Jeremiah 34 Commentary

Treacherous slave-owners (34:1-22)

Again Jeremiah tells King Zedekiah that Jerusalem will fall to the Babylonians. Zedekiah himself will be taken to Babylon but will not be executed. When he eventually dies he will be given a fitting royal funeral (34:1-7).


Earlier, when the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem, Zedekiah issued a command that slave-owners were to release all their Hebrew slaves. He no doubt hoped that his action would win God’s favour, and he probably thought it had succeeded when an army from Egypt came to Jerusalem’s aid and the Babylonians temporarily withdrew (v. 21; see also 37:5). Having gained the relief from siege they were looking for, the slave-owners then recaptured their slaves (8-11).

Through Jeremiah God now announces his judgment on the actions of the slave-owners. He approves of their releasing the slaves, for this is in keeping with the law he gave to Israel in the time of Moses (12- 15; cf. Exod 21:2; Deut 15:12-14). But by recapturing the slaves, they have shown their contempt for God and his law (16).

Besides disregarding the law of God, the slave-owners have broken their promise (their covenant). God will therefore punish them according to the oath that people swear when making a covenant. (The ancient practice was that the two parties to a covenant walked between the pieces of a slaughtered animal and called down the animal’s fate upon themselves if they broke the covenant.) In the case of the treacherous slave-owners of Jerusalem, this means that they will now be slaughtered (17-20). God will recall the Babylonian armies to complete their conquest of Jerusalem (21-22).

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