Jeremiah 40-42:7

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 28, 2005


Jeremiah is in his sixties and has been warning the nation for over forty years that the Babylonians would one day come and wipe out the nation of Judah as a judgment from God on their sins.  And that day has come.  The Babylonians had laid siege to Jerusalem for thirty months before they broke down a portion of the city walls and entered the city.  The end came on July 18, 586 BC. King Zedekiah tried to flee with a group of soldiers, but he was caught near the city of Jericho and brought before King Nebuchadnezzar for judgment at the city of Riblah.  His leaders and his sons were killed in front of him and then his eyes were gouged out.  The last thing he had seen with his eyes before he was taken in chains off to Babylon was the death of his sons.  The “cleanup” period of Nebuchadnezzar’s campaign against Judah has now begun.

Jeremiah 40

:1-6 Jeremiah released

:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him bound in chains among all who were carried away captive from Jerusalem and Judah, who were carried away captive to Babylon.

Ramah – a city five miles north of Jerusalem.

Apparently Nebuzaradan had all the people of Jerusalem put into chains when they captured the city, including Jeremiah.  The people were then taken to Ramah where they were screened before being taken to Babylon.

Back in 39:12; Nebuchadnezzar had declared that Jeremiah should be freed.  This is the actual process of how that happened.

:2 And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him: "The LORD your God has pronounced this doom on this place.

It’s interesting that Nebuzaradan is using the name of God.

:3 "Now the LORD has brought it, and has done just as He said. Because you people have sinned against the LORD, and not obeyed His voice, therefore this thing has come upon you.

What a wonderful testimony the nation of Judah has before the world.  Not.

:4 "And now look, I free you this day from the chains that were on your hand. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you. But if it seems wrong for you to come with me to Babylon, remain here. See, all the land is before you; wherever it seems good and convenient for you to go, go there."

It seems that the Babylonians have heard about Jeremiah and the things he had been saying to the people. Jeremiah is given his choice of what to do.

:5 Now while Jeremiah had not yet gone back, Nebuzaradan said, "Go back to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people. Or go wherever it seems convenient for you to go." So the captain of the guard gave him rations and a gift and let him go.

Gedaliah – He was one of the grandsons of Shaphan, who was a godly priest and friend to King Josiah.

When Jeremiah decides not to go to Babylon, he is allowed to go wherever he wants.  He’s given some provisions and allowed to leave.

:6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, to Mizpah, and dwelt with him among the people who were left in the land.

Though there are several cities named “Mizpah” (the name means “watchtower”), this is the one that is a few miles north of Jerusalem, only three miles from Ramah, where these “exit” interviews are taking place.

:7-12 Gedaliah governs

:7 And when all the captains of the armies who were in the fields, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, children, and the poorest of the land who had not been carried away captive to Babylon,

:8 then they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.

:7 captains of the armies who were in the fields – there were apparently Jewish guerilla or “insurgency” units operating out in the countryside.  They are urged to drop their weapons and join with Gedaliah.  It sounds a little like what’s going on in Iraq today with these “insurgency” groups operating around Iraq, still picking fights with the American forces.

:9 And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, took an oath before them and their men, saying, "Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.

Gedaliah swears to them that if they lay down their arms, they won’t be imprisoned.

:10 "As for me, I will indeed dwell at Mizpah and serve the Chaldeans who come to us. But you, gather wine and summer fruit and oil, put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken."

Gedaliah encourages the men to go home and take care of their families.

summer fruit – remember it is summer (July) when Jerusalem falls.  Summer is harvest time.  There are fields that still need harvesting.

:11 Likewise, when all the Jews who were in Moab, among the Ammonites, in Edom, and who 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,

:12 then all the Jews returned out of all places where they had been driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruit in abundance.

Apparently many of the Jews had fled the land of Israel and were refugees in Moab, Ammon, and Edom (see map).  They too come back to resettle.

:13-16 Johanan warns him of plot

:13 Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields came to Gedaliah at Mizpah,

:14 and said to him, "Do you certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to murder you?" But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam did not believe them.

BaalisBa‘alic – “lord of the banner: in causing the joy”

Ishmael was part of the guerilla forces that had come out of the field to be with Gedaliah (40:8).

