Jeremiah – Chapter 34

You're Free! (Just Kidding!)

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d spoke to Jeremiah while Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem. He told Jeremiah to go speak to Tzidkiyahu, the king of Judah. (Apparently this incident occurred while Jeremiah was not in prison.) Jeremiah was instructed to say that the city would fall to the Babylonians and the king would be among the captives. However, Tzidkiyahu would not be killed; he would die in peace and be mourned by the people. (Apparently, the people were not permitted to honor those executed by the Babylonian kings.)

Jeremiah received another message from G-d after Tzidkiyahu made a deal with the people of Jerusalem to free their Jewish servants. The people had agreed and freed their servants, but later they reneged and pressed their former servants back into service. G-d’s message was that He made a covenant with the people when He brought them out of Egypt: servitude of a Jewish slave would be six years and in the seventh they go free. But the people’s ancestors violated this rule (as they did many others). So the people of Jeremiah’s generation did the right thing by freeing their servants, but then they went and messed it up! Since they refused others freedom, G-d is “freeing” them to war, famine and plague. (The idea is that the people are G-d’s servants and He is “freeing” them from His domain, which makes them fair game for this kind of destruction.)

The people had made a pact, by cutting a calf in half, to rebel against deal with Tzidkiyahu and G-d’s law regarding slaves. G-d will deal with these people. They will fall to their enemies and become food for scavengers. Tzidkiyahu and his court, however, will go into captivity. G-d will call the departing invaders back to Jerusalem, which they will burn and sack, as they would do with other cities of Judah.

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