Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
Personalities Of The Old Testament
EBED-MELECH – Help For Those In The Dumps!
Jeremiah 38, 39

 1. Living life is hard! (Job 5:7; 7:1-21; etc.). When life’s problems compound and trials seem impossible to overcome, we sink into deep despair (Job 17:15-16). Often during such desperation we feel alone and isolated. We feel as if we have been cast into a deep pit without hope! (1 Ki 19:3-10; Ps 28:1).

 During these hopeless times, what helps most to climb out of the pits of despair?

 Many faithful Believers have been dumped into pits of despair by the ungodly (Ps 119:85; Pr 28:10). 

 2. Consider the context of Jeremiah 38-39.

 The fall of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) is imminent (it occurs in 39:1-2). Jeremiah has been encouraging Jerusalem’s citizens to surrender to Babylon and avoid death. The rebellious citizens scoff at the prophet’s words and begin open persecution. 

  a. Jeremiah 36 – King Jehoikim commands the arrest of Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch.

  b. Jeremiah 37 – The leaders of Jerusalem insist that the prophet be imprisoned.

  c. Jeremiah 38 – The spineless Zedekiah tells the people to do whatever they wish with Jeremiah.

 Jeremiah found himself mired in a literal pit. He was caught in deep despair. The prophet was the object of hatred because he urged Jerusalem to submit to God’s commands. Jeremiah suffered abuse from those who persecuted him – slander, false accusations, beatings, anger, and all other expressions prompted by bitterness and vindictive feelings. Finally the prophet was seized and thrown into an empty cistern. He sank into the mud.

  The faithful prophet was surrounded by despair. Emotionally and physically he was exhausted. Spiritually he may have been questioning God (In 1:17-19 God had promised Jeremiah divine protection). Regardless of the emotions, Jeremiah was in the pit of despair. What would he do? The answer is found in the first word of 38:7 – “BUT Ebed-Melech.” Here was God’s answer to the pit of despair – the kindly services of a fellow servant!

 3. Ebed-Melech presents a wonderful lesson on Christian sympathy! In his example we discover a fantastic illustration of Romans 12:9-16. Look at this man with the strange name and contemplate the beauty of Christian sympathy!

4. The TRAITS of Ebed-Melech’s sympathy:

 a. Ebed-Melech had GREAT HUMANITY.

   1) At first glance this trait may not seem to deserve special attention. However this was very unusual in the days of Ebed-Melech. During this time life was cheap and getting cheaper. Babies had been sacrificed on the alters of Moloch; slaves had been kept contrary to the Law. In extreme cases, mothers had eaten their own babies because of the famine’s severity! 

   There was no respect for the intrinsic value of human life. However Ebed-Melech did not allow this devaluation to infect him. Ebed-Melech knew that people were important; life was valuable. He was sensitive when anyone’s life was cheapened and basic dignity was degraded.

   2) A basic feature of every Christian ought to be this respect for the value of humanity. We are to be compassionate, sympathetic, and benevolent to everyone (Gal 6:10).

   ASK – How did the first century church demonstrate this concern for humanity? No matter the social position, material wealth, or political powers, everyone was reckoned as equal and in need of the Gospel.

   1 Peter 3:8 – Peter discusses six virtues which all Christians are to put into practice in their inter-personal relationships. The “sympathy” is the feeling that one has for another (cf Ro 12:15).

 b. Ebed-Melech had a GREAT COURAGE.

   1) His rescue of Jeremiah would definitely be an unpopular action. Even though he had asked King Zedekiah and persuaded the King’s permission, it was still a risky act. Some might possibly even accuse Ebed-Melech of “treason” (38:4). It appears that the Ethiopian refused to let men frighten him.

   2) Courage is needed in performing Christian sympathy today. Today’s climate applauds those who chastise the steadfast, the devout, the committed. If you are viewed as standing firm for convictions in religious Faith you will quickly accumulate a cadre of opponents. They will use every available means to intimidate you into either silence or compromise.  If others rise to your defense, the opponents will quickly turn and bitterly attack your supporters. 

