Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Jer 41:1-18. Ishmael Murders Gedaliah and Others, Then Flees to the Ammonites. Johanan Pursues Him, Recovers the Captives, and Purposes to Flee to Egypt for Fear of the Chaldeans.
1. seventh month—the second month after the burning of the city (Jer 52:12, 13).
and the princes—not the nominative. And the princes came, for the "princes" are not mentioned either in Jer 41:2 or in 2Ki 25:25: but, "Ishmael being of the seed royal and of the princes of the king" [Maurer]. But the ten men were the "princes of the king"; thus Maurer's objection has no weight: so English Version.
eat bread together—Ishmael murdered Gedaliah, by whom he was hospitably received, in violation of the sacred right of hospitality (Ps 41:9).
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. slew him whom the king of Babylon had made governor—This assigns a reason for their slaying him, as well as showing the magnitude of their crime (Da 2:21; Ro 13:1).
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. slew all the Jews—namely, the attendants and ministers of Gedaliah; or, the military alone, about his person; translate, "even (not 'and,' as English Version) the men of war." The main portion of the people with Gedaliah, including Jeremiah, Ishmael carried away captive (Jer 41:10, 16).
And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,
4. no man knew it—that is, outside Mizpah. Before tidings of the murder had gone abroad.
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. beards shaven, &c.—indicating their deep sorrow at the destruction of the temple and city.
cut themselves—a heathen custom, forbidden (Le 19:27, 28; De 14:1). These men were mostly from Samaria, where the ten tribes, previous to their deportation, had fallen into heathen practices.
offerings—unbloody. They do not bring sacrificial victims, but "incense," &c., to testify their piety.
house of … Lord—that is, the place where the house of the Lord had stood (2Ki 25:9). The place in which a temple had stood, even when it had been destroyed, was held sacred [Papinian]. Those "from Shiloh" would naturally seek the house of the Lord, since it was at Shiloh it originally was set up (Jos 18:1).
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—pretending to weep, as they did, for the ruin of the temple.
Come to Gedaliah—as if he was one of Gedaliah's retinue.
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. and cast them into … pit—He had not killed them in the pit (compare Jer 41:9); these words are therefore rightly supplied in English Version.
the pit—the pit or cistern made by Asa to guard against a want of water when Baasha was about to besiege the city (Jer 41:9; 1Ki 15:22). The trench or fosse round the city [Grotius]. Ishmael's motive for the murder seems to have been a suspicion that they were coming to live under Gedaliah.
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. treasures—It was customary to hide grain in cavities underground in troubled times. "We have treasures," which we will give, if our lives be spared.
slew … not—(Pr 13:8). Ishmael's avarice and needs overcame his cruelty.
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. 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.
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—(Jer 43:6). Zedekiah's. Ishmael must have got additional followers (whom the hope of gain attracted), besides those who originally set out with him (Jer 41:1), so as to have been able to carry off all the residue of the people. He probably meant to sell them as slaves to the Ammonites (see on Jer 40:14).
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. Johanan—the friend of Gedaliah who had warned him of Ishmael's treachery, but in vain (Jer 40:8, 13).
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. the … waters—(2Sa 2:13); a large reservoir or lake.
in Gibeon—on the road from Mizpah to Ammon: one of the sacerdotal cities of Benjamin, four miles northwest of Jerusalem, now Eljib.
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.
13. glad—at the prospect of having a deliverer from their captivity.
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—came round.
But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.
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. men of war—"The men of war," stated in Jer 41:3 to have been slain by Ishmael, must refer to the military about Gedaliah's person; "the men of war" here to those not so.
eunuchs—The kings of Judah had adopted the bad practice of having harems and eunuchs from the surrounding heathen kingdoms.
And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt,
17. dwelt—for a time, until they were ready for their journey to Egypt (Jer 42:1-22).
habitation to Chimham—his "caravanserai" close by Beth-lehem. David, in reward for Barzillai's loyalty, took Chimham his son under his patronage, and made over to him his own patrimony in the land of Beth-lehem. It was thence called the habitation of Chimham (Geruth-Chimham), though it reverted to David's heirs in the year of jubilee. "Caravanserais" (a compound Persian word, meaning "the house of a company of travellers") differ from our inns, in that there is no host to supply food, but each traveller must carry with him his own.
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.
18. afraid—lest the Chaldeans should suspect all the Jews of being implicated in Ishmael's treason, as though the Jews sought to have a prince of the house of David (Jer 41:1). Their better way towards gaining God's favor would have been to have laid the blame on the real culprit, and to have cleared themselves. A tortuous policy is the parent of fear. Righteousness inspires with boldness (Ps 53:5; Pr 28:1).