Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 20: Jeremiah and Lamentations, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.
1. Et accidit mense septimo, ut venerit (et venit) Ismael filius Nathaniae filii Elisamae, e semine regio, et proceres regis et decem viri cum eo ad Godoliam filium Achikam in Mispath, et comederunt illic panem simul in Mispath.
2. Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.
2. Et surrexit Ismael filius Nathaniae, et decem viri qui cum eo erant, et percussit Godoliam filium Achikam tilii Saphan gladio; et occidit eum quem praefecerat rex Babylonis in terra.
3. Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.
3. Et Judaeos qui erant cum eo, cum Godolia, nempe, in Mispath, et Chaldaeos qui inventi sunt illic, viros bellicosos percussit Ismael.
It was a detestable cruelty and barbarity in Ishmael to kill Gedaliah who entertained him, and whom he found to possess a paternal regard towards him. Heathens have ever deemed hospitality sacred; and to violate it has been counted by them as the greatest atrocity; and hospitable Jupiter ever possessed among them the right of taking vengeance, if any one broke an oath given when at table. Now Ishmael had sworn, as we have seen, that he would be faithful to Gedaliah. He was again received by him, and was treated hospitably; and from his table he rose up to slay the innocent man, who was his friend, and had acted towards him, as it has been stated, the part of a father. And hence he became not only a parricide, but also the traitor of his own country; for he knew that it could not be but that Nebuchadnezzar would become more and more incensed against that miserable people, whom he had spared: but he made no account of his own fidelity, nor shewed any regard for his own brethren, whom he knew he exposed to slaughter and ruin.
But the cause of this madness is here indirectly intimated; the Prophet says, that he was of the royal seed. The royal seed was then, indeed, in the greatest disgrace; the king’s children had been slain; he himself had been taken away bound to Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar had made him blind. But we see, that those who had been once in any dignity, can hardly relinquish those high notions by which they are inflated. So that when those of the royal seed are reduced to extreme poverty and want, they still aim at something royal, and never submit to the power of God. The fountain then of this madness the Prophet points out here, as by the finger, when he says, that Ishmael was of the royal seed: for he thought that it was by no means an honor to him, that Gedaliah was set over the Jews. He, no doubt, imagined that the kingdom was to be perpetual, since God had so often promised, that the throne of David would stand as long as the moon continued in the heavens. (Ps 89:37) But mere ambition and pride led him to commit this abominable murder: and thus it was, that he suffered himself to be persuaded by the king of Ammon.
He then came together with the princes of the king, even those who were in the first rank when Zedekiah reigned. Then the Prophet adds, that they did eat bread. This phrase intimates that they were received hospitably, and were admitted to the table of Gedaliah. And this kindness and benevolence ought to have induced Ishmael and his associates to spare their host. But it follows, that they rose up. This circumstance, as to the time, enhanced their crime; for it was at the time they were eating that Ishmael slew Gedaliah; and thus he polluted his hands with innocent blood at the sacred table, having paid no regard to the rights of hospitality. Now the Prophet shews that this was fatal to the miserable remnant, who were permitted to dwell in the land. For, first, it could not have been done without exciting the highest indignation of the king of Babylon, for he had set Gedaliah over the land; and it was not expressed without reason, but emphatically, that this slaughter roused the displeasure of the king of Babylon, because the murder of Gedaliah was a manifest contempt of his authority. And then there was another cause of displeasure, for the Chal-deans in Mizpah, who had been given as protectors, were killed. For the Prophet tells us, that they were men of war, that no one might think that Chaldeans were sent there to occupy the place of the Jews, as it is sometimes the case when colonists or some such men settle in a land: they were military men, who had been chosen as a guard and protection to Gedaliah. Thus then was the wrath of the king of Babylon provoked to. vent his rage on the remnant to whom he had shewed mercy. It now follows, —
4. And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,
4. Et factum est die postero ex quo occiderat Godoliam, ut nemo sciret,
5. That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.
5. Et venerunt viri ex Sichem, e Silo et Samaria octoginta rasi barba (vel, rasa barba,) et laceris vestibus, et scissi (vel, laniati) in cute sua; oblatio autem et thus in manibus ipsorum, ut offerrent in domo Jehovae.
