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Jeremiah 34:16-18 New English Translation (NET Bible)

16 But then you turned right around[a] and showed that you did not honor me.[b] Each of you took back your male and female slaves, whom you had freed as they desired, and you forced them to be your slaves again.[c] 17 So I, the Lord, say: “You have not really obeyed me and granted freedom to your neighbor and fellow countryman.[d] Therefore, I will grant you freedom, the freedom[e] to die in war, or by starvation, or disease. I, the Lord, affirm it![f] I will make all the kingdoms of the earth horrified at what happens to you.[g] 18 I will punish those people who have violated their covenant with me. I will make them like the calf they cut in two and passed between its pieces.[h] I will do so because they did not keep the terms of the covenant they made in my presence.[i]


  1. Jeremiah 34:16 sn The verbs at the beginning of v. 15 and v. 16 are the same in the Hebrew. The people had two changes of heart (Heb “you turned”), one that was pleasing to him (Heb “right in his eyes”) and one that showed they did not honor him (Heb “profaned [or belittled] his name”).
  2. Jeremiah 34:16 sn Heb “you profaned my name.” His name had been invoked in the oath confirming the covenant. Breaking the covenant involved taking his name in vain (cf. Exod 20:7; Deut 5:11; Jer 5:2). Hence the one who bore the name was not treated with the special honor and reverence due him (see the study note on 23:27 for the significance of “name” in the OT).
  3. Jeremiah 34:16 tn Heb “and you brought them into subjection to be to you for male and female slaves.” See the translator’s note on v. 11 for the same redundant repetition, which is not carried over into the contemporary English sentence.
  4. Jeremiah 34:17 tn The Hebrew text has a compound object, the two terms of which have been synonyms in vv. 14, 15. G. L. Keown, P. J. Scalise, and T. G. Smothers (Jeremiah 26-52 [WBC], 189) make the interesting observation that these two terms (Heb “brother” and “neighbor”) emphasize the relationships that should have taken precedence over their being viewed as mere slaves.
  5. Jeremiah 34:17 sn This is, of course, a metaphorical and ironical use of the term “to grant freedom to.” It is, however, a typical statement of the concept of talionic justice that is quite often operative in God’s judgments in the OT (cf., e.g., Obad 15).
  6. Jeremiah 34:17 tn Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”
  7. Jeremiah 34:17 sn Cf. Jer 15:4; 24:9; 29:18.
  8. Jeremiah 34:18 sn See the study note on v. 8 for explanation and parallels.
  9. Jeremiah 34:18 tn There is a little confusion in the syntax of this section because the nominal phrase “the calf” does not have any accompanying conjunction or preposition to show how it relates to the rest of the sentence. KJV treats it and the following words as though they were a temporal clause modifying “covenant which they made.” The majority of modern English versions and commentaries, however, understand it as a second accusative after the verb + object “I will make the men.” This fits under the category of what GKC 375 §118.r calls an accusative of comparison (compare usage in Isa 21:8; Zech 2:8). Stated baldly, it reads, “I will make the people…the calf.” This is more forceful than the formal use of the noun + preposition כּ (kaf; “like”), just as metaphors are generally more forceful than similes. The whole verse is one long, complex sentence in Hebrew: “I will make the men who broke my covenant [referring to the Mosaic covenant containing the stipulation to free slaves after six years] [and] who did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me [referring to their agreement to free their slaves] [like] the calf which they cut in two and passed between its pieces.” The sentence has been broken down into shorter sentences in conformity with contemporary English style.
New English Translation (NET)

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