Jeremiah Chapter 41
Lessons from the text
Listen to Your Captains
Governor Gedaliah failed to listen to the warnings by his captains that Ishmael would betray him (Jer. 40:13-14). Whatever the reason, he chose to trust Ishmael. That decision cost him his life.
God, through the Holy Spirit, is the first source of wisdom to the believer (Jn. 16:13, Jm. 1:5). Nonetheless, God places wise persons around His people to help them in their journey. He gave prophets to Israel, Apostles to the beginning church, and pastors to the believers. While not everyone is trustworthy, there are those of good character and integrity who possess knowledge and understanding that can be an asset the Christian in life.
These people are used by God to teach us how to live and what choices to make. If you are an astute believer, then you will be able to distinguish and heed those who possess godly wisdom. You don’t have to be smart; you just need to be able to recognize someone who possesses wisdom.
God gave Gedaliah wise captains to warn him of danger, but he did not listen. If he had listened, he would not have been killed and the remnant would have stayed in the promised land instead of sojourning into Egypt against God’s command. So, when a wise person gives you advice, take it to heart. Don’t be like Gedaliah and have to pay a grave consequence for ignoring sound advice.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1 Ishmael and ten men come to have dinner with Gedaliah. This happens only three months after Jerusalem was taken and only two months after Gedaliah was named governor (II Ki. 25:8, 22).
2-3 Gedaliah is living in peace with the Chaldeans and a few of the Jews. The rest of the Jews were out in the fields taking care of crops (Jer. 40:10). Jeremiah is not in Mizpah because he is living among the people (Jer. 39:14), possibly on his newly purchased land in Benjamin (Jer. 32:6-9, 37:12). Ishmael comes to this unprotected governor and kills him and all those around him. The fact that he murders both Jews and Chaldeans shows that Ishmael has no loyalties other than to his own agenda. Ishmael and his ten men are able to successfully overthrow the city and take captive everyone therein (v. 10). Noteworthy is that only eleven people are able to accomplish this.
4-5 Ishmael is able to keep his coup secret for a couple of days until some travelers come to worship God. Noteworthy is that even though they come to offer incense to God, they have disobeyed God’s laws by cutting themselves (Lev. 19:28, Deut. 14:1). Despite loosing their lands in divine judgment, the people are still ignorant of what is acceptable before God.
6-8 Since no one knows what he has done, Ismael comes out to meet the eighty men to catch them unawares. He lowers their guard by coming out weeping as if a great tragedy has occurred. As soon as they are trapped inside the city, he and his men turn on them to kill them. The only ones who are spared are those who bargain for their lives with riches, revealing Ismael’s greed.
9 Ishmael throws all the dead bodies into a pit which King Asa of Judah had made when he built the city. See I Kings 15:16-22.
10 Because Gedaliah refused to heed the wise advice of his captains, the people of Mizpah are led away captive by Ishmael.
bound. If not bound, why did they not resist Ishmael earlier? This question highlights the need to not let oneself become so discouraged that one will be led away captive by an enemy when one has the ability (whether physically or spiritually) to turn back to safety.
15 Juxtaposed to all the people who Ishmael killed, only two of his men die. From this it is reasonable to assume that the Israeli forces are rather small, as they were not able to surround and capture the eleven men.
16-18 After all the trauma of the past few months, the people decide that they have had enough. Rather than risk living in their promised land anymore, they desire to go into Egypt because they believe that at least there they will be able to rest from their enemies. However, as the next chapter reveals, this will prove to be a bad decision. It is important to not allow weariness, worry, or fear direct one’s decisions. God and His promises are one’s moral compass and should be the source of all of one’s choices. Johanan and the other Jews have allowed their circumstances to cloud their judgment and lead them to a decision contrary to God’s command (Deut. 17:16).
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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