Jeremiah 34:17
Therefore thus said the LORD; You have not listened to me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, said the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Behold, I proclaim a liberty for you . . . The phrase “proclaim liberty,” prominent in connexion with the law which had been broken (Leviticus 25:10; Isaiah 61:1), is emphasised with an indignant irony. They had refused to act “as the servants of Jehovah” (Leviticus 25:55) under His protection, finding in that service their perfect freedom; and He, therefore, in His righteous wrath, would punish them by giving them the emancipation which they denied to others. He would set them free from His service, and therefore from His protection, and leave them to their fate—to the sword, to the famine, to exile. They had refused the obedience which was freedom: they should have the freedom which would be bondage.

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.I will make you to be removed into - "I will cause you to be a terror unto." Men would shudder at them.17. not … proclaiming liberty—Though the Jews had ostensibly emancipated their bond-servants, they virtually did not do so by revoking the liberty which they had granted. God looks not to outward appearances, but to the sincere intention.

I proclaim a liberty—retribution answering to the offense (Mt 7:2; 18:32, 33; Ga 6:7; Jas 2:13). The Jews who would not give liberty to their brethren shall themselves receive "a liberty" calamitous to them. God will manumit them from His happy and safe service (Ps 121:3), which is real "liberty" (Ps 119:45; Joh 8:36; 2Co 3:17), only to pass under the terrible bondage of other taskmasters, the "sword," &c.

to be removed—The Hebrew expresses agitation (see on [945]Jer 15:4). Compare De 28:25, 48, 64, 65, as to the restless agitation of the Jews in their ceaseless removals from place to place in their dispersion.

They had turned and given a liberty, Jeremiah 34:20; how doth God say here they had not? So God accounteth none to have done those good acts which they do in a fit, or merely to serve themselves of God; he saith they had not done it, because they did not persist to do it; in such a case men’s righteousness shall by God never be remembered, but they shall die in the sins they have committed. Seeing you have refused to manumise your servants at my command, I will manumise you, and set you free from my protection and care. You shall perish by the sword, famine, and pestilence; and those of you who escape them shall see how pleasant a thing it is to be slaves, and in servitude, for you shall be dispersed in many nations, and be servants to the rulers of them. Therefore thus saith the Lord,.... This being the case, and this their crime, which was provoking to the Lord;

ye have not hearkened unto me in proclaiming liberty everyone to his brother, and everyone to his neighbour; for though they did proclaim liberty, they did not act according to it; they did not give the liberty they proclaimed, at least they did not continue so to do; as soon almost as they had granted the favour, they took it away again; and because they did not persevere in well doing, it is reckoned by the Lord as not done at all:

behold, I proclaim liberty for you, saith the Lord; or rather against them; he dismissed them from his service, care, and protection, and consigned them to other lords and masters: he gave them up

to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; to rule over them; and gave them liberty to make havoc of them, and destroy them, that what was left by the one might be seized on by the other:

and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth: or, "for a commotion" (t); to be moved, and wander from place to place in great fear and terror, not knowing where to settle or live comfortably. This was a liberty to go about in foreign countries where they could, for relief and shelter, being banished from their own land; but this was a liberty very miserable and uncomfortable; and indeed no other than captivity and bondage; and so it is threatened that what remained of them, who were not destroyed with the sword of the Chaldeans, or perished not by pestilence and famine, should be carried captive, and be miserable vagabonds in each of the kingdoms and nations of the world.

(t) "in commotionem", Vatablus, Cocceius, Schmidt, "commotioni", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator.

Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened to me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to {g} the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

(g) That is, I give the sword liberty to destroy you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. I proclaim unto you a liberty] The people, hitherto God’s servants, and secure in that service, shall be cast oft by Him, and shall accordingly, being no longer under His protection as their Owner, become subject to the perils which follow.

tossed to and fro] better, as mg. a terror unto. See on Jeremiah 15:4.

17–22. See introd. summary to section.Verse 17. - I proclaim a liberty for you. Judah is henceforth to be "lord of himself - that heritage of woe;" or rather, he is to become the slave of Sword, Pestilence, and Famine. The "liberty" now proclaimed does not profit Judah, who so much desires it. I will make you to be removed; rather, I will make you a shuddering (as Jeremiah 15:4). Threatening 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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