Today: [Jeremiah 41] Identify the Ishmael in Your Life. Do you have an Ishmael in your life? In this chapter the governor at Mizpeh failed to heed the warning about a captain named Ishmael. As a result, he died and ultimately many, many others paid with their lives. Abraham wisely sent the first Ishmael far away, because he understood his character. Do you have an Ishmael in your life? Learn from this chapter and act now before it is too late.
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[Jer 41:1-18 KJV] 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. 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. 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. 4 And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew [it], 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
In the previous chapter we saw that Jeremiah was released from the king’s prison by the captain of the guard of the king of Babylon. Rather than make his way to Babylon to live in relative ease, Jeremiah chose to remain in the ruins of the southern kingdom with the newly appointed governor, Gedeliah. Gedeliah was a godly man, descended from men of great renown for their piety and commitment to God. The impoverished remnant of the people, refugees and captains of the defeated hosts of Judah came to him at Mizpah as the work of reconstruction in the failed state began. One of these captains was a man by the name of Ishmael. Ishmael in coming to Gedeliah at Mizpeh had secretly agreed and taken money from the king of the Ammonites to assassinate Gedeliah. He carries out the assassination, going further to kill every Jew in Mizpeh and wiping out the Babylonian garrison there that was stationed to prop up Gedeliah’s governorship. After taking the city, Ishmael hides the bodies and slays another 80 men who were traveling past Mizpeh from Shiloh on their way to sacrifice offerings to the Lord at the ruined temple in Jerusalem.
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, 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. 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. 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. 15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 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: 17 And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt, 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 made governor in the land.
What can we learn from this unfortunate incident? Because Ishmael had committed this great crime, it was now certain in the minds of the surviving Jews that the king of Babylon will return and wipe out the entire remnant in Judah in retaliation. This sets the stage for the people, against God’s will to flee to Egypt and results in the land of Judah and the former lands of the people of the northern kingdom to be completely swept clean of inhabitants by the king of Babylon and forcibly left desolate and empty for 70 years just as prophesied by Jeremiah and Daniel would happen.
What can we say of Ishmael? He is an example of a man without discernment or compassion for others. The kingdom, though defeated by Babylon was in recovery. The people were producing summer fruits, wine and oil in abundance. The land was returning to peace. Both Ishmael’s name, his father’s name and his grandfather’s name mean “God will hear”. Have you ever had an Ishmael in your life? These are people who will not allow you to live in peace. Though all your life is surrounded by peace and tranquility some people in your life from time to time just will not allow this. There are those whose lives reel from crisis to crisis. Upheaval defines their very existence, and if they don’t have a problem they will create one, not only for themselves but for all those around them. Even as Ishmael attacked the 80 men who were doing nothing other than going to the temple to worship, there are those who will not stand for anyone to have a walk with God they are not in control of. They have to be the center of attention. They have to be in charge. Do you have someone like this in your life? Be forewarned by see the fate of the governor in Mezpeh!
Gedediah had been warned about Ishmael but he refused to listen. Ishmael apparently was a charismatic figure. Gedeliah threw a party for him and his friends. Gedeliah wanted to be in Ishmael’s company. This type of person will be pleasant to be around and someone who is surrounded by people without discernment, like Ishmael himself. Because Gedeliah played with fire, he paid the ultimate price, and because of Gedeliah’s lack of wisdom 1000’s of people will ultimately die as well. Learn from this example. Realize that there may be people in your life right now that you have tolerated, that you have been loyal to, but sooner or later will be an agent of destruction in your family, at your work on in the church. The first man named Ishmael was Abraham’s son by Hagar. Early in his life, Abraham identified Ishmael’s nature and sent him far away, at great personal cost. Learn to identify, and distance yourself from the Ishmael’s in your life.
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