Jeremiah 41:1-18 (48:1-18, LXX)

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“In the seventh month” (mid-September to mid-October), “Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama,” a man of royal decent (literally, “seed of the kingdom”) and who had been “one of the chief officers of the king” (probably Zedekiah), along with ten men, “came to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam at Mizpah” (Massepha [LXX]). Gedaliah extended hospitality to them, including sharing a meal with them. (41:1 [48:1, LXX])

For a man to eat with his host denoted a relationship of trust and friendship. Therefore, it was an act of the basest treachery when “Ishmael the son of Nethaniah” and the “ten men who were with him struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword,” killing the man whom King Nebuchadnezzzar had appointed as governor of the land or the former territory of the kingdom of Judah. Josephus (Antiquities, X, ix, 4) wrote an expanded version about what happened. When Gedaliah “had feasted Ishmael, and those who were with him, in a splendid manner at his table, and had given them presents, he became disordered in drink, while he endeavored to be very merry with them.” Upon seeing Gedaliah in a drunken stupor and fallen asleep, Ishmael rose up suddenly, “with his ten friends, and slew Gedaliah and those who were with him at the feast.” (41:2 [48:2, LXX]) He and these ten men also murdered “all” the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah and the Chaldean warriors there. In the parallel account at 2 Kings 25:25, the word “all” is not included. Josephus, however, wrote (Antiquities, X, ix, 4) a more detailed version regarding the murderous acts of Ishmael. After he had slain “Gedaliah and those who were with him at the feast,” Ishmael “went out by night, and slew all the Jews who were in the city, and those soldiers also who were left therein by the Babylonians.” “All” is to be understood in a relative sense, for Ishmael and the men with him led away captives from Mizpah. (41:3 [48:3, LXX])

On the second day after Ishmael had killed Gedaliah and no one other than the ten men with him knew about this (41:4 [48:4, LXX]), eighty men came from Shechem (the city where Rehoboam was made the first king of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel [1 Kings 12:1]), from Shiloh (the city where the tabernacle was set up after the Israelites had established themselves in the land of Canaan through conquests [Joshua 18:1]), and from Samaria (the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel from the time of King Omri until it fell to the Assyrians [1 Kings 16:23, 24; 2 Kings 17:3-6]). It may be because of the campaign against idolatry that King Josiah carried out in the former territory of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel that there were persons living in the area who came to Jerusalem for worship. Although the temple had been destroyed, the eighty men were on their way to the site in Jerusalem to present grain offerings and frankincense there. In an apparent expression of grief about what had happened to the temple, they had shaved off their beards, torn their garments, and made cuts upon themselves. Their having inflicted lacerations on their flesh was contrary to God’s law (Leviticus 19:28; 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1), but it was a common practice among other peoples. (41:5 [48:5, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

In a hypocritical display of sorrow, “Ishmael the son of Nethaniah,” left from Mizpah to meet the eighty men, “weeping as he went along.” Upon encountering them, he said deceptively, “Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” (41:6 [48:6, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

When the eighty men arrived at Mizpah, “Ishmael the son of Nethaniah,” and the men who were with him, began to slay the men whom he had deceived and to throw their carcasses into the cistern there. (41:7 [48:7, LXX]) Observing what was happening, ten of the men pleaded, “Do not kill us, for we have hidden stores in the field — wheat and barley and oil and honey.” Therefore, Ishmael refrained from killing them “along with their brothers,” fellows, or companions. (41:8 [48:8, LXX]) The cistern that Ishmael filled with dead victims had been made at the direction of King Asa centuries earlier. Apparently he did so to secure an ample water supply in the face of hostilities with King Baasha of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. (41:9 [48:9, LXX]; 2 Chronicles 16:2-6)

Ishmael took captive “all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah [Massepha (LXX)].” More specifically, these people were the “daughters of the king” and the ones “who were left in Mizpah whom “Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard” (more literally, “chief of the slaughterers”) placed under the authority of “Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” The “daughters of the king” could have included any surviving female offspring of Judean kings. Along with the persons whom he had taken captive, Ishmael headed for the territory of the “sons [or people] of Ammon. This region was east of the southern end of the Jordan River. (41:10 [48:10, LXX])

When news reached “Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were with him,” about “all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done” (41:11 [48:11, LXX]), “they took all the men” under their command (“they brought their entire army” [LXX]) and went to fight against him. They then came upon him at the “great waters” that were in Gibeon. Archaeological discoveries at the ancient site indicate that Gibeon was well-supplied with water. Excavations uncovered a tunnel that led to a spring-fed reservoir. At another location, a large rock-cut pit was discovered. Steps led downward in a clockwise direction around the edge of the round pit and continued at the bottom of the pit through a tunneled stairwell that ended at a water chamber. Whether either of these findings may be identified with the “great waters” at Gibeon cannot be determined for a certainty. (41:12 [48:12, LXX]; see the Notes section.)

When all the people whom Ishmael had taken captive “saw Johanan the son of Kareah and all the princes [or leaders] with him,” they “rejoiced,” for they realized that the warriors had come to rescue them. (41:13 [48:13, LXX]; see the Notes section.) Ishmael must have perceived that he was outnumbered and, therefore, that he could not restrain the captives he had taken from Mizpah from leaving and joining “Johanan the son of Kareah.” (41:14 [48:14, LXX]; see the Notes section.) Faced with a superior force, Ishmael made his escape from Johanan and headed for the territory of the “sons [or people] of Ammon” (a region east of the southern end of the Jordan River). With him there were only eight of the ten men, suggesting that the other two had been killed in an attempt to fight the men who had come to rescue the captives or that these two deserted to Johanan. (41:15 [48:15, LXX])

“Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the leaders of the forces with him, took all the rest of the people whom he rescued from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah” and brought them back “from Gibeon [Gabaon (LXX)].” These were all the people whom Ishmael had taken captive in Mizpah after slaying “Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” Among these people were men, warriors, women, children, and eunuchs or court officials. Possibly one of these eunuchs or court officials was Ebed-melech. (41:16 [48:16, LXX])

After leaving Gibeon, Johanan and all the people with him stopped at “Geruth Chimham [Gaberoth-Chamaam (LXX)] near Bethlehem” but intended to go to Egypt. According to its basic meaning “Geruth” may also be rendered “inn,” “sojourning place,” or “lodging place.” This has given rise to the view that Chimham, probably a son of Barzillai and a contemporary of King David, may have constructed a lodging place for travelers on a piece of land he received for the kindly help his father extended to David when he was making his escape from his son Absalom. (41:17 [48:17, LXX]; 2 Samuel 17:27-29; 19:31-40)

The people wanted to go to Egypt because they feared punitive action from the Chaldeans because “Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the man “whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.” (41:18 [48:18, LXX])


In verse 5 of chapter 48, the Septuagint does not say that the men had made cuts upon themselves, but it refers to them as beating themselves. The Hebrew word for “grain offerings” is transliterated manaa.

In the Septuagint (verse 6 of chapter 48), Ishmael is not the one represented as weeping, but the eighty men are referred to as “going and weeping.”

Josephus (Antiquities, X, ix, 5) does not refer to “Gibeon” (verse 12). He wrote that Ishmael was overtaken at the “fountain in Hebron.”

In verse 13 of chapter 48, the Septuagint does not mention that the people rejoiced. It continues the sentence that began in verse 13 with the wording of verse 14. “And it came to be that when all the people with Ismael [Ishmael] saw Ioanan [Johanan] and the leaders of the force with him, they then returned to Ioanan [Johanan].”