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Jeremiah, Chapter 41
Ishmael's Brutal Murder of Gedaliah
All of the events of this Chapter revolve around the shameful and treacherous murder of the new governor Gedaliah by Ishmael. The chapter divisions are: (1). the murder of the governor (Jer.41:1-3); (2). the murder of the pilgrims (Jer.41:4-7); (3). captives at Mizpah taken (Jer.41:8-10); (4). Ishmael defeated, escapes to Ammon (Jer. 41:11-15); and (5). the people gathered by Johanan to go to Egypt (Jer. 41:16-18).
The length of Gedaliah's term as governor is disputed. In an earlier chapter, Jeremiah was enabled to enjoy the protection and peace of Gedaliah's house for a period of about five years; and that was based upon the recent conviction of Jewish and other scholars that Gedaliah's government lasted until 582 B.C. The opinions of many scholars is that his government lasted only a matter of two or three months, but there seems to be no certain information on exactly how long it lasted. I think it wise to let the matter stand as not being certainly known.
It is a very tragic story that is stated in this Chapter, and reveals that evil follows sinners. What was said in Chapter 40 busts wide open here in a dreadful storm. The few Jews that escaped the captivity so proudly thought that they were still in their own land, when their brethren had gone they knew not whither, were fond of the wine and summer-fruits they had gathered, and were very secure under Gedaliah's protection, when, all a sudden, even these remains prove wrong too. (1). Gedaliah is viciously slain by Ishmael (vs 1-2). (2). All the Jews that were with him were slain likewise (vs.3) and a pit filled with their dead bodies (vs.9). (3). Some devout men, to the number of fourscore, that were going towards Jerusalem, were drawn in by Ishmael, and murdered likewise (vs. 4-7). Only ten of them escaped (vs.8). (4). Those that escaped the sword were taken prisoners by Ishmael, and carried off towards the country of the Ammonites (vs.10). (5). By the conduct and courage of Johanan, though the death of the slain is not revenged, yet the prisoners are recovered, and he now becomes their commander-in-chief (vs.11-16). (6). His plan is to carry them into the land of Egypt (vs.17-18), which we shall hear more of in the next chapter.
Gedaliah Is Barbarously Slain by Ishmael
Jer. 41:1 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. (KJV)
Now it came to pass in the seventh month . . . the seventh month is Tisri, which is part of our September and part of October; according to the Jewish calendar, it was on the third day of this month, fifty two days after the destruction of the Temple, that Gedaliah was slain; on which day a fast was kept by the Jews, after their return from captivity, on this occasion, called the fast of the seventh month (Zec.7:5); although, according to some, this event happened on the first day of the month, the beginning of the new year; but the fast was kept the following day, because the first day was a festival. Josephus says it was thirty days after Johanan had departed from Gedaliah.
That Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal . . . not the son of King Zedekiah, but one of the more remote branches of the family. Whether Elishama his father was the same with Elishama the scribe is not certain (Jer.36:12); the Jews have a tradition that he descended from Jerahmeel, whose wife, Atarah, was the daughter of a Heathen king, and was a proselyte (1 Chr.2:26). This condition of his being kin to the royal family, is mentioned, to show that he envied the governor, and bore him a grudge for the honor he had, thinking that he had a better title to it, as being of the seed royal.
And the princes of the king, even ten men with him . . . some of the nobles of Zedekiah, who fled with him from Jerusalem, and deserted him when he was pursued and taken, and ever since had remained in the land. Ten of these princes joined Ishmael in the conspiracy against Gedaliah, all whom they bore an ill will to, for going over to the Chaldeans, and envying the power he now possessed. Some think these were ten ruffians, as fit persons to assassinate the governor; and it is thought that eleven men were not sufficient to slay the Jews and the Chaldeans, as afterwards related; though it may be observed, that Ishmael, and these ten princes, did not come alone, as it can hardly be imagined they would, but with a number of servants and soldiers with them: they,
Came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah . . . they had been with him before, to whom he had sworn, and given them assurance of security; and they departed from him to their respective cities, seemingly satisfied; and now return, to pay him a friendly visit, as they pretended.