The Prophet skews here, that after Ishmael had polluted his hands, he made no end of his barbarity. And thus wicked men become hardened; for even if they dread at first to murder innocent men, when once they begin the work, they rush on to the commission of numberless murders. This is what the Prophet now tells us had happened; for after Gedaliah was killed, he says, that eighty men came from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, who brought incense and offering, to present them in the Temple, and that these were led by treachery to Mizpah, there killed and cast into a pit, as we shall hereafter see.
It is not known by what cause Ishmael was induced to commit this cruel and barbarous act, for there was no war declared, nor could he have pretended any excuse for thus slaying unhappy men, who apprehended no such thing. They were of the seed of Abraham, they were worshippers of God, and then they had committed no offense, and plotted nothing against him. Why then he was seized with such rage is uncertain, except that wicked men, as we have said, never set any bounds to their crimes; for God gives theta the spirit of giddiness, so that they are carried away by blind madness. It is, indeed, probable, that they were killed, because Ishmael thought that they carne to Gedaliah, that they might live under his protection, and that he could not have gained anything by the murder of one man, except he obtained authority over the whole land. It was then suspicion alone, and that indeed slight, which led him to such a cruelty. And the atrocity of the deed was enhanced by what the Prophet says, that they came to offer to God incense and offering, מנחה, meneche: and he says also, that they had their beards shaven, and their garments torn Such an appearance ought to have roused pity even in the most inveterate enemies; for we know, that there is an innate feeling which leads us to pity wretchedness and tears, and every mournful appearance. The fury then of Ishmael, even if he had before determined to do some grievous thing to these men, ought to have been allayed by their very sight, so as not to be even angry with them. According then to every view of the case, we see that he must have been divested of every sense of equity, and that he was more cruel than any wild beast.
But it may be asked, How did these men come for the purpose mentioned, since the report respecting the destruction of the Temple must have spread everywhere? for they are not said to have come from Persia, or from countries beyond the sea; but that they came from places not afar off. They who answer that the report of the Temple being destroyed had not reached them, only seek to escape, but the answer is not credible, and it is only an evasion. The Temple was burnt in the fifth month; could that calamity be unknown in Judea? And then we know that Shiloh was not far from Jerusalem, nor was Samaria very distant. Since then the distance of these places cannot account for their ignorance, it seems not to me probable, that these came, because they thought that the Temple was still standing, nor did they bring victims, but only incense and oblation. I then think that they came, not to offer the ordinary sacrifice, but only that they might testify their piety in that place where they had before offered their sacrifices. This conjecture has nothing inconsistent in it; nor is there a doubt, but that before they left their homes, they had put on their mean and torn garments. These were signs, as we have elsewhere seen, of sorrow and mourning among the Orientals.
But here another question is raised, for the Prophet says, that they were torn or cut; and this has been deemed as referring to the skin or body: but this was forbidden by the Law. Some answer that they forgot the Law in their extreme grief, so that they undesignedly tore or lacerated their bodies. But the prohibition of the Law seems to me to have had something special in it, even that God designed by it to distinguish his people from heathens. And we may gather from sacred history, that some artifice was practiced by idolaters, when they cut their bodies; for it is said, that the priests of Baal cut their bodies according to their usual manner or practice. God then, wishing to keep his people from every corruption, forbade them to imitate the rites of the heathens. And then there is no doubt but that God designed to correct excess in grief and mourning. I therefore do not think that anything contrary to the Law was done by these men, when they came to the ruins of the Temple with torn garments and lacerated skin, for there was in them nothing affected, for so lamentable a calamity drew forth such grief, that they spared neither themselves nor their garments.
Jeremiah says, in the first of these verses, that the death of Gedaliah was concealed, so that no one knew it; yet such a deed could have been hardly buried; for many of the Jews were killed together with Gedaliah, and also the guarding soldiers, whom Nebuchadnezzar had given to Gedaliah. But the Prophet means that it was hid, because the report had not yet gone forth. He then speaks comparatively, when he says that it was known to none. We have already stated the purpose for which the eighty men came from Samaria and other places; it was not that they might offer sacrifices, as when the Temple was standing, but only lament the destruction of the Temple and of the city; and that as they had brought from home the greatest sorrow, they might, on their return, humble themselves, after having seen so grievous a punishment inflicted on the people for their sins.
Grant, omnipotent God, that since our life is exposed to innumerable dangers, and thou settest before our eyes what happened to the best and choicest of thy servants, — O grant, that we may flee to thee, and resign ourselves wholly to thy will, that we may know that thou art the guardian of our life, so that not a hair of our head can fall without thy hidden permission, and that we may also learn to ask of thee the spirit of wisdom and discretion, so that thou thyself mayest guide our steps, as it is not in us to defend our life from those many intrigues by which we are on every side surrounded, the whole world being opposed to us, so that we may proceed in the course of our pilgrimage under thy care and protection, until we shall be removed into that blessed rest, which is laid up for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Fifth
6. And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.
6. Et egressus est Ismael filius Nathaniae obviam ipsis e Mispath, ambnlans ambulando et fiens; et factum est cum occurrisset illis, tune dixit illis, Venite ad Godoliam filium Achikam.
7. And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that were with him.
7. Et factum est cum venissent in medium urbis, tunc jugulavit (vel, mactavit) eos Ismael filius Natha-niae ad medium fossae, ipse et viri qui erant cum eo.
Here Jeremiah relates another circumstance in the nefarious conduct of Ishmael, that by flatteries he enticed simple men, who feared no evil, and while pretending kindness, slew them. The slaughter was in itself very detestable, but added to it was the most abominable deceit, for he pretended to weep with them, and offered an act of kindness, to bring them to Gedaliah, and then he traitorously killed them! We hence see that it was an act of extreme wickedness. In saying that he wept, it was no doubt a sign of feigned piety, 121 He saw these good men in torn garments and in tears on account of the Temple being destroyed, he therefore pretended that he had the same feeling. This was falsely to pretend a regard for God, and his tears were those of the crocodile; for he shed tears as though he lamented the ruin of the Temple and of the city. He thus gained the confidence of the unwary men, and then after having led them into the middle of the city, he slew them. The place also is mentioned, nigh to the middle of the pit, for so I render it, rather than in the middle, for it is not credible that he killed them in the pit itself; but when led to the pit they were killed and were cast into it, as we shall see. 122 He then slew them at the outside of the pit, and immediately cast them in.
It may, however be asked, Whether he could with so few attack with success so many men? for it seems strange, that as they were eighty men they did not resist; they might at least have frightened their enemies. But we must, in the first place, recollect that they were, as we have seen, unarmed; for they had brought only a sacred offering with incense; but the others were armed and well trained for war; they had also been reduced to a state of hopeless despair, so that they had doubtless contracted great ferocity, as those who are continually in danger accustom themselves to acts of cruelty. Ishmael, then, and his companions were armed, but the others were without any arms, and were also simple men and in no degree accustomed to war. Hence it was that they were killed like sheep, while Ishmael and his associates were like wolves, altogether ferocious. It now follows, —
8. But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.
8. Decem autem homines inventi sunt in ipsis qui dixerunt (et dixerunt, copula resolvi debet hoc modo; dixerunt ergo) ad Ismael, Ne interficias nos, quia sunt nobis opes reconditae in agro, triticum et hordeum (sunt pluralis numeri, sed durum esset Latine dicere, tritica et hordea) et oleum et mel: et cessavit (vel, destitit,) et non occidit eos in medio fratrum suorum.
We here see that the barbarity of Ishmael was connected with avarice, he was indeed inflamed with ferocious madness when he slew simple and innocent men; but when the hope of gain was presented to him, he spared some of them. Thus then we see that he was a lion, a wolf, or a bear in savageness, but that he was also a hungry man, for as soon as he smelt the odor of prey, he spared ten out of the eighty, who, it is probable, thus redeemed their life and returned home. So in one man we see there were many monsters; for if he hated all those who favored Gedaliah, why did he suffer these to escape? even because avarice and rapacity prevailed in him.
It is then added, that he slew them not in the midst of their brethren, that is, when they were exposed to death and were mixed with the others, so that their condition seems to have been the same. The Prophet says, that they were spared, even because Ishmael sought nothing else but gain. And it is probable that in a state of things so disturbed he was not furnished with provisions and other things. As, then, want urged him, so he became moderate, lest his cruelty should cause a loss to him.
Here also is set before us the inscrutable purpose of God, that he suffered unhappy men to have been thus slain by robbers. They had left. their houses to lament the burning of the Temple. As then the ardor of their piety led them to Jerusalem, how unworthy it was that they should become a prey to the barbarity of Ishmael and his associates? But as we said yesterday, God has hidden ways by which he provides for the salvation of his people. He took away Gedaliah; his end indeed was sad, having been slain by Ishmael whom he had hospitably entertained. Thus God did not suffer him to be tossed about in the midst of great troubles. For John, the son of Kareah, who yet was a most faithful man, would have become soon troublesome to the holy man; for he became soon after the head and ringleader of an impious faction, and ferociously opposed Jeremiah. Had then Gedaliah lived, he would have been assailed on every side by his own people. It was then God’s purpose to free him at once from all these miserable troubles. The same thing also happened to the seventy who were slain; for the Lord removed them to their rest, that they might; not be exposed to the grievous evils and calamities which afterwards soon followed; for none could have been in a more miserable state than the remnant whom Nebuchadnezzar had spared. We have then reason in this instance to admire the secret purpose of God, when we see that these unhappy men were killed, who yet had gone to Jerusalem for the sake of testifying their piety. It was, in short, better for them to have been removed than to have been under the necessity of suffering again many miseries. It now follows, —
9. Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, was it which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.
9. Fovea autem in quam projecit Ismael illuc (sed abundat 123 ) omnia cadavera hominum, quos percussit in plaga Godeliae (vel, propter Godoliam, ut alii vertunt) ipsa est quam fecerat rex Aza propter Baaza regem Israel; hanc replevit Ismael filius Nathaniae interfectis.
The Prophet tells us by the way that the trench was made by King Asa, when he fortified the city against the attack of Baasha, as it is related in the sixteenth chapter of Second Chronicles. For Baasha, having collected an army, made an attack on the land of Judah and began to build the city, that he might thus keep the Jews as it were besieged, and make thence daily incursions, and where he might safely take his forces together with the spoils. Asa then hired the king of Syria, and induced him to break the treaty which the two kings of Syria and Israel had made with one another. Thus Baasha was forced to leave the work unfinished, and thence Asa is said to have carried away the gathered stones, that thereby the trench might be formed. There is indeed no mention of the trench; but we may conclude that it was then formed, in order that it might interpose between the enemy and the city. But it may seem strange that the trench was in the midst of the city, except perhaps that Asa built a fortress within the town, that if he was overcome by his enemy, he might take refuge there with his men of war, as we know that citadels are often built in the middle of cities as fortresses, as places of refuge. Asa then built this trench, that should the king of Israel take the city, he might not penetrate farther, but be kept back by the interposing trench. But only in things uncertain are conjectures to be allowed.
But the Prophet increases the indignity of the deed, when he says, that the trench was filled with the slain It was formed for a very different end and purpose, even that the king of Judah, when reduced to the greatest straits, might have the trench as a defense against the violence of his enemies, so that he might protect his kingdom and his subjects. But now the slain were cast into the trench, not the Syrians nor the Israelites, but Jews themselves and God’s pious worshipers. What then had been made for the public benefit of the people, was made by Ishmael a place for the slaughter of good men. And hence, as it has been said, the atrocity of the deed was more enhanced. It afterwards follows, —
10. Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king’s daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.
