Jeremiah 40 - 43:7 - Outline of Jeremiah (Book Notes menu page)
Jeremiah's ministry in Judah following the Fall of Jerusalem, ch. 40- 43:7
I.The governorship of Gedaliah, ch. 40
  1. Jeremiah's liberty assured, 40:1-6
    • "The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord..." (40:1) is disclosed in ch.42.
      The intervening chapters (40,41) lay the background for that word.
    • Jeremiah was among the captives brought in chains to Ramah (see 39:11-14).
      Nebuchadnezzar had given instructions that Jeremiah should be treated well (39:11,12). Provision was made (39:13) that he should remain with Gedaliah (the newly appointed governor, 40:5). Meanwhile, he dwelt among the people awaiting deportation (39:14). In the confusion of the deportation, the soldiers took him in chains among the captives to Ramah, where the officials identified and released him according to Nebuchadnezzar's instructions (40:1-6). Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem, was used as a staging area for the deportation (cp. 31:15-17).
      [The above paragraph reviews the Notes at 39:11-14.]
    • The heathen prince saw clearly the cause of Judah's fall, in contrast to Israel's blindness (40:2,3).
    • Jeremiah was given his liberty and the option of going to Babylon or of remaining in Judah.
    • He opted to join himself to Gedaliah, the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar.
  2. Gedaliah's rule accepted, 40:7-12
    In addition to the poor of the land (39:10) who had been left under Gedaliah's rule, the many bands of Jews who had been scattered to neighboring countries for fear of the Babylonian army, also joined themselves to him. They were assured that life under the Babylonians would be peaceful and prosperous.
    Gedaliah governed the land from Mizpah, which was about 10 miles northwest of Jerusalem.
II. The treachery of Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, 40:13- 41:10
  1. Gedaliah's rejection of sound counsel, 40:13-16
    Gedaliah was warned that "Ishmael the son of Nethaniah" was preparing to assassinate him. He did not believe the accusation, which proved true. The removal of Gedaliah's leadership would produce the confusion and needless turmoil, recorded in ch.41. This confusion was a continuation of the fallout from Zedekiah's unbelief (38:17,18).
       Perhaps the promise of peace might have been preserved, if Gedaliah had enquired of the LORD, when he was warned of Ishmael's intrigue.
  2. The murder of Gedaliah, 41:1,2
    Ishmael was "of the seed royal" (ie., related to the Davidic kings). He was moved, by jealousy and ungodly patriotism (and further incited by the king of the Ammonites, who desired to expand into the vacuum left by Judah's captivity, 40:14), to take revenge against the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar.
  3. The murder of all the Jews with Gedaliah (41:3)- Motive: to eliminate close allies of Gedaliah.
  4. The murder of 70 out of 80 worshippers, who mourned the destruction of Jerusalem. (41:4-9)
    • The reason for their mourning -
      These men were bringing offerings {HB=minchah, meal offering, food offering} from towns which once had belonged to the northern kingdom of Israel (until the Assyrian conquest and captivity, about 100 years earlier). They may have been en-route to the Temple in Jerusalem, when they heard of its destruction. It is more probable, that their gifts were intended to express allegiance to Gedaliah, as the appointed governor. Their sorrow for what had befallen Jerusalem was displayed in the external signs of mourning: shaved beards, torn clothing, cuts in their flesh. (The latter was a heathen practice, forbidden by God's Word. Deu 14:1)
         Along the way, they had visited Shiloh (the site where the Tabernacle had first been set up, after Joshua led the people across the Jordan and into the promised land). God's Word concerning the Temple had been fulfilled, for it was now in ruins, just as Shiloh had been for many years, and for the same reasons (cp. Jer 7:12-14; Psa 78:55-60). [Shiloh was about 15 miles north of Mizpah, and 20 miles north of Jerusalem.]
    • The motive for their murder - probably to prevent the spread of news about the previous murders.
    • The pit, into which the bodies were cast, was made by Asa, King of Judah, about 365 years earlier,
      when he feared the military incursions of Baasha, King of Israel. Baasha had built Ramah as a military outpost on the border between the northern and southern kingdoms. Asa destroyed Ramah and used its materials to build Mizpah nearby (1Kin 15:22). The pit {HB= bor, hole, cistern} was probably intended as a water reservoir, to sustain Mizpah, in the event of a siege.
         The needless destruction of Ramah had been motivated by fear, as was the needless murder of these men.
         The construction materials from Ramah had been confiscated and repurposed, as were the possessions of the ten men of means, in exchange for their lives.
