When the food ran out in Jerusalem, due to the siege of the Babylonians, a breach was made in the wall (Jer 52:7). Someone from the inside made a breach in the wall so as to get out of the city to find food. Be that as it may, when it became known that the wall was breached, the Babylonians came in and the siege was up. The king and his army fled Jerusalem. When the Babylonian army caught up with Zedekiah, his army was scattered from him (Jer 52:8).
“And when all the captains of the armies who were in the fields, they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed to him men, women, children, and the poorest of the land who had not been carried away captive to Babylon, then they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah …” Jer 40:7-8
The captains of the armies were in the fields, after they had scattered from Zedekiah, hiding from the Babylonians until they should depart. Gedaliah, a Jew, was determined to follow Jeremiah’s advice: serve the king of Babylon for the seventy years that have been appointed for him; cause no more trouble, but the remnant that was left should plant, build, and reap.
One of the captains which came to Gedaliah, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, was a grandson of the royal family (Jer 41:1). He had made a league with the king of the Ammonites, to dispose of the governor established by Nebuchadnezzar. He was most likely thinking that as a descendant of the royal house, he should be ruling the remnant of Judah and not someone appointed by the king of Babylon.
He not only murdered the governor, but anyone who served him, and who had made peace or come to terms with serving the king of Babylon rather than the king of Judah. He was carrying the remnant captive to the Ammonites (part of the terms of the league?) when another captain, Johanan the son of Kareah, caught up with him.
Johanan delivered the remnant from Ishmael, but Ishmael himself escaped. Now the remnant were in a dilemma: they did not want Gedaliah the governor murdered. They did not want the Babylonian guard who was left with him murdered. But, they were murdered nonetheless, and the report to the king of Babylon would be that the Jews had rebelled yet again. They were afraid of his wrath that would come upon them when it was discovered. So instead of returning to Mizpah, they decided to flee to Egypt (Jer 41:17).
Egypt had been an adversary of Babylonia in the Near East, and was yet independent. By fleeing to Egypt, the remnant of Judah thought that they could escape Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath. They had already determined what they would do, but sent to Jeremiah anyway to ask of the LORD. Perhaps they were thinking that the LORD would confirm their plans.
Instead, the LORD warned them not to go. He warned them, that if they desired Egypt (Jer 42:22), all that they had just escaped — sword, famine, and pestilence — would come upon them and overtake them.
There was another generation of Israelites who desired Egypt: the generation that came out of Egypt under Moses. All of them, but Caleb and Joshua, fell in the wilderness, because they did not believe God that He would perform what He promised to perform (Heb 3:19).
To be continued …