him to Babylon. But he chose instead to dwell in his own land, and to suffer the affliction with the people of God, rather than to dwell at ease in a foreign and idolatrous land.
And dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land . . . Jeremiah lived among the poor people that Nebuzaradan left, who lived either at Mizpah or at Anathoth, and he lived as they did.
Jews That Remained, Scattered to Gedaliah, Who Was Made Their Governor (Jer. 40:7-12)
Jer. 40:7 Now when all the captains of the forces 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 him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon; (KJV)
Now when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields . . . not the captains of the king of Babylon's forces, but the captains of the king of Judah's forces; who either during the siege had lurked in the fields and villages, not daring to fall upon the Chaldean army, or try to raise the siege; or maybe those who fled with Zedekiah from Jerusalem, when the city was taken and those who deserted him, when he was caught, and shifted for themselves. They were spread about in the country, where they continued for a short time: but when,
They and their men . . . their servants, or the common soldiers that were under them.
Heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land . . . made Gedaliah his deputy governor in the land of Judea; being a prince of considerable note among the Jews, and in high favor with the king of Babylon.
And had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive unto Babylon . . . as many men, women, children and poor, as were left in the land, and not carried captive; these were all committed to the care of Gedaliah, to rule over and govern them; to keep them in oppression to the king of Babylon; to use them in cultivating the land, from where some profit might arise to the conqueror and new owner of it.
Jer. 40:8 Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men. (KJV)
Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah . . . these people having heard that the Chaldean army was gone, so there was no fear, and since Gedaliah was made deputy governor, one of their own nation, a pious, prudent, good man, a man of cleverness, mildness, and integrity; under whose government they might expect to live comfortably; and which was much more preferred instead of captivity in a foreign country, even though this would be a branch of Babylon.
Even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah . . . Ishmael was of the royal seed (Jer.41:1).
And Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah . . . two brothers, but who they were, or who their father was is not known, no mention being made of them but in this story.
And Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth . . . who he was is also uncertain.
And the sons of Ephai the Netophathite . . . so called from Netophah, a city of the tribe of Judah near Bethlehem, and are mentioned (Ezra 2:22); the Netophathites inhabited several villages (1 Chr.9:16).
And Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite . . . a family so called from Maacah, Caleb's concubine (1 Chr.2:48).
They and their men . . . these generals, and the forces in their command.
Jer. 40:9 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 in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. (KJV)
And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan aware unto them and to their men . . . they might express their fears, that should they continue with Gedaliah, as they were inclined to do, could they be safe; that seeing they had encouraged Zedekiah to hold out the siege to the last against the Chaldeans, and they should hear where they were, would demand them, and they, should be taken and delivered up into their hands; upon which Gedaliah not only promises them safety, but swears to them that they would live safely with him, and never be delivered up to the Chaldeans, and that he would undertake to protect and preserve them.
Saying, fear not to serve the Chaldeans . . . Gedaliah urged these commanders not to fear the Babylonians but to cooperate with them. If they remained in the land and submitted to Babylonian authority, things would go well for them. Serve is literally, to stand before (Jer.40:10; 52:12), meaning to be at hand ready to execute the commands of the king of Babylon.
Dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall he well with you . . . they were to settle in the land, not wander from place to place like fugitives; do not go out of the land through fear of the king of Babylon. They were to stay in it, living in subjection to the king, depending on it, they would live safely.
Jer. 40:10 As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken. (KJV)
As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah, to serve the Chaldeans that come unto us . . .
Jeremiah urges the poor ones that were left in the land to follow his example for their welfare, to dwell in the land and serve the Chaldeans; this being what he has decided to do, and had chosen Mizpah, a frontier town, in the way to Babylon, as his home. Mizpah lies between Babylon and Judah, and was a good place to transact business between the two countries. The grant of vineyards to the poor (Jer.39:10) would give hope to those unhappy, of enjoying the best fruits (verse 12). It seems that all affairs of this kind he would take care of himself, so that they would have nothing to fear, nor anything to do, except as follows,
But ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil . . . gather grapes to make wine and olives to make oil, and summer fruits, such as figs and apples.
