The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, his entire army, and all the kingdoms and people that he ruled were attacking Jerusalem and all its cities. He said,
"This is what the LORD God of Israel says: Go to King Zedekiah of Judah, and tell him, 'The LORD says: I'm going to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down.
You will not escape from him. You will certainly be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will talk to you face to face. Then you will go to Babylon.
"'Listen to the word of the LORD, King Zedekiah of Judah. This is what the LORD says about you: You will not die in war.
You will die peacefully. People will burn [funeral] fires for you as they did for your ancestors, the kings who lived before you. They will say, "Oh, master," as they mourn for you. I have spoken my word, declares the LORD.'"
The prophet Jeremiah told all these things to King Zedekiah of Judah in Jerusalem.
He did this when the army of the king of Babylon was attacking Jerusalem and the cities of Lachish and Azekah. These were the only fortified cities of Judah that were left.
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah after King Zedekiah and all the people in Jerusalem promised to free their slaves.
Everyone was supposed to free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female. No one was supposed to keep another Jew as a slave.
All the officials and all the people agreed and promised to free their male and female slaves and not to keep them as slaves anymore. So they set them free.
But afterwards, they changed their minds and took back the men and women they had freed and made them their slaves again.
The LORD spoke his word to Jeremiah. He said,
"This is what the LORD God of Israel says: I put a condition on the promise I made to your ancestors when I brought them from Egypt, where they were slaves. I said,
'Every seven years each of you must free any Hebrews who sold themselves to you. When they have served you for six years, you must set them free.' But your ancestors refused to obey me or listen to me.
Recently, you changed and did what I consider right. You agreed to free your neighbors, and you made a promise in my presence, in the temple that is called by my name.
Now you have changed again and dishonored me. You brought back the male and female slaves that you had set free to live their own lives. You have forced them to be your male and female slaves again.
"This is what the LORD says: You didn't obey me. You haven't freed your relatives and neighbors. Now I am going to free you," declares the LORD. "I will free you to die in wars, plagues, and famines. I will make all the kingdoms of the world horrified at the thought of you.
I will hand over the people who have rejected my promise. They have not kept the terms of the promise which they made in my presence when they cut a calf in two and passed between its pieces.
I will hand over the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the palace officials, the priests, and all the common people who passed between the pieces of the calf.
I will hand them over to their enemies who want to kill them, and their corpses will be food for birds and wild animals.
I will hand King Zedekiah of Judah and his officials over to their enemies who want to kill them and to the army of the king of Babylon, the army that has withdrawn from you.
I am going to give a command," declares the LORD. "I will bring that army back to this city to attack it, capture it, and burn it down. I will destroy the cities of Judah so that no one will live there."