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Zedekiah's Fate, Ch. xxxrv. 1-7.
XXXIV. 1. The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahveh, whilst Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and his whole army, and all the kingdoms of the dominion of his hand, and all nations, were fighting against Jerusalem and against all its cities, as follows: 2. Thus has Yahveh, the God of Israel, said: Go and speak to Zedekiah, the king of Judah, and say to him: Tims says Yahveh: Behold, I give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, that he may burn it with fire. 3. And thou shalt not escape from his hand, but shalt certainly be seized and delivered into his hand, and thine eyes shall see the eyes of the king of Babylon, and his mouth speak to thy mouth, and thou shalt come to Babylon. 4. But hearken to the word of Yahveh, O Zedekiah, king of Judah, thus says Yahveh respecting thee: Thou shalt not perish by the sword; 5. thou shalt die in peace, and they shall kindle burnings for thee as
Chapter XXXIV. 1-7.
Ver. 1. Nebuchadnezzar, see on xxi. 2, xxvii. 1. All nations (omitted by LXX), who fought under the Babylonians. The heaping together of subjects is meant to give vividness to the great host of the invaders. Ver. 2. mDKi "pn, as in ii. 2 and often. Ver. 3. Cf. xxxii. 4. Ver. 4 f. is usually taken as a comforting mitigation of the oracle of destiny: Zedekiah shall not die a violent death, but be honourably interred by his own people, which also may have taken place at Babylon; his fate, therefore, would be more tolerable than that of Jehoiakim (xxii. 18 f.). But the honourable burial after the manner of his fathers rather implies that he will die as king at Jerusalem. Cf. on the other hand the comfortless end, lii. 11. It is rather to be explained, with Hitzig, Graf, after xxxviii. 20: be obedient to the word of the Lord (yBc, with accus. as in xxxv. 14); ver. 4b and 5 contain the promise in this case. Ver. 5. With the for thy fathers, the former kings, who were before thee, and shall mourn for thee, "Alas, Master," for I have spoken the word, is Yahveh's oracle. 6. And the prophet Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, king of Judah, all these words at Jerusalem, 7. whilst the army of the king of Babylon was warring against Jerusalem and against all the remaining cities of Judah, against Lachish and against Azekah; for these were still left among the cities of Judah as fenced cities.
burnings of thy fathers, so shall they burn for thee, i.e. carry out at thy burial such burnings as were usual in the case of kings, 2 Chron. xvi. 14, xxi. 19. The reference is not to the burning of corpses, which, on the contrary, was an offence (Amos ii. 1), except perhaps in time of pestilence (Amos vi. 10), but the burning of incense on a large scale. On mourning for the dead, cf. xxii. 18. Ver. 7. Lachish and Azekah, lying south-west in the Judaean lowland (Josh. xv. 33, 35, 39), were fortified by Eehoboam (2 Chron. xi . 9). Sennacherib had already tried hard to capture Lachish, 2 Kings xviii. 14, 17, xix. 8 = Isa. xxxvi. 2, xxxvii. 8. These were still left among the cities of Judah as fenced cities, i.e. untaken.
Here the fate of King Zedekiah is told him beforehand, as in xxxii. 3-5, but in fuller detail. But we must not suppose that the present is an appendix to that oracle, which occasioned the prophet's imprisonment. According to ch. xxxvii., which gives the exact occurrence, it was not a conversation with the king that led to his imprisonment. Moreover, xxxii. 3-5 does not give a single oracle, but the habitual preaching of the impending issue. On the other hand, xxxiv. 1-7 is the precise recounting of an oracle which Jeremiah had to convey to the king; and, indeed, ver. 2 seems to imply that he was still free, so that we cannot identify this oracle with the conversation in xxxvii. 18 ff. While xxxiv. 1 ff. in any case belongs to a later time than xxi. 1 ff. (ninth year of Zedekiah), since there are only a few fortresses yet unconquered outside Jerusalem (xxxiv. 7), it scarcely belongs to the time after the resumption of the siege spoken of in ver. 22, when Jeremiah
had been long in prison, but to the time of the first siege or that of the temporary deliverance. For the rest, from the beginning to the end of the siege the prophet foretold the fall of the city, if resistance were offered, as well as the captivity of the king, xxi. 4 ff., xxxii. 3 ff., xxxvii. 17, xxxviii. 17 ff. And in the same way, in case they surrendered to the Babylonians, he promised, during the whole time, that the king and city would be treated indulgently. God pledges His word that if the king obeys the prophet's message and submits to the Babylonians, he will not only not be slain by the harsh conqueror, but be left in office and honour until his death (cf. xxxviii. 17, 20). This Jeremiah was permitted to promise him at a time when outside Jerusalem only two cities of the Judaean territory offered resistance to the conquerors.
