41 But in the seventh month of the year, this same Ishmael (son of Nethaniah and grandson of Elishama)—a member of Judah’s royal family and a former captain of the king—came with 10 of his men to Mizpah to visit Gedaliah (son of Ahikam). As they were eating together, 2 Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) and his 10 men betrayed their host and suddenly got up and with their swords attacked and killed Gedaliah (son of Ahikam and grandson of Shaphan), the man the king of Babylon had appointed governor of the land. 3 Ishmael and his men then killed all the rest of the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah and the Chaldean soldiers who had been left there.
4 The next day, before anyone had learned of Gedaliah’s assassination, 5 a group of 80 men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh, and Samaria. They were on their way to Jerusalem, bringing grain offerings and incense to what was left of the temple of the Eternal. It was obvious they were in mourning, having shaved their beards, torn their clothing, and cut their bodies. 6 Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) met them just outside Mizpah, weeping as if something terrible had happened. When he got to their company, he said:
Ishmael: Please, come and see what has happened to Gedaliah (son of Ahikam).
7-8 But once they were in the city, Ishmael and his men started to slaughter the innocent worshipers and throw their murdered corpses into a large cistern. Now there were 10 of these men who pled with Ishmael.
Men: Please do not kill us. We have a large quantity of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the field.
Ishmael agreed to let them live in exchange for these supplies. But he did kill 70 of their company.
9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael threw the corpses of Gedaliah, his men, and these worshipers on their way to Jerusalem had been dug by King Asa years ago when he was preparing for an attack from King Baasha of Israel. Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) filled it with dead bodies.[a] 10 After this massacre, Ishmael took the rest of the people in Mizpah captive, including the royal princesses and the others left under the care of Gedaliah (son of Ahikam) by Nebuzaradan (captain of the imperial guard). Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) forced everyone to leave the city with him as he escaped to the land of the Ammonites.
11-12 Now when Johanan (son of Kareah) and the other army leaders who were with him heard about this massacre carried out by Ishmael, they rallied all their men and pursued Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) to fight him. They caught up with him not far from the great pool in Gibeon. 13 When the people Ishmael had captured saw Johanan (son of Kareah) and the other army leaders closing in, they rejoiced. 14 All those who had been taken prisoner by Ishmael at Mizpah escaped and joined Johanan (son of Kareah) in the fight against Ishmael. 15 But somehow Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) and eight of his men were able to escape from Johanan and cross over into the land of the Ammonites.
What little hope there is for a relatively peaceful future in Judah quickly vanishes with the massacre at Mizpah. The Babylonians show leniency in allowing Gedaliah—one of their own—to rule over this region, but that will change. There will be a response from Nebuchadnezzar. It will be swift and brutal. The question on the minds of those still living in the land is this: how can we escape the vengeance of Babylon? Johanan, by default, has become the new leader of these people. Although he quickly decides the next move, both he and this remnant of Judah hope it is not a mistake.
16 Then Johanan (son of Kareah) and the other army leaders led the people they had just rescued away from Gibeon. This group (who had been taken from Mizpah after Ishmael assassinated Gedaliah) included soldiers, women, children, and court officials. 17 They made their way south and stopped at Geruth Chimham near the village of Bethlehem. The entire company was on its way to Egypt 18 to escape the Chaldeans; for the Judeans were afraid of what would happen when the Chaldeans discovered that Ishmael (son of Nethaniah) had killed Gedaliah (son of Ahikam), the man appointed governor of the land by the king of Babylon.