The Fall of Jerusalem
Zedekiah Condemned. 1 While Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and his entire army and all the kingdoms of the earth under his dominion and all the people in the empire he ruled were waging war against Jerusalem and all its towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 Go forth to Zedekiah, the king of Judah, and say to him: Thus says the Lord: I intend to hand over this city to the king of Babylon, and he will order that it be burned to the ground. 3 And you yourself will not escape his clutches, for there is no doubt that you will be captured and delivered into his hands. With your own eyes you will see the king of Babylon, and he will speak with you face to face. Then you will go to Babylon.
4 But even so, listen to the promise of the Lord to you, Zedekiah, king of Judah. This is what the Lord promises in your regard: You will not die by the sword. 5 Rather, you will die a peaceful death. And just as the people burned spices in honor of your ancestors, the kings who preceded you, so they will mourn your passing and burn spices for you, as they lament, “Alas, O king.” I myself have made this promise, says the Lord.
6 The prophet Jeremiah revealed all these things to Zedekiah, the king of Judah, in Jerusalem 7 while the army of the king of Babylon was attacking Jerusalem and the remaining cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Azekah,[a] for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that were still standing.
The Broken Promise. 8 This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to issue a proclamation of freedom for their slaves. 9 Everyone who had Hebrew slaves, whether male or female, was to grant them freedom, and no one would be allowed to keep a fellow Jew in the state of slavery.
10 All of the officials and the people who entered into this agreement, swearing that they would set free their male and female slaves so that they would not again be enslaved, obeyed and granted them their freedom. 11 Afterward, however, they changed their minds and once again forced back into slavery those to whom they had granted their freedom.
12 Then this word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I made a covenant with your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery, saying, 14 “Every seventh year each one of you must set free any Hebrew who has sold himself to you as a slave and has served you for six years.”
Your fathers, however, did not listen to me or obey me. 15 Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight by proclaiming that freedom was to be given to your brethren and even making a covenant with me in the house that bears my name. 16 Now, however, you have renounced that agreement and profaned my name when each of you took back the male and female slaves to whom you had granted freedom and forced them once again to be your slaves.
17 Therefore, thus says the Lord: Inasmuch as you have not obeyed me and refused to grant deliverance to your neighbors and kinsmen, now I will proclaim deliverance for you—deliverance to the sword, to plague, and to famine. I will make you an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 As for those who have violated my covenant and refused to observe the terms of the covenant to which they agreed in my presence, I will treat them like the calf which they cut in two and then passed between its pieces.[b] 19 The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf 20 will be handed over to their enemies who seek their lives. Their corpses will become food for the birds of the air and the animals of the earth.
21 As for Zedekiah, the king of Judah, and his officials, I will hand them over to their enemies who seek their lives and to the army of the king of Babylon which has withdrawn from you. 22 I will issue the command, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to this city. They will attack it and capture it and burn it to the ground. And I will turn the towns of Judah into a desolate wasteland where no one dwells.
- Jeremiah 34:7 Lachish and Azekah: two cities southwest of Jerusalem, on the coastal plain.
- Jeremiah 34:18 The calf . . . : the reference is to an ancient rite for ratifying an agreement (see Gen 15:9).