Jeremiah 34:8-22

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, Israel's God, 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.’

34:19At 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.’