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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 34

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities thereof, saying,

The prophecy (Jeremiah 34:1-7) us to Zedekiah is an amplification of that in Jeremiah 32:1-5, in consequence of which Jeremiah was then shut up in the court of the prison. The prophecy (Jeremiah 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.

Jerusalem, and ... all the cities thereof - (note, Jeremiah 19:15). It was amazing blindness in the king that, in such a desperate position, he should reject admonition.

Verse 2

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire:

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 3

And thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon.

Thou shalt not escape out of his hand ... and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon - (Jeremiah 32:4).

Verses 4-5

Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of thee, Thou shalt not die by the sword:

Thou shalt not die by the sword, but ... in peace - mitigation of Zedekiah's punishment.

The burnings of thy fathers - thy funeral shall be honoured with the same burning of aromatic spices as there was at the funerals of thy fathers (2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19). The honours here mentioned were denied to Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:18).

Ah lord! The Hebrews in their chronology (seder 'owlam) mention the wailing used over him, 'Alas! King Zedekiah is dead, drinking the dregs (i:e., paying the penalty for the sins) of former ages.'

Verse 6

Then Jeremiah the prophet spake all these words unto Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 7

When the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah.

These defensed cities remained - alone (cf. 2 Chronicles 11:5; 2 Chronicles 11:9).

Verse 8

This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them;

This is the word that came unto Jeremiah. By the law a Hebrew, after having been held a bond-servant for six years, on the seventh was to be let go free (Exodus 21:2; Deuteronomy 15:12).

After that ... Zedekiah had made a covenant - with solemn ceremonial in the temple (Jeremiah 34:15; Jeremiah 34:18-19).

To proclaim liberty unto them - bond-servants (Jeremiah 34:9).

Verse 9

That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.

That none should serve himself ... of a Jew. The bond- servants were to be of the pagan, not of their Israelite Brethren. "If thy brother ... be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bond-servant: but as an hired servant ... unto the year of jubilee ... then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children ... for they are my servants, which I brought forth out of Egypt" (Leviticus 25:39-46).

Verse 10

Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 11

But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids.

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

Verse 12

Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 13

Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying,

I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of ... Egypt ... the house of bondmen. 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 which their own countrymen denied them! (Jeremiah 52:16.)

Verse 14

At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.

At the end of seven years - i:e., not on the 8th year, but within the limit of the 7th year, not later than the end of the 7th year (Exodus 21:2; Exodus 23:10; Deuteronomy 15:12). So "at the end of three years" (Deuteronomy 14:28; 2 Kings 18:10) and "after three days, I will rise again" (Matthew 27:63) - i:e., on the third day (cf. Matthew 27:64).

Verse 15

And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:

In the house ... called by my name - the usual place of making such covenants (2 Kings 23:3: cf. 1 Kings 8:31; Nehemiah 10:29).

Verse 16

But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.

Ye ... polluted my name - by violating your oath (Exodus 20:7, and so "taking my name in vain").

Verse 17

Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

Ye have not hearkened unto me, in 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 offence (Matthew 7:2; Matthew 18:32-33; Galatians 6:7; James 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, which is real "liberty" (Psalms 119:45; John 8:36; 2 Corinthians 3:17), only to pass under the terrible bondage of other taskmasters, the "sword," etc. The Jews were the Lord's servants whom He had brought out of Egypt: as therefore it was the master's duty to keep in safe protection his servants, so the Lord had kept the Jews in safety (Psalms 121:3): but now that they are impatient of His blessed service, He will give them their "liberty," but with it His protection of them must come to an end; and so the "liberty" which awaits them is, to be given up "to the sword, pestilence. and famine."

To be removed - the Hebrew [ zuwa` (H2112)] expresses agitation (note, Jeremiah 15:4). Compare Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 28:48; Deuteronomy 28:64-65, "Among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and fainting of eyes, and sorrow of mind; and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shall have none assurance of thy life:" wherein Moses similarly foretells the restless agitation of the Jews in their ceaseless removals from place to place in their dispersion.

