There is Often a Lot Riding on our Decisions

Jeremiah 40-41 SCC 6/25/17



Verse 1-6 Nebuzaradan...had taken him [Jeremiah] bound in chains, among all the exiles to Ramah v 1. Evidently, after Jeremiah's release in Jerusalem, Babylonian soldiers arrested him when they saw him in the city streets, supposing him to be a regular Judean. They took Jeremiah to Ramah, along with the other chained Judean prisoners headed for exile. Ramah appears to have been a collection point for deportees before the long trip to Babylon. Then he released Jeremiah and said, The Lord your God promised this calamity v 2; and brought it on as He promised. Because you people sinned v 3. This pagan could see what the Lord was doing, whereas Judah's leaders could not see because they were spiritually blind. When he set Jeremiah free, he gave him the choice to go to Babylon, where Nebuzaradan said, I will look after you or to stay in Judea, where the whole land is before you; go wherever it seems good and right for you to go v 4. The courteous and humane treatment from the nation's enemy contrasts markedly with what Jeremiah had received from his own countrymen. Jeremiah decided to stay in the land, and Nebuzaradan suggested he go live with Gedaliah, who was appointed over the cities of Judah as governor. Then Nebuzaradan gave him a ration and a gift and let him go v 5. Jeremiah went to Mizpah to Gedaliah...and stayed with him v 6. Mizpah had become the new headquarters in the land after Jerusalem was destroyed.

Application: Itís interesting that Godís own people tried to kill Jeremiah but here is a Babylonian man who knows Godís message to the Judeans and who frees Jeremiah and gives him a gift! Just as God used the Babylonians to judge the Judeans, He used Nebuzaradan to protect Jeremiah. Just because God uses you, donít think that He approves of you. God uses any thing and any one to carry out His plan. That doesnít mean He approves of them or who they are or what they do.

Verse 7-12 There were some Judean guerrilla commanders of the army left in the field who heard that Gedaliah was put in charge of the poorest of the land who had not been exiled to Babylon, so they came to Gedaliah v 7. Important to the story are two men in particular: Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and Johanan v 8. Gedaliah urged the men to stay in the land and serve the king of Babylon, that it may go well with you v 9. However, it will not go well for Gedaliah. Gedaliah would stand for you before the Chaldeans who come to us v 10. Gedaliah urged these commanders not to fear the Babylonians but to cooperate with them. They should gather in wine and summer fruit and oil, and put them in your storage vessels. Gedaliah would act as a liaison with the Babylonians, and the commanders could continue to harvest the summer crops as usual, in the outlying towns that they had taken over. Meanwhile, other Jews scattered in Moab...Ammon, and in Edom v 11...returned from all the places to which they had been driven away v 12. They too gathered in wine and summer fruit in great abundance.

Application: Itís surprising that after several years of war, having a foreign army invade their land, and there being a famine in Jerusalem for months, that now they gather fruit in great abundance. The judgment was over and now the land returned to the abundance God intended for it to be. And the people there returned to the opportunity to again choose whether to obey God or not.



Verse 13-16 Judahís future looked bright. Peace and stability were returning to the land. Men laid down their arms, refugees returned. But below the surface, trouble brewed. The first sign of danger was a report from Johanan. He and the commanders of the forces that were in the field came to Gedaliah at Mizpah v 13. He said that Baalis the king of the sons of Ammon has sent Ishmael ... to take your life v 14. Why would the king of Ammon want Gedaliah dead? Ishmael's ancestor Elishama (41:1) was one of David's sons (2 Sam. 5:16), so he may have aspired to rule Judah. We also know that Ammon participated in a secret meeting of nations in 593 to talk about uniting in rebellion against Babylon (27:1-11). In 588, Egyptís new Pharaoh persuaded Judah, Ammon, and Tyre to revolt against Babylon. If Gedaliah was removed and an anti-Babylonian leader like Ishmael were in place, Judah would be destabilized forcing Nebuchadnezzar to commit large numbers of troops there to maintain order improving Ammonís chances of survival. But Gedaliah...did not believe them. Then Johanan...spoke secretly to Gedaliah...saying, let me go and kill Ishmael v 15! If Gedaliah was killed, then...all the Jews who are gathered to you should be scattered and the remnant of Judah perish. However, Gedaliah ordered Johanan, do not do this thing, for you are telling a lie about Ishmael v 16. Gedaliah was honorable man who made a fatal mistake misjudging Ishmaelís character.

