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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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.
Jeremiah 34:11Threatening because of the Re-enslavement of the Liberated Hebrew Men-and Maid-servants. - Jeremiah 34:8-11 describe the occasion of the word of the Lord, which follows in Jeremiah 34:12-22. It came to Jeremiah "after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty to them, that every one should send away his man-servant, or his maid-servant, being a Hebrew or Hebrewess, so that none should impose servitude on any one of them who was a Jew, his brother. Jeremiah 34:10. And all the princes and all the people who entered into the covenant obeyed, each one setting free his man-servant and his maid-servant, and not imposing servitude on them any more: they obeyed and each one set them free. Jeremiah 34:11. But they turned round afterwards, and brought back the servants and the handmaids whom they had set free, and brought them under subjection, for servants and for handmaids." The covenant which Zedekiah concluded with all the people at Jerusalem, according to what follows, consisted in a solemn vow made before the Lord in the temple, probably confirmed by sacrifices, to set free the male and female slaves of Hebrew descent, in conformity with the law, Exodus 21:1-4; Deuteronomy 15:12.

The law required the gratuitous manumission of these after seven years of service. This time, indeed, is not mentioned in our verses, but it is assumed as well known through the law. But, in the general departure of the people from the Lord and His commandments, the observance of this law had probably long been intermitted, so that, in consequence of the solemn engagement to obey it once more, a great number of Hebrew male and female slaves received their freedom, inasmuch as very many had served longer than seven years; however, we need not suppose that all bond men and women were liberated at once. The resolution, Jeremiah 34:9, that every one should liberate his Hebrew man-or maid-servant, and that no one should continue to impose servitude on a Jew, his brother, i.e., compel him any longer to serve as a slave, is conditioned by the law, which is assumed as well known: this also accords with the expression לבלתּי עבד־בּם, which is used in a general way of the treatment of Hebrew men-and maid-servants, Leviticus 25:39. However, it is also possible that a liberation of all bond men and women took place without regard to the duration of their servitude, partly for the purpose of averting, by such obedience to the law, the calamity now threatening the city, and partly also to employ the liberated slaves in the defence of the city; for, according to Jeremiah 34:21., the emancipation took place during the siege of Jerusalem, and after the departure of the Chaldeans the solemn promise was revoked. The expression קתא דרור, "to proclaim liberty," is taken from Leviticus 25:10, but it does not prove that the manumission took place on a sabbath-or jubilee-year. להם refers ad sensum to those who were bondmen and had a right to be set free. The general expression is explained by שׁלּח חפשׁים, and this again is more closely defined by לבלתּי עבד־בּם (cf. Leviticus 25:39). אישׁ בּיהוּדי אחיהוּ, (that no one should labour) "though a Jew, who is his brother," i.e., a fellow-countryman; i.e., that no one should impose servitude on a Jew, as being a compatriot. "To enter into a covenant" is to assume its obligation; cf. 2 Chronicles 15:12; Ezekiel 16:8. The Kethib יכבישׁום receives, in the Qeri, the vowels of the Kal, since the Hiphil of this verb does not occur elsewhere, only the Kal, cf. 2 Chronicles 28:10; but the alteration is unnecessary - the Hiphil may intensify the active meaning.

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