Title (Zeph 1:1-1:1)

“The word of Yahweh

That came to Zephaniah,

Son of Cushi,

Son of Gedaliah,

Son of Amariah,

Son of Hezekiah,

In the days

Of King Josiah,

Son of Amon,

Of Judah.”

As with many other prophets, the word of Yahweh came to Zephaniah.  However, there is a long description of his lineage.  He was the son of a Cushi that could mean a Cushite, an Ethiopian, or a dark-skinned person.  There was a Gedaliah who was a governor of Israel after the exile, but the setting is earlier here.  There 9 different people with the name of Amariah mentioned in the biblical literature.  This one could have been the son of King Hezekiah of Judah who ruled from 716-687 BCE.  That is quite possible since Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) who was the son of King Amon (642-640 BCE).  Thus, Zephaniah may have been a prophet with royal blood.

They all go to Egypt (Jer 43:4-43:7)

“So Johanan,

The son of Kareah,

With all the commanders

Of the forces,

With all the people,

Did not obey

The voice of Yahweh,

To stay in the land of Judah.

But Johanan,

The son of Kareah,

With all the commanders

Of the forces,

Took all the remnant of Judah,

Who had returned

To settle in the land of Judah

From all the nations

To which they had been driven.

This included

The men,

The women,

The children,

The princesses,

As well as everyone

Whom Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had left with Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan.

This also included

The prophet Jeremiah

With Baruch,

The son of Neriah.

They came into the land of Egypt.

They did not obey

The voice of Yahweh.

They arrived at Tahpanhes.”

Jeremiah recounts that Johanan with all his commanders did not obey the voice of Yahweh to stay in Judah. They then took all the remnant of those people who had returned to Judah from the other countries to be with the former governor of Judah, Gedaliah. Thus they took the men, women, children, with the royal princesses and all those that the Babylonian captain Nebuzaradan had handed over to Gedaliah to take care of. This group also included Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch. They all ended up at the Egyptian border town of Tahpanhes. Interesting enough, Jeremiah, who loved Babylon, went to Egypt instead. It did not take 40 years to go from Israel to Egypt in this reverse Exodus.

Ishmael captured the people of Mizpah (Jer 41:10-41:10)

“Then Ishmael

Took captive

All the rest of the people

Who were in Mizpah.

This included

The king’s daughters

With all the people

Who were left at Mizpah.

Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had committed them

To Governor Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam.

Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Took them captive.

He set out to cross over

To the Ammonites.”

As Ishmael had killed so many people already, there were not too many people left in Mizpah. Thus Ishmael took the remaining people captive. Of special mention were the daughters of King Zedekiah. The Babylonians had killed the king’s sons, but the captain of the troops, Nebuzaradan, committed the daughters of the king to the care of the new governor, Gedaliah. Thus the remaining people and these young women set out as captives to go to Ammon, on the other side of the Jordan. Ishmael must have had some kind of deal with the king of the Ammonites, since King Baalis of Ammon was mentioned in the last chapter.

Ishmael kills the pilgrim worshippers (Jer 41:6-41:8)

“Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Came out from Mizpah

To meet

The weeping pilgrims.

As he met them,

He said to them.

‘Come to Governor Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam.’

When they reached

The middle of the city,

Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

With his men

Slaughtered them.

He threw them into a cistern.

But there were ten men

Among them

Who said to Ishmael,

‘Do not kill us!

We have stores

Of wheat,

Of barley,

Of oil,

Of honey

Hidden in the fields.’

So he refrained.

He did not kill them

Along with their companions.”

Ishmael went out to meet these 80 mourning crying pilgrims as they approached Mizpah. He told them to come and meet the new governor of Judah, Gedaliah. When they got to the center of Mizpah, Ishmael and his 10 men killed these 80 pilgrims. He saved 10 of these northern pilgrims because they said that they hidden provisions of wheat, barley, oil, and honey in the fields. However, the other dead people were thrown into a cistern well. It is amazing how strong these 10 men with Ishmael were.

The Judeans return (Jer 40:11:40:12)

“Likewise,

All the Judeans,

Who were in Moab,

Or among the Ammonites,

Or in Edom,

As well as in other lands,

Heard that

The king of Babylon

Had left a remnant

In Judah.

They heard

That he had appointed

Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

The son of Shaphan,

As governor over them.

Then all the Judeans returned

From all the places

To which they had been scattered.

They came

To the land of Judah,

To Gedaliah,

At Mizpah.

They gathered wine

They gathered summer fruits

In great abundance.”

Jeremiah presents a mini-post exilic time. This was particularly true of those Judeans who had migrated to the southeastern neighboring countries on the other side of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, living among the Moabites, the Edomites, and the Ammonites. They heard the news that the war with Babylon was over. They then decided to return, when they heard that Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, was the new governor appointed by the king of Babylon. Thus they returned to Judah, more precisely to the Benjamin area that had not been destroyed. Mizpah became the new capital city of this remnant left In Judah. They were going to have wine and summer fruits in abundance. This seems like a happy time with a lot of returning Judeans from the devastated Judah area and the area east of the Jordan River in Moab, Edom, and Ammon.

The gathering at Mizpah (Jer 40:8-40:8)

“All these field leaders

Went to Gedaliah

At Mizpah.

They included

Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Johanan,

The son of Kareah,

Seraiah,

The son of Tanhumeth,

The sons of Ephai

The Netophathite,

Jezaniah,

The son of the Maacathite.

They came with their troops.”

Now this story picks up on what was in 2 Kings, chapter 25. All these field leaders went to see Gedaliah at Mizpah to see what was up. In fact, some of these same names appear in 2 Kings, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, and Seraiah son of Tanhumeth. However, here there is mention of the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, while Jezaniah is slightly different than Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite. All these open field leaders came with their fighting troops. They wanted to see how things were going.

Gedaliah is the governor of Judah (Jer 40:7-40:7)

“All the leaders

Of the forces

In the open country,

With their troops,

Heard

That the king of Babylon

Had appointed Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam,

Governor in the land.

The Babylonians had

Commanded that all the

Men,

Women,

With their children

Listen to Gedaliah.

These were

The poorest of the land

Who had not been taken

Into exile to Babylon.”

Now we see that many of the Judean country fighters were not all captured. Some of them were fighting in the hillsides or the open country, not in Jerusalem. Thus these leaders were not sure of what to do. They had heard that Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam from a prominent Jerusalem family, had been named governor by the king of Babylon, so that they seemed less afraid. The Babylonians had commanded that all the men, women, and children listen to Gedaliah. These were the poorest people of the land who had not been taken to Babylon in this Babylonian captivity.