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Jeremiah 34:2 . Go and speak to Zedekiah. This revelation was delivered in the tenth year of his reign, and would have saved the land, when all hopes of safety were fled.
Jeremiah 34:4 . Thou shalt not die by the sword. Mercy is mixed with judgment. The king had spared Jeremiah’s life twice, when the priests sought to kill him, and afterwards, when the princes prayed the king to put him to death, because his predictions discouraged the soldiers; now the Lord spared the king’s life.
Jeremiah 34:5 . They shall burn odours for thee. This was continued as long as the body laid in state. Then the funeral dirge was sung, Ah, Lord! Though these obsequies could do no good to the dead, yet they showed the respect which the Jewish princes enjoyed in captivity.
Jeremiah 34:8 . After that king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people to proclaim liberty unto them. This being the sabbatical year, when they should give manumission to the Hebrew servants, whether they had served for debt or for trades, according to the law. Exodus 21:2. Here therefore was an overt fruit of repentance, and proof of reformation.
Jeremiah 34:16 . But ye turned and polluted my name. No sooner had the Chaldean army broken up to go and give battle to the Egyptians, than both the princes and the people caused their servants to return under some pleas of debt or otherwise. Therefore the name of God, used in all covenants, was polluted by breach of promise.
Jeremiah 34:17 . Therefore I will proclaim liberty for you. I will give spirit to the Chaldeans I will whet their swords. I will send you famine, and commission the pestilence; and I will cause you to be removed as servants into all the kingdoms of the earth, or cause you to wander as vagabonds and beg your bread.
Jeremiah 34:18 . I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant when they cut the calf in twain, &c. The sacrifice of Abraham is described in Genesis 15:0. The calf was divided in two; and in peace-offerings into smaller parts. This custom is more ancient than all records, and the practice was universal. When the Greeks made a truce with the Trojans, and agreed that Paris and Menelaus should decide the war by single combat, Homer describes the sacrifice, if we may follow the words of an old poet, thus
Almighty Jove, and all ye deathless powers,
Whoever first shall dare to break this treaty,
May their warm blood be poured upon the earth,
As is this wine.
Of the dividing of victims, we have a remarkable testimony in Livy, the best of Roman historians. When the Macedonian army, he says, returned from a campaign, they cut a dog transversely, and put the fore parts on one of the roads, and the hind parts on the other, between which the army had to march. Without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sins.
Jeremiah 34:19 . The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem which passed between the parts of the calf, God gave into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, who judged them in Riblah for a double rebellion, and ordered sixty six of them to be executed on the spot: Jeremiah 39:6; Jeremiah 52:9-10.
In Zedekiah there was found some good; therefore the Lord showed him some mercy. But he lost his eyes, he lost his sons, he lost his court and his kingdom, by not obeying the word of the Lord in going out to Nebuchadnezzar, and submitting to mercy. To this must be added, that the moral character of the people was such as not to favour their prayers for national deliverance. The day was come to purge their crimes with blood, as stated in 2 Chronicles 36:0.
The final cause of the fall of Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah, was hypocrisy in renewing the national covenant. When the Chaldeans were at their gates, and death and famine stared them in the face, they remitted debts and let the captives go. This was so far pleasing to the Lord. But no sooner did the Egyptians advance, no sooner did the Chaldeans break off the siege to give them battle, than all the evil passions rose in their hearts. They reduced the poor a second time to servitude under the plea of debts uncancelled. Why then should God forgive the rich, who had no compassion on the poor? Why should God keep covenant with men, who had with all effrontery broken their covenant with heaven? Oh infatuated Jews; now you have to fight, and fight in sin against both God and man. You fall unpitied, despised, oppressed. And thou, oh christian, who hast been at death’s door, and had thy chamber thronged with sacraments, and thy prayers filled with vows; but on recovery, where are thy reformations? Be reminded, that if thy vows are false, the hand of justice will one day be faithful in its final arrests.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 34". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27