Some of the people have returned from the Ammonites, perhaps Ishmael was part of this group (40:11).

Ishmael is part of the royal line of King David (41:1) and had been one of Zedekiah’s officers (41:1).

:15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah in Mizpah, saying, "Let me go, please, and I will kill Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no one will know it. Why should he murder you, so that all the Jews who are gathered to you would be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?"

:16 But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, "You shall not do this thing, for you speak falsely concerning Ishmael."

Johanan is afraid that if something happens to Gedaliah that this will cause more problems with Babylon and what few people are left will all be wiped out.

Perhaps Gedaliah thinks that Johanan was just jealous for some reason.  Perhaps he thought it was just a vicious rumor.  Perhaps he thinks that Johanan has some old long-standing grudge against Ishmael.

There’s actually a lot of political intrigue going on in the background here:

BKC: Why would the king of Ammon conspire with Ishmael to kill Gedaliah? The answer lies in understanding the relationship between Judah and Ammon. Both nations were vassals to Babylon and had participated in a secret meeting of nations in 593 b.c. to evaluate their prospects of uniting in rebellion against Babylon (cf. 27:1-11). That meeting did not produce any definite action; but in 588 b.c. Egypt’s new Pharaoh (Hophra) persuaded Judah, Ammon, and Tyre to revolt against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had to decide which nation to attack first, and God directed him to Judah instead of to Ammon (cf. Ezek. 21:18-23). Judah and Ammon were still allies when Jerusalem fell, and Zedekiah was probably heading for Ammon when he was captured (Jer. 39:4-5). But in spite of their union as allies, Judah and Ammon did not care for each other. Their union was a ”marriage of convenience.“ Ammon rejoiced over Jerusalem’s fall because she knew that if Nebuchadnezzar committed his army against Jerusalem he would not be able to attack Ammon (cf. comments on 49:1-6; Ezek. 25:1-7). Thus Gedaliah’s commitment to Babylon was unsettling to Ammon. If Judah did submit to Babylon, then after Nebuchadnezzar finished his siege of Tyre (cf. Ezek. 29:17-18) he would probably attack Ammon next. But a destabilized Judah could force Nebuchadnezzar to commit large numbers of troops there to maintain order, which would improve Ammon’s chances for survival. So it was to Ammon’s advantage to replace pro-Babylonian Gedaliah with an anti-Babylonian leader like Ishmael.[1]

This all sounds so much like all the political intrigue that happens today between nations.  Nothing is new.



Some warnings seem absolutely ridiculous

These are actual product labels:


On a helmet mounted mirror used by US cyclists - REMEMBER, OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE ACTUALLY BEHIND YOU.

On a Sears hairdryer - DO NOT USE WHILE SLEEPING.

On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom of the box) - DO NOT TURN UPSIDE DOWN.

On a Korean kitchen knife - WARNING KEEP OUT OF CHILDREN.

Some warnings are good, but we don’t quite get the message …

Wrong Way!

As a fellow was driving down the freeway, his cell phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife’s voice urgently warning him, “Herman, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on 280. Please be careful!”  Herman said, “It’s not just one car, honey, it’s hundreds of them!”

Sometimes it’s simply hard to know what to do with warnings.  Should I pay attention to it or not?
Judging Johanan by what he’s going to do in the next couple of chapters, I’d say that he’s not the best of spiritual examples.  He may have a good head on his shoulders, but human wisdom often falls short.

If I was in Gedaliah’s spot and knew something about Johanan’s character, I might not pay attention to his warning either.

But I’d be wrong, just as Gedaliah will be.

On the other hand, if I paid attention to every “warning”, I wouldn’t do anything.
May God give us discernment to pay attention to the warnings we’re supposed to and ignore the one’s that aren’t for us.

Jeremiah  41

:1-3 Gedaliah is assassinated

:1 Now it came to pass in the seventh month that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the royal family and of the officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. And there they ate bread together in Mizpah.

seventh month – this would be the September-October time frame.  We aren’t given the year, but it would seem unlikely that this is still 586 BC.  There isn’t enough time for all the various events to occur.  It’s more likely this is a couple of years later.  In 582 BC, there was another smaller Babylonian deportation (Jer. 52:30), and it could have been in response to the assassination of Gedaliah.  Perhaps this is in 583 BC.

