Ishmael murders Gedaliah. (1-10) Johanan recovers the captives, and purposes to retire to Egypt. (11-18)
Verses 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.
Verses 11-18 The success of villany must be short, and none can prosper who harden their hearts against God. And those justly lose comfort in real fears, who excuse themselves in sin by pretended fears. The removal of a prudent and peaceable ruler, and the succession of another who is rash and ambitious, affects the welfare of many. Only those are happy and steady who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Jeremiah 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 ( Jeremiah 52:12 Jeremiah 52:13 ).
and the princes--not the nominative. And the princes came, for the "princes" are not mentioned either in Jeremiah 41:2 or in 2 Kings 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 ( Psalms 41:9 ).
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 ( Daniel 2:21 , Romans 13:1 ).
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 ( Jeremiah 41:10 Jeremiah 41:16 ).
4. no man knew it--that is, outside Mizpah. Before tidings of the murder had gone abroad.
5. beards shaven, &c.--indicating their deep sorrow at the destruction of the temple and city.
cut themselves--a heathen custom, forbidden ( Leviticus 19:27 Leviticus 19:28 , Deuteronomy 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 ( 2 Kings 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 ( Joshua 18:1 ).
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.
7. and cast them into . . . pit--He had not killed them in the pit (compare Jeremiah 41:9 ); these words are therefore rightly supplied in English Version. "The pit" or cistern made by Asa to guard against a want of water when Baasha was about to besiege the city ( 1 Kings 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.
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--( Proverbs 13:8 ). Ishmael's avarice and needs overcame his cruelty.
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 2 Chronicles 17:15 , "next"; Nehemiah 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.
10. the king's daughters--( Jeremiah 43:6 ). Zedekiah's. Ishmael must have got additional followers (whom the hope of gain attracted), besides those who originally set out with him ( Jeremiah 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
11. Johanan--the friend of Gedaliah who had warned him of Ishmael's treachery, but in vain ( Jeremiah 40:8 Jeremiah 40:13 ).
12. the . . . waters--( 2 Samuel 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.
13. glad--at the prospect of having a deliverer from their captivity.
14. cast about--came round.
16. men of war--"The men of war," stated in Jeremiah 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.
17. dwelt--for a time, until they were ready for their journey to Egypt ( Jeremiah 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.
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 ( Jeremiah 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 ( Psalms 53:5 , Proverbs 28:1 ).