Imagine having such a reputation as a whiner that your name becomes a synonym for complaining! That was the case with the prophet Jeremiah. His name provides the basis for the English word jeremiad, which means “lament” or “complaint.”
Jeremiah was no whiner, but it seemed that way to Jerusalem. God had called the prophet to take His complaints to the people. His message pretty much went like this: “Your sins are awful. The Babylonians will slaughter you and take the survivors into captivity. Repent!”
The officials of Jerusalem felt the message was nothing short of traitorous. They thought, Jeremiah is aiding and abetting the enemy by discouraging the people! So three of them went to King Zedekiah and demanded that Jeremiah be killed. “Do as you like,” said the king. “I can’t stop you” (Jeremiah 38:5). So they threw the prophet into a muddy cistern. None of the Judeans dared come to Jeremiah’s rescue. But an Ethiopian did.
We don’t know much about Ebed-melech. The Bible simply calls him “an important court official” (Jeremiah 38:7), but he alone defended God’s prophet. “ ‘My lord the king,’ he said, ‘these men have done a very evil thing in putting Jeremiah the prophet into the cistern. He will soon die of hunger’ ” (Jeremiah 38:9). So Zedekiah permitted Ebed-melech to rescue him.
Ebed-melech feared the invading hordes (see Jeremiah 39:16-17), but he feared God more. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem he “slaughtered all the nobles of Judah” (Jeremiah 39:6), which likely included the three who conspired against Jeremiah. But God told Ebed-melech, “Because you trusted me, I will give you your life as a reward. I will rescue you and keep you safe” (Jeremiah 39:18). May we also trust God and do what honors Him.
By Tim Gustafson