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Jeremiah Chapter Thirty-four                            


Jeremiah 34

Chapter Contents

Zedekiah's death at Babylon foretold. (1-7) The Jews reproved for compelling their poor brethren to return to unlawful bondage. (8-22)

Commentary on Jeremiah 34:1-7

(Read Jeremiah 34:1-7)

Zedekiah is told that the city shall be taken, and that he shall die a captive, but he shall die a natural death. It is better to live and die penitent in a prison, than to live and die impenitent in a palace.

Commentary on Jeremiah 34:8-22

(Read Jeremiah 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.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Jeremiah


Jeremiah 34

Verse 5

[5] 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.

Ah Lord — The Jews in their chronology, give us the form of the lamentation thus. Alas! Zedekiah is dead, who drank the dregs of all ages: that is, who was punished for the sins of all former ages.

Verse 17

[17] 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.

Behold — You shall perish by the sword, famine and pestilence, and those of you who escape them, shall be slaves, in many nations.

Verse 18

[18] 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,

Cut the calf — It seems these Jews in their making of the solemn covenant with God about releasing their servants used this rite; they caused a calf, or heifer to be cut in pieces, and the parts to be laid in the temple, right over-against one another; then they recited this covenant, and passed between the parts of the heifer so cut; silently agreeing that God should cut them in pieces like that beast if they did not make their words good.

Verse 22

[22] 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.

Behold — I will put into their hearts to return.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Jeremiah


34 Chapter 34


Verses 1-22

Verse 17

Jeremiah 34:17

Ye have not hearkened unto Me, in proclaiming liberty.

The liberty of sin

The Word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah that all bondservants in Israel should be forthwith emancipated. At first the princes obeyed, and the enslaved were allowed to go free. But eventually the princes played falsely, and once more brought their old servants into bondage. Then comes the text with its terrible irony.

I. The mutiny against the law. In the first instance the governors felt the reasonableness of the commandment, they agreed to it, but at length they resisted it, violated it. And this spirit of revolt against the higher law is ever working in us and displaying itself in some form of disobedience.

1. There is a theoretical repudiation of the law. Literary men are ever urging upon us that the moral law as given in revelation is unphilosophical, and the sooner it is renounced by all educated people the better. One by one they ingeniously find us a way out of all the ten great precepts. In our simplicity we thought the Saviour taught us that heaven and earth might pass away, but that the moral commandments should persist in absolute authority and force, but eloquent writers affect to show that the commandments are mere bye-laws, ripe for repeal.

2. And if there is a theoretical repudiation of the law on the part of the literary few, is there not a personal, practical mutiny against it on the part of us all? In manifold ways we criticise the law, fret at it, evade it, violate it. We spurn the circumscriptions which deny us so much, and in blind passion break into forbidden ground. And yet how gracious and beautiful is the law! How generous is the law referred to in the text enjoining upon the rich and great mercy and brotherliness! And the whole of the moral law as expressed in revelation is equally rational and benign. The “commandments are not grievous.” No, indeed, they are gracious. Every commandment is an illumination, a light shining in a dark place to guide our feet in a dim and perilous way. Every commandment is a salvation. The commandment enjoining love is to save us from the damnation of selfishness; enjoining meekness to save us from the devil of pride; enjoining purity to save us from the hell of lust. Every commandment is a benediction. Scientists are always descanting on the grandeur of natural law, the law which builds the sky, which transfigures the flower, which rules the stars. The scientist, the mathematician, the musician will tell you that law is good, that the secret of the world’s beauty is to be found in the wonderful laws which God wrote in tables of stone long before Moses came. And ii natural law, which rules things, is so sublime, how much does that moral law, which rules spirits, excel in glory! And yet how blindly do we mutiny against the great words of light and love! Some time ago it was told in the paper that a herd of cows was being driven through a long, dark, wooden tubular bridge. Here and there in the woodwork were knotholes, which let in the sun in bars of light. The animals were afraid of these sun-bars; they shied at them, were terrified at them, and then, leaping over them, made a painful hurdle-race of it, coming out at the other end palpitating and exhausted. We are just like them. The laws of God are golden rays in a dark path, they are for our guidance and infinite perfecting and consolation. But they irritate us, they enrage us, we count them despotic barriers to our liberty and happiness, and too often we put them under our feet. “So foolish was I, and ignorant, I was as a beast before Thee.”

II. The liberty of licence. “Behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the Lord.” These nobles wished to be free themselves in enslaving their brethren, but in doing this they gave themselves away into servitude; they wished to enrich themselves, and they lost everything; they sought personal indulgence at the expense of their neighbours, and they suffered sword and famine and pestilence. Disobedience always means bondage, disgrace, suffering, death. A liberty to the sword, the famine, and the pestilence! Most awful is the liberty of unrighteousness; who can express the fulness of its woe! Some of you have visited the Castle of Chillon on the Lake of Geneva. In that castle is a dungeon which contains a shaft, at the bottom of which you see the waters of the lake; that shaft is called the way of liberty. Tradition says that in the old days the jailor in the darkness of the dungeon would whisper to the prisoner, “Three steps and liberty,” and the poor dupe, hastily stepping forward, fell down this shaft, which was planted full of knives and spikes, the mutilated, bloody corpse finally dropping into the depths. That is precisely the liberty of sin. The dupe of sin takes a leap in the dark, he is forthwith pierced through with many sorrows, and mangled and bleeding falls into the gulf. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

1. I want you to feel the madness of contending with God, for that is exactly what sin means.

2. I want you to believe that only through self-limitation can you find the highest liberty and blessedness. All civilisation is the giving up of liberty to find a nobler liberty.

3. If you are to keep the law, you must seek the strength of God in Christ. Born of God, living in fellowship with Him, full of faith, of love, of hope, we shall find the yoke of the law easy, and its burden light. The inner force is equal to the outward duty. (W. L. Watkinson.)

──The Biblical Illustrator