For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2003 James Melough

34:1.  “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,”


God spoke again to Jeremiah while Nebuchadnezzar and his army, and the armies of the nations under his control, were besieging Jerusalem.


34:2.  “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:”


34:3.  “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.”


Zedekiah’s resistance was futile, for God was about to deliver him and the city into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, who would burn Jerusalem, and carry the king prisoner to Babylon.


34:4.  “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:”


34:5.  “But thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odors for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the Lord.”


The “burnings” mentioned here was the customary burning of incense at funerals in honor of the dead; but what is said here has to be understood in context: it would be true only if Zedekiah obeyed God’s word, and surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, which Zedekiah foolishly refused to do, with the result that he was blinded, and died a prisoner in Babylon, see 39:7; 52:7-11; 2 Ki 25:5-5; Ezek 12:12-13.


34:6.  “Then Jeremiah the prophet spake all these words unto Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem,”


34:7.  “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.”


Jerusalem, and the two cities mentioned, were the only ones remaining to be taken by the Babylonians.


34:8.  “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;”


34:9.  “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.”


There can be little doubt that this liberation of the Hebrew slaves was impelled not by altruism, but by a belated attempt to appease God, for His law was that every Hebrew slave was to serve no more than six years, after which he or she was to go out free, see Ex 21:1-4.  But Israel had disobeyed this law, as they had every other that God had given, and this belated obedience was simply an attempt to appease Him, and induce Him to deliver them from the Babylonians.


34:10.  “Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that everyone should let his manservant, and everyone his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.”


The widespread nature of their dereliction relative to God’s law concerning slavery, is declared by the fact that princes and people alike were guilty.


34:11.  “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.”


Their repentance was short-lived.  The approach of the Egyptian army had required the Babylonians to temporarily lift the siege in order to deal with the Egyptians, a withdrawal which Judah foolishly thought was permanent.


34:12.  “Therefore the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,”


34:13.  “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,”


34:14.  “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.”


This law is recorded in Ex 21:1-4.  The seventh year is mentioned here because it was the year in which the slavery ended, and freedom began.


34:15.  “And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty very man to his neighbor; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:”


Their ratification of this covenant had been solemnly made in God’s very presence in the Temple.


34:16.  “But ye turned and polluted (profaned, dishonored) 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.”


Their violation of the covenant dishonored God’s name, for it impugned His integrity since it had been made in His very presence in His house, the Temple.


34:17.  “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: 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.”


God’s requital of their perfidy was that He was now going to release them from His protecting care, and instead deliver them into the hand of the Babylonians to die by the sword, disease, and hunger, the survivors being carried captive into the surrounding nations.


34:18.  “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,”


34:19.  “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;”


The reference here is to the custom used in ratifying a legal agreement.  The covenanting parties walked between the two halves of a split calf, thus signifying the wish that the fate of the slain calf should be that of the one who violated the covenant.  For an example of this, see Ge 15 which records God’s covenant made with Abraham.


The widespread nature of Judah’s dereliction is declared in the fact that the guilty included all the people from the prince, to the priest, to the common man.


34:20.  “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.”


God would utterly forsake that wicked generation, the slaughter He would execute by means of the Babylonians being so terrible as to make burial impossible.  Their carcases would be left as food for the birds and beasts of prey.


34:21.  “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 words, “... which are gone up from you” refers to the fact that the Babylonian’s had temporarily withdrawn from besieging Jerusalem in order to engage the Egyptians who had attempted to aid Judah.


34:22.  “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.”


They would return, however, burning the city to the ground, and leaving the cities of Judah without inhabitant, so that the land would become an unpeopled desolation.

[Jeremiah 35]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough