Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon…
A slave from the Soudan, an eunuch in the household of Zedekiah, King of Judah, is by the side of the great Jeremiah, a humble servant yet an efficient protector. The slave and the prophet in our thought abide together.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH BROUGHT THE TWO TOGETHER AND CAUSED THE STRANGE CONJUNCTION. The prophet is cast into a dungeon, deep and loathsome. Into the slime of its unfloored depths he sinks, and there he lies. Left to die and rot in the dungeon's mud! No. One man's voice is raised, one man's hand works. But no son of Israel is he; only a slave of the royal household, a heathen from a far-off land, with a black skin but a pure heart.
II. THE DELIVERER. What his own name was we know not, for among the royal servants he was known only as Ebed-melech, "the king's slave." Whether he was of the original Hamitic or of the invading Semitic stock we cannot conjecture, save that, from his position, there is an inherent probability that he was of the former. We are at liberty, then, to conceive of him as a black, torn from his home, either as a boy or youth, to meet the demands of the market at Meroe; and then, in the way of traffic, passed on through Egypt, till at last he passed into the palace of the King of Judah. We can next conceive of him, by the exercise of the qualities of intelligence, fidelity, and prudence, promoted to the important post of superintendent of the royal harem. He would thus come into contact with Jeremiah, who, as "the last of the prophet statesmen of Judah" (as he has been called), had for many years compelled for himself a place in the councils of the nation The simple nature of the Ethiopian, uncorrupted by the vices of palace life, would recognise the moral and spiritual elevation of the prophet, and would yield a homage and a love of which the heartless courtiers Who despised him were incapable. His position brought him into frequent intercourse with the king; perhaps gave him a free access to his presence. None could know better than he his weaknesses and his vices; hut he would also know, as most could not, that in his debased mind were certain possibilities of justice and generosity to which an appeal might be made. Hopeful or hopeless, the brave heathen resolves that appeal there shall he. And after a right honest and straightforward fashion he sets him to his task. Well done, slave! Bravely spoken, Soudanee! Was there another man in all Jerusalem man enough to have done thy work! I trow not. But it is an ill turn thou hast done for thyself! Where is thy prudence, man? Who is this Jeremiah for whom thou art pleading? The lost and almost the last advocate of a lost cause. Who are "these men whom thou art arraigning? The magnates of the realm, in whose hands the king is but a feeble, though it may be a well-meaning puppet. What supports canst thou expect to secure? None, unless it be the secret friendship of a few frightened men, whose favour is nought. What enemies canst thou not fail to make? The princes of Judah, whose frown may be death. But "fear not, thou king's slave! Chariots and horsemen are upon the hills round about thee. There is an unseen Friend whose favour is life; and there is an immortal Church to call thee blessed." The king's better nature is roused by the appeal. Rising for the moment above the unkingly fear of his nobles, he exercises his royal prerogative, and commissions Ebed-melech, to take a sufficient force and release the prophet from the dungeon. Speedily, tenderly, and joyfully it is done. The forethought displayed, the various precautions to secure the exhausted victim from further danger or discomfort, are minutely and gratefully detailed.
III. THOUGHTS WHICH SUCH AN INCIDENT AROUSES IN THE MIND. It would be easy to descant upon the moral lessons which the incident teaches, to make Ebed-melech the peg on which to hang edifying reflections. He might easily be made into a lay figure to do duty for the showing off of such thoughts as these: that God uses instruments selected from among the lowly as well as the lofty; that the faithful discharge of the offices of commonest humanity is noted, approved of, and will finally be owned by the God of providence; that in most unlikely places, among most unlikely classes, God's servants, His because servants of righteousness and humanity, are to be found; that He has His "hidden ones" where the eye of man suspects not; and that the faith that God desires to see in men is that trust in Him and that supreme homage to the claims of charity and truth which will cause them to do right, and leave the issues to work themselves out as they may in subjection to His will. But I do not desire the man to he lost in the meditations. I want us to see men under the influence of motives that may he ours, to enter into the human feeling, to sympathise with the human surrender, and to behold in these that which God loves to behold in His creature-children. Jehovah says, "Thy life shall be for a prey unto thee, because thou hast put thy trust in Me." A thought of comfort, quickening, and strength is here suggested; those who do right, follow charity, work humanely — not because these things will pay, but because they are what they are, leaving consequences to come as come they may — these are trusting God, these are His worshippers, even though they have never learned His name.
(G. M. Grant, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;