Part of Ishmael’s motivation may have been the fact that he had been passed over to be governor of Judah.

:2 Then Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men who were with him, arose and struck Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

:3 Ishmael also struck down all the Jews who were with him, that is, with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans who were found there, the men of war.

the Chaleans – soldiers left by Nebuchadnezzar to assist Gedaliah.

:4-9 More are killed by Ishmael

:4 And it happened, on the second day after he had killed Gedaliah, when as yet no one knew it,

:5 that certain men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, eighty men with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.

Shechem, Shiloh, Samaria – see map.  These are cities of the Northern Kingdom. 

What are these men doing?

Their appearance shows they are in mourning.

Shaving their beards and tearing their clothes were acceptable under the Law of Moses.  The cutting of themselves was not acceptable.
(Lev 19:28 NKJV)  'You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD.

Since this is the “seventh month” (41:1), it’s likely that they are observing one of the annual feasts.  The feast of Trumpets was on the first day of the seventh month (Lev. 23:24). The Day of Atonement took place on the 10th of the month – it was to be a day of “affliction” or “fasting” (Lev. 23:27). The feast of Tabernacles started on the 15th day of the seventh month (Lev. 23:34).

When Josiah was king, he had brought reform not only to the Southern kingdom, but to those still living in the north as well (2Chron. 34:33).  Apparently some of the reforms were still working, though there was already some kind of perversion (cutting themselves) that had crept in.

Though it’s possible they might not know that the Temple has been destroyed, it’s more likely that they know that it’s been destroyed and are in mourning because of it.  People still worshipped at the site of the Temple, even after it was destroyed.

:6 Now Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went along; and it happened as he met them that he said to them, "Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam!"

Ishmael is probably weeping in order to draw these men close enough to kill them.

Why does Ishmael want to kill these men?  Perhaps he sees a group of men like this as a security threat.  It’s probably just to rob them.  These guys are bringing a lot of “stuff” with them to offer to the Lord.

:7 So it was, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah killed them and cast them into the midst of a pit, he and the men who were with him.

:8 But ten men were found among them who said to Ishmael, "Do not kill us, for we have treasures of wheat, barley, oil, and honey in the field." So he desisted and did not kill them among their brethren.

Ishmael gives to his greed and let’s these guys go as long as they pay him.

:9 Now the pit into which Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men whom he had slain, because of Gedaliah, was the same one Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain.

Asa became king of the southern kingdom of Judah in 910 BC.  Early in his reign he was faced with a huge army of one million Ethiopian warriors, yet because he trusted in the Lord, God gave him a great victory.  Towards the end of a long reign, in his 36th year, he started having trouble with the northern kingdom.  Because Ramah was on the road to Jerusalem, Baasha had taken the city of Ramah, built it up, and had begun to threaten to cut off all trade to the south.  But instead of asking God for help, Asa felt he had the resources to handle the problem.  He sent some money to the king of Syria and asked him to cause Baasha some trouble up north.  Baasha shift his resources and abandoned Ramah.

(2 Chr 16:5-6 NKJV)  Now it happened, when Baasha heard it, that he stopped building Ramah and ceased his work. {6} Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timber of Ramah, which Baasha had used for building; and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.

Apparently part of Asa’s construction projects in Mizpah included this pit where the bodies were slain.

But Asa’s story doesn’t end there.  It looked like his smart, well thought out plan worked.   But God had other ideas:

(2 Chr 16:7-10 NKJV)  And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: "Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. {8} "Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. {9} "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars." {10} Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.

Trusting in our own ways rather than God’s ways leads to trouble.
God is looking for people who will be loyal to Him.  He wants to “show Himself strong” for them.
We’re going to see this theme of “trusting or not trusting” in the coming chapters of Jeremiah.

:10-18 Johanan rescues the people from Ishmael

:10 Then Ishmael carried away captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king's daughters and all the people who 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.

