“‘If you remain,
Then return to Gedaliah,
The son of Ahikam,
The son of Shaphan.
The king of Babylon
Has appointed him governor
Of the towns of Judah.
Stay with him
Among the people!
Or go wherever
You think it right to go.’
So the captain of the guard
Gave him an allowance
With a present.
He let him go.
Then Jeremiah went
The son of Ahikam,
He stayed with him
Among the people
Who were left in the land.”
Nebuzaradan, the captain of the troops, told Jeremiah that if he stayed in Judah that he would be better off with Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam. The King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the governor for the towns of Judah, since there was no longer a king. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Gedaliah’s father and grandfather, Ahikam and Shaphan had been loyal to the various prophets. Shaphan went back to the days of King Josiah (640-609 BCE) and his religious reform. Ahikam had protected Jeremiah during the reign of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) as in chapter 26 of this book. His brother Gemariah had helped Jeremiah in chapter 36. Thus Ahikam’s son Gedaliah seemed like the right person to protect Jeremiah. Still Jeremiah was free to go wherever he wanted. The captain of the troops gave Jeremiah some food and a present, maybe some money. Jeremiah then went to Gedaliah, who was at Mizpah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem, in the Benjamin territory. Thus Jeremiah stayed with all these people who were left in Israel. These were either the so-called poor people or collaborators with the Babylon king and his emissaries.
“The king received Judas Maccabeus. He left Hegemonides as the governor from Ptolemais to Gerar. Then the king went to Ptolemais. The people of Ptolemais were indignant over the treaty. In fact, they were so angry that they wanted to annul its terms. Lysias took the public platform, made the best possible defense. He convinced them, appeased them, gained their good will, and then set out for Antioch. This is how the king’s attack and withdrawal turned out.”
Once again, this is similar to 1 Maccabees, chapter 6. There Lysias convinced the king and the commanders that the peace treaty with the Jews was a good idea. Here he must convince the people of Ptolemais, who did not like the Jews. The Syrian Hegemonides remained the governor of the seacoast area. However, the people of Ptolemais were upset about the treaty with the Jews. Only the eloquent speaking of Lysias convinced and appeased them. Thus with good will, they set out for Antioch. This then is the peace treaty that took place when King Antiochus V and Lysias attacked and then withdrew.
“The Jews and their priests decided
That Simon should be their leader
And high priest forever,
Until a trustworthy prophet should arise.
He should be governor over them.
He should take charge of the sanctuary.
He should appoint officials over its tasks.
He should appoint officials over the country.
He should appoint officials over the weapons and the strongholds.
He should take charge of the sanctuary.
He should be obeyed by all.
All contracts in the country should be written in his name.
He should be clothed in purple and wear gold.”
This decree said that the Jews and the priests had decided that Simon and his family would be in charge forever. However, there was one caveat that a trustworthy prophet might rise up and challenge one of his descendents. He was the governor and the high priest combining the political and religious authority. He was in charge of the sanctuary as well as all the tasks of the government and the army. Every contract with another country had to be written in his name. He was to wear purple and gold. He was like a modern day appointed dictator benevolent ruler.
“King Demetrius chose Bacchides, one of the king’s friends, who was the governor of the province Beyond the River. He was a great man in the kingdom who was faithful to the king. King Demetrius sent him, and with him the ungodly Alcimus, whom he made high priest. He commanded him to take vengeance on the Israelites. Thus they marched away and came with a large force into the land of Judah. He sent messengers to Judas and his brothers with peaceable but treacherous words. However, they paid no attention to their words, for they saw that they had come with a large force.”
King Demetrius I chose the governor of the Province Beyond the River, which had its headquarters in Samaria from the old Persian days. This province extended west of the Euphrates River to Egypt. Bacchides was also a faithful friend of the king who brought with him the renegade Alcimus. Somehow, this non-Jewish person made Alcimus a high priest of the Jews, which did not make much sense. His orders were to take vengeance on the Israelites with a large force. However, Bacchides sent peaceable words to Judas Maccabeus and his brothers. Judas and his brothers were not fooled. They saw them as treacherous since Bacchides came with a large armed force.
“Upon the sealed document are the names of Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaiah. These are the priests.”
Obviously leading this signing of the covenant document is Nehemiah himself. Although he lists these people as priests, he himself was not a priest. He was the governor. Most of these 22 priests appear elsewhere in this book. This Zedekiah is difficult to locate since he obviously was not the last king of Judah, but he does appear elsewhere in this book. Daniel is not from the book of Daniel, but there is no mention of his name in this book. Maaziah and Bilgai only appear here. Meshullam appears over 13 times in this book, while the other 17 are mentioned anywhere from 2 – 5 times in this book.