Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.1. in the seventh month] three months after the capture and two after the burning of the city.
and one of the chief officers of the king] We should probably, with LXX, omit this clause. It is absent also from 2 Kings 25:25.
they did eat bread together] i.e. Gedaliah received Ishmael as a guest. Hence the crime assumed a still more atrocious character.
Jeremiah 41:1-3. See introd. summary to the section. For Jeremiah 41:1 see 2 Kings 25:25.
Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.2. Then arose Ishmael … and the ten men] Gedaliah’s retinue may not have been very large, and were probably quite unsuspecting. The murders seem to have been committed privately at the entertainment. Next day (Jeremiah 41:4) no one knew of it. Ishmael’s action was apparently useless as well as criminal. However, he may have been prepared to go any length to shew spite at the appointment of a ruler who was not, like himself (see Jeremiah 41:1), of the royal house, or his object possibly was to keep the land in a state of unrest, so as to help out Baalis’s ambitious wishes; also, if Baalis was going to annex Judah, Ishmael may have had an eye to the governorship.
Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.3. The Jews on their return from the exile used to keep the third day of the seventh month (Tisri) as a fast in memory of Ishmael’s deed (Zechariah 7:5; Zechariah 8:19).
even the men of war] Gedaliah’s body-guard. But the words are absent, probably rightly, from LXX.
And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,4. the second day] probably meaning the next day.
Ch. Jeremiah 41:4-18. Ishmael commits further massacres and carries off captives
The section may be summarized as follows.
(i) Jeremiah 41:4-10. The following day eighty pilgrims arrive. Ishmael goes weeping to meet them, and bids them come to Gedaliah. Having thus decoyed them into the city, he puts them all to death, except ten men who purchase their lives by disclosing the places where they possess hidden stores of food. Ishmael fills a pit with the slain, and carries away captive all the rest of the inhabitants of Mizpah. (ii) Jeremiah 41:11-18. Johanan and the captains who were with him go in pursuit of Ishmael, and release his captives. Ishmael himself with ten men escapes to the country of Ammon, while Johanan takes those whom he had rescued to the vicinity of Bethlehem, with a view of passing into Egypt as a refuge from the Chaldaeans.
That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.5. from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria] These three towns were in Ephraim, and thus the pilgrims were descendants of members of the Northern kingdom. Cp. the contributions given by Manassites, etc., in Josiah’s time for the repairs of the Temple (2 Chronicles 34:9). Shechem, now Nâblus, is beautifully situated in a valley between the mountains Gerizim and Ebal. For Shiloh see on ch. Jeremiah 7:12.
having their beards shaven and their clothes rent] in sign of mourning for the destruction of the Temple.
having cut themselves] though prohibited by the Deuteronomic law. See on ch. Jeremiah 16:6.
oblations] For reading in mg. see on Jeremiah 17:26. Animal sacrifices could no longer be offered at the ruined Temple (Deuteronomy 12:13-18), but it was still open to them to bring other offerings to the site, and this they were about to do.
And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.6. weeping all along] so as to feign equal concern with them for the fate of the Temple, and thus put them off their guard.
Come to Gedaliah] probably as governor, to whom therefore they should shew respect and offer greeting.
And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that were with him.7. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them] See on Jeremiah 41:2.
But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.8. we have stores hidden] In the East it is to this day a common custom to use “wells or cisterns for grain. In them the farmers store their crops of all kinds after the grain is threshed and winnowed. These cisterns are cool, perfectly dry, and tight. The top is hermetically sealed with plaster, and covered with a deep bed of earth.” See Thomson, The Land and the Book, pp. 509 f.
Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, was it which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.9. See 1 Kings 15:22; 2 Chronicles 16:6.
by the side of Gedaliah] With the slightest possible change in the consonants of the MT. we may accept an almost certain correction, and read (with LXX) “was a great cistern” (tank for the storage of water). Cp. the tragic story of the “well” at Cawnpore in the Indian mutiny.
Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king's daughters, and all the people that 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.10. the king’s daughters] not necessarily Zedekiah’s daughters, but female members of the royal house, not taken away as captive by Nebuchadnezzar.
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,11–18. See introd. summary to the section.
Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon.12. Gibeon] See on Jeremiah 28:1. The “great waters” apparently are to be identified with the “pool” of 2 Samuel 2:13. Gibeon was about a mile N. of Mizpah.
Now it came to pass, that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, then they were glad.
So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.14. cast about] an archaism, meaning turned round. Cp. John Gower (c. 1325–1408), “Then cast I all the world about,” Confessio Amantis; and Sir Philip Sidney (1554–1586), “Musidorus could doe no more but perswade the mariners to cast about againe,” Arcadia.
But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.15. went to the children of Ammon] Cp. Jeremiah 40:14.
Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:16. from Mizpah] But it was not from Mizpah, but from the neighbourhood of Gibeon that they had been recovered. Therefore with Hitzig (followed by later commentators) read all the remnant of the people whom Ishmael … had carried away captive from Mizpah. A similarity between the two Hebrew verbs has evidently been the cause of the confusion.
even the men of war] probably a gloss.
And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt,17. Geruth Chimham] For Chimham see 2 Samuel 19:37-40. Geruth occurs here only, and the mg. variant is a questionable rendering. Aquila and Josephus (Ant. X. ix. 5) read Gidroth (sheepfolds of) Chimham, while Gi. considers Gidroth to be probably a proper name.
to go to enter into Egypt] to prepare for the journey into Egypt, a journey which, according to the first words of the next verse, was undertaken from fear of the Chaldaeans. It seemed likely that the outbreak which had taken place in connexion with the overthrow and death of the governor appointed by the king of Babylon, might be revenged without much discrimination by that monarch.
Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.