It’s possible that Jeremiah is in this group of people taken captive by Ishmael.

: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,

:12 they took all the men and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah; and they found him by the great pool that is in Gibeon.

Gibeon – see map. This pool at Gibeon was where David’s men had a sort of “contest” with the men of Ishbosheth (2Sam. 2:13) and David’s men killed all twelve of their opponents.

:13 So it was, when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were with him, that they were glad.

They were rescued!

:14 Then all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah.

:15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men and went to the Ammonites.

There had been ten men with Ishmael.  He’s apparently lost two of them.

:16 Then Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, took from Mizpah all the rest of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah after he had murdered Gedaliah the son of Ahikam; the mighty men of war and the women and the children and the eunuchs, whom he had brought back from Gibeon.

:17 And they departed and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is near Bethlehem, as they went on their way to Egypt,

:18 because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had murdered Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor in the land.

:17 Chimham – Chimham was a servant (or possibly a son) of a fellow named Barzillai. When David had temporarily been dethroned by the rebellion of his son Absalom, Barzillai was the fellow who hosted David and his men until they returned to Jerusalem.  As a reward for being such a generous host, David gave Chimham a piece of property (2Sam. 19:37-40).

:17 Bethlehem – see map

Johanan doesn’t think it’s safe to stay in Mizpah for very long.  He’s afraid that when the Babylonians find out what has happened, that they’ll all be wiped out.  So he starts heading for Egypt.

Jeremiah 42

:1-6 The Remnant ask Jeremiah for guidance

:1 Now all the captains of the forces, Johanan the son of Kareah, Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people, from the least to the greatest, came near

:2 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, "Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the LORD your God, for all this remnant (since we are left but a few of many, as you can see),

:3 "that the LORD your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do."


Insincere prayer

They sound good, but they don’t really mean it.
They will follow God as long as God tells them to go the way they want to go.
What they should really be saying is, “Jeremiah, we have a plan to go to Egypt.  Ask God to bless that plan because that’s what we’re going to do”
But instead they couch the prayer request in a way that makes it sound as if they actually want to do whatever God says.
Sometimes our prayer requests are really all about what “we” want.
(James 4:1-3 NKJV)  Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? {2} You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. {3} You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
We can get to thinking that God is just some great big cosmic “genie” who grants wishes, if He can.
But He’s not just some big “genie” who does whatever “we” want.  He is the Lord.
What does the word “Lord” mean?

It means that you will do whatever He says.

(Luke 6:46 NKJV)  "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?

That’s the most amazing thing about God.  He is the Lord of the Universe, and yet He gives us the freewill to say “no” to Him.

What He’s looking for is people who will say “yes”.

:4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, "I have heard. Indeed, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your words, and it shall be, that whatever the LORD answers you, I will declare it to you. I will keep nothing back from you."

:5 So they said to Jeremiah, "Let the LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the LORD your God sends us by you.

:6 "Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God."

Sounds good.

:7-22 God’s answer:  Don’t go to Egypt

:7 And it happened after ten days that the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah.


Waiting for God’s answer

It doesn’t always come as quickly as e-mail.
When Saul became king of Israel, he was given some guidelines on what to do when he needed God’s direction.
(1 Sam 10:8 NKJV)  "You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do."

The idea was that Saul would go to Gilgal, wait for seven days, and when Samuel showed up, he would perform the sacrifices and give a word from God to Saul.

Later on, Saul encountered a problem with the Philistines.  There was a growing threat and the Philistines looked like they were going to attack Israel.  So Saul decided it was time to take action – but first to go through that “waiting” thing.
(1 Sam 13:8-14 KJV)  And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. {9} And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.

Saul waited the seven days, but that’s all he waited for.  He was also supposed to wait for Samuel.

Performing a sacrifice like this was not Saul’s job – that was Samuel’s job.

{10} And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. {11} And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;

The circumstances looked bad.  Saul didn’t think he could wait any longer.

{12} Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. {13} And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. {14} But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

A “man after his own heart” is a man who will wait for God. 

God is looking for people who will wait for Him.

Waiting doesn’t just involve putting in “time”.  It means waiting for God’s reply as well.


cf. confer, compare

[1]Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.