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Jeremiah 34:12-22

Context
34:12 That was when the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, 1  34:13 “The Lord God of Israel has a message for you. 2  ‘I made a covenant with your ancestors 3  when I brought them out of Egypt where they had been slaves. 4  It stipulated, 5  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.” 6  But your ancestors did not obey me or pay any attention to me. 34:15 Recently, however, you yourselves 7  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. 8  34:16 But then you turned right around 9  and showed that you did not honor me. 10  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. 11  34:17 So I, the Lord, say: “You have not really obeyed me and granted freedom to your neighbor and fellow countryman. 12  Therefore, I will grant you freedom, the freedom 13  to die in war, or by starvation or disease. I, the Lord, affirm it! 14  I will make all the kingdoms of the earth horrified at what happens to you. 15  34:18 I will punish those people who have violated their covenant with me. I will make them like the calf they cut in two and passed between its pieces. 16  I will do so because they did not keep the terms of the covenant they made in my presence. 17  34:19 I will punish the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, 18  the priests, and all the other people of the land who passed between the pieces of the calf. 19  34:20 I will hand them over to their enemies who want to kill them. Their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals. 20  34:21 I will also hand King Zedekiah of Judah and his officials over to their enemies who want to kill them. I will hand them over to the army of the king of Babylon, even though they have temporarily withdrawn from attacking you. 21  34:22 For I, the Lord, affirm that 22  I will soon give the order and bring them back to this city. They will fight against it and capture it and burn it down. I will also make the towns of Judah desolate so that there will be no one living in them.”’”

1 tn Heb “And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying.” This is the resumption of the introduction in v. 8 after the lengthy description of the situation that had precipitated the Lord’s message to Jeremiah. “That was when” is intended to take the reader back to v. 8.

2 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.

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

4 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).)

5 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.

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

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

8 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.

9 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”).

10 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).

11 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.

12 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.

13 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).

14 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”

15 sn Compare Jer 15:4; 24:9; 29:18.

16 sn See the study note on v. 8 for explanation and parallels.

17 tn There is a little confusion in the syntax of this section because the noun “the calf” does not have any formal conjunction or preposition with it showing how it relates to the rest of the sentence. KJV treats it and the following words as though they were a temporal clause modifying “covenant which they made.” The majority of modern English versions and commentaries, however, understand it as a second accusative after the verb + object “I will make the men.” This fits under the category of what GKC 375 §118.r calls an accusative of comparison (compare usage in Isa 21:8; Zech 2:8). Stated baldly, “I will make the people…the calf,” it is, however, more forceful than the formal use of the noun + preposition כְּ just as metaphors are generally more forceful than similes. The whole verse is one long, complex sentence in Hebrew: “I will make the men who broke my covenant [referring to the Mosaic covenant containing the stipulation to free slaves after six years] [and] who did not keep the terms of the covenant which they made before me [referring to their agreement to free their slaves] [like] the calf which they cut in two and passed between its pieces.” The sentence has been broken down into shorter sentences in conformity with contemporary English style.

18 tn For the rendering of this term see the translator’s note on 29:2.

19 tn This verse is not actually a sentence in the Hebrew original but is a prepositioned object to the verb in v. 20, “I will hand them over.” This construction is called casus pendens in the older grammars and is used to call attention to a subject or object (cf. GKC 458 §143.d and compare the usage in 33:24). The same nondescript “I will punish” which was used to resolve the complex sentence in the previous verse has been chosen to introduce the objects here before the more specific “I will hand them over” in the next verse.

20 sn See this same phrase in Jer 7:33; 16:4; 19:7.

21 tn Heb “And Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials I will give into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives and into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon which has gone up from against them.” The last two “and into the hand” phrases are each giving further explication of “their enemies” (the conjunction is explicative [cf. BDB 252 s.v. וְ 1.b]). The sentence has been broken down into shorter English sentences in conformity with contemporary English style.

sn This refers to the relief offered by the withdrawal of the Babylonian troops to fight against the Egyptians which were coming to Zedekiah’s aid (cf. 37:5, 7, 11).

22 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”



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