The Word Made Fresh
1The LORD’s word concerning Jeremiah came to him after the captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, had let him go from Ramah where they had taken him bound in ropes along with the survivors of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2The captain of the guard took Jeremiah aside and said to him, “The LORD your God threatened this country with disaster; 3and now that threat has been carried out. The LORD has done it because all of you sinned against the LORD and refused to obey God’s voice. This is why you’re in the trouble you are in today. 4But look, I have just released you from your bonds. If you wish to come to Babylon with me, come. I will take good care of you. You don’t have to come with me to Babylon if you don’t wish to do so. Go wherever you think best. 5You may return to Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has appointed governor of the towns of Judah. Stay with him among your people or go anywhere else you wish.” Then he gave Jeremiah an allotment of food and a gift and released him. 6Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left in the land.
7When all the leaders of the soldiers in the countryside heard that Gedaliah son of Ahikam had been appointed governor over the land by the king of Babylon and had placed under his rule the men, women, and children of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah. They were Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah son of the Maacathite, plus the soldiers under them. 9Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan promised them and their troops, “Don’t be afraid to serve the Babylonians. Stay in the land, serve the king of Babylon, and all will go well with you. 10I will be staying at Mizpah to represent you to the Babylonians who come to us. But as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oils, and store them with you in the towns you have taken over.”
11In the same way, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah, and that Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan had been appointed governor over them, 12they returned from all the places to which they had fled, and came to Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah. They gathered wine and summer fruit in abundance from the land.
13Johanan son of Kareah and the other leaders of the troops in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. 14They said to him, “Didn’t you know that Baalis king of Ammon has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to kill you?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam refused to believe them. 15Then Johanan son of Kareah met privately with Gedaliah at Mizpah and said, “Allow me to go and kill Ishmael son of Nethaniah. No one else needs to know about it. Why should he be allowed to take your life? All the Judeans who have gathered to you would be scattered, and Judah would perish.” 16But Gedaliah son of Ahikam replied, “Don’t do such a thing! You are misinformed about Ishmael.”
1-6: These verses fill in the gap between 39:14a and 39:14b. While at Ramah, Nebuzaradan, under orders from Nebuchadnezzar (39:11), sets Jeremiah free to go wherever he wishes. Jeremiah, as we learned in the last chapter, chooses to go to Mizpah with Gedaliah, the newly appointed governor. There was more than one Mizpah, but likely the reference here is to Mizpah in the territory of Benjamin, which was an early religious center along with Ramah and Gilgal. Although the exact location is a matter of conjecture, the likelihood is that it was a town about two miles north of Ramah and 8 miles north of Jerusalem. Mizpah is the place where Saul was chosen to be the first King of Israel (1 Samuel 9). Apparently, Jerusalem was in such a state of ruin that it could not serve as the administrative center of the area.
7-12: Verses 7-9 contain basically the same information as 2 Kings 25:23-24. There are still little bands of soldiers scattered around the area, and when they hear that Gedaliah has been put in charge, they come to him at Mizpah. He advises them to lay down their arms and take up farming. According to this account they do just that and bring in a bountiful harvest — a detail left out of the 2 Kings account.
13-16: The 2 Kings account says nothing about a warning being given to Gedaliah; only Jeremiah gives us that part of the story. Gedaliah is told that the king of Ammon has enlisted one of the Judean captains, whose name is Ishmael, to assassinate him. He refuses to believe the report.
When a nation styles itself as a “nation under God,” the people must understand that they are a nation under God only so long as they honor God. God can and will cast off any nation that rejects God’s guidance.