10. Et captivum cepit Ismael quod residuum erat populi, quod erat in Mispath, nempe filias regis, et totum populum qui relictus fuerat in Mispath quem commiserat Nabuzardan princeps interfectorum Godoliae filio Achikam (vel, cui residuo populi praefecerat Godoliam, eodem sensu, filium Achikam:) accepit ergo Ismael filius Nathaniae, et profectus est ut transiret ad filios Ammon.
It is not known whether Ishmael had this design at the beginning, or whether, when he saw that he had no power to stand his ground, he took the captives with him, that he might dwell with the king of Ammon. It is, however, probable that this was done according to a previous resolution, and that before he slew Gedaliah, it was determined that the remnant should be drawn away to that country. Perhaps the king of Ammon wished to send some of his own people to dwell in Judea; thus he hoped to become the ruler of Judea, and also hoped to pacify the king of Babylon by becoming his tributary. It was, however, a great thing to possess a land so fertile. However this may have been, there is no doubt but that the king of Ammon hoped for something great after the death of Gedaliah. And it is probable that for this reason the people were drawn away, to whom an habitation in Judea had been permitted.
The Prophet now tells us, that Ishmael took the remnant of the people captives. And it appears that in a short time he had a greater force than at the beginning; for he could not with a few men collect the people, for the number of those who had been left, as we have seen, was not inconsiderable: and they were dispersed through many towns; and Ishmael could not have prevailed on them by his command alone to remove to the land of Ammon. But after he had killed Gedaliah, his barbarity frightened them all, and no doubt many joined him; for an impious faction ever finds many followers when any hope is offered them. All then who were miserable among the people followed him as their leader; and thus he was able to lead away the whole people as captives.
But here again a question arises, that is, respecting the daughters of the king; for the poor and the obscure, who were of the lowest class, had alone been left; and the royal seed, as we have seen, had been carried away. But it is probable that some of the king’s daughters had escaped when the city was besieged; for Ishmael himself was of the royal seed, but he had escaped before the city was taken. Nebuchadnezzar then could not have had him as a captive. The same was the case with the daughters of the king, whom Zedekiah might have sent to some secure places. And Ge-daliah afterwards brought them together when he saw that it could be done without danger or hazard of exciting suspicion: he had indeed obtained this power, as we have before seen, from Nebuzaradan. Though then Gedaliah ruled over the poor and those of no repute, yet the daughters of the king, who had been removed to quieter places, afterwards dwelt with him; and so Ishmael, and John the son of Kareah, and other leaders of the army, came to him: the reason was the same.
But it is again repeated, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan had committed to Gedaliah, or, over whom he appointed Gedaliah, as we have before seen. But the repetition was not made without reason; for Jeremiah expressed again what was worthy of special notice, that the fury and violence of Ishmael were so great that he did not see that the mind of Nebuchadnezzar would be so exasperated as to become implacable; but his madness was so furious that he had no regard for himself nor for others.
He then says that he took away captive the people, and went that he might pass over to the children of Ammon Thus their condition was much worse than if they had been driven into exile; for the Ammonites were in no degree more kind than the Chaldeans; nay, they were exposed there, as we shall hereafter see, to greater reproaches; it would indeed have been better for them and more tolerable, had they been at once killed, than to have been thus removed to an exile the most miserable.
It hence appears that Ishmael was wholly devoid of all humane feelings, having been thus capable of the impiety of betraying the children of Abraham. For where there is ambition, it often happens that a lust for empire impels men to deeds of great enormity; but to draw away unhappy people to the Ammonites was certainly an act more than monstrous.
As to the people, we shall hereafter see that they deserved all their reproaches and miseries; and this calamity did not happen to them except through the righteous providence of God. For though they were freed, as we shall see, by the son of Kareah, yet they soon went into Egypt, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the Prophet, and his severe denunciations in case they removed there. Though then the base and monstrous cruelty of Ishmael is here set before us, let us yet know that the Jews deserved to be driven away into exile, and to be subjected to all kinds of miseries.
