1 THE word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon and his whole army, along with all his vassal kingdoms and nations, were attacking Jerusalem and all her towns.
2These are the words of the LORD the God of Israel: Go and say to King Zedekiah of Judah: These are the words of the LORD: I shall hand over this city to the king of Babylon and he will burn it to the ground. 3You yourself will not escape; your capture is certain, and you will be delivered into his hands. You will see him with your own eyes, and he will speak to you face to face, and you will go to Babylon. 4But listen to the LORD's word to you, King Zedekiah of Judah. This is his word: You will not die by the sword; 5you will die a peaceful death, and they will kindle funeral fires in your honour like the fires kindled in former times for the kings your ancestors who preceded you. ‘Alas, my lord!’ they will say as they beat their breasts in mourning for you. It is a promise I have made. This is the word of the LORD.
6The prophet Jeremiah repeated all this to King Zedekiah of Judah in Jerusalem 7while the army of the king of Babylon was attacking Jerusalem and the remaining towns in Judah, namely Lachish and Azekah, the only fortified towns left there.
8The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah had entered into an agreement with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for their slaves: 9everyone who had Hebrew slaves, male or female, was to set them free; no one was to keep a fellow-Jew in servitude. 10All the officers and people, having entered this agreement to set free their slaves, both male and female, and not to keep them in servitude any longer, fulfilled its terms and let them go. 11Afterwards, however, they changed their minds and forced back again into slavery the men and women whom they had freed.
12Then this word came from the LORD to Jeremiah: 13These are the words of the LORD the God of Israel: I made a covenant with your forefathers when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. These were its terms: 14‘Within seven years each of you must liberate any Hebrew who has sold himself to you as a slave and has served you for six years.’ Your forefathers did not listen to me or obey me, 15but recently you proclaimed freedom for the slaves and made an agreement in my presence, in the house that bears my name, and so did what is right in my eyes. 16Now, however, you have renounced this agreement and profaned my name by taking back the slaves you had set free and forcing them all, both male and female, to become your slaves again.
17Therefore these are the words of the LORD: After you had proclaimed freedom, a deliverance for your kinsmen and your neighbours, you did not obey me; so I shall proclaim a deliverance for you, says the LORD, a deliverance to sword, pestilence, and famine, and I shall make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18You have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms to which you yourselves had agreed before me; so I shall treat you like the calf which was cut in two for all to pass between the pieces, 19the officers of Judah and Jerusalem, the eunuchs and priests, and all the people of the land. 20I shall give them up to their enemies who seek their lives; their dead bodies will be food for birds of prey and wild beasts. 21I shall deliver King Zedekiah of Judah and his officers to their enemies who seek their lives and to the army of the king of Babylon, which is now raising the siege. 22I shall give the command, says the LORD, and bring them back to this city. They will attack it, capture it, and burn it to the ground. I shall make the towns and cities of Judah desolate and unpeopled.