Jeremiah 41:9
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.
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(9) Because of Gedaliah.—Literally, by the hand of Gedaliah; i.e., by using his name to entrap the unsuspecting pilgrims.

Which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha . . .—See 1Kings 15:22; 2Chronicles 16:6. Baasha had tried to fortify Ramah as an outpost of his kingdom. Asa called in the help of Benhadad, king of Syria, and compelled him to desist, and then carried off the stones and timber to strengthen Mizpah as a position of defence. The “pit” was probably a trench with a drawbridge over it, so constructed as to stop all approach from the neighbouring kingdom; or else one of the tanks or reservoirs constructed to supply the fortress with water. A various reading gives “the pit of Gedaliah,” instead of “because of Gedaliah.”

Jeremiah 41:9. Now the pit was it which Asa had made, &c. — The word בור, here and elsewhere rendered pit, frequently signifies, a cistern, basin, or, reservoir; a large place made for receiving rain-water; which seems to be the meaning of the word here. This pit, or reservoir, Asa, who built and fortified Mizpah, at the time he was at war with Baasha king of Israel, caused to be made in the midst of the city, in order that the people might not be in want of so necessary an article as water in case of a siege. Reservoirs of this kind were much in use in Palestine, as Jerome tells us, in his commentary upon Amos 4:7-8. And Josephus testifies the advantage of them to the besieged when he tells us that, when Masada was reduced to the greatest distress for want of water, it was relieved by a fall of rain in the night, which filled all the reservoirs, Antiq. lib. 14. cap. 14. Each private family seems also to have had one of these reservoirs for its own use. Drink ye every one the waters of his own cistern, בורו, his pit, or, reservoir, says Rabshakeh to the people of Jerusalem, Isaiah 36:16.

41:1-10 Those who hate the worshippers of God, often put on the appearance of piety, that they may the easier hurt them. As death often meets men where they least expect it, we should continually search whether we are in such a state and frame of mind, as we would wish to be found in when called to appear before our Judge. Sometimes the ransom of a man's life is his riches. But those who think to bribe death, saying, Slay us not, for we have treasures in the field, will find themselves wretchedly deceived. This melancholy history warns us, never to be secure in this world. We never can be sure of peace on this side heaven.Because of Gedaliah - By the side "of Gedaliah." Ishmael now cast beside Gedaliah's body those of the pilgrims. 9. because of Gedaliah—rather, "near Gedaliah," namely, those intercepted by Ishmael on their way from Samaria to Jerusalem and killed at Mizpah, where Gedaliah had lived. So 2Ch 17:15, "next"; Ne 3:2, Margin, literally, as here, "at his hand." "In the reign of Gedaliah" [Calvin]. However, English Version gives a good sense: Ishmael's reason for killing them was because of his supposing them to be connected with Gedaliah. The word which we translate

because of dyb signifieth in the hand of Gedaliah, which hath given critics a scope to vary in their notion of it, and to translate it, in the power of, by occasion of, &c. But the learned author of our English Annotations saith the sense of the place is plain enough; Jeremiah 38:10, we have the same term twice, where we have translated it with thee, so here it doubtless signifies those who were with Gedaliah under his power or charge. What pit this was is not so well agreed, that is, upon what occasion made; the text telleth us it was digged by Asa king of Judah, and that it was made for fear of Baasha the king of Israel; but whether it was to receive water, or to hinder Baasha’s coming near some weak part of the city, we are not told, and it is but in vain to guess. We read, 1 Kings 15:22, of Asa’s fortifying Mizpah with the stones of Ramah, but of this pit we read nothing.

Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies,.... Not only of those seventy men of Samaria, &c. but

of the men whom he had slain because of Gedaliah; because of their attachment to him: or, "by the hand of Gedaliah" (k); not by him, as an instrument; unless, as Jarchi observes, because he rejected the advice of Johanan, and provided not for his safety, and his people, it was as if they were slain by him (l); rather the sense is, that they were slain by the side of him, or in the, place where he was, or along with him (m); see a like phrase in Jeremiah 38:10; now both the one and the other were cast into one pit: and this

was that which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel; which was either a ditch that was cast up against the wall that went round the city; or a large pit or well in the midst of it, to hold water in it; and this was made by King Asa, either when he built and fortified Mizpah, 1 Kings 15:22; or, as the Targum here, when Baasha king of Israel besieged it; which he made that he might be provided for with water during the siege; or to hide himself in it; or stop the enemy from proceeding any further, should he enter:

and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain; which shows it rather to be a pit or well within the city than a ditch about it; since it was filled with the slain, with those that were slain with Gedaliah, and those seventy other persons; and by which he made the well useless to the inhabitants hereafter.

