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41 But in the seventh month[a] 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, 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. Ishmael also killed all the Judeans[b] who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah and the Babylonian[c] soldiers who happened to be there.[d]

On the day after Gedaliah had been murdered, before anyone even knew about it, eighty men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria.[e] They had shaved off their beards, torn their clothes, and cut themselves to show they were mourning.[f] They were carrying grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.[g] Ishmael son of Nethaniah went out from Mizpah to meet them. He was pretending to cry[h] as he walked along. When he met them, he said to them, “Come with me to meet Gedaliah son of Ahikam.”[i] But as soon as they were inside the city, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the men who were with him slaughtered them and threw their bodies[j] in a cistern. But there were ten men among them who said[k] to Ishmael, “Do not kill us. For we will give you the stores of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey we have hidden in a field.”[l] So he spared their lives and did not kill[m] them along with the rest.[n] Now the cistern where Ishmael threw all the dead bodies of those he had killed was a large one[o] that King Asa had constructed as part of his defenses against King Baasha of Israel.[p] Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled it with dead bodies.[q] 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the people who were still left alive in Mizpah. This included the royal princesses[r] and all the rest of the people in Mizpah that Nebuzaradan, the captain of the royal guard, had put under the authority of Gedaliah son of Ahikam. Ishmael son of Nethaniah took all these people captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

Johanan Rescues the People Ishmael Had Carried Off

11 Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him heard about all the atrocities[s] that Ishmael son of Nethaniah had committed. 12 So they took all their troops and went to fight against Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They caught up with him near the large pool[t] at Gibeon. 13 When all the people that Ishmael had taken captive saw[u] Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him, they were glad. 14 All those people that Ishmael had taken captive from Mizpah turned and went over to Johanan son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael son of Nethaniah managed to escape from Johanan along with eight of his men, and he went on over to Ammon.

16 Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him led off all the people who had been left alive at Mizpah. They had rescued them from Ishmael son of Nethaniah after he killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam. They led off the men, women, children, soldiers, and court officials whom they had brought away from Gibeon. 17 They set out to go to Egypt to get away from the Babylonians,[v] but stopped at Geruth Kimham[w] near Bethlehem. 18 They were afraid of what the Babylonians might do[x] because Ishmael son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed to govern the country.


