Meanwhile the word of the LORD had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, “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 this 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 39:15-18
We were introduced to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian yesterday in Jer 38. When the Babylonians came and besieged Jerusalem, the princes asked King Zedekiah to put Jeremiah in prison for treason, because he was proclaiming the word of the LORD to the people: “Defect to the Babylonians and save your life.” We saw that Zedekiah, a weak king, capitulated to the princes in whatever they asked. So they put Jeremiah in a dark pit, with mire in the bottom, so that he sank into the mire.
Now the Scripture says that Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian was one of the eunuchs. It was the practice among ancient kings, that when they had captured prisoners of war from their enemies, to make eunuchs of some of the men, and as slaves they were in charge of guarding the king’s wives and daughters. This man, Ebed-Melech, was not a Hebrew, not an Israelite, and not a Jew — he was an Ethiopian.
The Scripture also says that when he heard that Jeremiah had been put into the dungeon, he went to the king. He was not the only one who had heard. Everyone in the palace heard, from the scullery maid in the kitchen, to the greatest of the king’s officers. It is moreover likely that everyone in Jerusalem soon heard what had been done to Jeremiah the prophet.
But no Hebrew, no Israelite, and no Jew went to the king to plead for Jeremiah, but only Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian eunuch. He did what was right in the sight of the LORD. And because of it, the LORD promised to protect him and preserve his life through all the destruction that was coming.
The LORD rewarded him for his righteousness. So then why does it say, that because he trusted in the LORD, the LORD would do these things for him? Well, why didn’t Zedekiah do what was right from the beginning, and tell the princes, no, you will not put Jeremiah in a dungeon? He was afraid of what the princes would do to him if he did so! He feared man more than he feared God.
Why didn’t anyone else in the palace, a Hebrew, an Israelite, or a Jew, go to the king on Jeremiah’s behalf? They were afraid of the consequences, the repercussions to themselves if they got involved. But to do what is right, regardless man, or man’s anger — to do what is right, regardless of what notice it will draw or what consequences might befall you — that takes trust in the LORD.
Ebed-Melech feared the LORD more than he feared the Babylonians at the gates or the Jews among whom he dwelt as a slave, therefore he trusted in the LORD rather than in what man would do to him!