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Jeremiah’s Eighteenth Prophecy (Reign of Zedekiah). The Fate of Zedekiah. The Treatment of Hebrew Slaves
Early in the campaign of Nebuchadnezzar, whose scheme of conquest included all the region as far as Egypt inclusive, the policy urged by Jeremiah was that Zedekiah should make the best terms he could. In this chapter we seem to have a sort of abbreviated memorandum of the conditional promise, which in that case the prophet was commissioned to announce to Zedekiah, viz. peace followed by kingly obsequies. The condition, here omitted, is expressed in Jeremiah 38:17.
The laws as to the limitation of the length of servitude in the case of Hebrew slaves (Exodus 21:2; Leviticus 25:39-55) had apparently fallen out of use with many Jews, especially in the country parts. Very possibly the arrival of many of the wealthier Jews at Jerusalem from the country to escape the invading army made the laxity on their part more conspicuous by contrast. The agreement here spoken of seems to have been brought about in view of the impending danger of invasion, in resisting which the slaves, if enfranchised, might be more willing to co-operate. But when the Babylonian army withdrew, for a short time (Jeremiah 37:5) to meet the Egyptian forces, which they believed to be threatening them, the masters basely cancelled their agreement.
1-7. Capture and burning of Jerusalem foretold.
3. Thine eyes shall behold.. the king, etc.] i.e. at Riblah, before being blinded and carried to Babylon: see Jeremiah 39:7; Jeremiah 52:9, and cp. Jeremiah 32:4; Ezekiel 12:13.
5. Shall they burn odours] RV ’Shall they make a burning’: see details in 2 Chronicles 16:14.
7. Against Lachish, and against Azekah] in SW. of Judah near the border of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar would not venture to advance into that country on his career of conquest, leaving these fortresses untaken.
8-22. The masters of Hebrew slaves to be punished for their cruel treatment of them.
13. Out of the house of bondmen] The point is that Israel’s position at the time when the covenant was made, as having themselves been delivered from Egyptian slavery, should have taught them better.
17. The people shall no longer as hitherto be under God’s protection as His servants, but be thrown by Him on their own resources, and so exposed to their perils.
18. Cut the calf in twain] For such mode of ratifying a covenant see on Genesis 15:8.
21. Which are gone up from you] i.e. which have raised the siege for the time.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Jeremiah 34". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany