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 men and women they had freed, forcing them to be 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 your ancestors paid no attention to me.
Recently you repented and did what was right, following my command. You freed your slaves and made a solemn covenant with me in the Temple that bears my name.
But now you have shrugged off your oath and defiled my name by taking back the men and women you had freed, forcing them to be 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, disease, and famine. You will be an object of horror to all the nations of the earth.
Because you have broken 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 although they have left Jerusalem for a while,
I will call the Babylonian armies back again. They will fight against this city and will capture it and burn it down. I will see to it that all the towns of Judah are destroyed, with no one living there.”