Jeremiah 34:8-22
2 ב
(חַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר הָיָה אֶל יִרְמְיָהוּ מֵאֵת יְקֹוָק אַחֲרֵי כְּרֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ צִדְקִיָּהוּ בְּרִית אֶת כָּל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר בִּירוּשָׁלִַם לִקְרֹא לָהֶם דְּרוֹר: (ט) לְשַׁלַּח אִישׁ אֶת עַבְדּוֹ וְאִישׁ אֶת שִׁפְחָתוֹ הָעִבְרִי וְהָעִבְרִיָּה חָפְשִׁים לְבִלְתִּי עֲבָד בָּם בִּיהוּדִי אָחִיהוּ אִישׁ: (י) וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ כָל הַשָּׂרִים וְכָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר בָּאוּ בַבְּרִית לְשַׁלַּח אִישׁ אֶת עַבְדּוֹ וְאִישׁ אֶת שִׁפְחָתוֹ חָפְשִׁים לְבִלְתִּי עֲבָד בָּם עוֹד וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ וַיְשַׁלֵּחוּ: (יא) וַיָּשׁוּבוּ אַחֲרֵי כֵן וַיָּשִׁבוּ אֶת הָעֲבָדִים וְאֶת הַשְּׁפָחוֹת אֲשֶׁר שִׁלְּחוּ חָפְשִׁים <ויכבישום> וַיִּכְבְּשׁוּם לַעֲבָדִים וְלִשְׁפָחוֹת: ס (יב) וַיְהִי דְבַר יְקֹוָק אֶל יִרְמְיָהוּ מֵאֵת יְקֹוָק לֵאמֹר: (יג) כֹּה אָמַר יְקֹוָק אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אָנֹכִי כָּרַתִּי בְרִית אֶת אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם בְּיוֹם הוֹצִאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים לֵאמֹר: (יד) מִקֵּץ שֶׁבַע שָׁנִים תְּשַׁלְּחוּ אִישׁ אֶת אָחִיו הָעִבְרִי אֲשֶׁר יִמָּכֵר לְךָ וַעֲבָדְךָ שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים וְשִׁלַּחְתּוֹ חָפְשִׁי מֵעִמָּךְ וְלֹא שָׁמְעוּ אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם אֵלַי וְלֹא הִטּוּ אֶת אָזְנָם: (טו) וַתָּשֻׁבוּ אַתֶּם הַיּוֹם וַתַּעֲשׂוּ אֶת הַיָּשָׁר בְּעֵינַי לִקְרֹא דְרוֹר אִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ וַתִּכְרְתוּ בְרִית לְפָנַי בַּבַּיִת אֲשֶׁר נִקְרָא שְׁמִי עָלָיו: (טז) וַתָּשֻׁבוּ וַתְּחַלְּלוּ אֶת שְׁמִי וַתָּשִׁבוּ אִישׁ אֶת עַבְדּוֹ וְאִישׁ אֶת שִׁפְחָתוֹ אֲשֶׁר שִׁלַּחְתֶּם חָפְשִׁים לְנַפְשָׁם וַתִּכְבְּשׁוּ אֹתָם לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לַעֲבָדִים וְלִשְׁפָחוֹת: ס (יז) לָכֵן כֹּה אָמַר יְקֹוָק אַתֶּם לֹא שְׁמַעְתֶּם אֵלַי לִקְרֹא דְרוֹר אִישׁ לְאָחִיו וְאִישׁ לְרֵעֵהוּ הִנְנִי קֹרֵא לָכֶם דְּרוֹר נְאֻם יְקֹוָק אֶל הַחֶרֶב אֶל הַדֶּבֶר וְאֶל הָרָעָב וְנָתַתִּי אֶתְכֶם <לזועה> לְזַעֲוָה לְכֹל מַמְלְכוֹת הָאָרֶץ: (יח) וְנָתַתִּי אֶת הָאֲנָשִׁים הָעֹבְרִים אֶת בְּרִתִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא הֵקִימוּ אֶת דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרְתוּ לְפָנָי הָעֵגֶל אֲשֶׁר כָּרְתוּ לִשְׁנַיִם וַיַּעַבְרוּ בֵּין בְּתָרָיו: (יט) שָׂרֵי יְהוּדָה וְשָׂרֵי יְרוּשָׁלִַם הַסָּרִסִים וְהַכֹּהֲנִים וְכֹל עַם הָאָרֶץ הָעֹבְרִים בֵּין בִּתְרֵי הָעֵגֶל: (כ) וְנָתַתִּי אוֹתָם בְּיַד אֹיְבֵיהֶם וּבְיַד מְבַקְשֵׁי נַפְשָׁם וְהָיְתָה נִבְלָתָם לְמַאֲכָל לְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּלְבֶהֱמַת הָאָרֶץ: (כא) וְאֶת צִדְקִיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה וְאֶת שָׂרָיו אֶתֵּן בְּיַד אֹיְבֵיהֶם וּבְיַד מְבַקְשֵׁי נַפְשָׁם וּבְיַד חֵיל מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל הָעֹלִים מֵעֲלֵיכֶם: (כב) הִנְנִי מְצַוֶּה נְאֻם יְקֹוָק וַהֲשִׁבֹתִים אֶל הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְנִלְחֲמוּ עָלֶיהָ וּלְכָדוּהָ וּשְׂרָפֻהָ בָאֵשׁ וְאֶת עָרֵי יְהוּדָה אֶתֵּן שְׁמָמָה מֵאֵין יֹשֵׁב:
