While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples1 in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem2 and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
"This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Go to Zedekiah3 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.43
You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and handed over5 to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon.
" 'Yet hear the promise of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the LORD says concerning you: You will not die by the sword;65
you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire7 in honor of your fathers, the former kings who preceded you, so they will make a fire in your honor and lament, "Alas,8 O master!" I myself make this promise, declares the LORD.' "
Then Jeremiah the prophet told all this to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem,
while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that were still holding out--Lachish9 and Azekah.10 These were the only fortified cities left in Judah.
The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people11 in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom12 for the slaves.
Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Jew in bondage.1310
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 minds14 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 forefathers15 when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.16 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.'a17 Your fathers, however, did not listen to me or pay attention18 to me.
Recently you repented and did what is right in my sight: Each of you proclaimed freedom to his countrymen.19 You even made a covenant before me in the house that bears my Name.2016
But now you have turned around21 and profaned22 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,23 declares the LORD--'freedom' to fall by the sword, plague24 and famine.25 I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth.2618
The men who have violated my covenant27 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.2819
The leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials,29 the priests and all the people of the land who walked between the pieces of the calf,
I will hand over30 to their enemies who seek their lives.31 Their dead bodies will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth.3221
"I will hand Zedekiah33 king of Judah and his officials34 over to their enemies35 who seek their lives, to the army of the king of Babylon,36 which has withdrawn37 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, take38 it and burn39 it down. And I will lay waste40 the towns of Judah so no one can live there."