Jeremiah 34 Free the slaves


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Jeremiah 34:1 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: 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. 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.

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

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

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. 9 Everyone was to free their Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Hebrew in bondage. 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 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 when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 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] Your ancestors, however, did not listen to me or pay attention to me. 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. 16 But now you have turned around 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.

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. 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. 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, 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.

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. 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 no one can live there.”

a. Jeremiah 34:14 Deut. 15:12

After God agreed not to have Zedekiah slaughtered [if he surrendered to the Babylonians], God went on to free all the people who were enslaved by their fellow Jews.... the people who owed a debt.... and were working it off with a seven year enslavement. God made Zedekiah and the others free the slaves.... which they did.... for a while.....

This is from

“A covenant … to proclaim liberty”: Zedekiah’s pact to free slaves or servants met with initial compliance. The covenant followed the law of release (in Lev. 25:39-55; Deut. 15:12-18), in hopes of courting God’s favor and ending His judgment.​
In an attempt to gain the Lord’s favor as the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem, Zedekiah and the people proclaimed a general amnesty and released all of their slaves, something they should have been doing every seventh year (Exodus 21:1-11).​
Reflecting their true motives, the people took back their “slaves” when the Babylonians temporarily withdrew from Jerusalem. Jeremiah had called the people who “turned” from their turning back to the Lord.​
“Cut the calf in twain”: God will give the guilty over to death before the conqueror, for they denied the covenant ratified by blood. In this custom (as in Gen. 15:8-17), two parties laid out parts of a sacrifice on two sides, then walked between the parts. By that symbolic action each pledged to fulfill his promise, agreeing in effect, “May my life (represented by the blood), be poured out if I fail to honor my part”.​
This is from the easy English site.

Zedekiah was not loyal to Nebuchadnezzar, who had appointed him to rule Judah (2 Kings 24:17-20). So the king of Babylon had entered Judah with his armies. Other nations that Nebuchadnezzar ruled had to supply soldiers. They helped him to fight. He began to attack Jerusalem at the end of 589 BC. At the same time, he attacked other cities in Judah.​
Jeremiah gave Zedekiah some comfort about his future. Nebuchadnezzar would not kill him. Instead, Zedekiah would die peacefully. People would have a special ceremony for him. They would burn sweet substances on a fire to give him honour. Asa, king of Judah, had a fire like that to give him honour (2 Chronicles 16:14). People would be sad when Zedekiah died. Jeremiah advised him to accept defeat. Then the enemy would not destroy the city. And he and his family would remain alive.​
But Zedekiah did not have the courage to follow Jeremiah's advice. He was afraid of his own officials. Some Jews had left the city already. Zedekiah was afraid that the Babylonians would hand him over to them. Later, the Jews behaved badly towards him. So he did not die in a peaceful way. The Babylonians killed his sons. They made Zedekiah blind. Then they took him to prison in Babylon.
The cities of Lachish and Azekah were south-west of Jerusalem. Recently, people discovered a number of ostraca in the broken old buildings at Lachish. Ostraca were broken pieces of pots on which the people wrote. Those old pots were made about 588 *C. On one ostraca was a message from the chief officer in a place outside the city. He wrote to the military chief officer at Lachish. He said that he was waiting for signals. People made those signals with fire. But he could not see any from Azekah. Probably the Babylonians destroyed Azekah soon after Jeremiah wrote the words in verse 7.
Zedekiah persuaded the owners of the Hebrew slaves to free them. He may have thought that the LORD would appreciate that action. Perhaps the LORD would stop the Babylonians, who were waiting to get into the city. Supplies of food were becoming low. Perhaps the owners thought that they would have fewer people to feed. The slaves could take care of themselves. Maybe they would be more willing to help to defend the city. The slaves became free after their owners made a serious promise in the Temple. Then news came that the Babylonians had gone away. They went to meet an Egyptian army that was coming to help the people in Jerusalem. So the owners thought that the danger was over. They did not do what they had promised. They took back their slaves again.
Sometimes Israelites sold themselves to other Israelites. They may have become so poor that they could not pay their debts. Sometimes they became slaves because of the unfair behaviour of other people. Amos spoke about people who became slaves. Sometimes their debt was as small as the price of a pair of shoes (Amos 2:6). The LORD had brought their ancestors out of Egypt, where they were slaves. So he told their ancestors that a Hebrew owner had to free his slave after 6 years. In the 7th year, they had to allow the slave to go wherever he chose (Exodus 21:2).​
The people 'cut a covenant'. In Genesis 15:9-18 you can read how Abraham did that. First they killed an animal and cut it into two pieces. They placed those pieces opposite to each other. Then the people who were making the covenant would walk between the two pieces. That was a way to sign the*covenant. It also warned a person. He would have the same fate as that of the animal if he did not obey the covenant. All the leaders and people had performed that ceremony. Because they had not carried out their promise, they would die like the animal. Their enemies would kill them and leave their bodies. Nobody would bury them. They would become food for birds and wild animals that fed on dead bodies.​
The Babylonian army had gone for a while. But the LORD would bring them back to fight against Jerusalem. The Babylonian army would defeat the Egyptian army. Then the Babylonians would return to Jerusalem. They would take control of the city. Then they would burn it down. They would destroy the towns in Judah so that nobody could live in them. Some people dig up ancient places. They have shown that many towns in Judah became empty. That happened after 588 BC.
That seven year "contract" seems to be going on today..... There was another "forgiveness of debts"..... there is the Jubilee law.... where people could sell their property to another descendant of Jacob.... but it was for only fifty years.... and then the property had to be surrendered back to the original owner. Remember.... The Descendants of Jacob [Israel] were part of a Theocracy..... not a capitalist society..... God gave the land to them.... and God, as the top dog of the theocracy..... would make sure the land would stay with the family. A Theocrate has to do what God says..... that's what a theocracy is.

So.... in this story.... the Babylonian army was on the doorstep.... people were told to free their slaves.... let them go before the slaughter.... but then the Babylonian army decided to go take care of the Egyptian army coming to Judah's aid first..... the descendants of Jacob [Israel] decided that a mistake had occurred and they took their "slaves" back. Stupid humans...

Those people who took their slaves back.... the Babylonians would slaughter them.... and leave them laying where they dropped..... the slaves wouldn't be there..... no one would be there but the dead and dying.... so they would rot in the street.....birds and animals would pick their bones.