Jeremiah 34
Pulpit Commentary
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, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities thereof, saying,
Verse 1. - All the kingdoms of the earth; etc.; rather, of the land. The accumulation of phrases is to convey the composite character of the Chaldean army. And against all the cities thereof; i.e. the fortified cities which still held out - against Lachish and Azekah, if no more (per. 7).
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, and he shall burn it with fire:
Verses 2, 3. - (Getup. these verses with Jeremiah 32:3-5.)
And thou shalt not escape out of his hand, 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.
Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of thee, Thou shalt not die by the sword:
Verse 4. - Yet hear the word of the Lord, etc. Clearly this introduces a limitation of the foregoing threat. Zedekiah will, it is true, be carried to Babylon, but he will not suffer a violent death; he will "die in peace," and be buried with all customary royal honours. A difficulty, however, has been felt in admitting this view. How could Zedekiah be said to die in peace, when he was "in prison till the day of his death" (Jeremiah 52:11)? and how could the deposed king of a captive people be honoured with a public mourning? The reply is

(1) that, as compared with a cruel death by flaying or impalement, it was "peace" to live in the obscure quiet of a prison; and

(2) that, as the Jews appear to have been left very much to themselves (see Ezekiel, passim), it is credible enough that they were allowed to show the customary honours to a deceased representative of David. At any rate, the alternative view seems not in accordance with sound exegesis, viz. that the verse means this, "If thou obey the word of the Lord, and surrender thyself to Nebuchadnezzar, thou shalt live and die in peaceable possession of the throne." What parallel can be produced for this violent interpretation?
But thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the LORD.
Verse 5. - With the burnings of thy fathers. It was customary to burn spices at royal funerals (2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19). Saying, Ah lord! (see on Jeremiah 22:18). The second of the group of prophecies in Jeremiah 34, 35. is composed of vers. 8-22. It contains a denunciation of the Jews who, at the beginning of the siege, had emancipated their Hebrew slaves (according to Exodus 21:1-4; Deuteronomy 15:12), but after the withdrawal of the Chaldeans had resumed possession of them. Ver. 21 is couched in a form which indicates the precise date of the prophecy, viz. before the Chaldeans returned to renew the siege of Jerusalem.
Then Jeremiah the prophet spake all these words unto Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem,
When the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah.
This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them;
Verse 8. - A covenant. The scene of this "covenant" was the temple (veto. 15, 18). Solemn agreements of this kind were not uncommon (comp. 2 Chronicles 15:12; 2 Kings 11:17; 2 Kings 23:3; Nehemiah 10.). To proclaim liberty unto them. The phrase, a very peculiar one, is taken from the law of jubilee (Leviticus 25:10), though the prescription on which the covenant was based refers exclusively to the seventh year of the slave's servitude.
That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.
Verse 9. - Should serve himself of them; literally, should work through them; i.e. "should employ them for forced labour;" as in Jeremiah 25:13.
Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.
Verse 10. - Now when all the princes, etc. This verse should rather be rendered thus: Then all the princes, and all the people, etc., obeyed, every one letting his slave, and every one his handmaid, go free, not serving them. selves of them any more; they even obeyed, and let them go.
But afterward they turned, 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.
Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; 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, saying,
Verse 13. - Out of the house of bondmen. Egypt had been a "house of bondmen" to their fathers (Exodus 13:3; Deuteronomy 6:12, and elsewhere); let them not make the holy city thus grievous to those who were equally with themselves children of Jehovah's redeemed ones.
At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.
Verse 14. - At the end of seven years, etc. This is the literal rendering, but the sense, as is clear from the parallel passage in Deuteronomy 15:12, and indeed from the next clause of this very verse, is "in the seventh (not, the eighth) year."
And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:
Verse 15. - Ye were now turned; or, ye returned (the primary meaning is simply "to turn;" hence

(1) to turn away, as in ver. 16;

(2) to return, as here; comp. (Jeremiah 8:4).
But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
Verse 17. - I proclaim a liberty for you. Judah is henceforth to be "lord of himself - that heritage of woe;" or rather, he is to become the slave of Sword, Pestilence, and Famine. The "liberty" now proclaimed does not profit Judah, who so much desires it. I will make you to be removed; rather, I will make you a shuddering (as Jeremiah 15:4).
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,
Verse 18. - When they out the calf in twain, etc. This clause should be translated differently, and placed, for clearness, in a parenthesis (the calf which they cut in twain, and between the parts of which they passed). The division of the calf might, in fact, be called in Hebrew either "the covenant" or "the token of the covenant" (comp. Genesis 17:10, 11). It was a solemn assurance that he who should transgress God's Law should share the same fate as the victim. The same idea seems to have dictated the Hebrew phrase, "to cut a covenant," and the Greek and Latin equivalents (ὅρκια τέμνειν: foedus icere); comp. the parallel narrative in Genesis 15:10.
The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf;
I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth.
Verse 20. - And their dead bodies, etc. One of Jeremiah's repetitions (see Jeremiah 7:33).
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.
Verse 21. - And Zedekiah... and his princes. Graf infers from the separate mention of the king and his princes that these had themselves been unfaithful to the covenant. But the threat in this verse seems merely intended to enforce the preceding one by specializing the most prominent sufferers. Parallel passage: Jeremiah 21:7. Which are gone up from you (see Jeremiah 37:5).

Behold, I will command, saith the LORD, and cause them to return to this city; 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 Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by BibleSoft, inc., Used by permission

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