Oh, miserable sentence! when it is said, that there were slain seventy men in the hand of Gedaliah 124 Some render “hand,” as I have noticed, “on account of Gedaliah;” and others, “in the place of Gedaliah.” But as this explanation seems forced, we may take hand for stroke or wound; and this seems the most suitable meaning, as hand is often so taken in Scripture. They were then slain in the wound of Gedaliah, that is, they were slain in like manner with him, as it were in addition to the wound he received. Let us now proceed, —
11. But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done,
11. Et audivit Joannes filius Kareah et omnes duces copiarum, qui cum eo erant, omne malum quod perpetraverat Ismael filius Nathaniae;
12. Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon.
12. Et sumpserunt omnes homines, et profecti sunt ad proeliandum cum Ismael filio Nathaniae, et invenerunt (vel, assecuti sunt) ipsum ad aquas magnas (alii vetrunt, multas, sed non placet) quae sunt in Guibeon.
Here the Prophet informs us, that Ishmael did not attain his wishes; for he had resolved to sell; as it were, the people to the king of Ammon, but he was intercepted in his course. But he says first, that John the son of Kareah had heard the report, and that he, together with other leaders, went to meet him in order to intercept him in his journey. He says also that he collected all the men, even those who had been dispersed. All then they could have got, they enlisted, and went to fight with Ishmael. And the Prophet adds, that they found him at the great waters And I think they were so called because they were either a lake or a pool. I doubt not, then, but that it was a common name. Some say that the waters were then abundant, because there had been constant rains. But this conjecture is not probable. The simpler meaning is, that these waters were thus called, because in that part the abundance of water was not great in comparison with the lake. 125 Ishmael then was found there. It is now added by the Prophet, that the captives rejoiced when they saw John, and immediately came over to his side. he therefore says, —
13. Now it came to pass, that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, then they were glad.
13. Et accidit cum vidisset populus, qui erat cum Ismael, Joannem filium Kareah, et omnes duces copiarum, qui erant cum eo, tunc laetati sunt.
14. So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.
14. Et conversus est totus populus quem abduxerat Ismael e Mispath, et reversi sunt et profecti sunt cum Joanne filio Kareah.
The people readily passed over to John and his army, because John, and other leaders of the forces, came to them sufficiently armed, and they were, as we have before seen, men trained up for war. And Ishmael could not have been equal to them, when the people went over to John and his associates. Thus we see that the impious man failed in his base purpose, for he thought to render himself very acceptable to the king of Ammon by bringing so many captives to dwell in his land, that he might take possession of Judea. He had then formed many plans for himself, but God frustrated them. But it was God’s will that he should remain alive; for he fled, as it appears from what follows, —
15. But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.
15. Et Ismael (Ismael autem) filius Nathaniae servatus est (vel, evasit) cum octo hominibus a facie Joannis, et pro-fectus eat ad filios Ammon.
He indeed met with bad success; he fled before his enemy, when the whole people forsook him, when he lost his soldiers; and he could not come without the greatest disgrace before the king of Ammon. It seems, however, very strange that he was allowed to flee away; for how was it that God did not execute those well-known sentences, —
“He who smites with the sword shall perish by the sword;” “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed?” (Mt 26:52; Re 13:10; Ge 9:6)
Ishmael had not only killed a man, but the governor of the people, and that governor by whose protection and favor a remnant had been preserved as a seed; and he had also killed all whom he had found with him; and lastly, he had killed seventy men, with whom he had no strife, no war, no quarrel. As, then, Ishmael had so polluted himself with innocent blood, and with so many murders of good men, how was it that he was suffered to escape?
As we have before said, God does not now observe an equal, or the same course in his judgments; for he often extends the life of the most wicked, that they may be exhibited, as it were, as a spectacle; nor does the truth of the words, “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed,” become evanescent; but God has various ways by which he renders a just reward to murderers and assassins. And we ought to notice what is said in the book of Psalms,
“Slay them not, lest my people should forget.”
