#136: Was Ebed-melech a Courageous or Foolish Leader?

Lessons from the Lesser Known

I love studying characters in the Bible. I think each story God tells us is there to teach us something important.

Jeremiah Ebed-melech Leader

I especially love studying the most obscure characters of the Bible, the ones who are mentioned almost in passing, because I figure if they were important enough for God to call them out by name in His book, I should pay attention.

I discovered one such character as I was studying the book of Jeremiah. His name was Ebed-melech. The Bible describes him as a Cushite (some translations say Ethiopian) eunuch, who served King Zedekiah of Judah. Cush was the son of Ham the grandson of Noah. The Cushites settled in the land of ancient Ethiopia.

Ebed-melech name means “Servant of the King.” Being a Cushite means that he was a gentile serving in the court of Zedekiah, King of Judah.

Jeremiah had been prophesying for years that Babylon would conquer Judah including the capital of Jerusalem. King Zedekiah, his officials, and other prophets didn’t believe Jeremiah. Several of the officials called for Jeremiah to be arrested and executed for treason. Zedekiah was more concerned with the opinions of his advisors than the judgment of God that Jeremiah and prophesied, so he turned Jeremiah over to them. They took Jeremiah and lowered him with ropes into a deep cistern that was full of mud at the bottom. They no doubt hoped if he died there, they would not be directly responsible for his death.

This is where Ebed-melech enters into the story. Remember, Ebed-melech is a gentile servant of a Jewish king. When he heard what happened to Jeremiah he went to King Zedekiah and told Zedekiah what these officials had done was evil, because Jeremiah would surely die if left in the cistern.

Zedekiah ordered Ebed-melech to take 30 men and rescue Jeremiah from the cistern before he died. Ebed-melech took 30 men, got some old rags and some ropes and went to the cistern. He had Jeremiah put the rags around his armpits to protect him from the ropes, and hauled Jeremiah out of the cistern.

What is especially noteworthy about Ebed-melech and his actions?

1) He was courageous. He did not allow his status as a servant to keep him from approaching the king to plead for Jeremiah’s life. What’s more, he accused Judah’s ranking officials, friends of the king, of being wicked, evil men.

2) He was more righteous than his masters. He knew killing an innocent man was wrong and said so, whereas the city officials were perfectly content to conspire to bring about the death of someone they didn’t like.

3) He was thoughtful and considerate. He could have hauled Jeremiah out of the cistern with just the ropes, but he was thoughtful and considerate in giving Jeremiah some rags to protect himself from the ropes as he was lifted out.

4) He trusted in the Lord. Even though a gentile, Ebed-melech trusted in the Lord (Jeremiah 39:18). What a contrast to the Lord’s people of Judah, who had rejected God!

I love the story of Ebed-melech because here is this Gentile servant who had the courage to confront a king and his officials with their treachery. Any one of them could have had him killed, but he stood up to them, trusting in the Lord.

He became the Old Testament version of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) as he carefully lifted Jeremiah out of the cistern, restoring him to life. The Lord used Ebed-melech in a mighty way. He was aptly named “Servant of the King.”

You Can Tell You’re Not a Godly Leader If:

1) If you’re not willing to stand up for what is right and call out evil when you see it, you’re not a Godly leader.

2) If you’re not willing to stand against the majority, you’re not a Godly leader.

3) If you’re not willing to protect the oppressed and the innocent, you’re not a Godly leader.

4) If you’re more worried about man’s opinion than being righteous before the Lord, you’re not a Godly leader.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. What do you think of Ebed-melech’s actions compared to King Zedekiah? Which one was a Godly leader?

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Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

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