And put them in your vessels . . . barrels, bottles and similar containers, suitable to the things mentioned, so they could be stored for the winter; just as they used to do in times of peace, not fearing any enemy to come and take them from them.
And dwell in your cities which ye have taken . . . not by force or as they pleased; but which they now held in possession, and which they had recently received.
Jer. 40:11 Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan; (KJV)
Likewise, when all the Jews that were in Moab . . . those who had fled there when the king of Babylon first invaded the land, and where they had stayed to this time. The LORD had as a result, tempered the severity of His vengeance that a remnant might be left. Remnant in the KJV is found 85 times in the Old Testament, and 6 times in the New Testament. God has ALWAYS left a remnant of the Jews, and always shall!
And among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all the countries . . . in all other neighboring countries, Moab, Ammon and Edom; some fleeing one way, and some another, which ever lay closest to their border, or where they thought they would be safe, when they,
Heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah . . . a few of their brethren, to cultivate the land, and repopulated it.
And that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan . . . (verse 7) whom they knew Gedaliah to be a wise and good man. These were likeable motives to them to return to their own land, being much more desirable to live in than any other, if they could enjoy peace and safety and dwell with their own countrymen, and worship the same God with them. It was more pleasing than to dwell in foreign idolatrous countries; and especially since there was a government established to protect and defend them, and that it was in the hands of such a worthy prince as Gedaliah.
*****The Jews that had fled to Moab, Ammon and Edom came back to Judah and helped make up the remnant which had the entire land to themselves. According to prophecy given by God all through Jeremiah, they would be abundantly blessed, delivered out of the hand of the king of Babylon, and made the center around which the Jews would gather at the end of the captivity. If they would remain in the land and serve Babylon for the 70 years, Judah was to be under the Chaldeans before being allowed to return to their homeland (Jer.51:9-22).
Jer. 40:12 Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much. (KJV)
Even all the Jews returned from all places whither they were driven . . . because of fear of the Chaldean army; they all came from the different countries mentioned; so that here was a happy settlement and a successful people again. There were princes and generals, soldiers and common people in large numbers that were returned and united under the government of Gedaliah.
And came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah . . . they came out of the different countries where they had been for some time, and entered the land of Judah; but did not set up their homes anywhere, until they had presented themselves to the governor, and put themselves under his protection; no doubt promising to respect him as such, and to be branch to the Chaldeans. They were assured by Gedaliah that all would be well with them, and which gave them freedom to settle in the cities and villages to which they belonged; and so they set out from Mizpah, and went to their respective habitations which they had abandoned.
And gathered wine and summer fruits very much . . . (verse 10); the people of the land being carried captive; and the Chaldean army not having wasted these parts. There seemed to be an abundance of fruit, which these people, at their return, found and gathered.
Treacherous Plan Formed Against Gedaliah, by Ishmael, Which We Shall Find Performed in the Next Chapter (Jer. 40:13-16)
Jer. 40:13 Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, (KJV)
Moreover, Johanan the son of Kareah . . . Johanan, seems to be the spokesman for the guerrilla band (verse 7), who seems to be the main captain next to Ishmael, comes to report a plot on the life of Gedaliah.
And all the captains of the forces that were in the fields . . . in the fields, not in the city, but scattered in the country (verse 7), meaning the rest of the captains besides Johanan mentioned, and Ishmael the conspirator.
Came to Gedaliah to Mizpah . . . they had been with Johanan before, and being satisfied by him of the safety they would be in, in the service of the Chaldeans, under him, either returned to the fields from where they came, or went to those cities and villages he directed them to. But . . . they were honest and faithful men, knowing there was a plot against Ishmael’s life, came in a body to inform him of it, for the greater certainty of it; hoping that now Gedaliah would be ready to pay attention to it, than if only one person had informed him of it, as well as to show their affection and loyalty to him.
