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A heroic deed in the likely uneventful life of what’s-his-name

October 28, 2009

Ebed-Melech did not live at a time when thousands of members of the media would have shown up to cover his amazing rescue of the prophet Jeremiah. If he had, he would have been all over international television, satellite radio, the Internet, and the Schenectady Gazette, and everyone would have known his name and remembered it for at least six hours. I have brushed by his name, immediately forgetting it, on every prior reading I have done of the book of Jeremiah. But this time I followed a cross reference, thinking, ” who is this guy”?

Ebed-Melech’s name is probably a tripwire on Bible trivia quizzes. In fact, his name itself is rather a horror. It means “servant of Melech.” But how fortunate that his pagan Ethiopian parents permitted him to live and receive the name instead of passing him through the fire as a sacrifice to their idle idol Melech. Who knows what sorts of aspirations they had for him or what his childhood was like; all we know is that in the providence of God he was assigned a great and gracious destiny.

Ebed-Melech actually made it to the big time, for a slave. We meet him as an adult, a eunuch in the court of King Zedekiah. The king had consigned Jeremiah to the miry dungeon because he prophesied doleful things like the conquest of Israel by Babylon, the captivity in Babylon of the people, and the wasting and burning of Jerusalem. “The Chaldeans are coming! The Chaldeans are coming!” fell somewhat short of cheering the king’s heart. Zedekiah was one to prefer good news to God’s truth, and cast the prophet from his sight. Ebed-Melech spoke up to the king on behalf of Jeremiah:

My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he is likely to die from hunger in the place where he is. For there is no more bread in the city. (Jer. 38:9) NKJV

The king conceded to his servant’s request, and Ebed-Melech took with him men and rags and made a rope for Jeremiah to tie around himself, and they pulled him up from the dungeon. Thus Ebed-Melech, a pagan-born Ethiopian eunuch, approached his king, advocated for Jeremiah, devised and implemented a plan to rescue him, and saved the life of God’s great prophet. If Ebed-Melech’s life was otherwise uneventful, the magnitude of his service to God in saving Jeremiah is imponderable.

Nor did the favor go unrequited. God blessed Jeremiah with the commission to return to Ebed-Melech, and announce to him the glad tidings of his salvation.

Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon the city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you.
“But I will deliver you in that day,” says the LORD, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid.
“For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me, says the LORD.'” (Jer. 39:16-18) NKJV

One Comment
  1. Jane permalink
    October 29, 2009 7:02 am

    Very enlightening! A lovely example of God’s mercy to an obscure fellow…we can take heart that a Sovereign and Omnipotent God condescends to those of us who are seemingly lost among the multitudes of humanity in the earth. May we, like Ebed-Melech find deliverance in these uncertain times. Thanks for the insights!

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