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Jeremiah 34:1-7

The Lord Makes an Ominous Promise to Zedekiah

34:1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah while King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was attacking Jerusalem 1  and the towns around it with a large army. This army consisted of troops from his own army and from the kingdoms and peoples of the lands under his dominion. 2  34:2 The Lord God of Israel told Jeremiah 3  to go and give King Zedekiah of Judah a message. He told Jeremiah 4  to tell him, “The Lord says, ‘I am going to 5  hand this city over to the king of Babylon and he will burn it down. 34:3 You yourself will not escape his clutches, but will certainly be captured and handed over to him. You must confront the king of Babylon face to face and answer to him personally. 6  Then you must go to Babylon. 34:4 However, listen to what I, the Lord, promise you, King Zedekiah of Judah. I, the Lord, promise that 7  you will not die in battle or be executed. 8  34:5 You will die a peaceful death. They will burn incense at your burial just as they did at the burial of your ancestors, the former kings who preceded you. 9  They will mourn for you, saying, “Poor, poor master!” 10  Indeed, you have my own word on this. 11  I, the Lord, affirm it!’” 12 

34:6 The prophet Jeremiah told all this to King Zedekiah of Judah in Jerusalem. 34:7 He did this while the army of the king of Babylon was attacking Jerusalem and the cities of Lachish and Azekah. He was attacking these cities because they were the only fortified cities of Judah which were still holding out. 13 

1 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

2 tn Heb “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord while Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms of the earth under the dominion of his hand and all the peoples were fighting against Jerusalem and against all its towns, saying.” The sentence is obviously too long and the qualifiers obviously too ill-defined to translate literally. This same introductory formula has occurred in 7:1; 11:1; 18:1; 21:1; 30:1; 32:1 but without such a long introductory phrase. It is generally agreed that the phrase “all the peoples” should be seen as a parallel term to “all the kingdoms” under the qualifying “under the dominion of his hand/ control” and what is referred to are contingent forces supplied by these vassal kingdoms and peoples under the terms of their vassal treaties with Nebuchadnezzar. Some of the nature of the make-up of these forces may be seen from a reference to Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite raiders in the earlier attacks on Jerusalem during the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kgs 24:2).

sn It is difficult to assign dates to passages which have no dating formulas but there is sufficient detail in this passage to show that this incident occurred sometime early in the siege of Jerusalem while Jeremiah was still free to come and go (see v. 2 and compare 37:4 and see the second study note on 32:2). The Babylonian forces blockaded Jerusalem and attacked the outlying cities, reducing them one by one until Jerusalem had no further help. According to v. 7 Azekah and Lachish in the western foothills still held out and there is evidence from some of the correspondence from Lachish at this period that help was being sought from Egypt.

3 tn Heb “told him”; the referent (Jeremiah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

4 tn Heb “told him”; the referent (Jeremiah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 tn Heb 34:1 “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord…saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I am going to….”’”’” The translation has tried to avoid some of the confusion that is created by embedding quotations within quotations by using indirect quotation in some instances; the conceptualization is the same but the style is simpler.

6 tn Heb “Your eyes will see the eyes of the king of Babylon and his mouth will speak with your mouth.” For this same idiom in reverse order see 32:4 and consult the translator’s note there for the obligatory nuance given to the verbs.

sn For the fulfillment of this see Jer 52:7-11.

7 tn Heb “However, hear the word of the Lord, Zedekiah king of Judah, ‘Thus says the Lord to you, “You will not die by the sword.”’” The translation has tried to avoid the complexity created by embedding quotes within quotes and has used the first person address within the Lord’s speech as has also been done elsewhere.

8 tn Heb “by the sword.”

sn The contrast is between death in battle or by execution and death in the normal course of life. Zedekiah was captured, had to witness the execution of his sons, had his eyes put out, and was taken to Babylon where he died after a lengthy imprisonment (Jer 52:10-11).

9 tn Heb “And like the burning [of incense] for your fathers, the former kings who were before you, so will they burn [incense] for you.” The sentence has been reversed for easier style and the technical use of the terms interpreted.

sn For the custom referred to compare 2 Chr 16:14; 21:19.

10 sn The intent of this oracle may have been to contrast the fate of Zedekiah with that of Jehoiakim who was apparently executed, went unmourned, and was left unburied (contrast Jer 22:18-19).

11 tn Heb “For [or Indeed] I myself have spoken [this] word.”

12 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

13 tn Heb “And the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah which were left, [namely] against Lachish and Azekah for they alone were left of the cities of Judah as fortified cities.” The intent of this sentence is to serve as a circumstantial sentence to v. 6 (= “while the army…”). That thought is picked up by “he did this while….” The long complex sentence in v. 7 has been broken down and qualifying material placed in the proper places to convey the same information in shorter English sentences in conformity with contemporary English style.

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