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Jeremiah 40:14--41:3

Context
40:14 They said to him, “Are you at all aware 1  that King Baalis of Ammon has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to kill you?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam would not believe them. 40:15 Then Johanan son of Kareah spoke privately to Gedaliah there at Mizpah, “Let me go and kill Ishmael the son of Nethaniah before anyone knows about it. Otherwise he will kill you 2  and all the Judeans who have rallied around you will be scattered. Then what remains of Judah will disappear.” 40:16 But Gedaliah son of Ahikam said to Johanan son of Kareah, “Do not do that 3  because what you are saying about Ishmael is not true.” 4 

41:1 But in the seventh month 5  Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama who was a member of the royal family and had been one of Zedekiah’s chief officers, came with ten of his men to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah. While they were eating a meal together with him there at Mizpah, 41:2 Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him stood up, pulled out their swords, and killed Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan. Thus Ishmael killed the man that the king of Babylon had appointed to govern the country. 41:3 Ishmael also killed all the Judeans 6  who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah and the Babylonian 7  soldiers who happened to be there. 8 

1 tn The translation is intended to reflect the emphasizing infinitive absolute before the finite verb.

2 tn Heb “Why should he kill you?” However, this is one of those cases listed in BDB 554 s.v. מָה 4.d(b) where it introduces a question introducing rhetorically the reason why something should not be done. In cases like this BDB notes that it approximates the meaning “lest” and is translated in Greek by μήποτε (mhpote) or μή (mh) as the Greek version does here. Hence it is separated from the preceding and translated “otherwise” for the sake of English style.

3 tn Heb “this thing.”

4 tn Heb “is false” or “is a lie.”

5 sn It is not altogether clear whether this is in the same year that Jerusalem fell or not. The wall was breached in the fourth month (= early July; 39:2) and Nebuzaradan came and burned the palace, the temple, and many of the houses and tore down the wall in the fifth month (= early August; 52:12). That would have left time between the fifth month and the seventh month (October) to gather in the harvest of grapes, dates and figs, and olives (40:12). However, many commentators feel that too much activity takes place in too short a time for this to have been in the same year and posit that it happened the following year or even five years later when a further deportation took place, possibly in retaliation for the murder of Gedaliah and the Babylonian garrison at Mizpah (52:30). The assassination of Gedaliah had momentous consequences and was commemorated in one of the post exilic fast days lamenting the fall of Jerusalem (Zech 8:19).

6 sn All the Judeans. This can scarcely refer to all the Judeans who had rallied around Gedaliah at Mizpah because v. 10 later speaks of Ishmael carrying off “the rest of the people who were at Mizpah.” Probably what is meant is “all the Judeans and Babylonian soldiers” that were also at the meal. It is possible that this meal was intended to seal a covenant between Gedaliah and Ishmael of Ishmael’s allegiance to Gedaliah and his Babylonian overlords (cf. Gen 26:30-31; 31:53-54; Exod 24:11). In any case, this act of treachery and deceit was an extreme violation of the customs of hospitality practiced in the ancient Near East.

7 tn Heb “Chaldean.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation. There are two cases of apposition with the repetition of the preposition or of the sign of the accusative in this verse, e.g., “who were with him, [namely] with Gedaliah” and “all the Chaldeans who happened to be there, [namely] the soldiers.”

8 tn Heb “were found there.” For this nuance of the verb see BDB 594 s.v. מָצָא Niph.2.c.



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