Troublesome Topic: The Final Consequence of a Broken Covenant

Lesson 3 of 5

Consequence #7: Death!

The final result of breaking the covenant was death. Every covenant in those days was a relationship of life or of death. That was why blood was shed at the inauguration of covenants. That is why they walked between the severed parts of the slain animals. In Jeremiah 34 we read how the people, under king Zedekiah, wanted to return to God’s laws and do the right thing. They gave special emphasis to the issue of freeing the Hebrew slaves every seven years. So they made a covenant between themselves, before God, pledging to fulfill what He had previously commanded them to do. But their obedience was very short-lived and so God spoke to them through His prophet Jeremiah saying:

Jeremiah 34:15


Recently you turned back and did what was right in my eyes, with every man proclaiming liberty to his neighbor; you made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name.


Recently you repented and you began to do what I say is right; every man declared his fellow citizen (fellow Jew) to be a free man; you also made a covenant with each other in my presence, in the temple which is called by my name.

Jeremiah 34:16


But you turned away and treated my name

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as something common; every one of you brought back

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his male and female slaves whom you had sent away free to do what they desired, you brought them back into bondage to be your male slaves and female slaves.


But then you changed your minds; you dishonored and defiled my name; every one of you enslaved once again your male and female slaves, yes, the very ones you had previously set free to go and do what they wished; you subjected them to bondage again so they could be your male and female slaves.

Jeremiah 34:17


Therefore, YHVH (read Adonai) says this: You have not obeyed me by having everyone proclaim freedom

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to his brother or to his neighbor. Look!  I proclaim to you that there is freedom, says YHVH (read Adonai), freedom for the sword, for diseases and for famine; I will deliver you to trembling in all the kingdoms of the earth.


Therefore, this is what THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD says: Since you have not obeyed me; since you did not have everyone actually grant freedom to those like him and to his fellow countrymen, watch this, since you want freedom, I declare to you, says THE ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD, that there will be actual freedom, yes, I will grant freedom to the sword and to diseases and to famine to come upon you without holding them back! You want me to deliver you, OK, I will deliver you, yes, I will deliver you over to horrible situations in countries far from here that will make you tremble in fear just to think about them.

Jeremiah 34:18


The men who swept aside my covenant,

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who did not uphold the words of the covenant which they cut

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before me, I will deliver

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them over to the same fate as the calf when they cut it in two and passed between its parts.


The men who overstepped the bounds of my covenant and thus rendered it invalid, the ones who did not even fulfill their own pledges when they made a covenant among themselves in my presence, I will deliver those people over to the consequences of having cut a calf in half from head to tail and walked between the two halves in a self-damning pledge of their very lives.

Jeremiah 34:19


I will deliver

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the princes of JUDAH, the princes of JERUSALEM, the eunuchs,

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the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf

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I will hand over the ruling class among the people say they love PRAISE AND CELEBRATION, and the ruling class of those who should have WHOLESOME FOUNDATIONS, as well as those who supposedly are free from sinful tendencies, and those who are supposedly good spiritual leaders of the people, and everyone else who pledged their lives in exchange for obedience,

Jeremiah 34:20


into the hand of their enemies, those who seek their lives, and their corpses will become food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth.


into the hands of their enemies who want to kill them, and they will suffer one final disgrace – they will not receive an honorable burial, rather their dead bodies will become food for the carrion-eating birds and other carnivores and scavengers.

Death was always the primary consequence of having violated a covenant. This passage contains the fulfillment of the symbolism that we read about with Abram in Genesis 15. Abram chased the carrion-eating birds away from the animals he had cut in two (vs 11).

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In the time of Jeremiah, no one chased away the animals or buried the bodies, therefore the birds of prey and other animals came and ate the flesh of those who had died at the hands of the enemy. The fate of a death with no respect (i.e. without a proper burial) was considered worse than death itself; it was prophetically symbolized by Abram, and actually fulfilled after this word from God through Jeremiah.

The next lesson in all three series on covenants is: A Remnant Will Be Preserved



The reason this is mentioned is that they had made their covenant in God’s presence, in His special place (the temple) and using God’s name which assumed they would follow His will. When they did not follow His will, He took it as an offense because of the prior use of His name.


This word “brought back” is a slightly different form of the word that appears at the beginning of this verse (rendered “turned away”) and at the beginning of the previous verse (rendered “turned back or repented”).


The implication here is that declaring someone to be free must be followed by action, i.e. granting them their freedom, and then allowing them to remain free.


God is accusing them of two wrongs, one is that they did not follow the stipulations of His covenant with the people of Israel, and secondly, they did not follow their own covenant which they made with each other saying “we are committed to following God’s covenant.” The second one was intended to hold them fast in their resolve and hold them accountable to one another. But, since their hearts were not right with God, they did not do what they had pledged they would do.


The cutting of the animals from head to tail was such a common part of a covenant ritual that they referred to establishing a covenant as “cutting a covenant.”


The word I have rendered as “deliver over to” is basically one of their words for “give” but it is used with great latitude, meaning that it had a wide range of uses. As is often the case in Hebrew, something is missing here, and context must be used to fill in the blank. In this context it can mean one of two things, which in reality end up being the same thing arrived at from two different angles. It can mean 1) I will give you up/deliver you over to the consequences of violating this covenant, the consequences being that you will be cut in half like the calf used to establish that covenant. The cutting of the animals in the formation of a covenant were intended to proclaim, “If I do not follow the conditions of this covenant, you can do to me what we have done to these animals – cut me in half from head to “tail.” 2) I will give you up/deliver you over to the same fate as the calf which you cut in half. You can see that, as far as the meaning of the words and the structure of the sentence, there are two option, but they both end up with the same result. It is just a matter of which way to say it; one way is shorter, the other takes more words. Most modern English translations opt for wording that follows the shorter option. I have used the shorter option in the translation column on the left, and the longer option in the paraphrase column on the right.


The same verb is used here as in the previous verse. It usually means “to give” but here it means “to give over, to deliver, to hand over.”


Eunuchs were a picture of pure motives because they were men who had their testicles removed. Obviously, there are temptations in life other than sexual ones, but the term is used here of people who should have fewer sinful tendencies than most, but even they turned their backs on God.


The inauguration of a covenant usually involved cutting several animals in half from head to tail and laying those halves on either side of a ditch or depression. Then the participants would walk in the blood and by so doing proclaim, “If I violate this covenant, you may do to me what we have done to these animals.”

10: Gen 15:11

the screamers (birds of prey) swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.