GOD ALWAYS PRESERVES, PROTECTS AND PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE
It is surprising when this chapter opens to find Jeremiah once more in chains. Apparently he had been scooped up along with the other Jews who were targeted for deportation. But God works thru the pagan military commander to once again preserve his life and offer him protection and sustenance in the Promised Land. In addition, God provides refuge for some of the poor and misplaced guerrilla soldiers who now are redirected to stay at home and maintain the basic agricultural economy. But all is not settled and peaceful. Gedaliah gets caught up in political intrigue and allows his trusting and naïve spirit to place him in harm’s way. Even in the midst of God’s providential care, dangers are lurking and wisdom must be exercised to navigate one’s course.
Ryken: The events of Jeremiah 40-41 provide a lesson in remnant theology. The main lesson is simply this: God will preserve a remnant. God’s people may be besieged. They may be attacked. They may be oppressed. They may be scattered over the face of the earth. But they will never be lost, for God always preserves a remnant for himself. .
God not only preserves his people – he provides for them. The remnant of the Jews in Jerusalem was in a precarious position. Their very existence as a people was in jeopardy. But they had one thing going for them: God always provides for his remnant.
GOD ALWAYS PRESERVES, PROTECTS AND PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE
I. (:1-6) GOD PRESERVES, PROTECTS AND PROVIDES FOR JEREMIAH –
NEBUZARADAN ENCOURAGES JEREMIAH TO STAY WITH GEDALIAH IN MIZPAH
A. (:1) God’s Prophet Escapes Forced Exile
“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD after Nebuzaradan captain of the bodyguard had released him from Ramah, when he had taken him bound in chains among all the exiles of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon.”
We find it strange that Jeremiah is in captivity here in the company of the exiles that are going to be deported to Babylon. Did he subject himself to this bondage willingly in identification with his people or was this some type of mistake made by the Babylonians?
Constable: Evidently, after Jeremiah’s release in Jerusalem, Babylonian soldiers arrested him when they saw him in the city streets, supposing him to be a regular Judean.
Kidner: 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.
Thompson: 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.
Mackay: Regarding the heading – this heading corresponds to that in 1:1-3, which related to the period up to the capture of the city. This is then a title for the following section of the book, up to chapter 45, which is deliberately presented as a supplement to the main part of Jeremiah’s ministry. “Word” then does not indicate simply message, but history as well.
B. (:2-4) God’s Prophet Impacted But Not Bound by Judah’s Sin
1. (:2-3) Some Circumstances Can’t Be Changed – You Sow What You Reap
“Now the captain of the bodyguard had taken Jeremiah and said to him, ‘The LORD your God promised this calamity against this place; and the LORD has brought it on and done just as He promised. Because you people sinned against the LORD and did not listen to His voice, therefore this thing has happened to you.’”
This pagan commander seems to have more insight into God’s hand of discipline than the rulers in Judah
Parunak: He reminds Jer of why these Jews are going into captivity: because they have disobeyed the Lord. Note the plural verbs; he is speaking collectively of the nation, NOT of Jer. In fact, it’s likely that he knows that this is what Jer has been preaching; Neb has likely released Jer precisely because Jer’s preaching is known and he is viewed by the Babylonians as a sympathizer and supporter. So Nebuzaradan’s words here have the sense, “Jer, you don’t belong here. This is the punishment that God has decreed for those who disobey him; that’s true of your people as a whole, but certainly not of you.”
2. (:4) Some Options Remain Open for Jeremiah
“But now, behold, I am freeing you today from the chains which are on your hands. If you would prefer to come with me to Babylon, come along, and I will look after you; but if you would prefer not to come with me to Babylon, never mind. Look, the whole land is before you; go wherever it seems good and right for you to go.”
C. (:5-6) God’s Prophet Chooses to Remain in Judah Under the Care of Gedaliah
1. (:5) Nebuzaradan’s Encouragement
“As Jeremiah was still not going back, he said, ‘Go on back then to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed over the cities of Judah, and stay with him among the people; or else go anywhere it seems right for you to go.’ So the captain of the bodyguard gave him a ration and a gift and let him go.”
Parunak: Jer hesitates. This strongly suggests that he is back in chains at his own choice, and he is wavering over whether to accept this offer of freedom. So Nebuzaradan encourages him more specifically to go back to Gedaliah, to whom he was originally sent (39:14), and even give him food and a present ($$?) to help him get started.
Guzik: 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)
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)
2. (:6) Jeremiah’s Decision
“Then Jeremiah went to Mizpah to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam and stayed with him among the people who were left in the land.”
