Still No Peace in Judah
JULY 6 - Nº 187 2 Kings 25:22-25; Jeremiah 40:5-16; 41:1-15
Since Jerusalem had been burned to the ground, Mizpah became the capital of Judah. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon appointed a man named Gedaliah to be the governor. His job was to represent the Jewish people and to help them understand the Babylonian laws. When the Babylonians first invaded Judah, many people escaped to neighboring countries. When they heard that Gedaliah was the new governor, they started returning to their homeland. This included several former army officers. Gedaliah advised everyone to settle in the land and serve the king of Babylon. “Then we can live in peace, and things will go well for us,” he promised. He instructed them to move into the towns and villages that had been abandoned and to harvest the crops that had already been planted. The people who had stayed in Judah were able to enjoy a brief time of peace and prosperity. Two months later, Johanan, one of the army captains who returned, uncovered a plot to assassinate Gedaliah. He learned that Ishmael, another former army officer, had been hired by the Ammonites to kill the new governor. Ishmael was a descendant of one of the kings of Judah—and he wanted to be the ruler. Johanan informed Gedaliah about the plot against his life and offered to kill the disgruntled officer. But Gedaliah refused to believe that Ishmael would do such a thing. He was so convinced of Ishmael’s loyalty that he invited him, along with ten of his friends, for dinner. During dinner, Ishmael and his men killed Gedaliah, and everyone else who was in the room. Then they proceeded to kill anyone in Mizpah who had been loyal to Gedaliah, including the Babylonian soldiers who were assigned to keep the peace. The next day, Ishmael heard that 80 pilgrims from countries north of Judah were passing by on their way to mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. They planned to make offerings at the site that was now in ruins. Ishmael went out to meet them. He started weeping and pretending to mourn with them. In a false gesture of kindness, he invited them back to Mizpah telling them that he wanted them to meet Gedaliah (whom he had just killed). When they arrived, he slaughtered 70 of them and threw their bodies in a well. The other 10 offered to give him all the wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey they had brought for offerings, so he let them go. Then Ishmael captured everyone who remained in Mizpah and began transporting them to Ammon as slaves. When Johanan—the army captain who had warned Gedaliah about Ishmael’s plot—learned what Ishmael had done, he was furious. He rallied the rest of the military officers and chased the traitors down. He rescued all the captives. However, Ishmael escaped with eight of his men and fled back to Ammon.
We need to be cautious around people who leave no room for God in their hearts. Ishmael’s actions showed just how wicked such a person can become. Like Ishmael, people who exclude God will do anything to gain control. They fool others to gain their trust—then they turn on them. Our job isn’t to reason with godless people. Our job is to pray for them and stay alert!