Jeremiah’s Word to King Zedekiah

34 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,(A) all his army, all the earthly kingdoms under his control,(B) and all other nations were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding cities: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Go, speak to Zedekiah, king of Judah, and tell him: This is what the Lord says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon,(C) and he will burn it down. As for you, you will not escape from his hand but are certain to be captured and handed over to him. You will meet the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak face to face;[a](D) you will go to Babylon.

“Yet hear the Lord’s word, Zedekiah, king of Judah. This is what the Lord says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; you will die peacefully. There will be a burning ceremony for you just like the burning ceremonies for your fathers, the former kings who preceded you.(E) ‘Our king is dead!’[b] will be the lament for you, for I have spoken this word.” This is the Lord’s declaration.

So Jeremiah the prophet related all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem while the king of Babylon’s army was attacking Jerusalem and all of Judah’s remaining cities—against Lachish and Azekah,(F) for they were the only ones left of Judah’s fortified cities.

The People and Their Slaves

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom(G) to them, so each man would free his male and female Hebrew slaves and no one would enslave his Judean brother.(H) 10 All the officials and people who entered into covenant to free their male and female slaves—in order not to enslave them any longer—obeyed and freed them. 11 Afterward, however, they changed their minds and took back their male and female slaves they had freed and forced them to become slaves again.

12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 13 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant(I) with your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery, saying: 14 At the end of seven years, each of you must free his Hebrew brother who sold himself[c] to you. He may serve you six years, but then you must send him out free from you.(J) But your ancestors did not obey Me or pay any attention. 15 Today you repented and did what pleased Me, each of you proclaiming freedom for his neighbor. You made a covenant before Me(K) at the temple called by My name.(L) 16 But you have changed your minds(M) and profaned My name.(N) Each has taken back his male and female slaves who had been freed to go wherever they wanted, and you have again subjugated them to be your slaves.

17 “Therefore, this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed Me by proclaiming freedom, each man for his brother and for his neighbor. I hereby proclaim freedom for you”(O)—this is the Lord’s declaration—“to the sword, to plague, and to famine! I will make you a horror to all the earth’s kingdoms. 18 As for those who disobeyed My covenant,(P) not keeping the terms of the covenant they made before Me, I will treat them like the calf they cut in two in order to pass between its pieces.(Q) 19 The officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the pieces of the calf 20 will be handed over to their enemies, to those who want to take their life. Their corpses will become food for the birds of the sky and for the wild animals of the land.(R) 21 I will hand Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials over to their enemies, to those who want to take their lives, to the king of Babylon’s army that is withdrawing. 22 I am about to give the command”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, capture it, and burn it down.(S) I will make Judah’s cities a desolation,(T) without inhabitant.”

Footnotes

  1. Jeremiah 34:3 Lit and his mouth will speak to your mouth
  2. Jeremiah 34:5 Lit Alas, lord
  3. Jeremiah 34:14 Or who was sold

Warning to Zedekiah

34 While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples(A) in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem(B) and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Go to Zedekiah(C) king of Judah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down.(D) You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and given into his hands.(E) You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon.

“‘Yet hear the Lord’s promise to you, Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the Lord says concerning you: You will not die by the sword;(F) you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire(G) in honor of your predecessors, the kings who ruled before you, so they will make a fire in your honor and lament, “Alas,(H) master!” I myself make this promise, declares the Lord.’”

Then Jeremiah the prophet told all this to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that were still holding out—Lachish(I) and Azekah.(J) These were the only fortified cities left in Judah.

Freedom for Slaves

The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people(K) in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom(L) for the slaves. Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage.(M) 10 So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free. 11 But afterward they changed their minds(N) and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.

12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your ancestors(O) when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.(P) I said, 14 ‘Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you six years, you must let them go free.’[a](Q) Your ancestors, however, did not listen to me or pay attention(R) to me. 15 Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to your own people.(S) You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name.(T) 16 But now you have turned around(U) and profaned(V) my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again.

17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom to your own people. So I now proclaim ‘freedom’ for you,(W) declares the Lord—‘freedom’ to fall by the sword, plague(X) and famine.(Y) I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.(Z) 18 Those who have violated my covenant(AA) and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.(AB) 19 The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials,(AC) the priests and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf, 20 I will deliver(AD) into the hands of their enemies who want to kill them.(AE) Their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals.(AF)

21 “I will deliver Zedekiah(AG) king of Judah and his officials(AH) into the hands of their enemies(AI) who want to kill them, to the army of the king of Babylon,(AJ) which has withdrawn(AK) from you. 22 I am going to give the order, declares the Lord, and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, take(AL) it and burn(AM) it down. And I will lay waste(AN) the towns of Judah so no one can live there.”

Footnotes

  1. Jeremiah 34:14 Deut. 15:12

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