JEREMIAH CHAPTER 34.
Prophecies Concerning Conditions at Zedekiah's Time.
OF THE CAPTIVITY OF ZEDEKIAH. — V. 1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, literally, "all the kingdoms of the country of the rule of his hand," and all the people, the heaping of these expressions denoting the overwhelming power of His army, against which all resistance was useless, fought against Jerusalem and against all the cities thereof, the cities of Judah, which were considered tributary to the capital, saying, v. 2. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Go and speak to Zedekiah, king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, delivering it according to His supreme will and purpose, and he shall burn it with fire; v. 3. and thou shalt not escape out of his hand, as he afterwards attempted to do, 2 Kings 25, 4-6, but shalt surely be taken and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon. Cp. chap. 32, 3-5. V. 4. Yet hear the word of the Lord, who was ever ready to show mercy even in the midst of His punishments, O Zedekiah, king of Judah, Thus saith the Lord of thee, Thou shalt not die by the sword, not be subject to a violent death, v. 5. but thou shalt die in peace, depart this life by a natural death; and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odors for thee, after the custom of burning aromatic spices, which was observed for the kings and the members of the royal family; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah, lord; or, Alas, master; for I have pronounced the word, saith the Lord. So it was not to be his fate to die in battle like Jehoiakim and to remain unlamented and unburied. Cp. chap. 22, 18. 19. V. 6. Then Jeremiah, the prophet, spake all these words unto Zedekiah, king of Judah, in Jerusalem, v. 7. when the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, which had not been reduced in previous campaigns, against Lachish and against Azekah, two cities in the lowlands toward the southwest, on the border of the Philistine territory; for these defensed cities remained of the cities of Judah. As the Lord here showed mercy to Zedekiah, so He is ever full of compassion toward His children, for He remembers that they are dust.
OF THE EVIL TREATMENT OF BOND-SERVANTS. — V. 8. This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, which he recorded as faithfully as he had received it, after that the King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, entering into a solemn agreement with them, to proclaim liberty unto them, according to the Lord's ordinance which permitted the Hebrews to keep the members of their own nation as bond-servants for only six years, since in the seventh year they must all be given their liberty, Ex. 21, 22; Deut. 15, 12, v. 9. that every man should let his man-servant and every man his maid-servant being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess go free, that none should serve himself of them, cause or compel them to be bond-servants, to wit, of a Jew, his brother, for the Law concerned these only, not the slaves of another nationality. V. 10. Now, when all the princes and all the people which had entered into the covenant, with due solemnity, including the bringing of sacrifices, heard that every one should let his man-servant and every one his maid-servant go free that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed and let them go. They were momentarily impressed by the Lord's command and acted in agreement with it. V. 11. But afterward they turned, they changed their minds, and caused the servants and the handmaids whom they had let go free to return and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids. When the Chaldean invasion was upon them, they pretended a meek submission under the will of the Lord, but when the danger seemed to be past, at the temporary withdrawal of the invading army, they once more brought their servants under the yoke, thus proving that their conversion was not sincere. Like the hypocrites of our day they feigned submission in order to gain their end. V. 12. Therefore the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, v. 13. Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, in reproving the hypocritical behavior of the Jewish nobles, I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, this ordinance being included in the laws given during the wilderness journey, saying, v. 14. At the end of seven years, in the so-called Sabbatical Year, let ye go every man his brother, an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee, rather, "who hath sold himself to thee"; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee; cp. Ex. 21, 2; Deut. 15, 12. But your fathers hearkened not unto Me, neither inclined their ear, they paid not the slightest attention to His command. V. 15. And ye were now turned, in a change which seemed sincere enough, and had done right in My sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbor, v. 10. and ye had made a covenant before Me in the house which is called by My name, in a solemn service in the Temple; v. 16. but ye turned and polluted My name, by violating the oath made in the name of Jehovah, and caused every man his servant and every man his handmaid whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, as the bond-servants themselves chose, to return and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids, in the same state of peonage and even of slavery as before. V. 17. Therefore, thus saith the Lord, Ye have not hearkened unto Me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and every man to his neighbor, for the ceremony in which they had taken part in the Temple had been nothing but sham and hypocrisy and had no value in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord, He would now, in just retribution, dismiss them from being His servants, He would sever the relation of which they had been so proud, delivering them, instead, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine, the three dreaded scourges of nations; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth, as exiles among strangers. V. 18. And I will give the men that have transgressed My covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before Me, when they cut the calf in twain and passed between the parts thereof, a solemn rite in which the contracting parties walked through between the halves of a slaughtered animal. As such a slain beast the Lord intended to deliver the nobles of Judah, as He now expressly states. V. 19. The princes of Judah and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the chamberlains or officers of the court, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf, v. 20. I will even give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of them that seek their life, to be slain without mercy; and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven and to the beasts of the earth, so that the birds and beasts of prey would feast on their carcasses - a gruesome meal. V. 21. And Zedekiah, king of Judah, and his princes will I give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of them that seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which are gone up from you, having temporarily abandoned the siege of Jerusalem on account of the approach of Pharaoh-hophrah. V. 22. Behold, I will command, saith the Lord, and cause them to return to this city, acting in this case as the Lord's servants; and they shall fight against it and take it and burn it with fire; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant. The punishment of the Lord is sure to find the offenders against His holy Law, and hypocrites particularly are an abomination in His sight.