Jeremiah 41

DateVersionReading Plan
@August 3, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • Gedaliah Murdered


The chapter opens with Ishmael, one of King Zedekiah’s chief officers and of the royal Davidic line, coming to Gedaliah at Mizpah. Suspecting no treachery, Gedaliah ate bread with Ishmael, but then Ishmael rose up and struck Gedaliah down with the sword just as Johanan had reported in the previous chapter (Jer. 40:13-16).

In Jer. 41:4-8, before discovering Gedaliah’s murder, eighty men with clothes torn came in from surrounding territories to bring offerings to the temple. Ishmael came out to meet them, “weeping as he came” (Jer. 41:6), deceitfully showing empathy for the mourning visitors. Ishmael then slaughtered the men and “cast them into a cistern” except ten of them that offered “wheat, barley, oil and honey hidden in the fields” (Jer. 41:8). Ishmael sparing the men because of their offering displayed his true character of greed and deceit.

In Jer. 41:9, we learn that the cistern into which the men were cast was one that King Asa had made “for defense against Baasha king of Israel”. Three hundred years earlier, Asa had built a fortress at Mizpah (see 1 Kings 15:22; 2 Chron. 16:6) and the water source was an essential part of the fortified city.

In Jer. 41:10-12, Ishmael set out with the remaining captives (among which included Jeremiah) to cross over to the Ammonites, but when Johanan heard of this and of Ishmael’s murderous treachery, he took men to fight against Ishmael (Jer. 41:12). The people rejoiced when they saw Johanan, turning around and coming back to him (Jer. 41:13). Ishmael escaped from Johanan with eight men to proceed to the land of the Ammonites.

The remaining verses (Jer. 41:14) are of the restoration of the captives taken by Ishmael who were brought back to Geruth Chimham near Jerusalem with the intention of going to Egypt out of fear of reprisal by the Chaldeans.


Here we see the fulfillment of Johanan’s report of the previous chapter, that Gedaliah would be murdered and that the remnant would be taken captive. Gedaliah never wavered on his denial of Johanan’s report, even sitting down to break bread with his murderer. It was Gedaliah’s inability to heed wise counsel and take preventative measures that led to his undoing.

It is difficult to hear when someone tells us that we are on a destructive path. This is especially so when we don’t perceive our actions to be particularly harmful. It is vital to have in our lives those we can trust, those with our spiritual flourishing at heart who can speak unabashed truth to us as needed. Too often we are blinded by our own sin and in need of reliable external perspective.

But, having wise counsel is only half the equation. We must also be willing to listen, to acknowledge the viewpoint of others and to humbly assess our direction. This should result in our thoughts and actions being taken captive to the One who is capable of bringing about necessary change. Through prayer, we repent of our waywardness and surrender to our Shepherd as He guides us along the path of blessing and life everlasting.

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