Verse 18

And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof,

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, Jeremiah 34:8-9) passed through the parts of the animal cut in two, implying that they prayed so to be cut in sunder (Matthew 24:51; Greek, cut him in two) if they should break the covenant (Genesis 15:10; Genesis 15:17).

Verse 19

The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf;

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 20

I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth.

I will even give them - resuming the sentence begun, but not completed, Jeremiah 34:18, "I will give the men," etc.

Into the hand of them that seek their life - implacably: satisfied with nothing short of their blood: not content with booty.

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

Verse 21

And Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which are gone up from you.

The king of Babylon's army, which are gone up from you - i:e., which have raised the siege in order to meet Pharaoh-hophra (Jeremiah 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.

Verse 22

Behold, I will command, saith the LORD, and cause them to return to this city; and they shall fight against it, and take it, and burn it with fire: and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant. I will command - Nebuchadnezzar, impelled unconsciously by a divine instigation, returned on the withdrawal of the Egyptians.


(1) Zedekiah was so weak that, not even when Jeremiah's words were coming true in the actual arrival of Nebuchadnezzar's army before Jerusalem, had he the courage to obey his better impulses, and submit to the Babylonian king. Fearing his princes he did not fear God enough. By his fear of man he actually fell into the evil from man which he feared (Jeremiah 38:19-23). The fear of God delivers us from the fear of man, and is our only true safety.

(2) Affliction and captivity probably worked in Zedekiah the right spirit which he had been lacking while he was a king. Hence, there followed a mitigation of his punishment (Jeremiah 34:4). Though his life was a stormy one, he was to close it "in peace" (Jeremiah 34:5), and his memory was to be honoured. 'It is better to live and die penitent in a prison than to live and die impenitent in a palace.'

(3) The Jews, when under the terror of the Babylonian army brought by God against them, at the command of the Lord by Jeremiah, liberated their Jewish bond-servants. But when the terror passed away, the siege having been raised for a time through the diversion in the Jew's favour made by Pharaoh's army, they again enslaved their brethren whom they had just manumitted; and this in violation of their own solemn oath and covenant in the house of God (Jeremiah 34:8-16). How often 'ease recants vows made in pain, as recreant and void.' Sick-bed covenants of repentance are soon forgotten and broken when the fear which produced them is passed away. But they who think thus to cheat God are only cheating themselves, to the everlasting ruin of their souls. "God will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Those who are readiest to bind themselves by gratuitous oaths are often the readiest to break them. Let us be slow in such appeals to Yahweh; and when with due deliberation we make a covenant with God, let us scrupulously adhere to it at all costs. Let us watch and pray continually that we may not be unfaithful to sacramental and other solemn engagements entered into in the house of God. "When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools

... Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay" (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).

(4) God repays men who set at nought their obligations to Him, with most exact retribution. The Jews who would not proclaim liberty to their brethren must be deprived of their own liberty, while their bondmen were to enjoy at the hands of the enemy the freedom which their own countrymen denied them (Jeremiah 52:16). The Jews had been originally delivered from the state of bondmen in Egypt, to be the Lord's servants and freedmen, under His continual protection. But being impatient of His free service they must get their wish, and have the liberty from his service which they strove after-a fatal liberty! for soon they found liberty from Him means bondage to the world. Their liberty was to be unrestricted dooming to the sword, pestilence, famine, and exile (Jeremiah 34:17). They who cut the victim in two, to ratify the cove nant, were for their violation of it to be cut in two themselves. As God gave the besieged Jews manumission by the departure of Nebuchadnezzar's army upon their manumission of their brethren, so God revoked His manumission and recalled the Babylonian army upon their revoking the manumission of their brethren, and forcing them back to service. None ever gains in the end by wronging his fellow-man. God espouses the cause of the oppressed as His cause. Let us, in looking for mercy from God, take care that we exercise mercy to our fellow-men. "Blessed are the merciful, for they" - and they alone - "shall obtain mercy."

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Jeremiah 34". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/jeremiah-34.html. 1871-8.
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