Jeremiah 40 – Jeremiah Among the Remnant in the Land
A. God cares for faithful Jeremiah.
1. (1) Jeremiah rescued from captivity to Babylon.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him bound in chains among all who were carried away captive from Jerusalem and Judah, who were carried away captive to Babylon.
a. After Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah: This word came to Jeremiah after the Babylonians had conquered and destroyed Jerusalem. When Jerusalem was conquered, Jeremiah was briefly collected with the other deportees, the Babylonian captain of the guard had let him go.
i. “The name Ramah, meaning a ‘height’, belonged to several places, but the most likely of these would be a town about six miles north of Jerusalem, two or three miles from Mizpah.” (Kidner)
ii. “It would appear that there was a staging area at Ramah, the modern Er-Ram some 5 miles north of Jerusalem. From here the deportees would be set off for Babylonia. ” (Thompson)
b. Among all who were carried away captive from Jerusalem and Judah: Apparently, Jeremiah was among those who were being organized for forced relocation to Babylon when Nebuzaradan found him and released him.
i. “Somehow Jeremiah had been rounded up with the others, and when liberated he had been shackled despite Nebuchadnezzar’s orders for considerate treatment.” (Harrison)
2. (2-4) Nebuzaradan’s word to Jeremiah.
And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him: “The LORD your God has pronounced this doom on this place. Now the LORD has brought it, and has done just as He said. Because you people have sinned against the LORD, and not obeyed His voice, therefore this thing has come upon you. And now look, I free you this day from the chains that were on your hand. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you. But if it seems wrong for you to come with me to Babylon, remain here. See, all the land is before you; wherever it seems good and convenient for you to go, go there.”
a. The LORD your God has pronounced this doom on this place: Nebuzaradan knew of Jeremiah and his prophecies. He knew that this was the judgment of Yahweh against His people because they sinned against the LORD. The Babylonian Nebuzaradan believed the word of God more than Yahweh’s covenant people did.
i. “Unquestionably the words sound like those of Jeremiah himself, and this may show that Nebuzaradan had some acquaintance with the prophet’s teaching. The simplest explanation may be that he knew of the content of Jeremiah’s main emphasis in preaching and was simply quoting it as appropriate for the occasion.” (Feinberg)
ii. “A strange speech to come out of such a man’s mouth. How could the captives present hear it, and not be affected with it? Thus Balaam’s ass sometimes rebuked his master’s madness, but to little good effect.” (Trapp)
b. I free you this day from the chains that were on your hand: Nebuzaradan probably did this out of both respect for Jeremiah’s steadfast courage, and what could be interpreted as Jeremiah’s favorable message regarding the Babylonians (that Jerusalem should surrender to their invading army).
c. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you: Jeremiah had a relatively attractive offer from Nebuzaradan. He could go to Babylon with his fellow Jews and know he would have a better life there than many of them, because the captain of the guard would look after him.
d. If it seems wrong for you to come with me to Babylon, remain here: Nebuzaradan gave Jeremiah a rare choice. Those who went to Babylonia were compelled to go; they did not have a choice to remain. Jeremiah was one of the few Jews who could choose whatever seems good and convenient to him.
i. F.B. Meyer said of Nebuzaradan, “He is a comrade of the centurions of the New Testament.”
3. (5-6) Jeremiah chooses to stay in the land.
Now while Jeremiah had not yet gone back, Nebuzaradan said, “Go back to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people. Or go wherever it seems convenient for you to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him rations and a gift and let him go. Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, to Mizpah, and dwelt with him among the people who were left in the land.
a. While Jeremiah had not yet gone back: Perhaps Jeremiah had a difficult time making up his mind, or at least it appeared so to Nebuzaradan.
b. Go back… dwell with him among the people: Sensing that Jeremiah really wanted to stay, Nebuzaradan voiced what seemed to be his choice – to stay in the land. The Babylonian captain of the guard made provision that Jeremiah would stay in the care of Gedaliah, who was appointed by the king of Babylon as governor over the cities of Judah.
i. Gedaliah was the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan. “Shaphan the grandfather was Josiah’s secretary and carried the newly found scroll to the king (2 Kings 22:3-13). One son, Ahikam, was part of the delegation Josiah sent to the prophetess Huldah (2 Kings 22:12-14). Ahikam offered protection to Jeremiah after he had preached the Temple Sermon (Jeremiah 26:24). It was Ahikam’s son Gedaliah who was the new governor of the Babylonian province of Judah.” (Thompson)
ii. In appointing Gedaliah, it was apparent that Nebuchadnezzar no longer trusted the men of the House of David. He chose a man who had administrative experience, but was not of the royal line. “It is obvious that Nebuchadnezzar had lost all faith in the house of David. His dealings with the last three kings of Judah were disappointing in the extreme.” (Feinberg)
iii. “A seal dating from this time discovered at Lachish is inscribed with the name of a ‘Gedaliah,’ who was ‘over the House’ – i.e. a palace governor (cf. Isaiah 36:22). The man referred to could have been the Gedaliah of Jeremiah’s time.” (Feinberg)
c. The captain of the guard gave him rations and a gift and let him go: This shows God’s remarkable care for Jeremiah, even from the hands of a pagan authority. In some ways, Jeremiah received better treatment from Nebuzaradan than from his fellow Jews.
i. “The courteous and humane treatment from the nation’s enemy contrasts markedly with what Jeremiah had received from his own countrymen.” (Harrison)
ii. “God is able to supply the need of his servants in very remarkable ways; now through ravens, or a widow, and again through a captain of Nebuchadnessar’s guard. If we will be all for God, God will be all for us.” (Meyer)
d. Dwelt with him among the people who were left in the land: Jeremiah lived under the care of the Judean man who was the Babylonian-appointed governor, and he lived among the poorest and most wretched of the land, those not sent to Babylon.