(k) "in manu Gedaliae", Montanus, Vatablus. (l) So T. Bab. Nidda, fol. 61. 1.((m) "Ad latus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "in loco", some in Munster; "cum Gedalia", De Dieu, Gataker.

Now the pit into which Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, was that which Asa the king had {f} made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.

(f) Asa fortified Mizpah for fear of the enemy, and dug ditches and trenches, 1Ki 15:22.

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.

Verse 9. - Now the pit... which Arm the king had made, etc. Nothing is said of this "pit" in the historical books, but only (1 Kings 15:22 = 2 Chronicles 16:6) that Asa used the material with which Baasha had fortified Ramah to build Geba and Mizpah. It would seem that this "pit" formed part of Asa's defensive works; probably it was a cistern to supply the town with water during the siege. Because of Gedaliah; was it. The rendering "because of" must be abandoned. The Septuagint has, in this part of the verse, the very natural words, "was a great pit," and this reading is adopted by Movers, Hitzig, and Graft. Jeremiah 41:9Only ten men out of the eighty saved their lives, and this by saying to Ishmael, "Do not kill us, for we have hidden stores in the field - wheat, and barley, and oil, and honey." מטמנים are excavations in the form of cisterns, or subterranean storehouses in the open country, for keeping grain; the openings or entrances to these are so concealed that the eye of a stranger could not perceive them. Such places are still universally employed in Palestine at the present day (Robinson's Palestine, i. pp. 324-5), and are also to be found in other southern countries, both in ancient and modern times; see proofs of this in Rosenmller's Scholia ad hunc locum. It is remarked, in Jeremiah 41:9, of the pit into which Ishmael threw the corpses, that it was the same that King Asa had made, i.e., had caused to be made, against, i.e., for protection against, Baasha the king of Israel. In the historical books there is no mention made of this pit in the account of the war between Asa and Baasha, 1 Kings 15:16-22 and 2 Chronicles 16:1-6; it is only stated in 1 Kings 15:22 and 2 Chronicles 16:6 that, after Baasha, who had fortified Ramah, had been compelled to return to his own land because of the invasion of Benhadad the Syrian king, whom Asa had called to his aid, the king of Judah ordered all his people to carry away from Ramah the stones and timber which Baasha had employed in building, and therewith fortify Geba and Mizpah. The expression מפּני בעשׁא certainly implies that the pit had been formed as a protection against Baasha, and belonged to the fortifications raised at that time. However, הבּור cannot mean the burial-place belonging to the city (Grotius), but only a cistern (cf. 2 Kings 10:14); and one such as could contain a considerable store of water was as necessary as a wall and a moat for the fortification of a city, so that it might be able to endure a long siege (Graf). Hitzig, on the other hand, takes בּור to mean a long and broad ditch which cut off the approach to the city from Ephraim, or which, forming a part of the fortifications, made a break in the road to Jerusalem, though it was bridged over in times of peace, thus forming a kind of tunnel. This idea is certainly incorrect; for, according to Jeremiah 41:7, the "ditch" was inside the city (בּתוך). The expression בּיד גּדליהוּ is obscure, and cannot be explained with any of certainty. בּיד cannot mean "through the fault of" Gedaliah (Raschi), or "because of" Gedaliah - for his sake (Kimchi, Umbreit), or "coram" Gedaliah (Venema), but must rather be rendered "by means of, through the medium of," or "at the side of, together with." Ngelsbach has decided for the rendering "by means of," giving as his reason the fact that Ishmael had made use of the name of Gedaliah in order to decoy these men into destruction. He had called to them, "Come to Gedaliah" (Jeremiah 41:6); and simply on the authority of this name, they had followed him. But the employment of the name as a means of decoy can hardly be expressed by בּיד. We therefore prefer the meaning "at the hand equals at the side of" (following the Syriac, L. de Dieu, Rosenmller, Ewald), although this signification cannot be established from the passages cited by Rosenm. (1 Samuel 14:34; 1 Samuel 16:2; Ezra 7:23), nor can the meaning "together with" (Ewald) be shown to belong to it. On the other hand, a passage which is quite decisive for the rendering "by the hand of, beside," is Job 15:23 : "there stands ready at his hand (בּידו, i.e., close to him) a day of darkness." If we take this meaning for the passage now before us, then בּיד גּדליהוּ cannot be connected with אשׁר , in accordance with the Masoretic accents, but with השׁליך שׁם, "where Ishmael cast the bodies of the men whom he had slain, by the side of Gedaliah;" so that it is not stated till here and now, and only in a casual manner, what had become of Gedaliah's corpse. Nothing that admits of being proved can be brought against this view.

