Ashley Hibbard invites us to consider some examples of quiet faithfulness.

There are two brief narratives that serve as an epilogue to the book of Kings. The first of them (2 Kgs 25:22-26) is the story of how the Israelite governor Gedaliah, who was installed after Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem, is murdered by lesser members of the royal family, who then flee to Egypt.

It feels a bit like a meaningless text, little more than a historical footnote to the destruction of the nation. It might even be easy to see it as an understandable consequence for some toady of Babylon to suffer at the hands of those still loyal to the throne, but for the fact that this man and his family have been mentioned before, as quiet heroes who faithfully served alongside some of God’s servants in the last days of the Judean monarchy.

We first hear about this family in the story of Josiah’s refurbishing of the temple. Shaphan, Josiah’s secretary, is one of two men who are sent to oversee the work of cleansing and repair in the desecrated temple of the Lord (2 Chron 34:8). In that process, the high priest finds the book of the law, and gives it to Shaphan, who reads it and realizes just how grave Judah’s sin is. He takes the book (probably Deuteronomy) and reads it to the king, who realizes the depth of the nation’s sin and God’s probable anger due to their unfaithfulness. Josiah continues to put his trust in Shaphan, as he is one of the court councillors chosen to inquire of Huldah the prophet, along with his son Ahikam.

We perhaps know the least about Ahikam, but he is mentioned just briefly, yet critically, in Jeremiah 26. Jeremiah’s life is threatened because the religious establishment is angered by his prophesying against them, though the common people argue in response that they should not “shoot the messenger.” However, this does not seem like the policy of the evil Jehoiakim and his administration, who have actually gone out of the country to bring back and execute prophets of God. Yet we are told, in the very last verse, that it is Ahikam son of Shaphan who protects Jeremiah and saves his life.

Another son and grandson of Shaphan, Gemariah and Micaiah, are mentioned in Jeremiah 36, as among the officials who hear Baruch read Jeremiah’s prophecy, and who take it seriously and bring it to Jehoiakim for him to hear. Their actions in this incident echo those of Shaphan, though Jehoiakim burns the scroll and its warnings, rather than repenting, as his father Josiah had done.

This brings us to Gedaliah, son of Ahikham. He is mentioned briefly once before the story of his death, in Jeremiah 39:14, where he protects Jeremiah, much as his father did, at the behest of the Babylonians. The story of his brief and tragic tenure as governor of Judah is summarized in 2 Kings 25, but related in greater detail in Jeremiah 40-41. While Kings leaves Gedaliah’s character (if not his pedigree) somewhat unclear, in Jeremiah 40 he seems like the best possible leader for this time in history. Though installed by the Babylonians, he offers himself as a sort of intermediary between the people who remain in the land and their overlords (Jer 40:10). He tells them not to be afraid (40:9). He accepts the allegiance of the people and offers them his trust (40:8, 14). Things are so good that there is something of a return of those who have run to nearby nations, and some measure of divine blessing is implied by the presence of a strong harvest (40:11-12). The situation could have turned out well for those who were left in the land. But a lesser member of the royal family assassinates him at a meal, and throws his body in a well (41:1, 9), desecrating alike humanity and water: a life and a source of life.

Photo by Jannes Jacobs on Unsplash

Violence is not only problematic in itself, but also in that typically it begets further injustice. We see in these texts a family whose story is, in the main, a story of faithfulness to Israel’s God, but whose line ends brutally at the hands of those who disobey their God first through murder, and then through flight to Egypt. This reality is made even more stark by the following story in Kings, where we learn that a wicked king is freed from prison and treated with kindness by his captor. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t feel right, and that is probably the point. God’s kingdom of peace, of the sort prophesied by Isaiah—where there is no weeping or distress, where young men don’t die but live peacefully in their land—is not yet reality. Gedaliah dies, the last entry in the best house we’ve never heard of, remembered poorly by those who read the texts about him, but held near in the heart of the God whom he and his fathers served. It is a comforting reminder that even the least of our obedience truly matters, that no amount of faithfulness is too small, to make a difference in the lives of others and to be of worth to the God who himself is faithfulness.

Ashley is the Centre’s Director of Operations and lead editor of the Journal for the Study of Bible and Violence. Ashley is currently adjunct faculty at Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She has a BRE from Great Lakes Bible College (2010), an MDiv from Heritage Theological Seminary (2014), and a PhD in Theology from Trinity College/University of Aberdeen (2020). Her PhD dissertation was entitled, “Deep Calls to Deep: an investigation into a chain of intertextualities between some Genesis narratives and Deuteronomic laws.”

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