Great Unknown heroes of the O.T.

Great Unknown People of the Bible.

Ebed-MelechJeremiah 38-39

          The story is Jeremiah 38. As you look it up, allow me to set the stage for the story.



This story takes place within a hundred years before the end of the history of the Old Testament. Reigning on the throne in Jerusalem is the last descendant of David to ever reign as king, a wimp named Zedekiah. Secretly Zedekiah tells the prophet Jeremiah that he wants to do what is right, but he is too concerned about what those people think, who are supposed to be under his authority. And those who are under King Zedekiah’s authority don’t very much like Jeremiah, or his message. They particularly don’t like the part of what he says concerning the Chaldean army from Babylon, who are knocking at the door, so to speak, and ready to overrun Jerusalem, and all of Israel, in the name of their great King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah’s message is, “God sent them. Don’t fight. Surrender and go with them. Those who do, will survive. Those who don’t won’t.”

Of course they had a great dislike for Jeremiah long before the enemy army came, because Jeremiah, like all the prophets before him, had dared to point out the sins of the nation, and call the people to repent to turn back to God. He pleaded with them to stop appealing to idols and stop thanking the demon spirits for all the blessings that God had given them. He pleaded with them to abandon immorality and choose purity and integrity.
Jeremiah 38
1 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah…

 These were the guys who prided themselves in being the policy setters, the guardians of political correctness, King Zedekiah’s underlings, who effectively had him under control.... heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said,2 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. He will escape with his life; he will live.’
3 And this is what the LORD says: ‘This city will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.'”
4 Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”
5 “He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”
6 So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

       Now, some of your translations may vary for the word used to identify the pit into which these men put Jeremiah. The term in the Hebrew in its root meaning refers to a water source. So the word could be translated as a WELL or a CISTERN. Some of our younger folk may not have a clue what a cistern is, so I will tell you: A cistern is an underground tank used to collect rain water. In Bible times, they dug a deep pit at the end of a channel into which water from rain or nearby streams could drain, and be stored, like a small reservoir. The water in a cistern wasn’t as pure and fresh as well water, but in dry arid areas, water from the cistern was better than no water at all. Often the cistern had a roof build overhead with a hole for lowering a bucket on a rope.

However term is used here in some contexts to refers not specifically to a water well, but to any pit; and in one place the context clearly indicates that it refers to a prison. So when the translators working for King James the First of England saw that pit was in the “courtyard of the guard,” i.e. the jail house, they felt compelled to translate the term as dungeon. However, the reference to water and mud in the same verse leads me to stick with the more common translation of the term, as cistern.

And Jeremiah was also a bit stuck, too. Apparently, the cistern was too dry to pull up any water, but it wasn’t so dry that the sediment at the bottom had hardened. And Jeremiah was stuck deep in the muck. It was clearly the intent of the King’s advisors to leave Jeremiah there to die… as somehow that would free their consciences from any guilt in actually killing him.

…They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
7 But Ebed-Melech, a Cushite, an official [eunuch] in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern.
 Now we finally meet our man, Ebed-Melech.The Hebrew text identifies him as literally “the Cushite man,” coming from the land of Cush, which was a general term for regions of Africa south of Egypt. This term was used in the Old Testament very much as we use the term “African American” in our culture today. And, the text says, Ebed-Melech was a government official, and as some of your translations indicate, he was probably a eunuch, serving in the court of King Zedekiah in Jerusalem. Apparently Ebed-Melech was of far more noble character than the others who surrounded the king.
7 …Ebed-Melech, the Cushite man, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate,
8 Ebed-Melech went out of the palace and said to him,
9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”
10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”
 Will it really take 30 men to pull Jeremiah out of the pit? Considering the situation Jeremiah is in, it’s going to take more than a couple to pull him out. But most likely, the 30 are there as much for Eben-Melek’s protection against the king’s so-called advisers., who didn’t want Jeremiah rescued.11 So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern.12 Ebed-Melech the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so,
13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

 Jeremiah was out of the pit, but he remained under arrest in the regular prison, a place where it seems Jeremiah had spent much of his time.The rest of Chapter 38 describes a secret meeting between King Zedekiah and Jeremiah, where Zedekiah sought Jeremiah’s counsel, counsel he later chose not to follow. Consequently, Zedekiah’s demise at the hands of the Chaldeans was horrible beyond description.

And whatever became of Ebed-Melech?

 Jeremiah 3915 While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the LORD came to him:
16 “Go and tell Ebed-Melech the Cushite, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city through disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes.
17 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the LORD; you will not be handed over to those you fear.
18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the LORD.'”

      These were dark days for Israel, every bit as dark as it was for their descendants during Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror. Those who survived, survived only with their lives. No power. No prestige. No possessions. Ebed-Melech was not a descendent of Abraham. Yet he was caught in the cross fire. His future was tied with the future of Israel.

And precisely who were those whom Ebed-Melech feared? Was it the Babylonian Chaldeans? Perhaps. But more likely, it was those who seemed so effective in pulling King Zedekiah’s strings, those who were so fervent in enforcing political correctness that those who opposed them usually died. Even Zedekiah admitted to Jeremiah that his political and military decisions were based solely on fear of what his “advisors” would think of him, and if given the chance, what they might do to him if he didn’t go along with them.

In response to Ebed-Melech’s faith and courage, God gave Ebed-Melech unconditional assurance of His protection.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chris
    Mar 08, 2016 @ 22:43:33

    Well written exposition, Manny. I learned a lot. Thank you.


  2. Mannyr
    Mar 09, 2016 @ 17:54:27

    Glad you liked it. Our Lord always keeps His promises.


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