Jerusalem had been destroyed; Gedaliah establishing his base of operations out of Mizpah
Constable: Mizpah became the center for Nebuchadnezzar’s provincial government in Judah (cf. Jeremiah 40:8). Jerusalem was uninhabitable (cf. Lamentations 2:13; Lamentations 4:1), and Mizpah had been a political and religious center over the centuries (cf. Judges 20:1-3; 1 Samuel 7:5-14; 1 Samuel 10:17).
Mackay: Jeremiah was not motivated by personal ease or ambition but by a desire to see the Lord’s cause advanced among his people.
Feinberg: Jeremiah chose to stay in the land he loved. This does not mean that he doubted his own message in 24:4-10. He loved his people in spite of their mistreatment, hatred, and threats on his life. Now he would at least be free of ungodly priests and false prophets. His devotion to the land and his conviction that it would be the scene of future blessing influenced his decision to remain in it at this critical time.
II. (:7-12) GOD PRESERVES, PROTECTS AND PROVIDES FOR A REMNANT IN THE LAND –
MILITARY COMMANDERS AND JEWS REGATHER AT MIZPAH UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF GEDALIAH
A. (:7-8) Regathering of Guerilla Military Units
1. (:7) Recognizing the Opportunity
“Now all the commanders of the forces that were in the field, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam over the land and that he had put him in charge of the men, women and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been exiled to Babylon.”
Parunak: These are military units. The names are Jewish. “In the fields” contrasts with the armies in the city of Jerusalem. So these are guerilla units that managed to survive in the countryside.
2. (:8) Regathering at Mizpah
“So they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah, along with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, both they and their men.”
B. (:9-10) Reassuring Instructions from Gedaliah
1. (:9) Submit
“Then Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, swore to them and to their men, saying, ‘Do not be afraid of serving the Chaldeans; stay in the land and serve the king of Babylon, that it may go well with you.’”
2. (:10) Sustain
“Now as for me, behold, I am going to stay at Mizpah to stand for you before the Chaldeans who come to us; but as for you, gather in wine and summer fruit and oil and put them in your storage vessels, and live in your cities that you have taken over.”
Feinberg: Everything was being done to hasten the return to normal peaceful conditions. Notice that the invaders had shown great enlightenment in refraining from any defoliation or “scorched-earth” policy, such as in modern warfare.
C. (:11-12) Regathering of Remnant Jews
1. (:11) Recognizing the Opportunity to Remain in Judah
“Likewise, also all the Jews who were in Moab and among the sons of Ammon and in Edom and who were in all the other countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant for Judah, and that he had appointed over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan.”
2. (:12) Reaping the Harvest
“Then all the Jews returned from all the places to which they had been driven away and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and gathered in wine and summer fruit in great abundance.”
III. (:13-16) PRESERVATION AND PROTECTION CAN BE REJECTED — PLOT TO KILL GEDALIAH DISPUTED
A. (:13-14) Plot of Ishmael to Kill Gedaliah Revealed
1. (:13-14a) Widely Known Plot
“Now Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces that were in the field came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and said to him, ‘Are you well aware that Baalis the king of the sons of Ammon has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to take your life?’”
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)
Constable: Baalis, the Ammonite king, shared Zedekiah’s antagonism for Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 27:1-11), so he did not want a Babylonian puppet governing Judah. Furthermore, a politically unstable condition in Judah would cause Nebuchadnezzar to concentrate his attention and troops there, rather than on Ammon.
2. (:14b) Warning Ignored by Gedaliah
“But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam did not believe them.”
Mackay: In terms of the narrative the significant point is that the new ruler of the people who at first displayed prudence and sagacity is shown to have character defects as well: he did not give due weight to well-intentioned (and accurate) warnings. Like Zedekiah who did not listen to the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, Gedaliah does not listen to the warnings of his own officers.
B. (:15-16) Proposal to Assassinate Ishmael
1. (:15) Permission Requested
“Then Johanan the son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah in Mizpah, saying, ‘Let me go and kill Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and not a man will know! Why should he take your life, so that all the Jews who are gathered to you would be scattered and the remnant of Judah would perish?’”
2. (:16) Permission Denied
“But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, ‘Do not do this thing, for you are telling a lie about Ishmael.’”
Constable: Gedaliah refused to permit Johanan to carry out his assassination plot, because he thought Johanan was misjudging Ishmael. Gedaliah was too trusting and nave, even though he was a capable ruler and apparently a man of faith. His commitment to his own people seems to have blinded him to the political intrigues that were swirling around him (cf. John 2:24-25). He would have been wise to seek the Lord’s will through Jeremiah and then follow it.