A message to Zedekiah
1 Nebuchadnezzar and his army and all the people from all the countries that he ruled were fighting. They were attacking Jerusalem and the towns that were near to it. At this time, Jeremiah heard the Lord who was saying to him, 2 ‘The Lord, the God of Israel says this: Go to Zedekiah, king of Judah, and say to him, “The Lord says this: I will give power over this city to the king of Babylon and he will burn it down. 3 You will not be able to run away because his soldiers will certainly catch you. They will give you to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes. And you will speak with him and you will see his face. Then you will go to Babylon.
4 But listen to the promise of the Lord, Zedekiah, king of Judah. The Lord says this about you: They will not kill you with a sword, 5 but you will die in peace. People will make a big fire when you die to give honour to you. People were sad when the kings, your ancestors, died. They will cry when you die, too. And they will be sad. They will say, ‘Our master has died!’ This is my promise”, says the Lord.’
6 Then Jeremiah, the prophet, told all this to Zedekiah, the king, in Jerusalem. 7 At this time, the king of Babylon and his army were fighting against Judah. He was fighting against Jerusalem and Lachish and Azekah, the cities that he had not got power over yet. They were the only walled cities in Judah that he had not got power over.
Zedekiah and the slaves
8 King Zedekiah promised the people in Jerusalem that he would let their slaves go. After that, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah. 9 The king had said that no Israelite, neither man nor woman, should be a slave. They must all be free people. 10 All the officers and the people who promised to do that agreed with the king. They would not continue to have male or female slaves. They made them free men and women. 11 But after that, they did not do what they had promised to do. They took the people back and they made them slaves again.
12 Then the Lord said to Jeremiah, 13 ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, says this: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. They were slaves when they were there. 14 I said that you must do something. Each seventh year you must let any of your Jewish brothers that you had bought become a free person. After he has worked for you for 6 years, you must let him go. But your ancestors did not listen to me. They did not obey me. 15 A little time ago, you were sorry that you had not obeyed me. I had said that you must do a good thing. And you did it. Each man made his Jewish slaves free men and women. You even made a promise to me in my house, the temple. 16 But now you have turned back to your old ways. You have taken away my honour. You have said to your slaves, “You can go where you want to go.” But now you have taken them back. You have caused free men and women again to become your slaves.
17 So the Lord says: You have not obeyed me. You have not let your slaves become free men and women. So now I will make you free, he says. I will make you free to die. Men will kill you with swords. You will not have enough to eat. And you will become ill and you will die. All the people in all the countries on the earth will hate you. 18 I will do this to the men who did not obey me. They will be like an animal that people offer to me. They will be like the young cow that they cut in half. They cut it in half so that they could walk between the pieces.’
34:18See Genesis 15:10-18.
19 ‘I will punish the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. I will punish the king's officers, the priests and all the people in the country. I will punish all the people who promised that to me. They walked between the pieces of the young cow. 20 I will give their enemies power over them. The enemies will kill them and I will give their dead bodies to the birds and wild animals for food.’
34:20At that time, people showed that they agreed to a promise in a special way. They killed animals and they cut them into two halves. Then they walked between the pieces. Perhaps they would not do what they had promised. Then the person that they had promised something to could kill them, like the animals. This was to show that. These leaders must do what they had promised to do. If they did not do it, the Lord would kill them.
21 ‘I will give Zedekiah, king of Judah, and his officers to the enemies who want to kill them. The army of the king of Babylon has left you. But I will give to them power over Zedekiah and his officers. 22 I will tell their army that they must return to this city. They will fight and they will get power over it. And they will burn it down. And I will destroy the towns in Judah so that nobody can live there.’