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Jeremiah 34:8

Context
The Lord Threatens to Destroy Those Who Wronged Their Slaves

34:8 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah after King Zedekiah had made a covenant 1  with all the people in Jerusalem 2  to grant their slaves their freedom.

Jeremiah 34:13-17

Context
34:13 “The Lord God of Israel has a message for you. 3  ‘I made a covenant with your ancestors 4  when I brought them out of Egypt where they had been slaves. 5  It stipulated, 6  34:14 “Every seven years each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you for six years, you shall set them free.” 7  But your ancestors did not obey me or pay any attention to me. 34:15 Recently, however, you yourselves 8  showed a change of heart and did what is pleasing to me. You granted your fellow countrymen their freedom and you made a covenant to that effect in my presence in the house that I have claimed for my own. 9  34:16 But then you turned right around 10  and showed that you did not honor me. 11  Each of you took back your male and female slaves whom you had freed as they desired, and you forced them to be your slaves again. 12  34:17 So I, the Lord, say: “You have not really obeyed me and granted freedom to your neighbor and fellow countryman. 13  Therefore, I will grant you freedom, the freedom 14  to die in war, or by starvation or disease. I, the Lord, affirm it! 15  I will make all the kingdoms of the earth horrified at what happens to you. 16 

1 tn Usually translated “covenant.” See the study note on 11:2 for the rationale for the translation here.

sn There are no details regarding the nature of this covenant, but it was probably a parity covenant in which the people agreed to free their slaves in exchange for some concessions from the king (see the study note on 11:2 for more details on the nature of ancient Near Eastern covenants). More details about this covenant are given in vv. 15, 18-19 where it is said to have been made before the Lord in the temple and involved passing between the pieces of a cut-up calf. Hence it involved their swearing an oath invoking the Lord’s name (cf. Gen 21:23; 31:51-53; 1 Sam 20:42) and pronouncing self-maledictory curses on themselves calling down on themselves a fate similar to that of the dead calf if they failed to keep it. (This latter practice is illustrated in treaty documents from the ancient Near East and is reflected in the covenant ceremony in Gen 15:8-16.)

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

3 tn Heb “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘…’” The style adopted here has been used to avoid a longer, more complex English sentence.

4 tn Heb “fathers” (also in vv. 14, 15).

5 tn Heb “out of the house of bondage.”

sn This refers to the Mosaic covenant, initiated at Mount Sinai and renewed on the plains of Moab. The statement “I brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” functions as the “historical prologue” in the Ten Commandments which is the Lord’s vassal treaty with Israel in miniature. (See the study note on 11:2 and see Exod 20:2; Deut 5:6 and Exod 34:8. As such it was a motivating factor in their pledge of loyalty to him. This statement was also invoked within the law itself as a motivation for kindly treatment of slaves including their emancipation (see Deut 15:15).)

6 tn Heb “made a covenant, saying.” This was only one of several stipulations of the covenant. The form used here has been chosen as an indirect way of relating the specific stipulation that is being focused upon to the general covenant that is referred to in v. 13.

7 sn Compare Deut 15:12-18 for the complete statement of this law. Here only the first part of it is cited.

8 tn The presence of the independent pronoun in the Hebrew text is intended to contrast their actions with those of their ancestors.

9 sn This refers to the temple. See Jer 7:10, 11, 14, 30 and see the translator’s note on 7:10 and the study note on 10:25 for the explanation of the idiom involved here.

10 sn The verb at the beginning of v. 15 and v. 16 are the same in the Hebrew. They had two changes of heart (Heb “you turned”), one that was pleasing to him (Heb “right in his eyes”) and one that showed they did not honor him (Heb “profaned [or belittled] his name”).

11 sn Heb “you profaned my name.” His name had been invoked in the oath confirming the covenant. Breaking the covenant involved taking his name in vain (cf. Exod 20:7; Deut 5:11; Jer 5:2). Hence the one who bore the name was not treated with the special honor and reverence due him (see the study note on 23:27 for the significance of “name” in the OT).

12 tn Heb “and you brought them into subjection to be to you for male and female slaves.” See the translator’s note on v. 11 for the same redundant repetition which is not carried over into the contemporary English sentence.

13 tn The Hebrew text has a compound object, the two terms of which have been synonyms in vv. 14, 15. G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, and T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 189) make the interesting observation that these two terms (Heb “brother” and “neighbor”) emphasize the relationships that should have taken precedence over their being viewed as mere slaves.

14 sn This is, of course, a metaphorical and ironical use of the term “to grant freedom to.” It is, however, a typical statement of the concept of talionic justice which is quite often operative in God’s judgments in the OT (cf., e.g., Obad 15).

15 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

16 sn Compare Jer 15:4; 24:9; 29:18.



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