Jeremiah 34International Children’s Bible (ICB)
A Warning to Zedekiah
34 The Lord spoke his word to Jeremiah. It came when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and all the towns around it. Nebuchadnezzar had with him all his army. And he had the armies of all the kingdoms and peoples he ruled. 2 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said: “Jeremiah, go to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him: ‘This is what the Lord says: I will hand the city of Jerusalem over to the king of Babylon very soon. And he will burn it down! 3 You will not escape from the king of Babylon. You will surely be caught and given to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes. He will talk to you face to face. And you will go to Babylon. 4 But, Zedekiah king of Judah, listen to the promise of the Lord. This is what the Lord says about you: You will not be killed with a sword. 5 You will die in a peaceful way. People made funeral fires to honor your ancestors, who ruled before you. In the same way, people will make a funeral fire to honor you. They will cry for you. They will sadly say, “Ah, master!” I myself make this promise to you, says the Lord.’”
6 So Jeremiah the prophet gave the message from the Lord to Zedekiah in Jerusalem. 7 This was while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem. It was also fighting against the cities of Judah that had not been taken prisoners—Lachish and Azekah. These were the only strong, walled cities left in the land of Judah.
Slaves Are Free
8 King Zedekiah had made an agreement with all the people in Jerusalem. He agreed to give freedom to all the Hebrew slaves. After Zedekiah made that agreement, the Lord spoke his word to Jeremiah. 9 Everyone was supposed to free his Hebrew slaves. This included all male and female Hebrew slaves. No one was to keep a fellow Jew as a slave. 10 So the officers and all the people accepted this agreement. Everyone would free their male and female slaves. They would no longer keep them as slaves. So all the slaves were set free. 11 But after that, the people who had slaves changed their minds. So they took back the people they had set free. And they made them slaves again.
12 Then the Lord spoke his word to Jeremiah: 13 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought your ancestors out of Egypt where they were slaves. When I did that, I made an agreement with them. 14 I said to your ancestors: ‘At the end of every seven years, each one of you must set his Hebrew slaves free. You might have a fellow Hebrew who has sold himself to you. You must let him go free after he has served you for six years.’ But your ancestors did not listen or pay attention to me. 15 A short time ago you changed your hearts and did what is right. Each of you gave freedom to his fellow Hebrews who were slaves. And you even made an agreement before me. You made it in the place where I have chosen to be worshiped. 16 But now you have changed your minds. You have shown you do not honor me. Each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free. You have forced them to become slaves again.
17 “So this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed me. You have not given freedom to your fellow Hebrews. Because you have not kept the agreement, I will give freedom, says the Lord. I will give freedom to war. And I will give freedom to terrible diseases and to hunger to kill you. I will make you hated by all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 I will hand over the men who broke my agreement. They have not kept the promises they made before me. These men cut a calf into two pieces before me. And they walked between the two pieces.[a] 19 These people made the agreement before me: the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem; the officers of the court; the priests and all the people of the land. 20 So I will hand those people over to their enemies. I will hand them over to everyone who wants to kill them. Their bodies will become food for the birds of the air. And they will become food for the wild animals of the earth. 21 I will hand Zedekiah king of Judah and his officers over to their enemies. I will hand them over to everyone who wants to kill them. I will hand Zedekiah and his people over to the army of the king of Babylon. I will do this even though that army has left Jerusalem. 22 I will give the order, says the Lord, to bring the Babylonian army back to Jerusalem. That army will fight against Jerusalem. They will capture it, set it on fire and burn it down. I will destroy the towns in the land of Judah. And they will become empty ruins. No one will live there!”
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