34:8 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to grant their slaves their freedom. 34:9 Everyone was supposed to free their male and female Hebrew slaves. No one was supposed to keep a fellow Judean enslaved. 34:10 All the people and their leaders had agreed to this. They had agreed to free their male and female slaves and not keep them enslaved any longer. They originally complied with the covenant and freed them. 34:11 But later they had changed their minds. They had taken back their male and female slaves that they had freed and forced them to be slaves again. 34:12 That was when the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, 34:13 “The Lord God of Israel has a message for you. ‘I made a covenant with your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt where they had been slaves. It stipulated, 34:14 “Every seven years each of you must free any fellow Hebrews who have sold themselves to you. After they have served you for six years, you shall set them free.” But your ancestors did not obey me or pay any attention to me. 34:15 Recently, however, you yourselves showed a change of heart and did what is pleasing to me. You granted your fellow countrymen their freedom and you made a covenant to that effect in my presence in the house that I have claimed for my own. 34:16 But then you turned right around and showed that you did not honor me. Each of you took back your male and female slaves whom you had freed as they desired, and you forced them to be your slaves again. 34:17 So I, the Lord, say: “You have not really obeyed me and granted freedom to your neighbor and fellow countryman. Therefore, I will grant you freedom, the freedom to die in war, or by starvation or disease. I, the Lord, affirm it! I will make all the kingdoms of the earth horrified at what happens to you. 34:18 I will punish those people who have violated their covenant with me. I will make them like the calf they cut in two and passed between its pieces. I will do so because they did not keep the terms of the covenant they made in my presence. 34:19 I will punish the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the court officials, the priests, and all the other people of the land who passed between the pieces of the calf. 34:20 I will hand them over to their enemies who want to kill them. Their dead bodies will become food for the birds and the wild animals. 34:21 I will also hand King Zedekiah of Judah and his officials over to their enemies who want to kill them. I will hand them over to the army of the king of Babylon, even though they have temporarily withdrawn from attacking you. 34:22 For I, the Lord, affirm that I will soon give the order and bring them back to this city. They will fight against it and capture it and burn it down. I will also make the towns of Judah desolate so that there will be no one living in them.”’” [New English Translation]
3 ג

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. What tensions and values motivate Jeremiah's thinking? What about the thinking of those he is criticizing?

2. The image of crossing between an animal cut in two is resonant with the covenant God makes with Abraham in Genesis. What does this historical, theological, and literary allusion add to this scene?

3. Why do you think the Biblical law of freeing slaves is contested, and needs a social contract to affirm it?

4. What does it say about Biblical Israel that the basic laws of slavery are not being followed?

4 ד
Time Period: Biblical (early ancestors to 165 BCE)