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Jeremiah; You must free your slaves (ch34)

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posted on Feb, 10 2023 @ 05:03 PM
When the Babylonian army was beginning the final siege of ancient Jerusalem, Jeremiah was imprisoned in the court of the [royal] guard. He had been preaching against resistance. But there was a time in the middle of the siege when his freedom of movement had been restored. There may have been a growing feeling that events were proving him right. During this time, the people of Jerusalem made a promise, which they did not keep, to release all the slaves in their service (ch34 vv8-22).

Jerusalem, Lachish, and Azekah were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained uncaptured. The thought-process in the minds of Judah was- God is allowing this- God is angry with us –what can we do to please God and win back his favour? Hence the proposal to free the slaves. This was typically human last-minute repentance. If they were really capable of understanding that God did not want them holding their brethren as permanent slaves, they should have been doing something about it a lot earlier than this.

“King Zedekiah made a covenant with all the people of Jerusalem to make a proclamation of liberty to them, that every one should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no-one should enslave a Jew, his brother”. My guess (given his reaction later) would be that this move was prompted by Jeremiah. It would not have happened at all unless somebody prompted it, and the prophet is the most likely candidate.

Most of the slaves would have been people who had sold their labour to cover their debts. The laws of Leviticus abhor the word “slave”, which should not happen among brethren, and maintain that the brothers who sell themselves should at least be treated as “servants and sojourners” rather than as slaves (Leviticus ch25 vv39-40). Deuteronomy allows the practice but imposes restrictions; “If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed; you shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing-floor, and out of your wine press” (Deuteronomy ch15 vv12-14). But the slaves in Jerusalem were being held illegally even under the terms of Deuteronomy. They were held indefinitely instead of being released at the end of their time of service.

It would have been a very impressive occasion. The city made a covenant with God (“cut a covenant”) in the standard form, which can be pieced together from various clues in the Old Testament. There was a grand assembly in the Temple (v9). A calf was killed and cut in two (v18). Then everybody passed between the two sundered parts –“the princes of Judah, the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land” (v19). At the same time, they would have offered the covenant oath; “May God do so to us, and more also, if we do not keep the terms of this vow”. This oath is implied by the threat “I will make them like the calf”, but the actual wording is inferred from the profane version found among military men in David’s time; “May God do the same to me and more also if I do not get my revenge” (e.g. 2 Samuel ch3 v9).

It has been said that the road to Hell is “paved with good intentions” (that is, the mere intention of doing something good, which is not followed through). Possibly there was a sense in Jerusalem that the crisis was passing away. We learn later that the Babylonian army had withdrawn for a time, because the Egyptians were approaching. As the city began to relax, the solemn promise was forgotten, and the slaves were taken back into service. One excuse might have been that they could not find gainful employment under siege conditions. The reaction of the Lord God of Israel, as conveyed through Jeremiah, was furious.

Regarding slavery, the people of Jerusalem were under a double commitment. When their fathers had been released from slavery in Egypt, God had instructed them to release their own slaves after their time of service, and this instruction had been ignored. Now more recently, the current population of the city “did what was right in my eyes” by proclaiming liberty to the slaves, making a covenant with himself “in the house which is called by my name”. Then they had gone back on their oath, and thus they had “profaned my name”.

Since they had ignored his original commandment by failing to proclaim liberty to their brothers and neighbours, he would also deny them liberty. Putting it another way, with bitter irony, he would “proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine”. In effect, he had freed them from bondage in Egypt on condition that they freed their own people from bondage. As they had failed to do so, he would return them to another kind of “Egyptian” bondage.

And since they had broken the terms of the more recent covenant, he would invoke the penalty clause of the agreement. They had sworn “May God make us like this calf if we fail to keep our oath”, and he would take them at their word. To be exact, he would give them into the hands of their enemies, who would destroy the nation. He would call back the army of the king of Babylon and direct it against his own city.

There is a common, superficial, perception that the God of Israel was indifferent to the plight of slaves in the land. Yet here is an episode in which the act of re-enslavement is denounced in his name as the final straw, confirming his decision to allow the downfall of the kingdom. After the brief flashback of the next two chapters, the remainder of the narrative is about the downfall itself.

posted on Feb, 10 2023 @ 07:05 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

I needed this, just re-reading some of the book of exodus and always find it a bit upsetting to my modern sensibility's were laws for keeping slaves are made.

Why would a people leaving slavery who themselves had already been enslaved need to be told it was wrong never mind have rules for keeping someone for six years of if the poor slave who has had six years of his life taken from him then begs to stay he has to have his ear pierced and then is a slave for life, it was an even worse lot for woman.

But the beginning of a state that was actually still the best in the world for it's time was there, it was a time were every race practiced slavery as well and at least while horrible to our minds these early laws actually began to give some right's to the slaves and rules that mostly forbade indefinite slavery in the early Hebrew society.

Still this account shows just how the Jewish people backslid on God's own command's and laws indenturing there own people and others who those same laws ordered to be converted to Judaism and then treated as part of the house of Israel indefinitely in many cases without right under the actual law of Moses that had been the foundation of their legal system.

Then again how many times did it tell them not to charge interest on loan's, not to put a widow out of her home no matter how much her husband or she owed, not to treat an orphan badly (how many of them got enslaved) etc, they continued to break the lords laws which is why he brought the Babylonian's to take them once again into bondage albeit for a shorter time (And of course to arrange to place the ark of the covenant into the grotto of Jeremiah beneath were Yeshua was to be crucified as God's own sin offering on our/their behalf five hundred years into the future from that time - I believe Ron Wyatt was telling the absolute truth and the Ark he was led to find is actually the only one that matches the biblical description which those others like the fantasy raiders of the lost ark version do not).

It hurts when some of God's early laws seem kind of cruel but once we try to see through the much less human eyes of the people of the past we begin to see it was him moving them a bit at a time into a better state of mind morality although they kept on backsliding just like we do today.

posted on Feb, 12 2023 @ 11:18 AM
I should have mentioned, but forgot, that this thread in the Jeremiah series is a modified version of something with a similar title which I put up as a standalone thread in 2016.


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