Breaking the covenant agreement (Jer 34:17-34:18)


Thus says Yahweh!

‘You have not obeyed me

By granting a release

To your neighbors,

As well as to your friends.

I am going to

Grant a release to you,

A release to the sword,

A release to pestilence,

A release to famine.’

Says Yahweh.

‘I will make you a horror

To all the kingdoms

Of the earth.

Those who transgressed

My covenant,

Those who did not

Keep the terms

Of the covenant

That they made before me,

I will make them

Like the calf

When they cut it in two.

As they passed

Between its parts.’”

The people of Jerusalem had not obeyed Yahweh about freeing up their Hebrew slaves. Now Yahweh was going to free them to the sword, pestilence, and famine, the common formula of Jeremiah for destruction. They would become a horror for all the countries in the world. They had broken their covenant with Yahweh. They had not kept the terms of the covenant agreement, since they had re-enslaved the freed Hebrew slaves in Jerusalem. The ancient practice of cutting or sacrificing an animal into two pieces was a way of ratifying an agreement, as can be seen in Genesis, chapter 15. Then the two people would walk between the two pieces of the calf to indicate that if they broke the agreement, they too would be killed. Thus these disobedient ones who broke the covenant were subject to death, just as the calf had been killed and cut up.

The re-enslavement (Jer 34:11-34:11)

“But afterwards,

They turned around.

They took back

Both the male slaves

With the female slaves

That they had set free.

They brought them again

Into subjection

As slaves.”

However, this proclamation of liberty for the Hebrew slaves did not last long. These Hebrew slave owners took back their Hebrew slaves, both male and female, the very ones that they had set free. They once again brought them back into subjection as slaves. Perhaps they thought that the attack of the Babylonians was not going to be that bad.

Hebrew Slaves (Deut 15:12-15:18)

“If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. When you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press. Thus give to him some of the bounty with which Yahweh your God has blessed you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Yahweh your God redeemed you. For this reason I lay the command upon you today.”

Hebrews slaves lasted only 6 years and then were set free in the 7th year with some provisions. They were not to leave empty-handed. Yahweh freed you from your slavery in Egypt, so too you must release your Hebrew slave after 6 years.

“But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his earlobe into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. You shall do the same to your female slave.”

There was a kind of benevolent perpetual slavery also. If you wanted to stay a slave after 7 years, you can have your earlobe pierced as a sign that you belong to this family. This goes for both male and female slaves. There was mention of slaves in Leviticus, chapter 25.

“Do not consider it a hardship when you send them out from you free persons. Because for six years they have given you services worth the wages of hired laborers. Yahweh your God will bless you in all that you do.”

You will be blessed if you release the slaves. Do not complain since you had free labor for at least 6 years.