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FRAMEWORKS: Jeremiah 34: Warning to Zedekiah, and a broken covenant


PART 1: v.1-7: Zedekiah warned
PART 2: v.8-22: A Broken Covenant and the following Judgment


[Preliminary Comment: We come to a point where Nebuchadnezzar appears to have withdrawn from Jerusalem [v.21] in order to deal with some of the other stronghold cities [v.7] but Jeremiah warns Zedekiah not to be complacent [implied] for Nebuchadnezzar will come back and the city will be destroyed. Zedekiah will not be taken in battle but will live in Babylon but, it turns out [see below], he will die in prison with his eyes put out, i.e. blind. In the second Part the people are being held to account by the Lord for ignoring the Law in respect of slaves – see below and then for apparently repenting but then recanting.]



PART 1: v.1-7: Zedekiah warned


v.1 God's word continues to come while Nebuchadnezzar attacks

v.1  While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army, and all the kingdoms and peoples in the empire he ruled, were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord:


v.2,3 Zedekiah is to be warned that the city will be taken and destroyed

v.2  ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: go to Zedekiah 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.

v.3  You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and given into his hands. 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.


v.4,5 Yet Zedekiah will die peacefully [see Jer 52:8-11 for how this was fulfilled]

v.4  ‘“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;

v.5  you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire in honour of your predecessors, the kings who ruled before you, so they will make a fire in your honour and lament, ‘Alas, master!' I myself make this promise, declares the Lord.”'


v.6,7 Jeremiah conveys this to Zedekiah

v.6  Then Jeremiah the prophet told all this to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem,

v.7  while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that were still holding out – Lachish and Azekah. These were the only fortified cities left in Judah.



PART 2: v.8-22: A Broken Covenant and the following Judgment


v.8-11 Freedom for slaves

v.8  The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves.

v.9  Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage.

v.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.

v.11  But afterwards they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.


[Comment: According to the Law, people could sell themselves into what was tantamount to paid servanthood but the Law forbade wealthy or powerful people making slaves of Hebrews – see Lev 25:39-43. If this had happened in this period, it was simply another sign of the disobedience of the so-called ‘people of God', Israel.]



v.12-14 The Law had demanded that Hebrew workers be released after six years

v.12  Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:

v.13  ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I said,

v.14 “Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you for six years, you must let them go free.” Your ancestors, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me.


v.15,16 The people appeared to repent of this sin but had then reneged on it

v.15  Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: each of you proclaimed freedom to your own people. You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name.

v.16  But now you have turned round and profaned 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.


v.17 Thus they will now die

v.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, declares the Lord – “freedom” to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.


v.18,19 Having followed covenant practices, they will now die similarly

v.18  Those who have violated my covenant 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.

v.19  The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf,


v.20-22 Nebuchadnezzar will come back and finish the work of judgment

v.20  I will deliver into the hands of their enemies who want to kill them. Their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals.

v.21  ‘I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials into the hands of their enemies who want to kill them, to the army of the king of Babylon, which has withdrawn from you.

v.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 it and burn it down. And I will lay waste the towns of Judah so that no one can live there.'



Continue to Chapter 35