Today: [Jeremiah 40] Who is Gedaliah and Why Should we Care? In this chapter we learn about a godly man by the name of Gedaliah. He was the first governor of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem. Appointed by the king of Babylon, however short his reign, his life and times speak profoundly to us as believers today.
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[Jer 40:1-16 KJV] 1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon. 2 And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place. 3 Now the LORD hath brought [it], and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you. 4 And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which [were] upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land [is] before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. 5 Now while he was not yet gone back, [he said], Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go. 6 Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land. 7 Now when all the captains of the forces which [were] in the fields, [even] they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon; 8 Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men. 9 And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. 10 As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put [them] in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken. 11 Likewise when all the Jews that [were] in Moab, and among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that [were] in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan; 12 Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much. 13 Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that [were] in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, 14 And said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not. 15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know [it]: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish? 16 But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.
In this chapter of Jeremiah we find the captain of the guard of the Chaldeans treating Jeremiah kindly. HE finds him bound in chains and releases him because his prophesies were perceived as advantageous in the victory of the Babylonians over the nation of Judah. The captain was apparently impressed with Jeremiah because he offers to take Jeremiah back to Babylon and to care for him out of his own house, promising to look well after him. Jeremiah however, learns that the king of Babylon has appointed a certain Gedaliah over the defeated land of Judah and decides to dwell in the city of Mizpah with this newly appointed governor.
Now to give some perspective, the events described in this and the next few chapters lead to the ultimate and total desolation of the land of Judah and the lands belonging formerly to the 10 northern tribes. Gedaliah, as governor over Judah will not endure and in the aftermath of his death the king of Babylon takes the few remaining peoples of the land and completely empties the entire nation of any inhabitant whereby it remains totally desolate for 70 years, as prophesied by Jeremiah. What was the significance of 70 years? Because for 70 seven year periods the people of Judah and Israel had disobeyed God’s command to let the land lay fallow and to release all Hebrew slaves. Because of this neglect of the law of Moses, God will now exact by force through the tyranny of Babylon the requirement of His word from the people covenanted to keep it.
Regarding Gedaliah, who was this man. He is important, because he was the first governor of Judah (renamed Yehud by the king of Babylon) after the fall of Jerusalem and defeat of king Zedekiah. This is important because from the fall of Jerusalem to 1948 and the re-establishing of Israel there was no king, nor nation of Israel but rather it existed as a province, with appointed governors of the various empires who had conquered it, beginning with the Babylonians, then the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, various Muslim and Christian warlords during the Middle Ages, the Ottomans, then the British and finally reconstituted among the nations in 1948. Gedaliah was the first governor of a long line of governors, prefects and puppet leaders over the Holy Land.
What can we learn of Gedaliah? He was a good man whose name means “Jah (or Jehovah) has become Great”. Though the people are languishing as either slaves or refugees, yet there was never a time from Solomon’s son Reoboam to the death of Zedekiah that the mastery of God Himself over the land of Israel was never more apparent, attested to by over 100 years of prophetic declaration that this was exactly what would happen because of the pernicious state of disobedience of the people against God.
Gedaliah came from a righteous and godly heritage. His father Ahikam was a defender and protector of Jeremiah, and his grandfather was the scribe who in Josiah’s day discovered the lost books of scripture with the king’s name in it that inaugurated one of the greatest and godliest reigns of the line of David. Upon being appointed governor of the land, Gedaliah reaches out to the people in hiding as refugees and outcasts and encourages them to return to their agrarian lifestyle. Crops are planted and summer fruits and brought in abundance. Recovery is in sight as the people under Gedaliah submit to the words of Jeremiah to surrender to Babylon and serve the Chaldeans willingly.
Certain of the former armies of Zedekiah join with Gedaliah, and warn him that one Ishmael was intent by the hand of the king of the Ammonites to take his life. Gedaliah, weary of intrigues and threats, refuses to believe this – thinking that Ishmael is in fact his friend. Future chapters will reveal that his trust was sadly misplaced. Nonetheless, however tenuous, there is respite for those returned from refugee status to the former land of Judah and the land brings forth summer fruit, wine and oil in abundance all under the watchful eye of the Babylonian guard that garrisoned with Gedaliah and Mizpah.
What can we learn from this from a prophetic, spiritual perspective? Remember that John the Revelator speaks by the Spirit of Christ that those Babylon is long dead to history – its spirit is alive and well in the modern world (Rev. 14:8; 18:2). What is Babylon? It is considered to be many things but in Rev. 17:3-6 modern day Babylon is described as a woman with a cup of blood, astride a beast with many names. That is a very near picture of the medieval church that bitterly persecuted the faithful in Christ Jesus. What of the beast she sits astride? It is a beast with “many names” and the Latin would render that “a beast with many ‘denomis’”. Therefore whatever Babylon is, it does manifest itself as that part of Christian religion that is anathema to the true faith, and in opposition to all that is called by the name of Him that is Faithful and True. It is in existence although prophesied to fall, to the rejoicing of the holy apostles and prophets existent at that future time.
The question is – what do we do in the meantime? We find ourselves in the midst of a religious culture that is a corrupt, politicized, religious monstrosity as pernicious as any aspect of fallen society we can identify. What do we do as we wait for the justice of God to be visited upon the well favoured harlot of dead religion? We obey the edicts of Gedaliah: sow the seeds of the gospel. Cultivate wine (joy of the spirit), oil (the anointing of the Holy Ghost) and summer fruit (Jesus said “work while it is day for the night comes when no man can work” [John 9:4]. Notice exactly how Gedaliah framed his encouragement to those under Babylonian rule. First they were to gather to him at Mizpah. Mizpah means watchtower. We are to watch for the coming of the Lord. We are to watch and pray as a people of intercession, knowing the times that they are evil. We are to as Gedaliah said: “gather wine, summer fruits, and oil AND PUT THEM IN YOUR VESSEL”. Isn’t this reminiscent of the parable of the 10 virgins in Matt. 25:1-13. Jesus is almost quoting Jeremiah 40 when he speaks of the virgins who had oil in their lamps and those who did not. What are the summer fruits? They are souls to our labor in the time when souls can be gathered. This is our mandate. To have the wine – the joy of God within ourselves. To cultivate joy, and cultivate oil – the anointing of God within ourselves, and to work to bring in the fruits of summer, working while it is day, for the night comes when no man can work. What a mandate! What a clear path of progress for those of us living in the confounding times we find ourselves in. How sad, that through neglect of God’s word, our Christian brothers and sisters rob themselves of this priceless instruction and consolation!
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