Scriptures

Jeremiah 40

Introduction

This and the following five chapters mainly deal with the life and history of Jeremiah after the Fall of Jerusalem.

‘The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had released him at Ramah. He had found Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, ‘The LORD your God decreed this disaster for this place. And now the LORD has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the LORD and did not obey him. But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists. Come with me to Babylon, if you like, and I will look after you; but if you do not want to, then don’t come. Look, the whole country lies before you; go wherever you please.’ However, before Jeremiah turned to go, Nebuzaradan added, ‘Go back to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the towns of Judah, and live with him among the people, or go anywhere else you please.’ Then the commander gave him provisions and a present and let him go. So, Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left behind in the land.’ Jeremiah 40:1-6

Strange as it may seem, it is the commander of the Babylonian army, Nebuzaradan, who recognises the reasons why Jerusalem is in ruins.

So, what did he actually know?

1. That God had pronounced the sentence on Judah, and

2. That all of this happened because the people sinned against the Lord and didn’t obey Him.

In verse 3 the commander is not accusing Jeremiah personally of sin, but he is accusing the Jews in general. He recognised that Jeremiah was not responsible for the rebellion, and he is therefore freed. Jeremiah has to make a big decision here.

He has three options.

1. To go with Nebuzaradan to Babylon, where he will be treated well.

2. To go wherever he wanted to in Judah, or

3. To go and live with Gedaliah.

Jeremiah decided to go and live with Gedaliah and he was given food and a reward. It would appear that Nebuzaradan had spent a lot of time with the appointed governor, Gedaliah, and it was presumably through Gedaliah that the commander of the army had learned all about Jeremiah’s life-long campaign to try and persuade God’s people to turn back to God.

We read, ‘Before Jeremiah turned to go,’ the commander said, ‘Go back to Gedaliah.’

We don’t see Jeremiah making a comment about this, but he obviously wanted to go back to Gedaliah. In effect, he elected to live in poverty and hardship with the poor people who remained in Judah.

Gedaliah’s home was in Mizpah. There were several places called Mizpah, this one was the Benjaminite town near Gibeon and Ramah, a few miles north-west of Jerusalem. Mizpah was probably chosen as the headquarters for Gedaliah because, apparently, it had been spared the devastation of war. Certainly, archaeologists have not found any evidence of its destruction.

‘When all the army officers and their men who were still in the open country heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam as governor over the land and had put him in charge of the men, women and children who were the poorest in the land and who had not been carried into exile to Babylon, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of the Maakathite, and their men. Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, took an oath to reassure them and their men. ‘Do not be afraid to serve the Babylonians,’ he said. ‘Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you. I myself will stay at Mizpah to represent you before the Babylonians who come to us, but you are to harvest the wine, summer fruit and olive oil, and put them in your storage jars, and live in the towns you have taken over.’ When all the Jews in Moab, Ammon, Edom and all the other countries heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, as governor over them, they all came back to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, from all the countries where they had been scattered. And they harvested an abundance of wine and summer fruit.’ Jeremiah 40:7-12

The regulations for the remnant staying in the land was that they were to gather wine, oil, etc., and store them. This was obviously to serve the Babylonians and ensure peace and goodwill.

‘Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon.’ Gedaliah’s message was one of peace and encouragement. He was the governor, the representative of the king of Babylon. Gedaliah assured them that there would be no problems if they served the king of Babylon. This was all that was left for this once proud nation, to settle down and to serve their new masters.

The remnant is to ‘harvest the wine, the summer fruit and oil.’

The city had fallen in July. Winter would be here soon. They may have had a food problem, and they probably had to survive for a while on dried fruits and vegetables. Verse 12 says that ‘they all came back to the land of Judah.’

Many of the Jews would have fled to places of refuge during the siege, now they were ready to return.

‘Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers still in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and said to him, ‘Don’t you know that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?’ But Gedaliah son of Ahikam did not believe them. Then Johanan son of Kareah said privately to Gedaliah in Mizpah, ‘Let me go and kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah, and no one will know it. Why should he take your life and cause all the Jews who are gathered around you to be scattered and the remnant of Judah to perish?’ But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, ‘Don’t do such a thing! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true.’ Jeremiah 40:13-16

Baalis, the king of the Ammonites, wants to take the life of Gedaliah. This may have been because Gedaliah appeared to be a friend of the Babylonians. Whatever, his life is in danger. But Gedaliah dismissed the claim as untrue, it seems incredible that he should have disbelieved this rumour, which was backed up by ‘all the army officers.’

It seems as if everybody, except Gedaliah, knew about it. Perhaps he thought that Johanan had an old score to settle with this messenger, Ishmael, and that he saw this as an opportunity to do so. But Gedaliah misjudged the situation, he didn’t even investigate the accusation, at least, as far as we know he didn’t. This would prove to be true, as we will see in the next chapter.

Gedaliah was a man of integrity and ability, but he seemed to be totally lacking in the skill of evaluating men. Or perhaps he was overconfident, perhaps he felt that he had the backing of the whole force of Babylon, and that his message of peace and encouragement would be accepted by all.

‘Why should he take your life and cause all the Jews, to be scattered.’ When we look at the next chapter we will see that the sword of Ishmael will end Gedaliah’s life, that the Jews will indeed scatter. Whilst Gedaliah was alive there seemed to be hope for the remnant, now that hope has gone.

Go To Jeremiah 41

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."

John 5:24

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