JEREMIAH CHAPTER 40.
Jeremiah Released. Gedaliah's Life Threatened.
JEREMIAH SET FREE. — V. 1. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, this being the heading or superscription of the entire next section of Jeremiah's book of prophecies, of which chapters 40 and 41 are the historical introduction, after that Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the guard, had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him, being bound in chains, fetters for the hands or arms such as were used to tie captives together on the march, among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon. The command to release Jeremiah seems to have been given while he was still in the court of the prison in Jerusalem, but He was not actually set at liberty until the company of captives reached the city of Ramah. V. 2. And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said unto him, The Lord, thy God, hath pronounced this evil upon this place, for the Chaldean general was evidently familiar with the prophecies concerning the destruction of the Jewish capital. V. 3. Now, the Lord hath brought it, let the calamity come upon Judah, 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. The Chaldean general expressed it as his conviction that the evil which had come upon the Jews was the result of their disobeying the command of the Lord. V. 4. And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand, those of the Jews which had been placed upon him in malicious persecution as well as those of the Chaldeans which he had carried along on account of the negligence or ignorance of his Chaldean captors. If it seem good unto thee to come with me unto Babylon, come, and I will look well unto thee, taking good care of him; but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, that is, if it did not please Jeremiah for any reason whatever, forbear. The matter was entirely for the prophet to decide, and no one would interfere with his choice. Behold, all the land is before thee; whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. Thus Nebuzar-adan carried out the command of Nebuchadnezzar concerning Jeremiah, chap. 39, 12. V. 5. Now, while he was not yet gone back, that is, when Jeremiah hesitated about making up his mind, while he was trying to reach a decision, he said, in suggesting a solution, 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, as the victor's representative in a province now entirely in his hand, 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, a supply of food for the return journey, and a reward and let him go. V. 6. Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, to Mizpah, the city in Benjamin known from the history of Samuel and Saul, 1 Sam. 7, 15 ff.; 10, 17, and dwelt with him, Gedaliah, among the people that were left in the land. Jeremiah showed himself a true patriot in choosing to remain in his own country in the midst of adverse conditions and in spite of the ingratitude of the Jews, rather than to enjoy honors and pleasures at a heathen court. Christian patriotism is properly patterned after this behavior of the prophet.
GEDALIAH MADE GOVERNOR AND THREATENED BY THE JEWS. — V. 7. Now, when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields, the leaders of the Jewish army who had fled to hide themselves in remote and inaccessible places of the land, 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, chap. 39, 10, the lowliest of the whole country, those who had formerly been treated with contempt by the wealthy and noble, v. 8. then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, of royal lineage, chap. 41, 1, and Johanan and Jonathan, the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah, the son of Tan-humeth, and the sons of Ephai, the Ne-tophathite, of a town in Judah not far from Bethlehem, and Jezaniah, the son of a Ma-achathite, Maachah being a province of Syria on the northern border of Palestine, they and their men. V. 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, or, as 2 Kings 25, 24 has it, to be the servants of the Chaldeans; dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, readily acknowledging his overlord-ship, and it shall be well with you. V. 10. As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah, to serve the Chaldeans which will come unto us, cheerfully recognizing the authority of the governors, or satraps, representing the Babylonian government, and governing his actions accordingly; but ye, gather ye wine and summer-fruits and oil, for it was now about midsummer and therefore time for the fruits to ripen, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken. He skillfully put it so as if they were to enjoy the fruits of the land for themselves alone, in order to reduce the resentful attitude of the Jews, lest the idea of tribute-money make them rebellious at once. V. 11. Likewise, when all the Jews that were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, where-over they had found refuge at the approach of the Chaldean army, 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, v. 12. even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, who was charged with taking care of them and providing dwelling-places for them, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer-fruits very much, the harvest being all the more plentiful since there were comparatively few people left in the land. V. 13. Moreover, Johanan, the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, those who had managed to escape the vigilance of the Chaldean invaders in remote parts of the land, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah v. 14. and said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis, the king of the Ammonites, who may have harbored plans to put himself into possession of the entire country by one bold stroke, hath sent Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, to slay thee? But Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, believed him not. He was generous and unsuspecting, but not wise. V. 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, the jealous and ambitious rival, who envied Gedaliah his position of governor, would thus have been removed without tumult. Wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee, with some semblance of order, should be scattered and the remnant in Judah perish? The confusion which was bound to follow the removal of Gedaliah was sure to result in great harm to the country, possibly to the undoing of all the labor bestowed upon its restoration by Gedaliah. V. 16. But Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, said unto Johanan, the son of Kareah, Thou shall not do this thing, remove Ishmael by assassination; for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael, which does not mean that he accused Johanan of lying, but that he declared the rumor concerning his intentions to be false. It is one of the mysteries of providence that the Lord sometimes permits the righteous, in spite of warning, to rush to their destruction.