July 22, 2021
"In the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family one of the king’s chief officers, came with ten men to Gedaliah..."
“In the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family one of the king’s chief officers, came with ten men to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah. They ate a meal together there in Mizpah, but then Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword; he killed the one the king of Babylon had appointed in the land. Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, as well as the Chaldean soldiers who were there.” Jeremiah 41:1-3
Gedaliah faithfully attempted to bring some order out of the chaos, which had resulted from the fall of Jerusalem. “Do not fear to serve the Chaldeans,” was his wise counsel, “Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will be well with you. Behold, I will live at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans who will come to me: But you, gather your wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities which you have chosen.”
There was no doubt of the sincerity, loyalty, and wisdom of Gedaliah, but almost immediately, a plot was formed against his life. Johanan and the “leaders of the forces in the open country” reported to the governor that Ishmael, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, had been sent by the ruler of the Ammonites to assassinate Gedaliah. In his naïve trust, Gedaliah did not believe the reports. Johanan even offered to protect Gedaliah by secretly killing the intending murderer. But the unsuspecting victim replied, “You shall not do this thing, for you speak falsely about Ishmael.”
Gedaliah did not doubt the loyalty of Ishmael, and no one would have believed the depth of his treachery. Of course, today’s passage tells the story. Ishmael was not a man to be trusted with the life of the governor, nor the Jews in his company or the Chaldeans who were attending to the governor. The slaughter was so overwhelming that no one knew of the “murder of Gedaliah” the next day when a company of 80 pilgrims approached Mizpah.
These pilgrims exhibited signs of deep sorrow and carried offerings with them as they were on the way to Jerusalem, possibly to mourn for the destruction of the Temple. Another slaughter ensues, and seventy pilgrims are killed, while the remaining ten beg for their lives, using hidden desert storehouses as bargaining chips.
So, what are we to glean from these tragic events? Desperate times lead to desperate measures. For the ungodly, their desperation leads to evil. For those who choose to follow the Lord, they become all the more desperate to follow Him.
It is also important for us to not be so trusting, not just of the non-believer but also the professing follower of Jesus. There is a simple formula for trust: Trust equals Character over Time. Just because a person professes to be a believer doesn’t mean they can be fully trusted to babysit your children, for instance. If they sustain Messiah-like character over time, then they can be entrusted with more responsibility.