Jeremiah 40 – Jeremiah Released & Gedaliah, Governor of Judah, and Baalis, King of Ammon

It appears that Gedaliah was a really good guy.  So…

Jeremiah 40
Jeremiah Released

Reconstruction of Babylon at the time of Alexander.

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon. 

40:1-44:30 – a lively narrative of the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem.  Chronologically, the chapters are the later in the book (although 52:31-34 is later, it is part of the appendix and not of the book proper).

2 And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place.

3 Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you.

4 And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go.

5 Now while he was not yet gone back, he said, Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go.

6 Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.

Mizpah ruins

7 Now when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields, even they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon;

8 Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even 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 a Maachathite, they and their men.

9 And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.

10 As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken.

“Gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil” – Nebuchadnezzar had arrived in Jerusalem in August 586 B.C.  Grapes, figs and olives were harvested in the Holy Land during August and September.

11 Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan;

12 Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which once captivated ancient traveller.

13 Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah,

14 And said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not.

“Baalis” – either (1) “King Ba’lay,” as his name is written on an early 6th century B.C. bottle discovered in Jordan, or (2) Ba’al-Yahha, an Ammonite king whose name appears on a stamp seal found at Tell el- ‘Umeriri in Jordan in 1984.

15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?

16 But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.

Gedaliah, Governor of Judah,
and Baalis, King of Ammon

Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah, who came from a family of royal administrators, as governor of Judah in 587 B.C. (2 Kgs 25:22).  Gedaliah attempted to rebuild the country following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.

Seal of Gedaliah, son of Pashur.

Unfortunately, he became a victim of the political forces of the day when Baalis, king of Ammon, recruited Ishmael to assassinate him.   

[There are at least six Ishmaels in the Old Testament and I’m unsure which one this one is.  I know it isn’t Abraham’s son because he was born in 1911 B.C. and died at the age of 137.

There are three others that lived in the 5th and 6th centuries, but the one in the 5th century was a priest so I doubt if he was an assassin and the Catholic religion didn’t exist at this time.  I’m not which of these two was the assassin.

Close-up of a triad statue depicting the pharaoh Mekaura being held by the goddess Hathor.

One of them was from the tribe of Benjamin, where the wicked King Saul came from.  The other came from the tribe of Judah, where King David came from.  I believe this Ishmael is the latter of the two because he had contact with Gedaliah and King Baalis.  The other one might have too, but I can’t find any information on that].

Ishmael may have had designs upon the leadership of the country and Baalis may have wanted to set up a puppet king whom he could control.

Archeologists have found a bulla of Gedaliah on the surface at Lachish, 27 miles southwest of Jerusalem.  The inscription reads:

Belonging to Gedaliah Over (seer of) the (royal) house.

The title designating the chief steward of the royal palace.  Individuals bearing this title took on major state responsibilities and were active in political and diplomatic activities.  Evidence Gedaliah held this post prior to the fall of Jerusalem.

The ancient Egyptian goddess Bat as she appears on the Narmer Palette.

A seal and impression with the name of Baalis have been discovered as well.

The seal, acquired on the antiquities market is that of Baalis himself.  It depicts a winged sphinx with the words, “Belonging to Baalis” above it, the letters for “king” on either side and “Sons of Ammon” (i.e., Ammonites) below it.

The seal impression was unearthed at Tell el-Umeiri just south of Amman in Jordan.  It reads:

Belonging to Mikomor servant of Baalis.

…did Johanan kill Ishmael or did Ishmael kill Gedaliah? 

It seems like politics plays a big role in everything, as it does today.  What happened in 587 B.C. seems like a changing point in the Ancient Near East.  I think I need a quick recap.