Matthew Poole's 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.Ishmael, under a color of friendship, killeth Gedaliah and others, both Jews and Chaldeans, Jeremiah 41:1-9. He purposeth to carry the residue captive to the Ammonites, but they are rescued from him by Johanan, who intendeth to flee into Egypt, Jeremiah 41:10-18.
In the seventh month; that is, three months after the city was taken, Jeremiah 39:2.
Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal; the same Ishmael that came to Gedaliah, Jeremiah 40:8,9, to whom he sware protection; only here we are told that he was of the royal blood, which might both raise his spirits, as having a more legal pretence to the government, and rendered him a fitter instrument for Baalis, the king or queen of the Ammonites, to make use of.
And the princes of the king, even ten men with him; some of the princes, who had escaped the army of the king of Babylon; they and their retinue came in pretended compliment to Gedaliah, who treated them kindly, they dined or supped with him.
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.These ten men with their retinue fall upon Gedaliah, and barbarously murder him. Their quarrel against him was, that he was deputy governor to the king of Babylon; so desperately hardened were these Jews, that they would not yet see that God had given their country into the hand of the king of Babylon, who having now a right of conquest over them, had authority to set whom he pleased as his viceroy or deputy governor over them, to whom they ought to have yielded all subjection and obedience.
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.It appeareth from Jeremiah 41:10, that by all the Jews here must be understood only all those who were about the court of Gedaliah, for it is there said that he carried away many that were with him.
And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,That is, no man who lived at any great distance from Mizpah, for Ishmael was concerned what in him lay to keep this slaughter private, for fear the news of it should have reached the ears of the king of Babylon, or the commanders of some of his forces, so as he should not have had time to make his escape.
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.Samaria was the name both of a city and a province; Shechem was a city within that province, within the limits of the tribe of Ephraim, Joshua 20:7. These places were now inhabited by a mixed people, partly Jews, partly such as the king of Assyria had upon his conquest of the ten tribes brought to inhabit there. From thence came eighty men, who possibly had not heard of the temple being burnt, at least when they came out; or if they had heard of it, yet thought, hearing some Jews were left, that they might have erected some altar for sacrifices; or it may be they brought no beasts, for the text speaks only of incense and offerings; they came with all indications of mourning used in those countries, shaven beards, clothes rent, and having cut themselves in a barbarous fashion used by the heathens, and forbidden the Jews, but yet practised by many of them.
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.He cometh out weeping, the better to deceive them into his trap, that they might believe he was as they equally affected with God’s dispensations, and inviteth them to the new governor for protection, as if he had been one of his courtiers and friends: by those arts he concealeth his bloody design against them.
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.When he had thus enticed them into Mizpah, he and his followers slay them, and throw their dead bodies into a pit, with the assistance of those bloody men that were with him.
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.He slew seventy of them, but ten of them pleading for their lives, urged that they had estates in the country, both of corn, oil, and honey. His covetousness prevailed over his cruelty, he spared their lives to become master of what they had.
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.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.
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.By this verse appeareth that all the Jews, Jeremiah 41:3, must be understood in a restrained sense, concerning all those about Gedaliah. For he carried many away as prisoners, as also Zedekiah’s daughters, who either had concealed themselves at the taking of the city, or were left behind by the conquerors, as not like much to hurt them; and having done this, he knew there was no abiding for him long there, so he hasteneth away to the Ammonites, who (as we had it before) employed him in this murder.
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,No text from Poole on this verse.
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.These
great waters are supposed to be a lake, or some great pool in Gibeon, the very same that is mentioned 2 Samuel 2:13, where Joab and the servants of David met, the one keeping on one side of the pool, the other on the other side.
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.To see a probability of their escape out of the hands of this bloody man, who had slain so many of their brethren.
So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.No text from Poole on this verse.
But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.When the people whom Ishmael had carried away prisoners saw Johanan coming with greater forces, they contrived and wheeled about and went to him, only Ishmael and eight men escaped and went to the land of Ammon.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt,When Johanan had (as was before expressed) recovered the Jews whom Ishmael had carried away as prisoners, he came and dwelt with them in the
habitation of Chimham. Concerning this
Chimham, all that we read in Scripture is 2 Samuel 19:37,38,40; he was the son of Barzillai, whom David would have had to have gone along with him to his court; but he being eighty years old excused himself, and desired that his son Chimham might be accepted in his stead. David agreeth it, and promiseth to do for him whatsoever his father should desire on his behalf: possibly David, having an estate near thereabouts, might give a portion of it to him, which though it returned to the family of David in the year of jubilee, yet from Chimham’s house there might retain the name of the habitation of Chimham. Into those parts Johanan retired, with a further design to go into Egypt.
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.Here was one slain whom the conqueror Nebuchadnezzar had made governor in the land of Judah, and it was but reasonable for them to think that Nebuchadnezzar would take the affront done to himself, he being constituted governor by him; and though Johanan had nothing to do in that murder, yet he did not know but that the king of Babylon, being ignorant of any parties amongst the Jews, might look upon them, all as guilty who were Jews, and revenge Gedaliah’s blood upon all the remainder of that nation; he therefore chooseth them a habitation for the present, from whence they might in a short time go down into Egypt, which was Johanan’s design, as we shall read in, the next chapter.