The Murder of Gedaliah
But in midautumn, Ishmael son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama, who was a member of the royal family and had been one of the king’s high officials, went to Mizpah with ten men to meet Gedaliah. While they were eating together, 2 Ishmael and his ten men suddenly jumped up, drew their swords, and killed Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor. 3 Ishmael also killed all the Judeans and the Babylonian soldiers who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah.
Hospitality was one of the most highly regarded virtues of the ancient world. Ancient custom with respect to hospitality normally meant that a host tried to protect a guest from harm. Gedaliah likely assumed that his guests in turn would not harm him, much less kill him. (The Archaeological Bible)
“Gedaliah’s death was a tragedy. For years afterward, the Jews held a fast to lament the day of his passing.”
–Philip Graham Ryken
**Death count: Gedaliah plus the Judeans and the Babylonian soldiers.
4 The next day, before anyone had heard about Gedaliah’s murder, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria to worship at the Temple of the Lord. They had shaved off their beards, torn their clothes, and cut themselves, and had brought along grain offerings and frankincense.
These cities were important religious centers in the former northern kingdom that fell in 722 B.C. These men are a remnant of Israel’s population who had made pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great feasts. Their personal appearance reflects their mourning for the fall of Jerusalem. They were bringing bloodless offerings, since the altar of the temple had been destroyed. Even though the temple itself was in ruins, the site was still considered holy. (The Reformation Bible)
6 Ishmael left Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went. When he reached them, he said, “Oh, come and see what has happened to Gedaliah!”
7 But as soon as they were all inside the town, Ishmael and his men killed all but ten of them and threw their bodies into a cistern.
“This chapter is full of horrible atrocities. Blow on blow befell the already decimated remnant of Jews.”
–F. B. Meyer
**Death count: Gedaliah plus the Judeans and the Babylonian soldiers plus 70 Israelites.
8 The other ten had talked Ishmael into letting them go by promising to bring him their stores of wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey that they had hidden away. 9 The cistern where Ishmael dumped the bodies of the men he murdered was the large one dug by King Asa when he fortified Mizpah to protect himself against King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled it with corpses.
10 Then Ishmael made captives of the king’s daughters and the other people who had been left under Gedaliah’s care in Mizpah by Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard. Taking them with him, he started back toward the land of Ammon.
11 But when Johanan son of Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders heard about Ishmael’s crimes, 12 they took all their men and set out to stop him. They caught up with him at the large pool near Gibeon. 13 The people Ishmael had captured shouted for joy when they saw Johanan and the other guerrilla leaders. 14 And all the captives from Mizpah escaped and began to help Johanan.
“Ishmael finds how delusive is a victory that wins no hearts, as his whole captive company delightedly deserts him.”
15 Meanwhile, Ishmael and eight of his men escaped from Johanan into the land of Ammon.
**Death count: Gedaliah plus the Judeans and the Babylonian soldiers plus 70 Israelites plus two of Ishmael’s men.
16 Then Johanan son of Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders took all the people they had rescued in Gibeon—the soldiers, women, children, and court officials whom Ishmael had captured after he killed Gedaliah. 17 They took them all to the village of Geruth-kimham near Bethlehem, where they prepared to leave for Egypt. 18 They were afraid of what the Babylonians would do when they heard that Ishmael had killed Gedaliah, the governor appointed by the Babylonian king.
This terrible account is included to show how chaotic and unsafe conditions were in Judah and the region after the fall of the Kingdom of Judah. Many felt they were safer in Egypt than remaining in that lawless land.
There are classic country music songs which tell the stories of murders! Johnny Cash and “Folsom Prison Blues” — “I shot a man in Reno / just to watch him die” — does it get more cold-blooded than that? “Papa Loved Mama” by Garth Brooks — “Mama’s in the graveyard and Papa’s in the pen.” And of course, “Frankie and Johnny” — “He was her man, but he was doin’ her wrong.” But for a good laugh when thinking about murder (?!), there’s nothing better than the Dixie Chicks and “Goodbye Earl.” HERE it is for your listening pleasure!
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.