*****The captains who came to Gedaliah, as in verses 7-9 (except Ishmael), came to him at Mizpah and warned him of the plot against his life, but he did not believe them. It seems that one even volunteered to kill Ishmael, but was forbidden to do it, for the governor trusted him completely (verses 13-16).
Jer. 40:14 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? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not. (KJV)
And said unto him, dost thou certainly know . . . not that they thought he knew, but that he might be certain of the truth of it, from the information they were now about to give him. It is true; and you may depend on it because it is a fact.
That Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee?. . . most likely Ishmael and the forces under him, fled to the king of the Ammonites when Jerusalem was taken; who, out of hatred to the Jews, envied their reestablishment under Gedaliah, and hoping to make a prey of them if their governor was removed.
But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not . . . being a good man, and knowing he had done nothing to upset him, could not believe a person of such birth and dignity would ever be guilty of such a thing. Maybe Ishmael had behaved in a very princely obedient manner, and had expressed a great affection for the governor, and had been very friendly with him; and being of the royal seed, it is most likely Gedaliah had shown a great respect to him.
*****Baalis, king of Ammon, was behind the plot to kill Gedaliah. What he hoped to gain is not stated. Since Baalis was a friend of Zedekiah, he may have had spite against the family of Ahikam for opposing the alliance of Zedekiah with Ammon (Jer. 27:3). Ishmael's motive may have been envy and spite at seeing a Jew who had always opposed the war with Babylon, was now entrusted with power in place of the royal family. Being of the family of David, perhaps he thought he himself should rule (Jer. 41:1). Baalis, the king of the Ammonites permitted the brutal slaying of Gedaliah. Ishmael, being a member of the Judean royal family (Jer.41:1); it might be he had designs on the throne, and wanted to remove Gedaliah, who was the major obstacle. Vengeance may have been Ishmael's motive, since Gedaliah had supported the Babylonians who had killed off many of the royal family and blinded Zedekiah.
Jer. 40:15 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 perish? (KJV)
Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly . . . partly because he thought, he could more easily persuade him to believe the information given; and partly because of the sake of the proposal he had to make to him, which was not proper that it should be made publicly.
Saying, let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it . . . no one would know that Johanan he had slain him, nor that Gedaliah had given him permission to do it.
Wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews that are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish? . . . suggesting, that it was not just his losing his own life, which is precious to every man, and should be carefully preserved, but it would be a public loss; for the people, being without a governor, would scatter fearing their own lives and property would not be safe under a murderer, and that the Chaldeans would be angry by such an action, as to come and revenge his death on them; and thus being scattered about, there would be no form of government and so perish.
*****It was with this argument that Johanan hoped to persuade Gedaliah to give him permission to kill Ishmael. All their hopes of their being a nation again, which had just began to revive, would be lost. The fears which Johanan expressed concerning the scattering of the people in the event of Gedaliah's death was soon confirmed. The term of Gedaliah’s office which began with such hope perished sadly in the thrust of the sword of Ishmael. The Jews who had just began to gather in Judaea were again scattered. See Chapter 41.
Jer. 40:16 But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael. (KJV)
But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah . . . in answer to his request,
Thou shalt not do this thing . . . Gedaliah tried to talk Johanan out oftaking a man's life in such a secret way, but it seems to be more than that, in that he ordered him not to do it, and threatened him if he did it.
For thou speakest falsely of Ishmael . . . Gedaliah would not believe Johanan, thinking it was a lie, a falsehood, a slander. The event connected in Chapter 41 shows that the information was good, and that it was not a lie nor slander that was told; and it would have been well for Gedaliah, and the people of the Jews, had he believed it. But the time was not come for the Jewish nation to be restored; so things were allowed to be, for the further punishment of the sins of that people.
*****Gedaliah murdered. In chapter 41 we have the bloody record of the slaying of Gedaliah with the Chaldeans and Jews who were with him. Then Ishmael captures the people of the city of Mizpah, intending to take them to the land of the Ammonites. They are overtaken by Johanan. Then Johanan, fearing the reprisal of the king of Babylon because his governor Gedaliah had been killed, plans to escape with the whole remnant of the people to Egypt.
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