And there they did eat bread together at Mizpah . . . they had a feast, and kept the holiday together, it being a new moon, the first day of the month, and the beginning of the new year; so that it was a high festival: and maybe this season was chosen, to cover their plan, and to perform it; pretending that they came to keep the festival with him, and who no doubt, abundantly provided for them; though bread here is put for all the provisions and accommodations.
Jer. 41:2 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. (KJV)
Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him . . . after they had eaten and drank well, they stood up from their seats at table,
And smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him . . . they all drew their swords and thrust him, with all assisting in his murder. Although it is most likely that it was Ishmael that gave him the mortal wound, since the phrase, and slew him, is singular. Josephus says that Gedaliah had prepared an impressive table, and had extravagant entertainment for them, and being drunk himself, which they saw, took the opportunity and killed him, and all at table with him.
Whom the king Babylon had made governor over the land . . . which is mentioned, both to aggravate the crime they were guilty of, and to see the reason of it, and what it was that prompted them to do it; for so the words may be rendered, because the king of Babylon had made him governor over the land.
*****Slew him whom the king of Babylon had made governor . . . this gives a reason for their killing him, as well as showing the magnitude of their crime (Dan. 2:21; Rom. 13:1). This killing, seems to have had revenge at the heart of it (verse 14), and was meant as a frontal attack on Babylon; so retaliation from Babylon was to be expected (41:17-18). Without a doubt Nebuchadnezzar understood it as rebellion since troops were dispatched to Judah in 582/81 B.C. to avenge this act (Jer. 52:30).
All the Jews That Were with Him
Were Also Slain (Jer.41:3)
Jer. 41:3 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. (KJV)
Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah . . .
not only those that were at table, but also the attendants of Gedaliah. Josephus says, that having slain those that were at the feast with him, he went out in the night, and slew all the Jews in the city, and the soldiers that were left by the Babylonians in it . . . but this cannot mean all the individuals there, or of the main body of the people, for they were carried captive by him (verse 9), but of those that opposed him, or were able to avenge the death of their governor, and he might think would do it. The main portion of the people with Gedaliah, including Jeremiah, Ishmael carried away captive (verses 10, 16).
And the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war . . . or even the men of war; which describes for the most part who they were that were killed, those of the Jews, and especially the Chaldeans, who were in military service; either the bodyguards of the governor, or the city guards, or both, whom Ishmael thought it wise to cut off, lest they should fall upon him, and revenge the death of Gedaliah, and stop his further plans.
Fourscore Devout Men, Going Towards Jerusalem, Drawn in by Ishmael and Murdered (Jer.41:4-7)
Jer. 41:4 And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it, (KJV)
And it came to pass, the second day after he had slain Gedaliah . . . this had to be the day after he killed Gedaliah, for it was at night, that the murder was committed.
And no man knew it . . . not any out of the city or in remote parts, for those that were in the city had not received the report of it had not reached the neighborhood, much less the distant parts. This seems to be said because of the following story, to show how easily the persons after mentioned were drawn in by Ishmael. No man knew it outside of Mizpah. Had the news of this massacre reached north into Israel, surely these pilgrims would not have come to Jerusalem.
Jer. 41:5 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. (KJV)
That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria . . . places in the ten tribes, which belonged to the kingdom of Israel; so that it seems even at this distance of time, though the body of the ten tribes had been many years ago carried captive, yet there were still some religious persons sons remaining, and who had a great regard for the Temple worship at Jerusalem. These men were from Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria may have been made up of Samaritans and/or the remnant of Israel who had responded to Josiah's reforms (2 Chr.35:18).
