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Jer 34:1-22. Captivity of Zedekiah and the People Foretold for Their Disobedience and Perfidy.

The prophecy (Jer 34:1-7) as to Zedekiah is an amplification of that in Jer 32:1-5, in consequence of which Jeremiah was then shut up in the court of the prison. The prophecy (Jer 34:8-22) refers to the Jews, who, afraid of the capture of the city, had, in obedience to the law, granted freedom to their servants at the end of seven years, but on the intermission of the siege forced them back into bondage.

1. Jerusalem and … all the cities thereof—(see on Jer 19:15). It was amazing blindness in the king, that, in such a desperate position, he should reject admonition.

3. (Jer 32:4).

4, 5. Mitigation of Zedekiah's punishment.

5. the burnings of thy fathers—Thy funeral shall be honored with the same burning of aromatic spices as there was at the funerals of thy fathers (2Ch 16:14; 21:19). The honors here mentioned were denied to Jehoiakim (Jer 22:18).

Ah, lord!—The Hebrews in their chronology (Seder Olam) mention the wailing used over him, "Alas! King Zedekiah is dead, drinking the dregs (that is, paying the penalty for the sins) of former ages."

7. these … retained—alone (compare 2Ch 11:5, 9).

8. By the law a Hebrew, after having been a bond-servant for six years, on the seventh was to be let go free (Ex 21:22; De 15:12).

Zedekiah made a covenant—with solemn ceremonial in the temple (Jer 34:15, 18, 19).

them—bond-servants (Jer 34:9).

9. none … serve himself of a Jew—(Le 25:39-46).

11. During the interruption of the siege by Pharaoh-hophra (compare Jer 34:21, 22, with Jer 37:5-10), the Jews reduced their servants to bondage again.

13. The last year of Zedekiah was the sabbatical year. How just the retribution, that they who, against God's law and their own covenant, enslaved their brethren, should be doomed to bondage themselves: and that the bond-servants should enjoy the sabbatical freedom at the hands of the foe (Jer 52:16) which their own countrymen denied them!

14. At the end of seven years—that is, not on the eighth year, but within the limit of the seventh year, not later than the end of the seventh year (Ex 21:2; 23:10; De 15:12). So "at the end of three years" (De 14:28; 2Ki 18:10), and "after three days, I will rise again" (Mt 27:63), that is, on the third day (compare Mt 27:64).

15. in the house … called by my name—the usual place of making such covenants (2Ki 23:3; compare 1Ki 8:31; Ne 10:29).

16. polluted my name—by violating your oath (Ex 20:7).

17. not … proclaiming liberty—Though the Jews had ostensibly emancipated their bond-servants, they virtually did not do so by revoking the liberty which they had granted. God looks not to outward appearances, but to the sincere intention.

I proclaim a liberty—retribution answering to the offense (Mt 7:2; 18:32, 33; Ga 6:7; Jas 2:13). The Jews who would not give liberty to their brethren shall themselves receive "a liberty" calamitous to them. God will manumit them from His happy and safe service (Ps 121:3), which is real "liberty" (Ps 119:45; Joh 8:36; 2Co 3:17), only to pass under the terrible bondage of other taskmasters, the "sword," &c.

to be removed—The Hebrew expresses agitation (see on Jer 15:4). Compare De 28:25, 48, 64, 65, as to the restless agitation of the Jews in their ceaseless removals from place to place in their dispersion.

18. passed between the parts thereof—The contracting parties in the "covenant" (not here the law in general, but their covenant made before God in His house to emancipate their slaves, Jer 34:8, 9) passed through the parts of the animal cut in two, implying that they prayed so to be cut in sunder (Mt 24:51; Greek, "cut in two") if they should break the covenant (Ge 15:10, 17).

20. I will even give—resuming the sentence begun, but not completed (Jer 34:18), "I will give," &c.

seek their life—implacably: satisfied with nothing short of their blood; not content with booty.

dead bodies—The breakers of the covenant shall be cut in pieces, as the calf between whose parts they passed.

21. gone up—that is, raised the siege in order to meet Pharaoh-hophra (Jer 37:7-10). The departure of the Chaldeans was a kind of manumission of the Jews; but as their manumission of their bond-servants was recalled, so God revoked His manumission of them from the Chaldeans.

22. I will command—Nebuchadnezzar, impelled unconsciously by a divine instigation, returned on the withdrawal of the Egyptians.

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