  1. Jeremiah 41:1 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; 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, 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. They 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).
  2. Jeremiah 41:3 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 promising 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.
  3. Jeremiah 41:3 tn Heb “Chaldean.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation. There are two cases of apposition in this verse, with repetition of the preposition and then of the sign of the accusative, i.e., “who were with him, [namely] with Gedaliah” and “all the Chaldeans who happened to be there, [namely] the soldiers.”
  4. Jeremiah 41:3 tn Heb “were found there.” For this nuance of the verb see BDB 594 s.v. מָצָא Niph.2.c.
  5. Jeremiah 41:5 sn Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria were all cities in the northern kingdom of Israel with important religious and political histories. When Israel was destroyed in 722 b.c., some of the Israelites had been left behind, and some of the Judeans had taken up residence in these northern cities. People residing there had participated in the reforms of Hezekiah (2 Chr 30:11) and Josiah (2 Chr 34:9) and were evidently still faithfully following the Jewish calendar. They would have been on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish New Year and the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:34).
  6. Jeremiah 41:5 tn The words “to show they were mourning” are not in the text but are implicit in the acts. They are supplied in the translation for clarification for readers who may not be familiar with ancient mourning customs.
  7. Jeremiah 41:5 tn The words “in Jerusalem” are not in the text but are implicit. They are supplied in the translation for clarity.
  8. Jeremiah 41:6 tn Heb “he was weeping/crying.” The translation is intended to better reflect the situation.
  9. Jeremiah 41:6 tn Heb “Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” The words supplied in the translation are implicit to the situation and added for clarity.
  10. Jeremiah 41:7 tn The words “and threw their bodies” result from the significant use of the preposition אֶל (ʾel, so GKC 384 § and BDB 39 s.v. אֶל 1). Hence the suggestion in BHS that the Syriac and two Greek mss are reading a different text is not really a textual issue but a translational one; the versions are supplying the words for stylistic purposes, as has been done here.
  11. Jeremiah 41:8 tn Heb “But there were ten men found among them and they said.” However, for the use of “were found” = “be, happened to be” see BDB 594 s.v. מָצָא 2.c and compare the usage in 41:3.
  12. Jeremiah 41:8 tn This sentence is a good example of the elliptical nature of some of the causal connections in the Hebrew Bible. All the Hebrew says literally is, “For we have hidden stores of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey in a field.” However, it is obvious that they are using this as their bargaining chip to prevent Ishmael and his men from killing them. For the use of “for” (כִּי, ki) for such elliptical thoughts see BDB 473-74 s.v. כִּי 3.c.
  13. Jeremiah 41:8 tn Or “So he refrained from killing them”; Heb “he refrained and did not kill them.”
  14. Jeremiah 41:8 tn Heb “in the midst of their brothers/fellow countrymen.”
  15. Jeremiah 41:9 tc The translation here follows the reading of the Greek version. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain; some understand it to mean “because of Gedaliah [i.e., to cover up the affair with Gedaliah],” and others understand it to mean “alongside of Gedaliah.” The translation presupposes that the Hebrew text reads בּוֹר גָּדוֹל הוּא (bor gadol huʾ) in place of בְּיַד גְּדַלְיָהוּ הוּא (beyad gedalyahu huʾ). The meaning of בְּיַד (beyad) does not fit any of the normal ones given for this expression, and those who retain the Hebrew text normally explain it as an unparalleled use of “because” or “in the affair of” (so NJPS), or as a rare use meaning “near, by the side of “ (see BDB 391 s.v. יָד 5.d, where only Ps 141:6 and Zech 4:12 are cited). BDB suggests reading with the Greek version, as the present translation does (so BDB 391 s.v. יָד 5.c[3]). For the syntax presupposed by the Greek text that has been followed, consult IBHS 298 §16.3.3d and 133 §8.4.2b. The first clause is a classifying clause with normal order of subject-predicate-copulative pronoun, and it is followed by a further qualifying relative clause.
  16. Jeremiah 41:9 sn It is generally agreed that the cistern referred to here is one of several that Asa dug for supplying water as part of the defense system constructed at Mizpah (cf. 1 Kgs 15:22; 2 Chr 16:6).
  17. Jeremiah 41:9 tn Or “with corpses”; Heb “with the slain.”
  18. Jeremiah 41:10 tn Heb “the daughters of the king.” Most commentators do not feel that this refers to the actual daughters of Zedekiah, since they would have been too politically important to have escaped exile with their father. As noted in the translator’s note on 36:26, this need not refer to the actual daughters of the king but may refer to other royal daughters, i.e., the daughters of other royal princes.
  19. Jeremiah 41:11 tn Or “crimes,” or “evil things”; Heb “the evil.”
  20. Jeremiah 41:12 tn Heb “the many [or great] waters.” This is generally identified with the pool of Gibeon mentioned in 2 Sam 2:13.
  21. Jeremiah 41:13 tn Heb “all the people who were with Ishmael.” However, this does not refer to his own troops but to those he had taken with him from Mizpah, i.e., the captives. The phrase is specifically clarified in the next verse: “the people whom Ishmael had taken captive from Mizpah.” Hence the phrase is translated here according to sense, not according to the literal wording.
  22. Jeremiah 41:17 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” See the study note on 21:4 for explanation.
  23. Jeremiah 41:17 sn Geruth Kimham is nowhere else mentioned in the Bible, and its precise location is unknown. Many commentators, relating the second part of the name to the name of the son of David’s benefactor when he fled from Absalom (2 Sam 19:38-39), see this as a reference to an estate that David assigned this son as reward for his father’s largess. Gibeon was about six miles northwest of Jerusalem, and Benjamin is approximately the same distance southwest of it. Hence, the people mentioned here had not traveled all that far.
  24. Jeremiah 41:18 tn Verses 16-18a are a long, complex sentence in the Hebrew text with some rather awkward placements of qualifying terms. In the Hebrew text these verses read, “41:16 And he took, Johanan…and all the army officers with him, all the people who were left alive that he [Johanan] had taken back from Ishmael son of Nethaniah from Mizpah after he [Ishmael] had killed Gedaliah…men, men of war, and women and children and court officials that he [Johanan] had brought back from Gibeon, 41:17 and they went and stayed at Geruth Kimham…to go to enter Egypt 41:18 because of the Chaldeans, because they were afraid of them because Ishmael…” The sentence has been broken down and restructured to reflect all the relevant data in shorter sentences that better conform with contemporary English style. There are a couple of places where the text and syntax are debated. Many modern English versions and commentaries read, “They led off/took control of/took all survivors of the people whom Ishmael…had taken captive [reading שָׁבָה אֹתָם (shavah ʾotam) in place of הֵשִׁיב מֵאֵת (heshiv meʾet), “whom he (Johanan) had taken back/rescued from Ishmael] from Mizpah after he had…” This is a decidedly smoother text, but there is no manuscript or versional evidence for it, and so it has been rejected here. Some commentators and English versions see the words “men of war” (“soldiers”) following the word “men” as appositional to that word and hence see only one category. However, there are no parallels to these words used in this kind of apposition. So the translation reflects two categories.

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