Even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves . . . mourning the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, and the captivity of the people. Shaving the beard and rending of clothes agreed to the law; but the cutting themselves, their flesh with their nails, or knives, was forbidden (Lev.19:27-28; Deu. 14:1). so that these people seemed to have kept some of the heathen customs of the places where they had lived; for the king of Assyria had placed colonies of heathens in Samaria, and the cities of it (2 Ki.17:24); these men came,
With offerings and incense in their hands . . . freewill or meal offering made of fine flour, and incense or frankincense, which was used to be put upon such an offering, (Lev.2:1-15).
To bring them to the house of the LORD . . . but the Temple was now destroyed; so they thought there was a tabernacle or sanctuary erected at Mizpah for divine service and sacrifice; or they intended to offer these offerings on the spot where the Temple of Jerusalem stood (2 Ki.25:9); and where they hoped to find an altar, if only of earth, and priests to sacrifice. When they first set out, they had not heard of the destruction of the Temple, but must have heard of it in the way; and that is why they came in mourning.
*****Samaria was the name both of a city and a province; Shechem was a city within that province, within the limits of the tribe of Ephraim (Jos.20:7). These places were now inhabited by a mixed people, part Jews, part such as the king of Assyria had on his defeat of the ten tribes brought to inhabit there. From there came eighty men, who possibly had not heard of the Temple being burned, at least when they came out; or if they had heard of it, yet thought, hearing some Jews were left, that they might have erected some altar for sacrifices; for it seems they brought no beasts, for the text speaks only of offerings and incense. They came with all indications of mourning used in those countries, shaven beards, clothes rent, and having cut themselves in a barbarous fashion used by the heathens, and forbidden to the Jews, but yet practiced by many of them.
Jer. 41:6 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. (KJV)
And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth to Mizpah to meet them . . . hearing there was such a number of men on the road to Jerusalem, he thought it wise to go out and meet them, stop them and lure them into the city, and there destroy them.
Weeping all along as he went . . . pretending to have equal distress for the destruction of the Temple, the land and city, as they had. He comes out weeping, to better deceive them into his blood-thirsty trap, that they might believe he was as they equally affected with God's judgments, and invites them to the new governor for protection, as if he had been one of his courtiers and friends. It is by this deception that he concealed his bloody plan against them.
Come to Gedaliah . . . acting as if he was one of Gedaliah's officials, he invites them in to pay respects, but only setting them up for the kill.
And it came to pass, as he met them . . . when he came to them, and some conversation had passed between them,
He said unto them, come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam . . . acting as if Gedaliah was alive, and for whom he had a great respect, and whose character was well known to these men; and thought that this would encourage them to come with him. This he said either to try them, to see IF they had heard anything on the road of the death of him; or as an argument to come into the city, suggesting the governor would gladly receive, and generously entertain them. It seems that their plan was not to go to Mizpah, but to go on their way to Jerusalem, had they not been met with by this monster, and had he not asked them to go to Mizpah.
Jer. 41:7 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. (KJV)
And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city . . . where Gedaliah's house was, to which Ishmael invited them; and when they went in, he shut up the court, as Josephus says, and slew them, as it here follows.
That Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit . . . when he had slain them, the fourscore men he had enticed into the city, except ten of them, he cast their dead bodies into a pit nearby.
He, and the men that were with him . . . Ishmael and the ten princes, with what servants they brought with them; all of these were connected in the death of these men.
*****Slew them . . . Ishmael kept the murder of Gedaliah secret, and no doubt had a band of his assassins there in Mizpah; and he enticed these fourscore men there that he might kill them. He kept ten of them alive because they told him they had treasures hidden in a field, which they would show him. We are not told if he kept his word with them or not. Ishmael could not do one thing good or great, so it is very unlikely that, when he had got those treasures that he shared them with his anyone.