   Courage is needed to comfort those who are fighting against compromise; who are facing intimidating threats and vicious slander (Josh 1:7). It takes great courage to stand up for one who is attacked because s/he refuses to accept compromise.

   Anyone who has ever been thrown into the pits of despair will quickly tell you that such courageous sympathizers bring great comfort. Letters, phone calls, prayers, and visits all help to lighten the despondency that surrounds the one thrown into the dumps because s/he refuses to compromise God’s will. 

   Let us become a modern-day Ebed-Melech and stand courageously with those who refuse to compromise God’s clear commands!

 c. Ebed-Melech had a GREAT INFLUENCE.

   1) His approach, conversation, and persuasion of the King to release Jeremiah indicates his weighty influence. Here was a man whose influence was founded upon his integrity! Many attempt to influence through worldly means – pressures, intrigue, gossip, etc. However Ebed-Melech was not like this. His influence was attributable to his righteous sympathy.

   2) This example urges all Christians to develop a good reputation so that when certain ones are thrown into pits of despair, the godly Believer can help rescue them! We must behave so that people will respect our thoughts and suggestions.

   ASK – Proper influence with those who are opponents of God’s will and persecutors of God’s faithful, is important. How can Christians develop a position of influence with those in this group? Will it be by compromise? By silence? How does Ephesians 4:25-29 counsel us on this question?

 d. Ebed-Melech had a GREAT FAITH.

   1) His faith is implied because he befriended Jeremiah and is stated explicitly in 39:18. Ebed-Melech “trusted” the Lord God. 

   2) If we have a faith similar to Ebed-Melech then we will not hesitate to offer help to those who are persecuted and maligned because of their steadfast courage and convictions. We will “fear” God more than we do men! We will seek God’s commendations more than men’s.

 e. Ebed-Melech had a GREAT SERVICE.

   1) What greater service is there than rescuing another from the pits of despair? What a wonderful action to practice – lifting another up from the bogs of discouragement! 

   2) Consider Ebed-Melech’s consideration when he performed this service. He got ropes and old rags. He wanted to help Jeremiah get out of the pit but he did not want to bring greater harm to the prophet in the rescue.

   3) Here is a valuable lesson for Christians to ponder – It is not only WHAT we do that is important but HOW we do it! As God’s servants we must rescue the lost and restore the fallen and encourage the fainthearted. However we must be careful that we do so with great sympathy (feeling for their betterment), lest we do more damage than good! (2 Ti 2:24).

5. The REWARDS of Ebed-Melech’s sympathy:

  a. He escaped the disaster awaiting the rebellious (39:16-18).
  He was not to suffer as those insensitive to God’s commands. He would be delivered because he trusted in God and stood by the accused Jeremiah. How thankful he must have been to hear the words of Jeremiah that announced his salvation!

  b. He portrays the rewards awaiting God’s sympathetic followers.
  Far too few actually realize the pitiful condition of those who refuse to show sympathy to one standing firm for the will of God. However, there is a far greater reward than that experienced by Ebed-Melech to all who are willing to display sympathy. There is the joyful anticipation of Heaven’s splendor. This ought to be enough to prod us to live godly and sympathetically in today’s world.

 6. Ebed-Melech was an obscure servant but he was a powerful character! His sympathetic character, absolute trust in God, and wonderful reward bring us to understand a powerful lesson! Ebed-Melech illustrates a very simple fact – Those who strive to follow God’s absolute will are going to find opposition; they will be thrown into the pits of despair. However, there are sympathetic Believers who will come along and rescue us from the mire of despondency. Their lives are a blessing to the godly.

 What should we do about Ebed-Melech?

  a) REMEMBER his wonderful life of sympathy, trust, and courage!

 b) RESOLVE that you will become as he was!

  c) REFLECT his sympathy to all brethren who are struggling against Satan’s forces to remain steadfast in their obedience!

  d) REFORM if you have not demonstrated the trust and courage to uphold the steadfast and rebuke the faithless!

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

Top of Page