This message came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah made a covenant with the people, proclaiming freedom for the slaves.
He had ordered all the people to free their Hebrew slaves -- both men and women. No one was to keep a fellow Judean in bondage.
The officials and all the people had obeyed the king's command,
but later they changed their minds. They took back the people they had freed, making them slaves again.
So the LORD gave them this message through Jeremiah:
"This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I made a covenant with your ancestors long ago when I rescued them from their slavery in Egypt.
I told them that every Hebrew slave must be freed after serving six years. But this was never done.
Recently you repented and did what was right, following my command. You freed your slaves and made a solemn covenant with me in my Temple.
But now you have shrugged off your oath and defiled my name by taking back the men and women you had freed, making them slaves once again."
"Therefore, this is what the LORD says: Since you have not obeyed me by setting your countrymen free, I will set you free to be destroyed by war, famine, and disease. You will be considered a disgrace by all the nations of the earth.
Because you have refused the terms of our covenant, I will cut you apart just as you cut apart the calf when you walked between its halves to solemnize your vows.
Yes, I will cut you apart, whether you are officials of Judah or Jerusalem, court officials, priests, or common people -- for you have broken your oath.
I will give you to your enemies, and they will kill you. Your bodies will be food for the vultures and wild animals.
I will hand over King Zedekiah of Judah and his officials to the army of the king of Babylon. And though Babylon's king has left this city for a while,
I will call the Babylonian armies back again. They will fight against this city and will capture and burn it. I will see to it that all the towns of Judah are destroyed and left completely empty."
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)