Jeremiah tells of another circumstance in the disgraceful and wicked conduct of Ishmael, that by flatteries he enticed simple men, who feared no evil, and while he pretended to be kind, he killed them. The slaughter was in itself very abominable, but added to it was the most abominable deception, for he pretended to cry with them, offering an act of kindness, to bring them to Gedaliah, and then he treacherously killed them! We can only see that it was an act of extreme wickedness. In saying that he wept, it was no doubt a sign of false piety. He saw these good men in torn garments and in tears because of the Temple being destroyed, so he also pretended that he had the same feeling. Dear one, this was vile lie, to pretend an honor and respect for God. Ishmael thus gained the confidence of these men, and then after having led them to Gedaliah’s house, he killed them.
The place where they were killed, also mentions that it was close to a pit. So it seems that he killed them, and then they were thrown into this pit.
It may be asked, how could Ismael with so few, attack with success and kill so many men? It seems strange, that eighty men did not resist; but we must remember that they were unarmed. They had only brought only an offering and incense; while Ishmael and the others were armed and well trained for war . . . so it was that they were killed like sheep, while Ishmael and his assassins were like wolves, totally ferocious.
Jer. 41:8 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. (KJV)
But ten men were found among them, that said unto Ishmael, slay us not . . . they begged for their lives, using what follows as an argument to get through to him.
For we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey . . . not that they had a harvest upon the ground at this time; for this was the seventh month, not only the barley and wheat harvests had been over long ago, but the rest of the fruits of the earth were gathered in: so this either means storehouses of such things in the field; or else that these things were hid in cells underground, the land having been invaded, to secure them from the enemy, as is common to do in time of war.
So he forbore, and slew them not among their brethren . . . he saved them, and kept and carried them with him, so he could get these hidden treasures, which lay on his way to Ammon; for between Gibeon, where he was found (verse 12); and Ammon, lay Samaria, Sichem and Shiloh; and it was not far out of his way to take that route; thus proving him to be a covetous man, as well as a cruel one.
*****Slew them not (pro.13:7-9). Ishmael's greed overpowered his cruelty. Treasures, it was usual to hide grain in cavities underground in troubled times. The ten men had treasures of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey which they were willing to give Ishmael, if he spared their lives. It does not say if Ishmael kept his promise to the ten, or if he killed them after he got the treasures.
It was an ancient custom in many parts of the East to store grain in large pits or cisterns dug out of the ground for this purpose. Syrians sealed these pits at the top with some kind of covering, then covered it with a deep bed of ground to keep out pests. The Moors had a thick layer of straw on the bottom and on the sides of the pit. They covered the mouth with a stone and sometimes built a small pyramid of ground to shed the rain. Some coverings were made so well with sod that no one but the owner could tell where a pit was. These pits were cool, tight and dry. Such storage places are no doubt what is referred to here as treasures in the field. In the same way, containers of oil and/or jars of honey were buried in the ground as well (Mat.13:44).
And a Pit Filled with Their Dead Bodies (Jer.41:9)
Jer. 41:9 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. (KJV)
Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies . . . not only those seventy men of Samaria, but,
Of the men whom he had slain because of Gedaliah . . . because of their attachment to him, it seems Ishmael's reason for killing them was because he thought they might be friends of Gedaliah.
Was that which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel . . . which was either a ditch that was cast up against the wall that went round the city; or a large pit or well in the middle of it, to hold water in it; like that which was made by King Asa, when he built and fortified Mizpah (1 Ki.15:22).
And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain . . . this seems to show that it was a pit or well within the city rather than a ditch around it; since it was filled with the slain, with those that were slain with Gedaliah, and those seventy men; and by which he made the well useless to the residents after that.
Those That Escaped, Taken Prisoners by Ishmael, and Carried Off Towards the Country of the Ammonites (Jer.41:10)
Jer. 41:10 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. (KJV)
Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah . . . all those not killed by him, that stayed after the slaughter he had made, mainly unarmed people; they being men of war who fell by his sword.
Even the king's daughters . . . whether they were the daughters of Zedekiah, Jehoiakim, or Jehoiakim, we do not know; but most likely they were the daughters of Zedekiah the last king, and who was just taken and carried captive; these the king of Babylon regarded not, because they could not fight, nor claim the kingdom; only the sons of the king, whom he slew before his eyes; though it may be these were not his daughters by his lawful wife, but by his concubines, and so were not really of the royal family, and less regarded.