The Psalmist there asks God not to destroy immediately the wicked; for an oblivion of a remarkable punishment might easily creep in, if God executed it suddenly and instantly. But when God impresses a mark of his curse on the impious and the wicked, and prolongs their life, it is the same as though he placed them in a theater to be looked on leisurely and for a long time. Conspicuous, then, are the marks of God on the impious, when God pursues them slowly and by degrees, and summons them, in a manner, day by day before his tribunal. There is, therefore, no doubt but that God thus executed vengeance on the barbarity of Ishmael.
For how was it that he killed Gedaliah? even because he was of the royal seed, and foolish pride still filled his heart, though God by his powerful hand had broken down whatever dignity that once belonged to the royal seed, sea, he had completely torn it to pieces; and yet this man cherished his own ferocity. Hence God executed on him a two-fold punishment, by depriving him of his company; for he went to the king of Ammon, whom he had no doubt flattered with great promises, and from whom he also expected no common rewards, — he went there a fugitive with his eight companions, and also filled with confusion, and he saw no hope of a return. Thus, then, it happened that he was despised and reprobated; and this was, no doubt, more bitter to him than if he had suffered ten deaths.
Let us then learn not to form our judgment according to the present appearance of things; but let us patiently wait while God makes openly known to us the various ways he adopts in punishing the wicked; nay, this ought especially to serve as a confirmation to our faith, when we see the godly cruelly slain, and the wicked remaining in security; for it hence follows that we are to look for another judgment of God, which does not yet appear. For if God rendered to each his just reward, then the Sadducees would have some ground to boast that there is not another life; but when things are thus in a state of confusion in the world, we know that God’s judgment is suspended and deferred to another time. Then this variety or confusion, if you please, confirms our minds in the hope of the last judgment, and of a blessed resurrection. I cannot now proceed further.
Grant, omnipotent God, that as this world is filled with the filth of the wicked, and as we are on every side surrounded with enemies, — O grant, that we may learn to flee under thy protection, and so hide ourselves under the shadow of thy wings, that we may look nowhere else for safety but from thy defense; and that we may also know that as to everything that happens to us, our life and our death are so ordered by thy wonderful providence, that all events help forward our salvation, so that we may go onward, not only through many calamities, but, if need be, through the midst of slaughters, until we shall come to that blessed rest, which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-Sixth
16 Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:
16. Et sumpsit Joannes filius Kareah et cuncti principes (duces) copiarum qui erant cum eo omnes reliquias populi, quas reduxerant ab Ismaele filio Nathaniae e Mispath, postquam percusserat Godoliam filium Achikam, viros fortes, viros belli (hoc est, bellicosos,) et mulieres et pueritiam et eunuchos quos reduxerat a Guibeon:
17. And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt,
17. Et profecti sunt et sederunt (vel, substiterunt) in Geruth-Chimcham, quae est prope Bethlehem, ut proficiscerentur ad ingrediendum in Aegyptum,
18. Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon and made governor in the land.
18. Propter Chaldaeos, quia timebant ab ipsis (ad verbum, a facie ipsorum,) quia percusserat Ismael filius Nathaniae Godoliam filium Achikam, quem praefecerat rex Babylonis in terra.
The Prophet now shews, that though some kind of virtue appeared in John the son of Kareah, he was not yet of a right mind. He was an energetic and a discreet man, but he discovered his unbelief, when he led the remnant of the people into Egypt, while the Prophet was forbidding such a thing. He already knew that this was not lawful, but his obstinacy was two-fold more, when the Prophet repudiated his project, as we shall see. This passage then teaches us, that though the leaders of the forces, who had put Ishmael to flight, and avenged his perfidy, were men of courage, and shewed regard for the public good, they were destitute of faith: there was thus wanting in them the chief thing, that is piety and the fear of God.
