Message to Zedekiah
Verse 1 – The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army, all the kingdoms of the earth under his dominion, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem and all its cities, saying,
Verse 2 – “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
Verse 3 – ‘And you shall not escape from his hand, but shall surely be taken and delivered into his hand; your eyes shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon, he shall speak with you face to face, and you shall go to Babylon.’ ” ‘
King Zedekiah would see the king of Babylon face to face and watch his sons be executed, and then his eyes would be put out.
Verse 4 – “Yet hear the word of the Lord, O Zedekiah king of Judah! Thus says the Lord concerning you: ‘You shall not die by the sword.
Verse 5 – ‘But you shall die in peace; as in the ceremonies of your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so they shall burn incense for you and lament for you, saying, “Alas, lord!” ‘ For I have pronounced the word,” says the Lord.
Zedekiah would die in Babylon and have a burning ceremony, just like the “funeral fire” at other royal funerals.
Verse 6 – Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem,
Verse 7 – when the king of Babylon’s army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish and Azekah; for only these fortified cities remained of the cities of Judah.
Lachish was a fortified city 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Azekah, likewise fortified, was northeast of Lachish.
Message to the people
Verse 8 – This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, after king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were at Jerusalem to proclaim liberty to them:
Verse 9 – that every man should set free his male and female slave – a Hebrew man or woman – that no one should keep a Jewish brother in bondage.
Zedekiah thought he could win God’s favor with a kind act, but what he really needed was a changed heart. When the siege was temporarily lifted, the people became bold and returned to their sin. Have you ever prayed for God to get you out of a certain situation, and He does, but before long you were right back to living the way you used to? I watched our government do this after 9/11. They stood united, but before long were right back to bickering and fighting and shoving unjust laws down the American people’s throats. This is exactly what Judah did.
Verse 10 – Now when all the princes and all the people, who had entered into the covenant, heard that everyone should set free his male and female slaves, that no one keep them in bondage anymore, they obeyed and let them go.
verse 11 – But afterward they changed their minds and made the male and female slaves return, whom they had set free, and brought them into subjection as male and female slaves.
Verse 12 – Therefore the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
Verse 13 – “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, saying,
Verse 14 – “At the end of seven years let every man set free his Hebrew brother, who has been sold to him, and when he has served their six years, you shall let him go free from you.” But your fathers did not obey Me nor incline their ear.
Verse 15 – ‘Then you recently turned and did what was right in My sight – every man proclaiming liberty to his neighbor; and you made a covenant before Me in the house which is called by My name.
Verse 16 – ‘Then you turned around and profaned My name, and every one of you brought back his male and female slaves, whom he had set at liberty, at their pleasure, and brought them back into subjection, to be your male and female slaves.’
The king and officials had stood in God’s temple and made a promise to let their slaves go but after a time, went backwards on that promise. We shouldn’t make promises to God out of desperation, and then when we think “all is well” break those promises. This is no small thing in God’s eyes.
Verse 17 – “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘You have not obeyed Me in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and every one to his neighbor. Behold, I proclaim liberty to you,’ says the Lord – ‘to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine! And I will deliver you to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth.
Verse 18 – ‘And I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between the parts of it –
Verse 19 – ‘the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf –
Verse 20 – ‘I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their life. Their dead bodies shall be for meat for the birds of heaven and the beasts of the earth.
Cutting a calf in two and walking between the two halves was a customary way to ratify a contract (Genesis 15:9). So the parties were saying, “If I don’t keep this contract, may I die like this calf.” But they broke it and now everyone who was involved would be handed over to their enemies.
Verse 21 – ‘And I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes into the hand of their enemies, into the hand of those who seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army which has gone back from you.
Verse 22 – ‘Behold, I will command,’ says the Lord, and cause them to return to this city. They will fight against it and take it and burn it with fire; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without inhabitant.’ ”
Nebuchadnezzar’s army had withdrawn briefly, but God would give the command for them to return. Archaeologists have not found a single town in Judah that was occupied from the time of this destruction up to the Hebrew return from exile.