Devotional Commentary on Jeremiah 40


Frank Holbrook in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Jeremiah in 1994 on page 90 described the situation in verse 1: “At Ramah, in the territory of Benjamin about five miles north of Jerusalem, the captives were assembled for the long march to Babylon (Jer. 40:1). Their weeping is likened to the suffering of Rachel, who died giving birth to Benjamin. (See Gen. 35:16-20.”

Holbrook said on page 102, “Released from prison by order of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 39:11-14), Jeremiah was given his choice of going to Babylon or remaining in Judah (Jer. 40:1-5). He chose the latter and settled at Mizpah with Gedaliah, the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 40:6).” Some explanation is given by Middle Ages Rabbi Redak of the 12th century, that in Jeremiah 39:13 Nebuzaradan received his instruction from Nebuchadnezzar regarding Jeremiah and set off for Palestine. Before continuing the thought of Redak, it is said by Keil in his commentary of 1889: 119, that “Nebuzaradan, who is the first mentioned in ver 13, was not present at the taking of Jerusalem, and did not reach the city till four weeks afterwards.” Thus, the captors, said Redak, did not know of the decree of Nebuchadnezzar and thus took him out of the prison in the courtyard. “And they sent and took Jeremiah from the prison yard and gave him over to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan to take him out to the house” and then he dwelt with the people and from the people he was taken in fetters to Ramah with the people. It is from there that Nebuzaradan found him and then send him back to Gedaliah. Gedaliah was one of the defectors according to the counsel of Jeremiah according to Middle Ages Rabbi Rashi, see also Jeremiah 38:19. The seal of Gedaliah as gedalyahu was found in the City of David and reported about in 2008. It probably looked similar to this:

Seal 2 Jeremiah 38 verse 1.jpg

Jeremiah 38:1

"Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan and Gedaliah the son of Pashur and Yukhal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people..."

Seal: lgdlyhw bn psr "belonging to Gedalyahu the son of Pashur" (Location: City of David)

(Reported in the Jerusalem Post 2 August 2008) found apparently on July 30 2008. 

Jeremiah 40:14

"And said unto him, do you know that Baalish the king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to kill you?"

Seal: lmlkm 'wr `bd b`lys` "belonging to Milkom's flame(?) servant of Ba`alyasha" (Location: Tell el-Umeiri)

 Seal 4  Baalishya from Tell el Umeiri.jpg

(Jim Fisher, "Hesban and the Ammonites during the Iron Age," in Hesban after 25 Years edited by David Merling and Lawrence Geraty [Berrien Springs, MI: Institute of Archaeology, 1993], 90).


Verse 5 says that when given the option of returning or going to Babylon, Jeremiah “would still no return”. But the official repeated the freedom of choice of dwelling to Jeremiah “go wherever it seems right to you to go”. There are not many dictator countries that have the chance in history to conquer or colonize another nation and then tell them they have the right to go wherever they want to. Many times these domineering nations force the locals to stay in their villages and that they cannot go out of the country or even visit the capital city except by invitation. Imagine someone of a high IQ restrained under such dictatorial rules. Will that person not try to escape the country and become a refugee to another country where freedom reigns? But not all had it so well, since the “bad figs” had to go in exile as prophesied and warned by God for a long time.


At Mizpah Jeremiah came and lived with Gedaliah and the other people of the land (verse 6). All the chief officers of the Babylonian army heard that Gedaliah was appointed to be an official for Babylon, also some men, women and children were appointed. And he was a leader of the poor, namely those who were left behind (verse 7).


From many backgrounds they came since Ishmael and Johanan and Jonathan and Seraiah and the sons of Ephai and Jezaniah together with their men (verse 8). A multi-cultural group of people. Gedaliah asked them not to fear the Babylonians but be submissive to the King of Babylon “and it will go well with you (verse 9)”. This is Transformational Politics where for the sake of peace and security there is a surrender of one nation to the superpower involved. At such a time of transformational politics, all are afraid and hesitant what to do. It is a time of uprooting and social reconstruction that has all the elements of being painful. People who are afraid can easily get heart-attacks. In the End Time due to the Time of Great Trouble, there will be many of these transformational politics all over the world.


Gedaliah will live in Mizpah so that he can be an ambassador to the Babylonians coming for them on their behalf and they can go on with the collection of agricultural products (verse 10).


The Jews at that time that were in Ammon, Moab and Edom heard that Neb gave them a remnant and Gedaliah was chosen (verse 11). The Jews came out of their hiding places and gathered the wine (grapes for grapejuice) and dried figs (verse 12). Vine tending is in the months of May and June and figs are in the beginning of February. Holbrook said in his Sabbath School Quarterly on Jeremiah in 1994 that “Thirty months later, on July 19, 586 B.C., the city fell (Jer. 39:1, 2; 52:4-7). A month later the temple, palaces, and city were burned, and the walls were thrown down (Jer. 52:12-14)”. Thus in August it burnt. In the end of June and July the vintage begins and in the first half of August the grapeharvest ends. It is when Autumn kicks in.


Johanan and the officers of the armies who were in the field came to Gedaliah to Mizpah (verse 13). They had secret information that Baalis the king of the Ammonites sent Ishmael to kill Gedaliah (verse 14). See above the seal of Baalis that was found by Andrews University in the Madaba Plains Project at Tell el-Umeiri. Gedaliah did not believe them.


Johanan wanted to slay Ishmael secretly “and no one will know” (verse 15). He was a very violent person with criminal affinities. There is no such thing that no one shall know. “Why should he put you to death and all the Judeans gathered to you scatter?” It is typical of Fletcher’s “Situational Ethics” that is popular by Satan to rationalize away sinful acts. From a horizontal analysis one is almost convinced. From the vertical perspective God considers all people as equal candidates for eternal life if they so chosen. Therefore God’s ethics is: “You shall not commit murder”.


Gedaliah answered what Jeremiah would have answered, namely the position of God Himself: “Do not do this thing for you speak falsely about Ishmael.” As a human he valued another human being’s life. He had no other info about Ishmael. Even if it is going to turn out negative and that Ishmael was worse than Gedaliah thought, Gedaliah will stand out as a martyr for God grounded in His commandments.


Dear God

So easily do a country’s officials rationalize the principle of one innocent down is better than two-hundred lose their lives, and thereby sell a human life as napkins to be dispensed of. Teach us also the value of human lives from the perspective of Your eyes. In Jesus Name. Amen.