A Shameful Breach Of Vows, Ch. Xxxiv. 8-22.
XXXIV. 8. The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahveh, after king Zedekiah had made a covenant with the whole people which was at Jerusalem, to proclaim a setting free to them, 9. that every one should let his servant and every one his maid, Hebrew and Hebrewess, go free, that no one should keep his Jewish brother in service. 10. And all the princes and all the people, who had entered into the covenant, had obeyed, that they should freely dismiss every one his servant,
Chapter XXXIV. 8-22.
Ver. 8. The king made a covenant with the people, i.e. they bound themselves reciprocally, to proclaim freedom to them, i.e. to those whom it concerned, those in slavery. The phrase is plainly a technical one for proclaiming a general release, and springs from Lev. xxv. 10 (cf. Ezek. xlvi . 17; Isa. lxi. 1), where it is used on occasion of the jubilee year, the pre-exilian existence of which is confirmed by these prophetic passages, even if it remained mostly an ideal of the lawgiver, like the Sabbatical year and the regulations respecting the release of a slave after six years' service, referred to in ver. 13 f.; see Ex. xxi. and Deut. xv. That a Sabbatical year gave occasion to this decision, is unwarranted conjecture; the prophet makes no direct reference to the jubilee year in ver. 13 f., but to the regulations about the setting free in the sixth year after the purchase of a slave,—regulations existing long before, as is evident here, but not carried out. Respecting the relation of these laws to that about the jubilee year, see Herzog, xiv. p. 341 f. He calls a general release after the manner of the jubilee year wellpleasing to God, because those occasions had been so long neglected, and for this reason the majority of slaves were in illegal bondage. Ver. 9. The regulations refer only to Hebrew slaves, being based on God's relation to His people; Deut. xv. 12 expressly includes the Hebrew maid, Ezek. xxi. not. and every one his maid; they had obeyed and dismissed them; 11. but afterwards they had again brought back the servants and the maids, whom they freely dismissed, and made them subject as servants and maids. 12. Then came the word of Yahveh to Jeremiah as follows: 13. Thus says Yahveh, the God of Israel: I made a covenant with your fathers on the day when I led them forth from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, saying: 14. After the lapse of seven years you shall dismiss every one his brother, the Hebrew who sold himself to thee; and he shall serve thee six years, then thou shalt freely dismiss him from thee. But your fathers hearkened not to me, and inclined not their ear. 15. And you turned this day and did that which is right in mine eyes to proclaim a setting free, every one for his neighbour, and you made a covenant before me in the house over which my name was proclaimed. 16. Then you turned again and polluted my name, and brought back every one his servant and every one his maid whom you had freely dismissed to their will, and made them subject, that they might be your servants and maids. 17. Therefore thus has Yahveh said: You have not hearkened to me to proclaim a setting free every one to his brother, and every one to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a setting free to you, is Yahveh's oracle, to the sword, to pesti
3 i3y, to keep in bondage, as often in Jeremiah (xxii. 13, xxv. 14). Ver. 11. The afterwards is denned by ver. 21 f.; after the withdrawal of the Babylonian army. C33, Kethib, Hiphil, everywhere else Kal (Keri). Ver. 13. I myself am the author of the covenant, by means of which the slaves are again to be free. On the day when I led them out of Egypt—refers to the Sinaitic legislation, which followed on the emancipation, cf. vii. 22. Egypt, the house of bondage, Ex. xx. 2 and often, here with special emphasis, pointing to the right of the slaves to deliverance; cf. Deut. xv. 15. Ver. 14. After Deut. xv. 12, where it is said more precisely that the bondage is only to last six full years. Ver. 15. 3lC, turning to good; on the other hand, in vv. 11 and 16 to bad. The house over which my name was proclaimed, see on vii . 10. Ver. 16. DCB3^, as in Deut. xxi. 14. The soul is the seat of desire, will, and therefore of free decision respecting oneself. Ver. 17. I announce setting free to you; word-play, as in xxiii. 33 = I dismiss you from the relation of service in which you stood to me (Lev.