Jeremiah’s Word to King 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 other nations were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding cities: 2 "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Go, speak to Zedekiah, king of Judah, and tell him: This is what the Lord says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. 3 As for you, you will not escape from his hand but are certain to be captured and handed over to him. You will meet the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak face to face;you will go to Babylon.
4 "Yet hear the Lord's word, Zedekiah, king of Judah. This is what the Lord says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; 5 you will die peacefully. There will be a burning ceremony for you just like the burning ceremonies for your fathers, the former kings who preceded you. Alas, lord! will be the lament for you, for I have spoken [this] word." [This is] the Lord's declaration.
6 So Jeremiah the prophet related all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem 7 while the king of Babylon's army was attacking Jerusalem and all of Judah's remaining cities-against Lachish and Azekah, for only they were left among Judah's fortified cities.
The People and Their Slaves
8 [This is] the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zedekiah made a covenant with all the people who were in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom to them, 9 so each man would free his male and female Hebrew slaves and no one enslave his Judean brother. 10 All the officials and people who entered into covenant to free their male and female slaves-in order not to enslave them any longer-obeyed and freed them. 11 Afterwards, however, they changed their minds and took back their male and female slaves they had freed and forced them to become slaves [again].
12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 13 "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery, saying: 14 At the end of seven years, each of you must free his Hebrew brother who sold himself to you. He may serve you six years, but then you must send him out free from you. But your ancestors did not obey Me or pay any attention. 15 Today you repented and did what pleased Me, each of you proclaiming freedom for his neighbor. You made a covenant before Me at the temple called by My name. 16 But you have changed your minds and profaned My name. Each has taken back his male and female slaves who had been freed [to go] wherever they wanted, and you have [again] subjugated them to be your slaves.
17 "Therefore, this is what the Lord says: You have not obeyed Me by proclaiming freedom, each man for his brother and for his neighbor. I hereby proclaim freedom for you"-[this is] the Lord's declaration-"to the sword, to plague, and to famine! I will make you a horror to all the earth's kingdoms. 18 As for those who disobeyed My covenant, not keeping the terms of the covenant they made before Me, I will treat them 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 will be handed over to their enemies, to those who want to take their life. Their corpses will become food for the birds of the sky and for the wild animals of the land. 21 I will hand Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials over to their enemies, to those who want to take their life, to the king of Babylon's army that is withdrawing. 22 I am about to give the command"-[this is] the Lord's declaration-"and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, capture it, and burn it down. I will make Judah's cities a desolation, without inhabitant."