Treachery, Faithlessness, and Judgment (Jeremiah 41; Jeremiah 42)

Scripture reading – Jeremiah 41; Jeremiah 42

We return to our study of Jeremiah’s prophecies following the destruction of Jerusalem. After taking captive all the nobility, leaders, and skilled craftsmen of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar left behind a poor remnant of uneducated vinedressers and farmers (39:8-10). One Jewish man named Gedaliah was appointed by the king of Babylon to serve as governor of Judah (39:14; 40:5). Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, then set Jeremiah at liberty and promised his protection; however, Jeremiah chose to remain with the remnant in Judah (40:4-6).

Johanan, a faithful man, hearing rumors of conspiracy to slay Gedaliah, warned him of the threat (40:13-14). The governor of Judah, however, dismissed the warning, saying, “thou speakest falsely of Ishmael” (40:16b).

Jeremiah 41 – The Treachery of One’s Brethren

Slaying of Gedaliah (41:1-3)

Sometime later, the governor of Judah set forth a banquet, and among his invited guests were Ishmael (identified as “of the seed royal”) and others who served the king (41:1). Ten men accompanied Ishmael who, unbeknownst to Gedaliah, were conspiring to assassinate him (41:2). Rising from the meal, Ishmael betrayed Gedaliah’s trust, and slew him (41:2). Knowing the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar would fall upon them, and perhaps hoping to hide his identity, Ishmael and his murderous company slaughtered all who were in attendance at the banquet, including officials of Babylon (41:3).

The Murderous Rampage of Ishmael (41:4-10)

Two days later and before his treachery was known (41:4), Ishmael met 80 men who journeyed from the north and were going to worship in Jerusalem (41:5). Seeing the ruins of Jerusalem, the men mourned over the sight, and were joined by Ishmael who pretended to weep with them (41:6). With murderous intent, Ishmael invited the men to meet with Gedaliah (41:6). Entering the city, however, Ishmael set upon the men with swords thereby slaughtered 70 men. Ten men appealed to Ishmael’s greed, and were spared for they bribed him with a promise of “treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey,” 41:8).

To conceal his murderous spree, Ishmael cast the bodies of the slain men into a pit (an empty cistern), and set out with a remnant of the people he forced to “go over to the Ammonites” (41:10).

Johanan Pursued Ishmael to Exact Revenge (41:11-18)

Having slain the governor of Judah and the officers of Babylon, Ishmael fled Judah. Johanan, who had warned Gedaliah there was a conspiracy for his life, followed in pursuit of the assassins (41:11-12). Coming upon Ishmael before he crossed the river, the people he kidnapped rejoiced at the sight of Johanan and his company, and ran to them (41:13-14). Ishmael and his men “went to the Ammonites,” and were never heard from again in the Scriptures (41:15).

Johanan, and those he saved, returned to the region of Bethlehem and tarried there as they considered their future. Fearing Nebuchadnezzar would seek revenge for the deaths of Gedaliah and the men of Babylon, the people prepared “to go to enter into Egypt” (41:16-18).

Jeremiah 42 – The Fate of a People

A Spiritual Crossroads (42:1-6)

Johanan, and the people with him, came to the Jeremiah, and appealed to the prophet to pray and advise them regarding God’s will (42:1-3). Acknowledging they were a poor remnant, they promised to do all the LORD revealed to His prophet (42:4). Three times they affirmed their commitment to obey the LORD, “Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God” (42:5-6).

The Will and the Word of the LORD (42:7-18)

After the tenth day, the LORD revealed to Jeremiah His will (42:7). The prophet then summoned the people (42:8), and he declared not only the will of the LORD, but the conditions the people must meet if they were to enjoy His blessings (42:9).

The LORD promised to bless the people, but only if they remained in the land He had promised Israel as an inheritance (42:10). If they would obey Him, the LORD promised to build them into a great people; give cause for Babylon to show compassion and grant them mercy (42:10-12). Yet, if they refused to obey the LORD and departed to Egypt, they would suffer the sword, famine, and death (42:13-16). Disobey the LORD and they would not escape His judgment (42:17-18).

A Foolish, Disobedient People (42:19-22)

Though they vowed to obey the LORD, the people were insincere (42:19). They desired  Jeremiah pray for them, but when they heard the will of the LORD was to remain in the land, they refused and determined to go to Egypt (42:21). Leaving no doubt, the consequences of disobedience, Jeremiah declared, “Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn” (42:22).

Closing thoughts – Because they disobeyed the LORD, the things the people feared followed them to Egypt. There, in that nation that is a symbol of the world in the Scriptures, they suffered the deaths and sorrows of a disobedient people: Sword (war, and violent deaths), Famine (scarcity of food), and Pestilence (disease).

Think about it: Are those not the sorrows that haunt our world? The sword (violence in the streets, and war), rumors of food shortages, and disease: Are we not facing the heavy darkness of God’s judgment?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

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