Then the Prophet says, that John and the rest took the remnant of the people whom they had recovered from Ishmael, from Mizpah, not that they were recovered from that place, but that Ishmael had brought the unhappy people captives from Mizpah, as we have seen; but they had all been recovered at Gibeon, according to what is said at the end of the verse. But he says that they were valiant men, גברים, geberim, (he so calls them on account of their courage, for an explanation follows,) and men of war, המלחמה אנשי, anushi emelecheme. He then calls them valiant or brave, and afterwards he explains what that virtue was, even because they were warlike men. He says further, that there were women mixed with them, and children, and eunuchs, who once lived in the king’s court; and as we have before seen, there were among them the king’s daughters. Gedaliah then had collected together a considerable number of men, not only from the lower orders, but also from the higher class, whose wealth and rank were not common while the kingdom was standing.
But the Prophet immediately adds what the purpose was which they had all formed. They dwelt, he says, in Geruth; some render it, “in the peregrination;” but it seems to me to be a proper name, and I agree with those who so render it. 126 But it is called the Geruth of Chimham, of whom mention is made in 2 Sam. 19:31, 37. he was the son of Barzillai, who entertained David when a fugitive from his kingdom, and entertained him bountifully. When David wished to remunerate his kindness, the good man made his age as an excuse, and said, that he was old, so that he could not enjoy the things of this life; but he presented his son to David, and it is probable that this place was given to the son as a reward. It was hence called Geruth-Chimham, the name of its possessor being attached to it. And he says that it was nigh Bethlehem. It is also probable, that when David wished to remunerate his host, he chose a place nigh his own city, where he was born.
It is added, to go, etc. Then the Prophet shews that this was not a settled habitation, but that they intended to go into Egypt They knew that this was forbidden by the Law of God, and the Prophets had often pronounced a curse on such a design. Notwithstanding God’s prohibition, they prepared themselves for the journey. Fear was the cause; but how much so ever they might have justly feared, they ought yet to have considered what God permitted: for if a sick man takes poison instead of medicine, he must suffer the punishment that necessarily follows his own presumption and madness; so they who seek to provide for themselves contrary to God’s will, gain only their own destruction. This was done, as the Prophet tells us, by the remnant of the people.
He then says, that they were there for a time, but that they looked forward to Egypt, on account, he says, of the Chaldeans, because they feared them, and for this reason, because Ishmael had killed Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had set over the land This fear was not without reason; but they might have sent persons to the king of Babylon, and have thrown the blame on the right person, and cleared themselves; and the matter might have been settled. They might then have easily obtained pardon from King Nebuchadnezzar; but as no fear of God prevailed in them, they did not consider what was lawful, and were by a blind impulse led into Egypt. Thus fear was no alleviation to their crime, for there was another remedy at hand, which God would have blessed. But when they disregarded God’s word, and followed what their own feelings dictated to them, they contrived in a very bad way for themselves. But far worse is what follows.
The words may be thus literally rendered, —
And Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah, went out from Mizpah to meet them, walking, walking and weeping, etc.
He went on foot, and wept as he went out.
“At the pit,” is the Sept.; “About the middle of the pool,” is the Vulg. and the Targum. It was evidently a ditch or a trench made for the defense of the city. See Jer 41:9 — Ed.
It is not redundant, for it is the idiom of the language: and so it is in Welsh, though the present version is not correct, which ought to be as follows, — “A’r clawdd (not pydew) yr hwn y bwriodd Ishmael iddo,” etc. — Ed.
This is in the ninth verse. The words are omitted in the Sept.; “on account of Gedaliah,” is the Vulg. and the Targum.; which is the same with our version. “Along with Gedaliah,” is Blayney’s. The word “hand,’ often means power, authority, dominion. (Ge 9:2; Jud 1:35) Then the rendering would be, “on account of the power of Gedaliah;” and this would give the passage the most emphatic meaning: Ishmael smote them because he envied the power given to Gedaliah, which these men, by coming to Mizpah, acknowledged and supported. — Ed.
There was a pool in Gibeon, mentioned in 2Sa 2:13; and it must have been large, otherwise it would not have been called “great waters.” — Ed.
It is given as a proper name in the Sept.; the idea of peregrination is given in the Vulgate and Targum. If it be a common noun, its proper meaning is not peregrination, but habitation or dwelling, or rather dwellings, it being in the plural number. Blayney takes it as a proper name. — Ed.