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"Hard Words to a Fickle King"
Jeremiah 34

Wednesday AM Bible Study
April 12, 2005

A. The context of this first prophecy was the siege of Babylon. Babylon had taken all but three fortified cities of Judah (v. 7); but as they had surrounded Jerusalem, they became threatened by the armies of Pharaoh and temporarily withdrew the siege (37:1-5).

B. At the time of the withdrawal, God spoke through Jeremiah and let Zedekiah know that the Babylonians would return and the city would still be taken captive (37:6-10). It was this prophetic word - probably given just prior to the temporary Babylonian withdrawal - that was being asserted to Zedekiah (vv. 1-3). Though the king of Babylon would drawn back, Zedekiah would still be made to stand before him face to face (2 Kings 25:5-7).

C. Yet, in the midst of this warning, God gives Zedekiah this promise. He would not die by the sword, but die in peace in Babylon. He would be mourned by his people in ceremony like kings before him had been mourned (such as Asa in 2 Chron. 16:13-14, but unlike Jehoram in 2 Chron. 21:19-20).

D. The mention of the timing of this prophecy - apparently "when the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem and all the cities of Judah that were left" (vv. 6-7) - is meant to set the context for the next prophetic word to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was apparently moved by this promise - but, sadly, not moved to genuine repentance.


A. Perhaps the warning from Jeremiah had some effect on Zedekiah, and moved him to make some resolves in the hopes that God would still show favor to him. He made a covenant with the people of Jerusalem who still remained: that they should set free all from among the Hebrew people who had been made slaves - probably as a result of indebtedness (vv. 8-10).
1. This was a matter of simply keeping the command of God's law - which had apparently been neglected. The law of God had commanded that all people from among their own countrymen would be released from their debts every seven years (Deut. 15:1-6; 12-18). This command included a promise of blessing on the nation if it was obeyed.

2. All of the ruling class entered into this covenant that Zedekiah commanded. They even solemnized the act by a ceremonial 'cutting' of a calf in two and passing between the parts (vv. 18-19). This was a way of pledging themselves to this covenant that was first seen in Genesis 15:8-17). It was a way of saying that, if they should break this covenant, may they be slain and their blood poured out as this calf's.

3. This may have even been motivated out of a desire to have enough "free people" to be available to put up some kind of defense against the Babylonians.

B. But it may have been that, after they saw that the Babylonians had withdrawn, that they "changed their minds", and made the slaves return to their state of slavery (v. 11). This moved God, through Jeremiah, to give this second word of prophecy (vv. 12-22):

1. He reminded the people of Judah of the covenant He had made with them after He had delivered them out of slavery - a covenant that they had failed to keep (vv. 13-14).

2. They had recently obeyed; but then they turned around and "profaned" God's name by bringing back the slaves (vv. 15-16).

3. Therefore, God proclaims liberty to them - that is, liberty to be given over to the sword, pestilence and famine; and to captivity to Babylon (vv. 17-22).

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This is a very vivid illustration of Hebrews 10:26-31. May our repentance be true!

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