A Message for Zedekiah
1 # 2 Kgs 25.1–11; 2 Chr 36.17–21 The LORD spoke to me when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia and his army, supported by troops from all the nations and races that were subject to him, were attacking Jerusalem and its nearby towns. 2The LORD, the God of Israel, told me to go and say to King Zedekiah of Judah, “I, the LORD, will hand this city over to the king of Babylonia, and he will burn it down. 3You will not escape; you will be captured and handed over to him. You will see him face to face and talk to him in person; then you will go to Babylonia. 4Zedekiah, listen to what I say about you. You will not be killed in battle. 5You will die in peace, and as people burnt incense when they buried your ancestors, who were kings before you, in the same way they will burn incense for you. They will mourn over you and say, ‘Our king is dead!’ I, the LORD, have spoken.”
6Then I gave this message to King Zedekiah in Jerusalem 7while the army of the king of Babylonia was attacking the city. The army was also attacking Lachish and Azekah, the only other fortified cities left in Judah.
Deceitful Treatment of Slaves
8King Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem had made an agreement to set free 9their Hebrew slaves, both male and female, so that no one would have a fellow-Israelite as a slave. 10All the people and their leaders agreed to free their slaves and never to enslave them again. They did set them free, 11but later they changed their minds, took them back, and forced them to become slaves again.
12Then the LORD, 13the God of Israel, told me to say to the people: “I made a covenant with your ancestors when I rescued them from Egypt and set them free from slavery. I told them that 14#Ex 21.2; Deut 15.12every seven years they were to set free any Hebrew slave who had served them for six years. But your ancestors would not pay any attention to me or listen to what I said. 15Just a few days ago you changed your minds and did what pleased me. All of you agreed to set your fellow-Israelites free, and you made a covenant in my presence, in the Temple where I am worshipped. 16But then you changed your minds again and dishonoured me. All of you took back the slaves whom you had set free as they desired, and you forced them into slavery again. 17So now, I, the LORD, say that you have disobeyed me: you have not given your fellow-Israelites their freedom. Very well, then, I will give you freedom: the freedom to die by war, disease, and starvation. I will make every nation in the world horrified at what I do to you. 18-19The officials of Judah and of Jerusalem, together with the palace officials, the priests, and all the leaders, made a covenant with me by walking between the two halves of a bull that they had cut in two. But they broke the covenant and did not keep its terms. So I will do to these people what they did to the bull. 20I will hand them over to their enemies, who want to kill them, and their corpses will be eaten by birds and wild animals. 21I will also hand over King Zedekiah of Judah and his officials to those who want to kill them. I will hand them over to the Babylonian army, which has stopped its attack against you. 22I will give the order, and they will return to this city. They will attack it, capture it, and burn it down. I will make the towns of Judah like a desert where no one lives. I, the LORD, have spoken.”