Jeremiah 34:9
That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.
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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.Should serve himself of them - Should make them serve him (see Jeremiah 25:14).9. none … serve himself of a Jew—(Le 25:39-46). This was the tenor of God’s law mentioned in the above named texts; and it seemeth Zedekiah, taking notice of the common violation of this law, and the Jews’ ordinary oppressing those of their own nation this way, judging that this might be one of those sins for which the wrath of God was at this time kindled against them, he caused the people to make a covenant, that they would give that liberty to their servants of either sex which the law of God required, of which he made proclamation. That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew, or an Hebrewess, go free,.... This is the proclamation that was agreed to be made, that every manservant and maidservant, that serve six years an apprenticeship, should be freed from their servitude, according to the law in Exodus 21:1; a law founded upon justice and equity, mercy and compassion; done for the honour of the Jewish nation, that they might be a free people, and in commemoration of their deliverance from their servitude in Egypt. This law, as it seems, had been long neglected, and servants had been retained in bondage beyond their due time, through the oppression and covetousness of their masters, and the neglect of the civil magistrates; who should have took care that such a law was put in execution, and that servants were not oppressed. Some have thought that it was at the beginning of the sabbatical year that this proclamation was made, when, according to the law, there should be a release of servants, Deuteronomy 15:1; but that was not a release of servants, but of debts; for if a servant had not served out his time, the sabbatical year, or year of release, did not discharge him; though the year of jubilee did, according to Maimonides (l), who says,

"if the year of release happens in any of the six years, he (the servant) serves in it; but if the year of jubilee happens within the time, even though he has been sold but one year before it, he is free;''

that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother; or cause them to serve him, oblige them against their will to continue in his service; or by any means avail himself of them, and receive to himself any profit or advantage by their service, they being Jews and brethren; which seems to be added, both as the reason of the law, because they were brethren of the same nation and religion with them, and to distinguish them from other servants, who notwithstanding this law might be retained as such.

(l) Hilchot Abadim, c. 2. sect. 2.

That every man should release his male {e} servant, and every man his female servant, being a Hebrew man or woman; that none should retain them in service, that is, a Jew his brother.

(e) According to the law, Ex 21:2, De 15:12.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. serve himself of them] The poverty, arising out of the devastation wrought by repeated wars, must have brought about a large amount of servitude, as was the case e.g. in later times. See Nehemiah 5:5, and on Jeremiah 30:8.Verse 9. - Should serve himself of them; literally, should work through them; i.e. "should employ them for forced labour;" as in Jeremiah 25:13. "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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