The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people1 in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom2 for the slaves.
Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Jew in bondage.310
So all the officials and people who entered into this covenant agreed that they would free their male and female slaves and no longer hold them in bondage. They agreed, and set them free.
But afterward they changed their minds4 and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
"This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your forefathers5 when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.6 I said,
'Every seventh year each of you must free any fellow Hebrew who has sold himself to you. After he has served you six years, you must let him go free.'a7 Your fathers, however, did not listen to me or pay attention8 to me.
Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to his countrymen.9 You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name.1016
But now you have turned around11 and profaned12 my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished. You have forced them to become your slaves again.
"Therefore, this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim 'freedom' for you,13 declares the LORD--'freedom' to fall by the sword, plague14 and famine.15 I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.1618
The men who have violated my covenant17 and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces.1819
The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials,19 the priests and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf,
I will hand over20 to their enemies who seek their lives.21 Their dead bodies will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.2221
"I will hand Zedekiah23 king of Judah and his officials24 over to their enemies25 who seek their lives, to the army of the king of Babylon,26 which has withdrawn27 from you.
I am going to give the order, declares the LORD, and I will bring them back to this city. They will fight against it, take28 it and burn29 it down. And I will lay waste30 the towns of Judah so no one can live there."