Jeremiah is directed to go to Gedaliah. (1-6) A conspiracy against Gedaliah. (7-16)
Verses 1-6 The captain of the guard seems to glory that he had been God's instrument to fulfil, what Jeremiah had been God's messenger to foretell. Many can see God's justice and truth with regard to others, who are heedless and blind as to themselves and their own sins. But, sooner or later, all men shall be made sensible that their sin is the cause of all their miseries. Jeremiah has leave to dispose of himself; but is advised to go to Gedaliah, governor of the land under the king of Babylon. It is doubtful whether Jeremiah acted right in this decision. But those who desire the salvation of sinners, and the good of the church, are apt to expect better times from slight appearances, and they will prefer the hope of being useful, to the most secure situations without it.
Verses 7-16 Jeremiah had never in his prophecies spoken of any good days for the Jews, to come immediately after the captivity; yet Providence seemed to encourage such an expectation. But how soon is this hopeful prospect blighted! When God begins a judgment, he will complete it. While pride, ambition, or revenge, bears rule in the heart, men will form new projects, and be restless in mischief, which commonly ends in their own ruin. Who would have thought, that after the destruction of Jerusalem, rebellion would so soon have sprung up? There can be no thorough change but what grace makes. And if the miserable, who are kept in everlasting chains for the judgment of the great day, were again permitted to come on earth, the sin and evil of their nature would be unchanged. Lord, give us new hearts, and that new mind in which the new birth consists, since thou hast said we cannot without it see thy heavenly kingdom.
Jeremiah 40:1-16 . JEREMIAH IS SET FREE AT RAMAH, AND GOES TO GEDALIAH, TO WHOM THE REMNANT OF JEWS REPAIR. JOHANAN WARNS GEDALIAH OF ISHMAEL'S CONSPIRACY IN VAIN.
1. word that came--the heading of a new part of the book (the forty-first through forty-fourth chapters), namely, the prophecies to the Jews in Judea and Egypt after the taking of the city, blended with history. The prophecy does not begin till Jeremiah 42:7 , and the previous history is introductory to it.
bound in chains--Though released from the court of the prison city he seems to have been led away in chains with the other captives, and not till he reached Ramah to have gained full liberty. Nebuzara-dan had his quarters at Ramah, in Benjamin; and there he collected the captives previous to their removal to Babylon ( Jeremiah 31:15 ). He in releasing Jeremiah obeyed the king's commands ( Jeremiah 39:11 ). Jeremiah's "chains" for a time were due to the negligence of those to whom he had been committed; or else to Nebuzara-dan's wish to upbraid the people with their perverse ingratitude in imprisoning Jeremiah [CALVIN]; hence he addresses the people (ye . . . you) as much as Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 40:2 Jeremiah 40:3 ).
2. The Babylonians were in some measure aware, through Jeremiah's prophecies ( Jeremiah 39:11 ), that they were the instruments of God's wrath on His people.
Jews as well as to Jeremiah. God makes the very heathen testify for Him against them ( Deuteronomy 29:24 Deuteronomy 29:25
4. look well unto thee--the very words of Nebuchadnezzar's charge ( Jeremiah 39:12 ).
all the land is before thee . . . seemeth good--( Genesis 20:15 , Margin). Jeremiah alone had the option given him of staying where he pleased, when all the rest were either carried off or forced to remain there.
5. while he was not yet gone back--parenthetical. When Jeremiah hesitated whether it would be best for him to go, Nebuzara-dan proceeded to say, "Go, then, to Gedaliah," (not as English Version, "Go back, also"), if thou preferrest (as Nebuzara-dan inferred from Jeremiah's hesitancy) to stop here rather than go with me.
victuals--( Isaiah 33:16 ).
reward--rather, "a present." This must have been a seasonable relief to the prophet, who probably lost his all in the siege.
6. Mizpah--in Benjamin, northwest of Jerusalem ( Jeremiah 41:5 Jeremiah 41:6 Jeremiah 41:9 ). Not the Mizpah in Gilead, beyond Jordan ( Judges 10:17 ). Jeremiah showed his patriotism and piety in remaining in his country amidst afflictions and notwithstanding the ingratitude of the Jews, rather than go to enjoy honors and pleasures in a heathen court ( Hebrews 11:24-26 ). This vindicates his purity of motive in his withdrawal ( Jeremiah 37:12-14 ).
7. captains . . . in the fields--The leaders of the Jewish army had been "scattered" throughout the country on the capture of Zedekiah ( Jeremiah 52:8 ), in order to escape the notice of the Chaldeans.
8. Netophathite--from Netophah, a town in Judah ( 2 Samuel 23:28 ).
Maachathite--from Maachathi, at the foot of Mount Hermon ( Deuteronomy 3:14 ).
9. Fear not--They were afraid that they should not obtain pardon from the Chaldeans for their acts. He therefore assured them of safety by an oath.
serve--literally, "to stand before" ( Jeremiah 40:10 , Jeremiah 52:12 ), that is, to be at hand ready to execute the commands of the king of Babylon.
10. Mizpah--lying on the way between Babylon and Judah, and so convenient for transacting business between the two countries.
As for me . . . but ye--He artfully, in order to conciliate them, represents the burden of the service to the Chaldeans as falling on him, while they may freely gather their wine, fruits, and oil. He does not now add that these very fruits were to constitute the chief part of the tribute to be paid to Babylon: which, though fruitful in corn, was less productive of grapes, figs, and olives [HERODOTUS, 1.193]. The grant of "vineyards" to the "poor" ( Jeremiah 39:10 ) would give hope to the discontended of enjoying the best fruits ( Jeremiah 40:12 ).
11. Jews . . . in Moab--who had fled thither at the approach of the Chaldeans. God thus tempered the severity of His vengeance that a remnant might be left.
13. in the fields--not in the city, but scattered in the country ( Jeremiah 40:7 ).
14. Baalis--named from the idol Baal, as was often the case in heathen names.
Ammonites--So it was to them that Ishmael went after murdering Gedaliah ( Jeremiah 41:10 ).
slay--literally, "strike thee in the soul," that is, a deadly stroke.
Ishmael--Being of the royal seed of David ( Jeremiah 41:1 ), he envied Gedaliah the presidency to which he thought himself entitled; therefore he leagued himself with the ancient heathen enemy of Judah.
believed . . . not--generous, but unwise unsuspiciousness ( Ecclesiastes 9:16 ).
16. thou speakest falsely--a mystery of providence that God should permit the righteous, in spite of warning, thus to rush into the trap laid for them! Isaiah 57:1 suggests a solution.