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Our broken condition as a result of the Fall means that our lives end up far messier than what we would like. On a personal level, sin brings messiness and chaos. How much more on a national level when we look at the experiences of God’s chosen people do we find such messiness and chaos when God’s warnings are ignored and His counsel is neglected. We can easily take false confidence from temporary deliverances and fail to depend on the Lord for guidance like we should. Sometimes the immediate pressure of the situation (like fear of reprisal from the powerful Chaldeans) causes us to violate clear commands that God has given in the past (like “Don’t seek help or safety or security from the world/Egypt”).




A. (:1-3) Killing of Gedaliah and His Associates

1. (:1) Arrival of Ishmael and His Strike Force

“In the seventh month Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, of the royal family and one of the chief officers of the king, along with ten men, came to Mizpah to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.”

2. (:2) Assassination of Gedaliah – the Political Appointee of the King of Babylon

“While they were eating bread together there in Mizpah, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him arose and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword and put to death the one whom the king of Babylon had appointed over the land.”

This celebration dinner was part of the enjoyment of the peaceful situation that had been brought about by the Chaldeans setting up Gedaliah to rule over the Jewish remnant that was left to maintain the agricultural economy in Judah. But this proved to be only a temporary deliverance. Chaos was about to break loose because Gedaliah had ignored the warnings about assassination plots that should have put him on the alert.

Parunak: v. 2 emphasizes that the man he has killed was appointed by the Babylonians, so this act is designed to infuriate them. Furthermore, he kills Babylonians who are associated with Gedaliah’s staff as well. Clearly he is trying to offend Nebuchadnezzar.

Guzik: The coming treachery was even worse because it violated the hospitality and protection of the shared table (ate bread together).

Ryken: Gedaliah’s death was a tragedy. For years afterward, the Jews held a fast to lament the day of his passing.

Mackay: Killing the one whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor over the land points to the political implications of the assassination as a setback to Nebuchadnezzar’s hopes that Judah would return to some level of normality. Babylonian reprisals could now be anticipated. Ishmael had achieved his objective of destabilizing the country, and that was very much what the Ammonites also wanted, as they had eyes on Judah’s territory.

3. (:3) Additional Victims = Jews and Chaldeans with Gedaliah at Mizpah

“Ishmael also struck down all the Jews who were with him, that is with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans who were found there, the men of war.”

Kidner: Everything about him disgraced the name of David his forebear, who had resisted every impulse to “wade through slaughter to a throne” and had awaited God’s time and his people’s will. This was no David but a Jehu.

B. (:4-8) Killing of 70 Innocent Pilgrims

1. (:4-5) Arrival of the Pilgrims

“Now it happened on the next day after the killing of Gedaliah, when no one knew about it, that eighty men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria with their beards shaved off and their clothes torn and their bodies gashed, having grain offerings and incense in their hands to bring to the house of the LORD.”

Parunak: Their mourning: beards cut, clothes torn, flesh flayed, in sadness over the destruction of the temple. The first and third of these are pagan practices, forbidden in the law, Lev. 19:27; 21:5; Deut. 14:1. Shows how even the faithful in the Northern Kingdom were influenced by pagan practices.

2. (:6-7) Atrocity Committed

a. (:6) Deception

“Then Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went; and as he met them, he said to them, ‘Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam!’”

Thompson: It was an act of sheer deceit and perfidy for Ishmael to meet the pilgrims with such a display of sympathy for them in their sorrow. By pretending himself to be overcome with grief, weeping as he went, he won their confidence. Equally deceitful was his welcome in the name of Gedaliah. The pilgrims were completely off their guard before a master of treachery who was ably supported by his henchmen.

b. (:7) Destruction

“Yet it turned out that as soon as they came inside the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men that were with him slaughtered them and cast them into the cistern.”

Mackay: It may be that he wanted to commit an atrocity of such a magnitude that the Babylonians had to take some action, so that the land would experience even more upheaval.

3. (:8) Avoidance of Death by 10 of the Pilgrims

“But ten men who were found among them said to Ishmael, ‘Do not put us to death; for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil and honey hidden in the field.’ So he refrained and did not put them to death along with their companions.”

C. (:9) Disrespecting the Corpses

“Now as for the cistern where Ishmael had cast all the corpses of the men whom he had struck down because of Gedaliah, it was the one that King Asa had made on account of Baasha, king of Israel; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain.”

Constable: The cistern that Ishmael filled with dead bodies was one that King Asa of Judah had constructed while battling against King Baasha of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 15:22; 2 Chronicles 16:6). Good King Asa had built the cistern to preserve life, but wicked Ishmael now polluted it by filling it with corpses. To give these pilgrims such a burial showed no respect for them.

D. (:10) Capturing the Remnant and Heading to Ammon

“Then Ishmael took captive all the remnant of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard had put under the charge of Gedaliah the son of Ahikam; thus Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and proceeded to cross over to the sons of Ammon.”

Parunak: Having done the King of Ammon’s dirty work, he rounds up the people and leads them captive back to Ammon. Many of them had just escaped there when they learned of Gedaliah’s rule. Now they will return to an even harsher slavery.

Feinberg: Ishmael’s motive in transporting the remnant may have been threefold:

(1) to escape punishment,

(2) to find refuge with Baalis who had instigated the assassination of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:14), and

(3) to sell the remnant as slaves to the Ammonites.

Longman: It is possible, though only speculation, that the reason why Ishmael is taking these women to Ammon is because baalis, who is directing Ishmael here, is interested in marrying into the family of David in order to have some kind of claim on the land. Perhaps Baalis is foolishly thinking that if he, through Ishmael, destroyed the Babylonian garrison and its Judean puppets he might be able to exert hegemony over the area. This might be the significance behind the fact that Ishmael took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.



A. (:11-12) Pursuit of Ishmael

1. (:11) Focusing on Ishmael Because of His Atrocities

“But Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces that were with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done.”

2. (:12) Finding Ishmael at Gibeon

“So they took all the men and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and they found him by the great pool that is in Gibeon.”

B. (:13-15) People Movement Back to Loyalty to Johanan

1. (:13) Relief – Excitement at the Arrival of Johanan and His Forces

“Now as soon as all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah and the commanders of the forces that were with him, they were glad.”

2. (:14) Reversal – Expressing Loyalty to Johanan

“So all the people whom Ishmael had taken captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah.”

3. (:15) Retreat – Escape of Ishmael

“But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men and went to the sons of Ammon.”



A. (:16) Mobilization – Getting the people prepared to move out

“Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces that were with him took from Mizpah all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, after he had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, that is, the men who were soldiers, the women, the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought back from Gibeon.”

Adam Clarke: These were all most probably, persons who belonged to the palace and harem of Zedekiah: some of them his own concubines and their children.

B. (:17-18) Mistake – Heading for refuge in Egypt

“And they went and stayed in Geruth Chimham, which is beside Bethlehem, in order to proceed into Egypt because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid of them, since Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed over the land.”

Constable: Johanan and his party intended to proceed to Egypt, because they feared that the Babylonian soldiers would retaliate and kill them when they discovered that Ishmael had assassinated Gedaliah.

Ryken: Going back to Egypt had “fatal mistake” written all over it. Jeremiah had often warned the Jews not to go to Egypt (2:18, 36; 24:8-10). Nevertheless, they were already halfway out the door. Maybe, they thought, it would be okay to go to Egypt just this once. So they traveled about five miles down the road. Then they started to have second thought. Should they stay or should they go?