i. The people who were left in the land: “The great bulk of these Judeans were of the underprivileged classes (Jeremiah 39:10), but there were others including some royal princesses as well as remnants of the Judean army who may have been engaged in guerrilla activity against the Chaldeans.” (Thompson)
ii. Jeremiah wanted to live among his people because he loved them. “Jeremiah was not a vindictive man, nor did he feel the slightest elation at the downfall of his adversaries. They were his people, he loved them, and he wept bitterly for them, as the book of Lamentations shows.” (Cundall)
iii. “It is a revealing fact of the character of Jeremiah, that when, undoubtedly, he might have secured safety and even comfort for himself in Babylon, he elected to remain in his own land and among the weak remnant of his own people.” (Morgan)
B. Gedaliah, governor of Judah.
1. (7-10) Gedaliah assures the remaining Jewish military presence.
And when all the captains of the armies who were in the fields, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, children, and the poorest of the land who had not been carried away captive to Babylon, then they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men. And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, took an oath before them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. As for me, I will indeed dwell at Mizpah and serve the Chaldeans who come to us. But you, gather wine and summer fruit and oil, put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken.”
a. When all the captains of the armies who were in the fields: When the Babylonians conquered the people of Judah, there were some remaining military captains and their men who escaped. They had to choose whether they would continue the fight as an underground resistance or submit to Babylonian rule.
i. “The land had been deprived of its leaders; so chiefs of guerrilla bands, who remained hidden while the Babylonian army was besieging, waited the turn of events after the fall of the capital.” (Feinberg)
b. Heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land: These military men wanted to meet with Gedaliah to see if he would support the Babylonians or begin to betray the king of Babylon who put him in power (as King Zedekiah had done) and fight for an independent Judah.
c. They came to Gedaliah as Mizpah: The listed military leaders came to Gedaliah at the historic site of Mizpah (Genesis 31:45-54, Joshua 11:8, Judges 20:1-3, 1 Samuel 7:5-12, 1 Samuel 10:17).
d. Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans: Gedaliah said this with an oath to assure the officers and their men that truly, their best and wisest action was to surrender to God’s judgment through the Babylonians and make the most of the life they had. They had his promise: Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.
e. Gather wine and summer fruit and oil, put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities: Gedaliah told them to do what Jeremiah the prophet had told the people to do – submit to God’s judgment through the Babylonians and seek to honor God and glorify Him in normal life.
i. “Gedaliah’s responsibility was to help this remnant settle down, work the land and pay tribute to Babylon from the harvests.” (Harrison)
3. (11-12) The Jews in neighboring lands come back to Judah.
Likewise, when all the Jews who were in Moab, among the Ammonites, in Edom, and who were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, then all the Jews returned out of all places where they had been driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruit in abundance.
a. All the Jews who were in Moab, among the Ammonites, in Edom, and who were in all the countries: As the Babylonian threat came closer, many Jews escaped to neighboring nations and peoples.
b. Then all the Jews returned out of all places where they had been driven, and came to the land of Judah: Once Judah and Jerusalem were conquered and the land stabilized under Gedaliah, they came back to the land and resumed normal life with a measure of blessing (gathered wine and summer fruit in abundance).
4. (13-14) Gedaliah is told of a murder plot.
Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields came to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and said to him, “Do you certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to murder you?” But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam did not believe them.
a. Do you certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to murder you: Some of the remaining officers of the land brought this warning of an assassination plot to Gedaliah.
i. “Ishmael the son of Nethaniah (Jeremiah 41:1) was of royal heritage (cf. 2 Kings 25:23). An enthusiastic member of the anti-Babylonian party, he was both jealous of and filled with hatred for Gedaliah.” (Feinberg)
ii. “Since Ishmael, the would-be executioner, was of the royal house of David, he may have been slighted in being passed over for the responsible office of governor.” (Harrison)
iii. “Recently an excavation in Jordan has uncovered the Siran Bottle (dated in the period of 667-580 BC), which bears the name of a King Ba’lay, who has been identified with the Baalis of Jeremiah 40:13-14.” (Feinberg)
b. Gedaliah the son of Ahikam did not believe them: Gedaliah did not believe this report, though the events of Jeremiah 41 show that it was true. Perhaps Gedaliah was foolish; perhaps Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had won his trust in some way.
i. “He seems to have been of a magnanimous disposition and unable to believe evil of one whom he knew personally in the days when he was a state official and Ishmael was a royal prince.” (Thompson)
ii. “The next chapter shows that Johanan’s information was too true. So noble Gedaliah lost his life by not believing that evil of others of which he himself was incapable.” (Clarke)
5. (15-16) Gedaliah rejects an offer of protection against the threat.
Then Johanan the son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah in Mizpah, saying, “Let me go, please, and I will kill Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no one will know it. Why should he murder you, so that all the Jews who are gathered to you would be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?” But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, “You shall not do this thing, for you speak falsely concerning Ishmael.”
a. Let me go, please, and I will kill Ishmael: One of the leaders who brought the report of a murder plot to Gedaliah pressed him further, speaking to him secretly. He offered to eliminate the man accused of plotting the murder.
b. You shall not do this thing, for you speak falsely concerning Ishmael: Gedaliah still did not believe the warning, even though Johanan the son of Kareah pressed it upon him. Gedaliah continued to trust what he knew of Ishmael and regarded the warning as a false report.
i. “From our vantage-point we can see that Gedliah should have enquired of the Lord, whose Prophet Jeremiah was with him; yet this is easily said.” (Kidner)