Jeremiah 34:11
But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
34:8-22 A Jew should not be held in servitude above seven years. This law they and their fathers had broken. And when there was some hope that the siege was raised, they forced the servants they had released into their services again. Those who think to cheat God by dissembled repentance and partial reformation, put the greatest cheat upon their own souls. This shows that liberty to sin, is really only liberty to have the sorest judgments. It is just with God to disappoint expectations of mercy, when we disappoint the expectations of duty. And when reformation springs only from terror, it is seldom lasting. Solemn vows thus entered into, profane the ordinances of God; and the most forward to bind themselves by appeals to God, are commonly most ready to break them. Let us look to our hearts, that our repentance may be real, and take care that the law of God regulates our conduct.They turned, and caused ... to return - But afterward they again made the slaves return.11. During the interruption of the siege by Pharaoh-hophra (compare Jer 34:21, 22, with Jer 37:5-10), the Jews reduced their servants to bondage again. Like a company of wretched hypocrites, they reformed this abuse only to serve a turn, which when it was served they returned again to their old oppression; and in this thing not the people alone, but the government, was to be blamed, for their judges in the courts of justice ought to have executed the law of the Lord, and to have restrained the covetous and oppressive humour of the people. The learned author of the English Annotations thinketh that that which altered their minds was a little alteration of their state, during the siege; for, Jeremiah 37:5, we read that the Babylonians and Chaldeans hearing of an army coming out of Egypt, to relieve the city, left the siege for a time, and that the prophet, Jeremiah 34:22 of this chapter, relates to that, when he prophesied that the king of Babylon’s army should return. But these wretched men, seeing the Babylonian army raised from the siege, concluded they were now out of God’s hands, and repented of their repentance in this particular, and would make all their servants return into their former servitude. But afterwards they turned,.... From the law of God, and their own agreement, and returned to their former usage of their servants; they changed their minds and measures. This seems to be done, when the king of Babylon, hearing the king of Egypt was coming to break up the siege of Jerusalem, quitted it, and went forth to meet him, as appears from Jeremiah 34:21; the Jews now finding themselves at liberty, and out of danger as they imagined, wickedly rebelled against the law of God; perfidiously broke their own covenant, repenting of what they had done, and returned to their former ways of oppression and cruelty; which shows they were not hearty and sincere in their covenant:

and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free,

to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids; which was done by force, contrary to the will of their servants and handmaids, and in violation of the law of God, and their own solemn oath and covenant.

But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
"Thus saith Jahveh: Behold, I will deliver this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, that he may burn it with fire. Jeremiah 34:3. 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 shall speak with thy mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon. Jeremiah 34:4. But hear the word of Jahveh, O Zedekiah, king of Judah. Thus saith Jahveh concerning thee: Thou shalt not die by the sword. Jeremiah 34:5. In peace shalt thou die; and as with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings who were before thee, so shall they make a burning for thee, and they shall wail for thee, [crying,] 'Alas, lord!' for I have spoken the word, saith Jahveh. - On Jeremiah 34:2, Jeremiah 34:3, cf. Jeremiah 32:3-5. "But hear," Jeremiah 34:4, introduces an exception to what has been said before; but the meaning of Jeremiah 34:4, Jeremiah 34:5 is disputed. They are usually understood in this say: Zedekiah shall be carried into exile to Babylon, but shall not be killed with the sword, or executed, but shall die a peaceful death, and be buried with royal honours. But C. B. Michaelis, Venema, Hitzig, and Graf take the words as an exception that will occur, should Zedekiah follow the advice given him to deliver himself up to the king of Babylon, instead of continuing the struggle. Then what is denounced in Jeremiah 34:3 will not happen; Zedekiah shall not be carried away to Babylon, but shall die as king in Jerusalem. This view rests on the hypothesis that the divine message has for its object to induce the king to submit and give up himself (cf. Jeremiah 38:17.). But this supposition has no foundation; and what must be inserted, as the condition laid before Zedekiah, "if thou dost willingly submit to the king of Babylon," is quite arbitrary, and incompatible with the spirit of the word, "But hear the word of Jahveh," for in this case Jeremiah 34:4 at least would require to run, "Obey the word of Jahveh" (שׁמע בּדבר ), as Jeremiah 38:20. To take the words שׁמע דברin the sense, "Give ear to the word, obey the word of Jahveh," is not merely inadmissible grammatically, but also against the context; for the word of Jahveh which Zedekiah is to hear, gives no directions as to how he is to act, but is simply an intimation as to what the end of his life shall be: to change or avert this does not stand in his power, so that we cannot here think of obedience or disobedience. The message in Jeremiah 34:4, Jeremiah 34:5 states more in detail what that was which lay before Zedekiah: he shall fall into the hands of the king of Babylon, be carried into exile in Babylon, yet shall not die a violent death through the sword, but die peacefully, and be buried with honour - not, like Jehoiakim, fall in battle, and be left unmourned and unburied (Jeremiah 22:18.). This intimation accords with the notices given elsewhere as to the end of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 32:5; Jeremiah 39:5-7). Although Zedekiah died a prisoner in Babylon (Jeremiah 52:11), yet his imprisonment would not necessarily be an obstacle in the way of an honourable burial after the fashion of his fathers. When Jehoiachin, after an imprisonment of thirty-seven years, was raised again to royal honours, then also might there be accorded not merely a tolerably comfortable imprisonment to Zedekiah himself, but to the Jews also, at his death, the permission to bury their king according to their national custom. Nor is anything to be found elsewhere contrary to this view of the words. The supposition that Zedekiah caused the prophet to be imprisoned on account of this message to him, which Ngelsbach has laboured hard to reconcile with the common acceptation of the passage, is wholly devoid of foundation in fact, and does not suit the time into which this message falls; for Jeremiah was not imprisoned till after the time when the Chaldeans were obliged for a season to raise the siege, on the approach of the Egyptians, and that, too, not at the command of the king, but by the watchman at the gate, on pretence that he was a deserter. "Thou shalt die in peace," in contrast with "thou shalt die by the sword," marks a peaceful death on a bed of sickness in contrast with execution, but not (what Graf introduces into the words) in addition, his being deposited in the sepulchre of his fathers. "With the burnings of thy fathers," etc., is to be understood, according to 2 Chronicles 16:14; 2 Chronicles 21:19, of the burning of aromatic spices in honour of the dead; for the burning of corpses was not customary among the Hebrews: see on 2 Chronicles 16:14. On "alas, lord!" see Jeremiah 22:18. This promise is strengthened by the addition, "for I have spoken the word," where the emphasis lies on the אני: I the Lord have spoken the word, which therefore shall certainly be fulfilled. - In Jeremiah 34:6, Jeremiah 34:7 it is further remarked in conclusion, that Jeremiah addressed these words to the king during the siege of Jerusalem, when all the cities of Judah except Lachish and Azekah were already in the power of the Chaldeans. ערי is not in apposition to ערי יהוּדה, but belongs to נשׁארוּ: "they were left among the towns of Judah as strong cities;" i.e., of the strong cities of Judah, they alone had not yet been conquered.
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