Jeremiah 41

Jeremiah 41 has the prophet recording a massacre at Mizpah.  It began with the killing of Gedaliah who was governor of the land, but extended to many others.  Gedaliah had been warned that Ishmael was coming to kill him, but he didn’t believe it.  They met and the governor extended hospitality to the visitors by inviting them to eat with him at his table.  It is likely that Gedaliah knew Ishmael based on the fact he wouldn’t believe the word that he was coming to destroy him, and the fact that he invited him to a meal.  That makes what happened all the worse.

Ishmael was thorough.  He “struck down Gedaliah….and killed him….all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at  Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there”.  Ishmael was only there with ten men, so it seems likely the locals were not at all suspicious of their guest.  Ishmael was of the royal family and of the officers of the king, a descendant of David. He was probably jealous that Gedaliah was appointed governor, making him more willing to do the work of the king of the Ammonites.

Ishmael’s crime was startling because he lived through God’s judgment in the fall of Jerusalem and Judah. But it did not make him fear or honor the Lord.  In fact, as another group of 80 arrived to sacrifice from around the area.  These worshippers were “from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria” and they came to offer sacrifice and worship God.  Ishmael put on a good show, meeting them as they approached the city and inviting them in.  Then he and his men killed them and put their bodies into a cistern.  This guy is one bad egg.

Ishmael takes the survivors captive from the city and returns them to the Ammonites.  He likely sold them as slaves to this foreign king.  There was a good guy in this story.  “When Johanan the son of Kareah and  all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael”.  Johanan had been the one who had warned Gedaliah about Ishmael before his murder.  Now he is making it his business to try and right the wrong Ishmael did.  He chases him and frees his captives but Ishmael escapes.  But Johanan does much good in trying to free those whom Ishmael intended for harm.

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