Monday, August 31, 2015
It’s Not a Mistake
The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities thereof, saying, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire: And thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 34:1-3)
Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian forces had invaded Judah for the third time and were systematically defeating the individual cities. The siege of Jerusalem itself would take about two years, but this time they are frustrated enough they will not stop until the city is completely wiped out. God sent Jeremiah with a message to King Zedekiah, warning him that God will not protect Jerusalem but will turn it over to the Babylonians, and Zedekiah will be captured as well and taken to Babylon himself.
“Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of thee, Thou shalt not die by the sword: But thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the LORD.
Then Jeremiah the prophet spake all these words unto Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem, When the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah. ” (Jeremiah 34:4-7)
While Zedekiah would be taken to Babylon as a prisoner, he would not be executed but would die in peace and his burial would be with respect like previous kings of Judah, and the people would be reminded that it was what God had said. When Jeremiah delivered the prophecy, only two fortified cities, Lachish and Azekah were still standing. All the others had been destroyed.
“This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them; 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.
Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go. 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 34:8-11)
Under the law, God specified that a person could not be forced into bondage more than six years. In the Sabbatical year they were to be released. Exodus 21;2 commanded, “ If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.” The Jews had not observed that law for a century or more. In an effort to gain support for the rebellion against Babylon, Zedekiah negotiated an agreement that the slaves would all be freed. The wealthy agreed to free their employees, realizing people would fight harder to protect their own stuff, but when they realized that they would have to do things themselves or pay to have work done they violated the agreement and forced the former employees and servants back into slavery. Giving servants freedom was a great idea but it was for other people to do.
“Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.
And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.” (Jeremiah 34:12-16)
Though their reasons for setting the servants free was wrong, they were doing what he commanded, and God was pleased by their commitment. He was angered when they then reversed themselves and forced the people back into subjection just like they had been before.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto 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 the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof.
The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf; I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth. And Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which are gone up from you. Behold, I will command, saith the LORD, and cause them to return to this city; and they shall fight against it, and take it, and burn it with fire: and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant.” (Jeremiah 34:17-22)
God was going to proclaim liberty for them the same way they had proclaimed liberty to their servants. Making it seem like they were really getting free when in fact they were even more enslaved. They will be forced into subjection by military force, by disease, by starvation, and carried away as captives to every country of the earth. The people who had participated in making the agreement, signing and oath before God, in his name, who then broke it will be delivered into servitude to their enemies and people who want to kill them. Their bodies will not be buried but will provide food for the scavengers. Though the Babylonians had withdrawn the army when Zedekiah as made king, God himself will order them to return and defeat, and completely burn it down, leaving the entire land of Judah uninhabited.
By making the commitment to free their servants, Judah had shown they were aware what they were doing was wrong. There is no way breaking the promise and forcing the people back into subjection after promising to free them could be an accident or a mistake, It was a deliberate and intentional breaking of God’s command and their own word. It was inexcusable.