And all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam . . . those that were not killed, or carried captive by the Chaldeans; but were left at Mizpah, under the care and government of Gedaliah.
And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive . . . so that those who escaped one captivity fell head first into another, and this time, by the hand of one of their own countrymen.
And departed to go over to the Ammonites . . . Ishmael went from Mizpah with these captives, to carry them to the king of Ammon, and make them his slaves; who had put him on this crazy cruelty because of his hatred to the Jews, and to make himself wealthy from their spoils.
*****The king's daughters . . . among the hostages taken were some princesses. How these survived the deportation and execution of the other members of the royal family is not told. Possibly they had been hiding somewhere away from Jerusalem. Mention is made of those who had been released to Gedaliah. Maybe Jeremiah was with this group, although no mention is made of his being there.
By Courage of Johanan, Prisoners Are Recovered, He Now Becomes Their Commander-in-Chief (Jer.41:11-16)
Jer. 41:11 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, (KJV)
But when Johanan the son of Kareah . . . the same Johanan that is mentioned (Jer.40:8, 13), who had informed Gedaliah of Ishmael's plans against him, but Gedaliah refused to believe him.
And all the captains of the forces that were with him . . . his brother Jonathan, Seraiah, the son of Ephai, and Jezaniah (Jer.40:8).
Heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done . . . heard of the mass murder of Gedaliah, and those that were with him, destroying seventy other men he had lured to Mizpah, and carrying captive the rest of the people at Mizpah. Even though Ishmael tried to keep all this secret, for fear of these forces, so that he might get to Ammon; yet, by some way or another, these captains heard of it, who, probably, were not very far from Mizpah.
Jer. 41:12 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. (KJV)
Then they took all the men . . . all the soldiers that were under their command; this they did at once, believing the report to be true, as they had good reason to do; because they knew of Ishmael's plans to Gedakiah, and had given notice and warning of them to him, but he would not listen to them.
And went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah . . . determined to give him battle, and to get revenge for the innocent blood he had shed, and rescue the captives out of his hands he was carrying to the Ammonites.
And found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon . . . the great waters in Gibeon was located two to three miles southwest of Mizpah (2 Sam.2:13). This pool may be the Iron Age shaft that has steps leading to it from within the city. Since Ammon was Ishmael's destination, it is not clear why he went southwest, for it was not the direct road. It was either to avoid the forces of Johanan; or maybe because of the hidden treasure at Shechem, or Shiloh, or Samaria, the ten men had promised him for their lives. These great waters were the same with the pool at Gibeon, where the servants of Ishbosheth and the servants of David met, and sat one on one side, and the other on the other; and where twelve young men on each side slew one another, and from then on was called Helkathhazzurim (2 Sam.2:13-16).
Jer. 41:13 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. (KJV)
Now it came to pass, that, when all the people which were with Ishmael . . . glad to be delivered from their captivity; that is, those which Ishmael had brought captive from Mizpah; not those that came with him there.
Saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, they were glad . . . looking on them as their deliverers; hoping to be preserved from being carried captives to the king of Ammon.
Jer. 41:14 So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah. (KJV)
So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about . . . or turned around, and left Ishmael, deserting him at once; not respecting his authority, nor fearing his threats or his power; for they were in sight of the captains and their forces, and were determined to join them, and put themselves under their protection, knowing they were their friends, and that they came to deliver them.
And returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah . . . turned their backs on Ishmael, and marched to Johanan, and the captains of the forces under them.
Jer. 41:15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. (KJV)
But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men . . . of the ten he brought with him (verse 1); two of them were killed in this fight, or taken by Johanan. And went to the Ammonites . . . who had encouraged and assisted Ishmael in his wicked attempts; even though he returned to them not according to their wishes, nor with that honor and glory he thought to have done.
