Jeremiah Still in Judah. 1The word* which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after Nebuzaradan, captain of the bodyguard, had released him in Ramah, where he found him a prisoner in chains among the captives of Jerusalem and Judah being exiled to Babylon.a 2The captain of the bodyguard took charge of Jeremiah and said to him, “The LORD, your God, decreed ruin for this place. 3Now he has made it happen, accomplishing what he decreed; because you sinned against the LORD and did not listen to his voice, this decree has been realized against you. 4Now, I release you today from the chains upon your hands; if you want to come with me to Babylon, then come: I will look out for you. But if you do not want to come to Babylon, very well. See, the whole land lies before you; go wherever you think good and proper.b 5Or go to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon has set over the cities of Judah. Stay with him among the people. Or go wherever you want!” The captain of the bodyguard gave him food and gifts and let him go.c 6So Jeremiah went to Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, in Mizpah,* and dwelt with him among the people left in the land.d
7When the military leaders still in the field with their soldiers heard that the king of Babylon had set Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, over the land and had put him in charge of men, women, and children, from the poor of the land who had not been deported to Babylon, 8they and their soldiers came to Gedaliah in Mizpah: Ishmael, son of Nethaniah; Johanan, son of Kareah; Seraiah, son of Tanhumeth; the sons of Ephai of Netophah; and Jezaniah of Beth-maacah. 9Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore an oath to them and their men: “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Stay in the land and serve the king of Babylon, so that everything may go well with you.e 10As for me, I will remain in Mizpah, as your representative before the Chaldeans when they come to us. You, for your part, harvest the wine, the fruit, and the oil, store them in jars, and remain in the cities you occupied.” 11Then all the Judahites in Moab, in Ammon, in Edom, and those in all other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had set over them Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan. 12They all returned to the land of Judah from the places to which they had scattered. They went to Gedaliah at Mizpah and had a rich harvest of wine and fruit.
Assassination of Gedaliah. 13Now Johanan, son of Kareah, and all the military leaders in the field came to Gedaliah in Mizpah 14and said to him, “Surely you are aware that Baalis, the Ammonite king,* has sent Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, to assassinate you?”f But Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, would not believe them. 15Then Johanan, son of Kareah, said secretly to Gedaliah in Mizpah: “Please let me go and kill Ishmael, son of Nethaniah; no one will know it. What if he assassinates you? All the Judahites who have now rallied behind you would scatter and the remnant of Judah would perish.” 16Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, answered Johanan, son of Kareah, “You must not do that. What you are saying about Ishmael is a lie!”
* [40:6] While Jerusalem had suffered a great deal of damage, the Babylonian leaders’ selection of Mizpah as their local headquarters was probably as much a symbolic statement as it was a utilitarian move: Jerusalem and its political and religious worldview had given way to disorder and no longer existed as a symbol of order.
* [40:14] In an attempt, perhaps, to weaken Babylon’s hold on the area and to add Judah to the Ammonite kingdom, Baalis supported Ishmael’s claim to the throne of David (cf. 41:1 for Ishmael’s genealogy).