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. 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. — Jeremiah 41:6-7
Walter and Lizzy Frymire were busy serving God. At sixty-five years old, Walter was retired and a volunteer worker in the printing plant of the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon. He discovered that it was his niche in life; he loved helping to publish Gospel literature. Lizzy was active in distributing that literature as she ministered to others through hospital and nursing home visitations.
In October of 1951, the Frymires took a trip to visit their four sons and two daughters who lived in Southern Oregon and California. After visiting all these families, one Saturday they started north toward home. The highway was a two-lane road, and along the way, all the northbound traffic was stopped because of a vehicle breakdown. The driver behind the Frymires did not realize that traffic was stopped and he rear-ended them, knocking their car into the oncoming lane. The southbound traffic was moving quickly, and the Frymire car was thrust in front of a truck. The truck driver had no time to stop, and Walter and Lizzy were both killed.
None of us knows when we will be called into eternity. In today’s text, seventy Jewish men who were traveling toward the destroyed city of Jerusalem were murdered. They were probably going to worship where the Temple had been located, and had no thought that their lives would be taken that day.
We need to be prepared to enter eternity because it could happen quickly to any one of us. This does not have to be a fearful thought. If we know that God has forgiven our sins and we are ready to meet Him, we can trust Him to regulate the exact moment our summons will come. We can look forward to seeing the Lord face to face. We just need to be ready!
This chapter recounts Ishmael’s treacherous assassination of Gedaliah, the Jewish governor in Mizpah. Ishmael was a royal descendant of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. Possibly envious that he had not been chosen as governor, or incensed by Gedaliah’s order for the remnant of Judah to submit to Babylonian rule, he conspired with the king of the Ammonites to assassinate Gedaliah. Although Gedaliah had been warned by Johanan and others (Jeremiah 40:13-14) that there was a plot against his life, he did not believe that Ishmael was capable of such an act of treachery.
In Jeremiah’s time, eating a meal together was a custom that symbolized the assurance of friendship and loyalty to one another. However, Ishmael used his unsuspecting host’s hospitality as an opportunity to ambush Gedaliah, as well as the Jews, Chaldeans, and soldiers who were with him.
After concealing Gedaliah’s death for two days, Ishmael confronted eighty men who were passing by Mizpah on their way to Jerusalem. Their shaven beards and rent clothing signified that they were mourning, possibly due to the destruction of their beloved Temple. In mockery, Ishmael emulated their weeping and persuaded them to turn aside into Mizpah to meet with Gedaliah. Once they were inside Mizpah, Ishmael brutally murdered seventy of them, only sparing the other ten when they offered to lead him to their stores of food supplies. Although it is unclear what Ishmael’s motive for murder was, it may have been robbery. Ishmael threw the bodies of the slain men into a cistern that King Asa had dug three hundred years earlier during a crisis with Baasha, king of Israel.
Ishmael then seized the remaining inhabitants of Mizpah with the intention of taking them to the land of the Ammonites. However, when Johanan and the other chieftains heard of Ishmael’s evil deeds, they gathered their forces and met Ishmael by a large pool of water located in Gibeon, around five miles northwest of Jerusalem. The captives from Mizpah were relieved to see Johanan and his armies, but Ishmael, realizing that he was about to be defeated, managed to escape to the Ammonites, along with eight of his men.
Johanan and the other clan leaders chose not to return to Mizpah for fear that the Babylonians would believe they were involved in the assassination of Gedaliah. They took the people they had rescued from Ishmael to Chimham, located close to Bethlehem, and made plans to travel into Egypt.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
D. The circumstances of the prophet
3. Jeremiah’s experiences after Jerusalem’s fall
c. The rebellion against Babylon
(1) The assassination of Gedaliah
(b) The plot executed (41:1-3)
(2) The massacre of seventy pilgrims (41:4-10)
(3) The flight of Ishmael (41:11-18)
We never know when we will be called into eternity, but we can be ready.