*****When the people whom Ishmael had carried away prisoners saw Johanan coming with greater forces, they turned around and went to him, only Ishmael and eight men escaped and went to the land of Ammon.
Jer. 41:16 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: (KJV)
Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him . . . after Ishmael made his escape, they did not think it fit to pursue, and the people had committed themselves to their care and protection; and having brought them to Mizpah again, they took them from thence, as follows:
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 . . . those whom he had rescued from Ishmael, and had returned to Mizpah, be persuaded to go with him from there; who are further described, as follows:
Even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon . . . men of war (verse 3) to have been slain by Ishmael, must refer to the military around Gedaliah's person; besides women and children, and eunuchs, the kings of Judah had adopted the corrupt practice of having harems and eunuchs from the surrounding heathen kingdoms (Jer.38:7). All these were of no account to the Chaldeans; and therefore they left them behind with the poor of the land; maybe Ebedmelech might be among them, whose safety and protection is promised, because of his kindness to Jeremiah (Jer.39:15).
His Plan Is to Carry Them into Egypt (Jer.41:17-18)
Jer. 41:17 And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt, (KJV)
And they departed . . . from Mizpah, Johanan and the captains of the forces, and all the people rescued from Ishmael.
And dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem . . . so called perhaps from Chimham, the son of Barzillai the Gileadite, to whom David or Solomon might give this place to dwell in (2 Sam.19:37). The reason why Johanan and those with him pitched on this place was, because it lay in the way.
To go to enter into Egypt . . . where they were inclined to go; still having a friendly respect for that people, and a confidence in them, as appears by some following chapters; and that they might be ready and at hand to flee there, should the Chaldeans come against them, which they feared.
*****The remnant of Judah were afraid of the Chaldeans, afraid of being destroyed for the slaying of Gedaliah and the Chaldeans at Mizpah. They intended to go to Egypt.
When Johanan had recovered the Jews whom Ishmael had carried away as prisoners, he came and lived with them in Chimham. About this Chimham, all that we read in Scripture is in 2 Samuel 19:37-38, 40. He was the son of Barzillai, whom David would have had to have gone along with him to his court; but he being eighty years old excused himself, and desired that his son Chimham might be accepted in his stead. David agreed to it, and promised to do for him whatever his father desired on his behalf. Possibly David, having an estate near there, might give a portion of it to him, which although it returned to the family of David in the year of jubilee, yet from Chimham's house there might retain the name of the habitation of Chimham. It was in those parts Johanan retired, with a further plan to go into Egypt.
Jer. 41:18 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. (KJV)
Because of the Chaldeans . . . some think these words should have been joined to verse 17. This is the reason given why they departed from Mizpah, and dwelt at the habitation of Chimham on the way to Egypt; and which is explained in the next words,
For they were afraid of them . . . that the Chaldeans would come and cut them off, and revenge themselves on them.
Because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land . . . no doubt it was provoking to them to hear that the viceroy or deputy governor of the king of Babylon was slain in this manner; and still more so, as there were many Chaldeans slain with him; but there was no reason to believe that the king of Babylon would carry his resentment against the Jews with Johanan, or take vengeance on them, who had so bravely appeared against the murderers, and had rescued the captives out of their hands: this seems only a pretense for their going into Egypt; for although they were promised safety in Judah by Jeremiah, yet they still wanted to go into Egypt, as the following chapters show.
*****Here was one slain whom the conqueror Nebuchadnezzar had made governor in the land of Judah, and it was reasonable for them to think that Nebuchadnezzar would take the insult done to himself, he being constituted governor by him; and even though Johanan had nothing to do in that murder, yet he did not know that the king of Babylon, being ignorant of any parties among the Jews, might look upon them, all as guilty who were Jews, and revenge Gedaliah's blood upon all the remainder of that nation; he therefore chose them a habitation for the present, from where they might in a short time go down into Egypt, which was Johanan's plan, as we shall read in, the next chapter.
Book of Jeremiah
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