401The LORD spoke to me after Nebuzaradan, the commanding officer, had set me free at Ramah. I had been taken there in chains, along with all the other people from Jerusalem and Judah who were being taken away as prisoners to Babylonia.
2The commanding officer took me aside and said, “The LORD your God threatened this land with destruction, 3and now he has done what he said he would. All this happened because your people sinned against the LORD and disobeyed him. 4Now, I am taking the chains off your wrists and setting you free. If you want to go to Babylonia with me, you may do so, and I will take care of you. But if you don't want to go, you don't have to. You have the whole country to choose from, and you may go wherever you wish.”
5When I did not answer,40.5 When I did not answer; or Then, before he left. Nebuzaradan said, “Go back to Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylonia has made governor of the towns of Judah. You may stay with him and live among the people, or you may go anywhere you think you should.” Then he gave me a present and some food to take with me, and let me go on my way. 6I went to stay with Gedaliah in Mizpah and lived among the people who were left in the land.
Some of the Judean officers and soldiers had not surrendered. They heard that the king of Babylonia had made Gedaliah governor of the land and had placed him in charge of all those who had not been taken away to Babylonia — the poorest people in the land. 8So Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai from Netophah, and Jezaniah from Maacah went with their men to Gedaliah at Mizpah. 9Gedaliah said to them, “I give you my word that there is no need for you to be afraid to surrender to the Babylonians. Settle down in this land, serve the king of Babylonia, and all will go well with you. 10I myself will stay in Mizpah and be your representative when the Babylonians come here. But you can gather and store up wine, fruit, and olive oil, and live in the villages you occupy.” 11Meanwhile, all the Israelites who were in Moab, Ammon, Edom, and other countries, heard that the king of Babylonia had allowed some Israelites to stay on in Judah and that he had made Gedaliah their governor. 12So they left the places where they had been scattered, and returned to Judah. They came to Gedaliah at Mizpah, and there they gathered in large amounts of wine and fruit.
13After this, Johanan and the leaders of the soldiers who had not surrendered came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14and said to him, “Don't you know that King Baalis of Ammon has sent Ishmael to murder you?” But Gedaliah did not believe it. 15Then Johanan said privately to him, “Let me go and kill Ishmael, and no one will know who did it. Why should he be allowed to murder you? That would cause all the Jews who have gathered round you to be scattered, and it would bring disaster on all the people who are left in Judah.”
16But Gedaliah answered, “Don't do it! What you are saying about Ishmael is not true!”
In the seventh month of that year, Ishmael, the son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama, a member of the royal family and one of the king's chief officers, went to Mizpah with ten men to see Gedaliah. While they were all eating a meal together, 2Ishmael and the ten men with him pulled out their swords and killed Gedaliah. 3Ishmael also killed all the Israelites who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah and the Babylonian soldiers who happened to be there.
4The next day, before anyone knew about Gedaliah's murder, 5eighty men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria. They had shaved off their beards, torn their clothes, and gashed themselves. They were taking corn and incense to offer in the Temple. 6So Ishmael went out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went. When he came to them, he said, “Please come in to see Gedaliah.” 7As soon as they were inside the city, Ishmael and his men killed them and threw their bodies in a well.
8But there were ten men in the group who said to Ishmael, “Please don't kill us! We have wheat, barley, olive oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he spared them. 9The well into which Ishmael threw the bodies of the men he had killed was the large one41.9 One ancient translation was the large one; Hebrew by means of Gedaliah. that King Asa had dug when he was being attacked by King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael filled the well with the bodies. 10Then he made prisoners of the king's daughters and all the rest of the people in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the commanding officer had placed under the care of Gedaliah. Ishmael took them prisoner and started off in the direction of the territory of Ammon.
11Johanan and all the army leaders with him heard of the crime that Ishmael had committed. 12So they went after him with their men and overtook him near the large pool at Gibeon. 13When Ishmael's prisoners saw Johanan and the leaders of the forces with him, they were glad, 14and turned and ran to them. 15But Ishmael and eight of his men got away from Johanan and escaped to the land of Ammon.
16Then Johanan and the leaders of the forces with him took charge of the people whom Ishmael had taken away as prisoners from Mizpah after murdering Gedaliah — soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs. 17-18They were afraid of the Babylonians because Ishmael had murdered Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylonia had made governor of the land. So they set out for Egypt, in order to get away from the Babylonians. On the way, they stopped at Chimham, near Bethlehem.
421Then all the army leaders, including Johanan son of Kareah and Azariah42.1 One ancient translation (see also 43.2) Azariah; Hebrew Jezaniah. son of Hoshaiah, came with people of every class 2and said to me, “Please do what we ask you! Pray to the LORD our God for us. Pray for all of us who have survived. Once there were many of us; but now only a few of us are left, as you can see. 3Pray that the LORD our God will show us the way we should go and what we should do.”
4I answered, “Very well, then. I will pray to the LORD our God, just as you have asked, and whatever he says, I will tell you. I will not keep back anything from you.”
5Then they said to me, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not obey all the commands that the LORD our God gives you for us. 6Whether it pleases us or not, we will obey the LORD our God, to whom we are asking you to pray. All will go well with us if we obey him.”
7Ten days later the LORD spoke to me; 8so I called together Johanan, all the army leaders who were with him, and all the other people. 9I said to them, “The LORD, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me with your request has said, 10‘If you are willing to go on living in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not pull you up. The destruction I brought on you has caused me great sorrow. 11Stop being afraid of the king of Babylonia. I am with you, and I will rescue you from his power. 12Because I am merciful, I will make him have mercy on you and let you go back home. I, the LORD, have spoken.’
13-15“But you people who are left in Judah must not disobey the LORD your God and refuse to live in this land. You must not say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt, where we won't face war any more or hear the call to battle or go hungry.’ If you say this, then the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says, ‘If you are determined to go and live in Egypt, 16then the war that you fear will overtake you, and the hunger you dread will follow you, and you will die there in Egypt. 17All the people who are determined to go and live in Egypt will die either in war or of starvation or disease. Not one of them will survive, not one will escape the disaster that I am going to bring on them.’
18“The LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘Just as my anger and fury were poured out on the people of Jerusalem, so my fury will be poured out on you if you go to Egypt. You will be a horrifying sight; people will treat you with scorn and use your name as a curse. You will never see this place again.’ ”
19Then I continued, “The LORD has told you people who are left in Judah not to go to Egypt. And so I warn you now 20that you are making a fatal mistake. You asked me to pray to the LORD our God for you, and you promised that you would do everything that he commands. 21And now I have told you, but you are disobeying everything that the LORD our God sent me to tell you. 22So then, remember this: you will die in war or of starvation or disease in the land where you want to go and live.”