(Note: Because the lxx have, for בּיד גּדליהוּ הוּא, φρέαρ μέγα τοῦτό ἐστιν, J. D. Michaelis, Dahler, Movers, Hitzig, and Graf would change the text, and either take ryb lwdg 'wh (Dahler, Movers) or בּיר הגּדול הוּא ( equals בּור) as the original reading, inasmuch as one codex of De Rossi's also has בור. But apart from the improbability of בּור גּדול or הגּדול being incorrectly changed into בּיד גּדליהוּ, we find that הוּא stands provokingly in the way; for it would be superfluous, or introduce an improper emphasis into the sentence. The lxx have but been attempting to guess at a translation of a text they did not understand. What Hitzig further supposes has no foundation, viz., that this "ditch" is identical with that mentioned 1 Samuel 19:22, in שׂכוּ, and with τὸ φρέαρ τὸ μέγα of 1 Macc. 7:19; for the ditch at Sechu was near Ramah, which was about four miles from Mizpah, and the large fountain 1 Macc. 7:19 was ἐν Βηζέθ, an unknown place in the vicinity of Jerusalem.)

The הוּא which follows is a predicate: "the ditch wherein...was that which Asa the king had formed."

The motive for this second series of assassinations by Ishmael is difficult to discover. The supposition that he was afraid of being betrayed, and for this reason killed these strangers, not wishing to be troubled with them, is improbable, for the simple reason that these strangers did not want to go to Mizpah, but to Jerusalem. For the supposition of Thenius (on 2 Kings 25:23) and of Schmieder, that the people had intended going to Mizpah to a house of God that was there, is very properly rejected by Hitzig, because no mention is made in history of a place of worship at Mizpah; and, according to the express statement of Jeremiah 41:6., Ishmael had enticed them into this city only by inviting them to come and see Gedaliah. Had Ishmael wished merely to conceal the murder of Gedaliah from these strangers, he ought to have done anything but let them into Mizpah. As little can we regard this deed (with Graf) as an act of revenge on these Israelites by Ishmael for the murder of his relations and equals in rank by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 52:10), because these men, who had now for a long time been living together with heathens, were Assyrian and Chaldean subjects. For we cannot comprehend how he could look on these Israelites as friends of the Chaldeans, and vent his anger against the Chaldean rule by murdering them; the mournful procession which they formed, and the offerings they were carrying to present, proclaimed them faithful adherents of Judah. Ngelsbach, accordingly, is of opinion that Ishmael had simply intended robbery. As it is evident that he, a rough and wild man, had assassinated the noble Gedaliah from personal jealousy, and in order to further the political interest of his Ammonite patron, he must have been seeking to put himself in the position of his victim, or to flee. "When we find, moreover, that he soon murdered a peaceable caravan of pilgrims, and preserved the lives only of a few who offered to show him hidden treasures; when, finally, we perceive that the whole turba imbellis of Mizpah were seized and carried off into slavery, Ishmael proves himself a mere robber." But, though the fact that Ishmael spared the lives of the ten men who offered to show him hidden treasures seems to support this view, yet the supposition that nothing more than robbery was intended does not suffice to explain the double murder. The two series of assassinations plainly stand in the closest connection, and must have been executed from one and the same motive. It was at the instigation of the Ammonite king that Ishmael murdered Gedaliah; moreover, as we learn from the report brought to Gedaliah by Johanan (Jeremiah 40:15), the crime was committed in the expectation that the whole of Judah would then be dispersed, and the remnant of them perish. This murder was thus the work of the Ammonite king, who selected the royally-descended Ishmael as his instrument simply because he could conveniently, for the execution of his plans, employ the personal envy of one man against another who had been preferred by the king of Babylon. There can be no doubt that the same motive which urged him to destroy the remnant of Judah, i.e., to frustrate the attempt to gather and restore Judah, was also at work in the massacre of the pilgrims who were coming to the temple. If Ishmael, the leader of a robber-gang, had entered into the design of the Ammonite king, then everything that might serve for the preservation and consolidation of Judah must have been a source of pain to him; and this hatred of his towards Judah, which derived its strength and support from his religious views, incited him to murder the Jewish pilgrims to the temple, although the prospect of obtaining treasures might well cooperate with this in such a way as to make him spare the ten men who pretended they had hidden stores. With this, too, we can easily connect the hypocritical dealing on the part of Ishmael, in going forth, with tears, to meet these pious pilgrims, so that he might deceive them by making such a show of grief over the calamity that had befallen Judah; fore the wicked often assume an appearance of sanctity for the more effectual accomplishment of their evil deeds. The lxx evidently did not know what to make of this passage as it stands; hence, in Jeremiah 41:6, they have quite dropped the words "from Mizpah," and have rendered הלך הלך by αὐτοὶ ἐπορεύοντο καὶ ἔκλαιον. Hitzig and Graf accept this as indicating the original text, since Ishmael had no ostensible ground for weeping. But the reasons which are supposed to justify this conjecture are, as Ngelsbach well remarks, of such a nature that one can scarcely believe they are seriously held.

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