  5. The kidnap of the remaining Jews in Mizpah (41:10)- Jeremiah was among these captives.
III. The leadership of Johanan, 41:11- 43:7
  1. The deliverance from Ishmael, 41:11-15
    • Occurred at the "great waters of Gibeon," which was a large well at the town of that name
      (located just two miles southwest of Mizpah).
         This was the place where a civil war had begun (about 470 years earlier), following the death of king Saul (2Sam 2:12-17). The needless suffering, produced by that long war, was caused by the rejection of the king anointed of God. Bloodshed continued more than seven years, before the whole nation accepted David as king.
    • Here again we see the arm of flesh:
      • Ishmael, the treacherous murderer, "illustrates the ugliness of the flesh." (41:1-10)
      • Johanan, the honorable deliverer, "illustrates the unbelief of the flesh." (ch. 42,43)
        [in quotes, from GWms]
  2. The preparation to flee to Egypt, 41:16-18
    Preparations to depart were made at "the habitation of Chimham," ie., on the parcel of land which David had awarded to Chimham, the son of Barzillai, who had provided substantial assistance to David at the time of Absalom's rebellion, about 435 years earlier (2Sam 19:31-39). That parcel of ground had been granted upon the king's return, but now they were about to abandon the entire Land, because of their king's departure.
  3. The enquiry of the LORD, 42:1-6 - Observe their apparent sincerity:
    1. They were of one accord "from the least to the greatest" (42:1).
    2. They humbly asked the man of God to pray for them (42:2a).
    3. They acknowledged their weakness, "we are left but few of many" (42:2b).
    4. They sought direction from the LORD "wherein we may walk" (42:3).
    5. They promised to obey the LORD's instructions without question (42:4-6)-
      whether for 'good' {ie., pleasant, agreeable, tending to prosperity} or for 'evil' {ie., unpleasant, disagreeable, tending to distress and misery; cp. this word in 41:11 where the 'evil' includes the harmful effects of Ishmael's actions, in addition to the sin that motivated them}.
  4. The answer of the LORD, 42:7-22
    • It's timing: Ten days later (42:7).-
      The Lord answers prayer in His time. Natural impatience must wait.
      Natural preparation and planning must give place to obedience, though it seems inconvenient and in conflict with fleshly wisdom.
    • The message offered two options:
      1. Remain in the Land to enjoy blessing (42:9-12).-
        The basis of this blessing: "I will..." (3x), "I am with thee to save... to deliver..."
        The LORD would bless them if they would trust Him and obey.
      2. Flee into Egypt to suffer sword and famine (42:13-19).-
        The LORD commanded them to stay in the Land, and warned them of the consequences of disobedience.
        Which path would they choose? Yet, in their hearts, they had already made their choice.
    • The Lord, who searches the hearts, revealed their hypocrisy to Jeremiah (42:20-22; cp. 17:9,10).-
      Though they had seemed sincere, at the time they requested prayer, they "dissembled" {HB= ta'ah, vacillated, wandered, staggered} in their hearts (cp. Jam 1:5-8; Rom 4:20).
         They wanted God to bless their prepared plans, and were unwilling to submit to His instructions.
         Instead of the blessing which would have accompanied the obedience of faith, judgment was pronounced upon them for their unbelief.
  5. The rejection of the Lord's counsel, 43:1-7
    • Their proud unbelief - "All the proud men" responded:
      "Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there." (cp. Prov 16:5; Jer 13:15; Hab 2:4)
      • Their decision had been made. In their minds, any contrary instruction could not be God's will.
      • Their course was set, they "obeyed not the voice of the LORD, to dwell in the land of Judah" (Jer 42:10-17).
      • Having rejected the Lord's Word, they also rejected His messenger.
    • Their false accusation against Jeremiah -
      Contrary to their prior expression of confidence in Jeremiah (42:1-6), they now accuse him of speaking falsely. Yet, they knew that the prophetic warnings, which he had faithfully delivered for more than 40 years, had been proven true by recent events.
    • Their false accusation against Baruch -
      They accused Jeremiah's scribe of influencing him against them, in behalf of the Babylonian enemy. Yet, at great personal risk, Baruch had faithfully recorded and publicly read God's Word, received from the prophet, and confirmed by recent events.
    • Their fear of Nebuchadnezzar displaced their fear of the LORD. cp. Jer 42:11; Prov 29:25
    • Their willful journey into Egypt -
      The proud leaders went to Egypt, taking with them all the people who had been committed to Gedaliah's care, and the others who had returned to dwell in Judah. Among their unwilling captives were Jeremiah and Baruch.
         In the next verse, the account continues, following their arrival in Egypt.

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