There are only a few verses in the Bible that mention Ebed-melech. He was an Egyptian slave in the palace of Zedekiah, the king of Judah. The Babylonians had withdrawn their forces after a prolonged siege and the nation was enjoying a time of peace. However God had spoken through His prophet Jeremiah that the Babylonians would return and capture Jerusalem and burn it down.
Jeremiah had personally warned King Zedekiah that Jerusalem would be defeated and in order to escape death and destruction, God wanted him to surrender to the Babylonians. But the leaders of the nation did not believe Jeremiah and insisted that he was misleading them. Jeremiah returned to his home town. On the way the guards at the Benjamin Gate arrested him and accusing him of being a traitor put him in a vaulted dungeon, where he remained for a long time. Even though he remained in the dungeon, Jeremiah had access to the public and he never stopped his proclaiming his prophecy of doom.
The palace officials found that the words of Jeremiah were making the soldiers and the public loose courage and become dejected. They sought the King’s permission to put him to death.
The King feared the officers and said, “He is in your hands.”
It is amazing how history repeats itself. Centuries later these were the same words another weak ruler said to the leaders of the people at the trial of Jesus Christ.
And so Jeremiah was thrown into a well which had no water only mud. How deep the mud was is not known but it is said that Jeremiah sank into the mud.
It is here that Ebed-melech is mentioned. Nothing much is said about him except that he was an Egyptian slave, a eunuch, working in the king’s palace. To be a slave is a horrible experience, to be a eunuch is too dreadful to imagine. And yet this man had a heart full of compassion for all mankind including his enemies. He watched Jeremiah’s torment as he struggled to move his aching limbs in the thickening mud. A slow agonizing death from hunger and thirst seemed to be his ultimate end. Ebed- melech decided he had to save this man of God. So this slave, this eunuch, this man with no power or authority, risked his life to walk into the presence of the King and intercede for a condemned criminal on death’s row. It brings to mind a Jewish queen who dared to risk her life and walk unannounced into the court of the Persian monarch to intercede for her people. Just as the Monarch granted the plea of Esther, the King granted the request of his slave.
Ebed- melech took thirty men with him to pull out Jeremiah out of the mud. He also took with him rags and pieces if old cloth for use as pads to protect the fragile skin of the prophet from being torn by the rough ropes.
Three people stand out in this story:
-A fearless prophet of God, who risked his freedom and life to proclaim God’s word.
-A weak King who dared not risk his reputation and authority to save a prophet.
-A slave who risked his life and limb to help a man who he hardly knew.
And God in His infinite wisdom rewarded each one.
-The prophet gained his freedom to preach God’s word fearlessly
-The King lost the life, he sought to save, at the cruel hands of the Babylonian king.
-Ebed-melech was given God’s special promise,
“I will save you. You will not fall by the sword, but will escape with your life because you trust in Me.”
(Jeremiah. chapter 38 and 39)
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