A Prophecy against Zedekiah
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, all his army, all the earthly kingdoms under his control, and all the other nations were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding cities. 2 The LORD, the God of Israel, told Jeremiah to go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him that this is what the LORD says: “Behold, I am about to deliver this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. 3 And you yourself will not escape his grasp, but will surely be captured and delivered into his hand. You will see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face;and you will go to Babylon.
4 Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the LORD says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; 5 you will die in peace. As spices were burned for your fathers, the former kings who preceded you, so people will burn spices for you and lament, ‘Alas, O master!’ For I Myself have spoken this word, declares the LORD.”
6 In Jerusalem, then, Jeremiah the prophet relayed all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah 7 as the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the remaining cities of Judah—against Lachish and Azekah. For these were the only fortified cities remaining in Judah.
Freedom for Hebrew Slaves
8 After King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim liberty, the word came to Jeremiah from the LORD 9 that each man should free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female, and no one should hold his fellow Jew in bondage. 10 So all the officials and all the people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their menservants and maidservants and no longer hold them in bondage. They obeyed and released them, 11 but later they changed their minds and took back the menservants and maidservants they had freed, and they forced them to become slaves again.
12 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 13 “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your forefathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, saying: 14 Every seventh year, each of you must free his Hebrew brother who has sold himself to you. He may serve you six years, but then you must let him go free. But your fathers did not listen or incline their ear.
15 Recently you repented and did what pleased Me; each of you proclaimed freedom for his neighbor. You made a covenant before Me in the house that bears My Name. 16 But now you have changed your minds and profaned My name. Each of you has taken back the menservants and maidservants whom you had set at liberty to go wherever they wanted, and you have again forced them to be your slaves.
17 Therefore this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed Me; you have not proclaimed freedom, each man for his brother and for his neighbor. So now I proclaim freedom for you, declares the LORD—freedom to fall by sword, by plague, and by famine! I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.
18 And those who have transgressed My covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before Me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two in order to pass between its pieces. 19 The officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the pieces of the calf, 20 I will deliver into the hands of their enemies who seek their lives. Their corpses will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. 21 And I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials into the hands of their enemies who seek their lives, to the army of the king of Babylon that had withdrawn from you.
22 Behold, I am going to give the command, declares the LORD, and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, capture it, and burn it down. And I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.”