Verse 41:1-3 in the seventh month probably several years after the deportation of 586, after the Babylonians deported the people, established a government, allotted the land to the poor, and withdrew their forces. Ishmael...of the royal family, along with ten men, came to Mizpah to Gedaliah v 1Öarose and struck down Gedaliah... and put to death the one whom the king of Babylon had appointed over the land v 2. This statement may give a clue to the motivation of Ishmael who also struck down all the Jews who were with him...and the Chaldeans who were found there, the men of war v 3. Political intrigue and rivalry most likely played a part in this mass execution.

Verse 4-9 The killing was done so secretly, on the next day, still no one knew about it v 4. Then 80 men came in mourning, bringing grain offerings and incense in their hands to bring to the house of the Lord v 5. Though the Temple was destroyed, people still worshipped at its site. Cutting their flesh though was a pagan practice that the Mosaic Law condemned, so we see a mixture of pagan and Jewish rituals that had become ensconced in the religious life of the nation. Ishmael...went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went (pretending to mourn) v 6. By guile He invited them to come to Gedaliah. As soon as they came inside the city, Ishmael slaughtered [70 of] them, and cast them into the cistern v 7. To give these pilgrims such a burial showed no respect for them. A caravan of 80 pilgrims would carry quite a bit of food and money. Ten of the 80 said, do not put us to death; for we have storesÖhidden in the field v 8. So he did not put them to death. Apparently Ishmael needed these supplies. As a parenthesis, Jeremiah explained the historical significance of the site where the slaughter occurred. The cistern that had once helped preserve life was now filled...with the slain v 9 (1 Kings 15:16-22). By not explaining his reason for doing so, the text paints Ishmael as a brutal murderer who was bent on carrying out a vendetta against all who had willing contact with Babylon and its representatives.

Verse 10-15 Then Ishmael took captive all the remnant of the people...and proceeded to cross over to the sons of Ammon v 10 who had been an ally of Judah in revolt against the Babylonians and who had now sent Ishmael to kill Gedaliah (41:14). Somehow Johanan...and all the commanders of the forces that were with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael...had done v 11. Johanan, the commanders, and their men, pursued Ishmael intending to kill him. They found him by the great pool that is in Gibeon v 12. Those taken captive were glad to see Johanan, and they escaped to him v 13-14. But Ishmael escaped from Johanan with 8 men and went to the sons of Ammon v 15.

Application: Gedaliah was a good and honorable man throughout his life. He didnít want to believe anything bad about Ishmael. He had to make a choice between two men, Johanan or Ishmael. Sometimes weíre faced with the same decision which person will we believe? And there may be a lot riding on that choice. For Gedaliah, he paid for his decision with his life. In your choice you should consider the personís character in general and your past experience with them, and ask, Whatís their agenda? For Gedaliah, Johananís agenda was to save Gedaliahís life and concern for the people left. We know Jeremiah was in Gedaliahís household, he could have asked Jeremiah to ask God about it, too (42:2).

Verse 16-18 Johanan took the captives (including soldiers, women, children, and eunuch), whom he had saved from Ishmael, and they journeyed about 13 miles south to the Bethlehem area v 16, in order to proceed into Egypt v 17 because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid of them, since Ishmael...had struck down Gedaliah v 18. Johanan and his party intended to proceed to Egypt, because they feared that the Babylonian soldiers would retaliate when they discovered that Ishmael had assassinated Gedaliah.


So What?

1. Donít ever think that deviating from the revealed will of God is an option when sorting out the issues of life you or others are facing. We may be tempted to let circumstances have greater weight but in the end they must be scrutinized first fro what we know the revealed will of God already is.

2. Applying the will of God to our life situations will require discernment, the ability to make correct judgments between alternatives. When the will of God is not revealed we then utilize wisdom, the knowledge of how things usually work out in life and put that common sense strategy to work.