2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 40-44
Sometime after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the upper echelons of Judean society to Babylon, they appointed a Judean named Gedaliah as governor over those who remained in the land. At Mizpah Gedaliah encouraged those who remained to embrace Babylonian rule and reestablish their lives in the land, cultivating the land and harvesting crops as they had before. Many Judeans who had fled to neighboring lands heard about this and returned to Judah as well. Among them was a man named Ishmael, a member of the Judean royal family who had been one of the king’s officers. Another officer named Johanan warned Gedaliah that Ishmael had been sent by the king of Ammon to kill Gelaliah, but Gedaliah did not believe him. Eventually Ishmael came to Mizpah with ten other men and killed Gedaliah and all the Judeans and Babylonian soldiers who were there. The next day, eighty men from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria were traveling to the Temple of the Lord to make an offering, and Ishmael went out and invited them to stop at Mizpah. But after they entered the city, Ishmael and his men slaughtered many of them and took the others captive. He set out with them to escape to Ammon, but by this time Johanan and the other officers had heard about what had happened and pursued Ishmael, forcing him to turn back toward Gibeon. There Johanan and his men caught up with Ishmael and freed those taken captive, but Ishmael and eight of his men escaped to Ammon. After this Johanan, his officers, and all those he had recovered set out for Egypt, because they feared what the Babylonians would do when they learned that Ishmael assassinated the governor they had appointed. Along the way the Judeans stopped near Bethlehem and consulted Jeremiah, asking him whether they should flee to Egypt. After ten days Jeremiah told the Judeans that they should not go to Egypt and that those who did so would die or suffer hunger there. But Johanan and the other leaders refused to heed Jeremiah’s warning and took everyone–including Jeremiah–with them to Egypt, traveling as far as Tahpanhes. There the Lord told Jeremiah to prophesy that the Babylonians would one day seize the land of Egypt as well. Jeremiah also prophesied against Judeans who had fled to other parts of Egypt, including those in Migdol, Memphis, and Upper Egypt much further south (Jeremiah 44:1).